A person taking their own life doesn’t go as smoothly as you think it does. In the final moments leading up to their suicide — from buying the rope or gun to unlocking the safety catch of the pistol or standing up on that chair — they have an ample amount of time to reflect on their choices. They have time to consider if what they are doing is even worth it. They have to endure overcoming their survival instinct for an excruciating amount of time. And still, they take that leap.
And suddenly, everyone becomes a judge, as if they are the ones the suicidee should be accountable to. They dub suicide as the easy way out, as a coward’s act, all the while conveniently forgetting that above all else, a person has just died.
You don’t support suicide? Fine by me. But what you shouldn’t be is so devoid of empathy, so unaccepting of a human life very very different from yours. What you should be is a little more humane.
Back when I was a kid, I couldn’t fully grasp the concept of death. All I knew was that it was a matter of great sorrow. Whenever someone died, I would see people getting extremely sad. I realised that was the general response. Then, I grew up and understood the reason behind the sorrow, at times even experienced it. So, it came as a shock to me when I realised not all deaths were embraced with grief, some of them were received with collective contempt.
Suicide has always been a controversial topic growing up. Whenever someone takes their own life, the first reaction people around me show is contempt. Sure, they grieve and mourn, but even then, there is always a condescending tone to that grief. It almost sounds like the sadness doesn’t stem from that person leaving us, rather from how idiotic that person was in their final days.
I get why people think that way. From childhood, we have been taught what a massive gift/blessing life is. To see someone throw that gift away shatters our lifelong beliefs; hence, the criticism. But let us not forget why we were gathered here in the first place: To mourn the fallen. A person has just died and no amount of criticism can take precedence over that.
You don’t agree with their final choices? Fine. But don’t taint their memories by calling them a coward. Have the common decency to at least attempt to realise how hard it must have been for that person to leave this world.
I am not writing this to justify suicide. What I think about someone taking their own life has nothing to do with this. I am writing this to spread a little bit of empathy, so that you can put yourself in their shoes and attempt to understand what was going on through that person’s brain in those final moments.
Understand this: Taking your own life isn’t easy. Whoever told you that it was the easy way out didn’t clarify the context. Self harm is one of the hardest things to do; I myself am afraid of inflicting even a small cut on myself. Compared to that, taking someone’s own life is damn near impossible. The most powerful and primal instinct in humans is the instinct to survive. Our subconscious automatically takes over when we are in a near death situation because everyone wants to survive.
Now think of the person broken enough to have overcome this instinct. Try to think of the hardships they had to face to have been wounded this much. Think, how much they had to endure till they lost the will to live. Best case scenario, you can’t. I hate to break it to you, but you probably have not been exposed to trauma like this person has. So is suicide the easy way out? For the victim, yes; because their life was so unbearable that something as horrifying as taking one’s own life seemed like a logical solution for them.
Now, let’s assume that you can imagine their trauma. Some of you might have even experienced it first hand and overcome it. You had not lost hope and now your life is better because of it. So you condemn the person, who took their own life, because there are always people worse off than them who still haven’t lost hope or resolved to suicide.
This is essentially what the protagonist complex is. Understand the fact that not everyone is like you. Not everyone has the same mental and physical strength you possess. Not everyone can look at pitch-black misery and still find hope. If you can do that, kudos to you. But don’t go expecting that same mental resilience from everybody else.
The suicide victim had to resolve to this extreme precisely because they didn’t have this resilience. Materialistic belongings can never be the ultimate source of happiness. At the end of the day, a person who has everything can still be more mentally broken than say, a kid trying to somehow manage a living under the bridge. That person with all their might and glory couldn’t be content because they didn’t have the same mental capacity as others. Suicide has nothing to physical belongings, it depends solely on your mental health.
People will still ask, “Why couldn’t they try to open up to friends and family? Why couldn’t they give life a last chance?” Maybe they did, and still couldn’t find the solace they were looking for. Society couldn’t provide them the mental peace they needed to lead a life. Maybe they were already too broken to ask for help from people.
Even then, I plead everyone to be empathetic. A person about to take their own life has a lot of time to self reflect. Even the ones done on an impulse have years of pent up misery and arguments with oneself involved in them. So, for the person to still take up that gun or to finally kick aside that chair, takes a lot of courage.
It indicates that they had explored every avenue they could to stay alive (the ever-powerful survival instinct) and still come up empty-handed. They had considered the absolutely indecent criticism they were going to get after their death, the slander and backlash and the tainted memories they would leave behind in their wake. And they still couldn’t find a will to live.
Stop treating suicide as something dumb that cowardly people do instead of facing reality. Start treating it like it actually is: The most extreme measure that only the most broken of people turn to.
People will still be uncomfortable. Since judging someone for taking their own life and victim-blaming is out of the question now, they will try to advise them. But they are dead and can’t hear your advice anymore. So what can you do? Be mindful of your surroundings. I am not saying that you have to account for every person in the world, but at least check up on the people you care about, whom you consider friends. Let them not feel abandoned.
Society as an infrastructure has time and again failed to protect the mental health of an individual. In our world, physical health is prioritised