Is Suicide Humanity’s Greatest Failing?

Around this time last year I stood up in 41 degree heat and delivered my story of anxiety and depression to an audience of ~100 at a Lions Club District Convention. It was a special event and I could see the impact I was having in the eyes of the audience. Or rather the little wells beneath them.

Every event that I’ve spoken at over the last two and a bit years holds a special significance. I remember talking to the principal of one school before a presentation on the Gold Coast last year and learning of girls as young as eleven already self-harming. Or another occasion at a Men’s Shed event where I listened to stories of elderly retired men so lost and lonely that they were now just ‘waiting until the day they died’.

Sometimes I stop and wonder what my uncles might have taught me had I known them for longer; had the thought of suicide not been so poisonous to their will to live. When I sat through Uncle Michael’s funeral I must only have been three or four. I don’t know why I could not stop crying that day because, as my older sister reminded me at the time, I barely knew him. Perhaps I somehow foreknew at the time what I would later endure myself and grow to become so passionate about?

Sometimes I also stop to reflect on the days my Dad was battling severe depression and PTSD; the days he no longer lived at home; the days in which we’d wonder where he was sleeping that night – if he was safe. Knowing what we did about his two brothers, sometimes it was far too easy to fear the worst. Thankfully he was able to find the tools to fuel his recovery and is now the man I always hoped he could be. I cannot bear to imagine how things would have been if the opposite were fate’s choosing.

To me, suicide is humanity’s greatest tragedy and indeed our greatest failing.

I guess bullets and bombs and the horror they inflict are easier to understand than the terrorising thoughts that plague those suffering with mental illness. And yet almost one million people kill themselves every year.

It is easy for the actions of a coward strapped with bombs to bring the world together in ‘love’ but let me add this:

What good is our love for the oppressed in countries afar if we continue to ignore our neighbour next door? What good is our professed ‘unity’ in times of global hardship if we still won’t sit next to someone in Starbucks because they dress a little differently?

We are enraged by the atrocities we see abroad and yet the man we avoided eye contact with in the supermarket checkout line today later went home to his house just two blocks from ours to kill himself with the items he picked up from isle nine.

Every day we have opportunities to create the world in which we tell our Facebook feed we so desperately desire. Every day.

Love is not a feeling, it is an action.

In all that we do we must set the example that we want the world to follow. We must resist the urge to condemn the actions of those who stray from the ‘good’ path. For of course, ‘the way of a fool seems right to him’. Only the persistent presentation of a better alternative from we the majority will, slowly but surely, rid the world of the evil we see and despise.

I passionately believe that if we are able to create a culture in which we are so connected, accepting and supportive of one another, so much so that no one ever feels so hopeless and alone that they would even contemplate the mere thought of taking their own life, then all of the other problems we face today will have naturally faded away as a result.

Agape.

Greatness Via Passion.

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12 thoughts on “Is Suicide Humanity’s Greatest Failing?

  1. Thanks for a very timely post, Paul.
    I certainly agree that we could and we should do far more to reach out to people, for who knows what is going through anyone’s mind at a given time.

  2. That’s why we don’t talk about suicide. It obviously points to a flaw in society. It encourages criticism. Sometimes you can create a moral panic and blame rock music, but it’s harder.

    This is like this only in a society which fails to recognize the right to die. Once we recognize the right to die, suicide is just another right we exercise. We see no moral objections in forcing people to live, so why should we prevent them from dying if they want to? It’s their life.

    1. Thanks for your comment; I appreciate the different perspective you bring to the topic. Though naturally I must strongly disagree with you.

      Statistically 90% of suicides are attributable to a mental illness of some sort. The remaining 10% the result of an acute life crisis. Both situations are 100% treatable and manageable with the appropriate medications/support/strategies.

      For example, if you were freezing cold you wouldn’t jump into a fire, would you? Despite your ‘right’ to do so. There are other ways to warm yourself up without jumping to the extreme. Just as there are other ways to escape the feelings of mental illness that don’t involve taking one’s own life. Though of course it’s just hard to put mind over matter when the mind is the matter. Thus reinforcing the need for a support network, open and honest dialogue between family and friends and knowledge of and access to the appropriate external support services.

      I’ve been suicidal myself and can relate to the feelings that other’s in a similar state of mind experience. And I can say that whilst the pain felt permanent at the time, it does go away and life does get better. And if I was to have killed myself then I’d have missed out on a whole lot of good and never have been able to use my experiences to help others.

      As they say, suicide doesn’t stop things from getting worse, it just stops the possibility of things getting better.

      Take care, thanks again 🙂

      1. It went away for you. It’s no proof it will go away for others.

        Mental illness sounds like a rational reason for suicide. Why carry that mental illness? Why put effort in treatment that won’t necessarily work? Why live with the memories of being mentally ill?

        You can’t be supportive to suicidal people with the intention of stopping suicide. Suicide prevention is suicide shaming. Look at suicide forums. A chief problem is the fact no on takes their desire seriously, no one is willing to consider that death is possibly right for them.

        A person has no moral responsibility to ‘recover’. If a person wants to die, we should allow him. Our desire to live should never, ever make us coerce others into continue living.

        No matter how treatable it is, without the right to die there is no right to live. Living becomes a duty.

      2. I appreciate your thoughts and can see very clearly that you’ve thought about this a lot and have grown to become very passionate about your position on the topic. It’s a fascinating perspective and I can offer little rebuttal to many of your points.

        All I can say is this:

        Just as there is no proof things will get better, there is also no proof that things will stay as they are or get worse. Just as there is no proof that the sun will rise again tomorrow morning. All that we know is only what has been up until this point. It is easy to think therefore that things can not and will not change. I understand this completely.

        Yes, mental illness seems like a logical reason to kill oneself. The pain is unbearable. I know. I have felt this pain. And I have seen this pain spread to those I cared about most. Permanent escape seemed like a very rational decision to spare all those involved.

        Yes, it is incredibly hard to commit to treatments that offer no guarantee of a ‘cure’. Since the night almost six years ago in which I laid in bed in tears as I planned to kill myself, I have been through so many ups and downs that I’ve lost count! I’ve been on multiple medications, seen countless doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and ‘specialists’, I’ve been broke and homeless, I’ve been bed bound for months at a time, I’ve been rejected by tens of friends and I’ve been suicidal on many more occasions. Why do I keep going? I don’t fully know. But what would life be if we knew all of the answers?

        Every now and then I will catch the faintest glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. I am a long way off, I know, things are still not as I would like them to be. But we are all in this together. There are people depending on me just as I am depending on them. We are stronger together.

        I do not know who you are or how you’re doing at the moment but if you need help or support I’m here, just as there are many others, to show you the amazing reasons we still have to keep living.

        No, nothing is stopping you or anyone else from deciding in ten minutes time that life just isn’t for them. All I can do is live my life, alongside those who have also successfully recovered from such dark times, as evidence that there is always hope and always reasons to want to live.

        Again, I really appreciate your comments, it’s a point of view that we rarely get to see or hear. And I respect that 🙂

        Cheers.

      3. I guess what will help make my position clearer is this bit: We don’t choose to be born.

        Think about this. No one actively chose to be born. No one asked you. You just had to one day realize that, damn! I’m alive and I exist!

        Now, you can’t consent to being alive without being alive. So, the only solution to this paradox is to offer euthanasia, a painless death for those who wish it.

        We must respect those who don’t want to live, for whatever reason. It could be us. It could be your children. No one ask these people in the first place whether they want to live, so allowing them a painless exit is the best we can do.

  3. Touching. The world will indeed be a better place if we can all be so kind to one another. Those thoughts are more harmful more than bullets, because they eat at ones soul, slowly, painfully. What we can do is think of the next person we would put a smile on their face, that gives me joy.

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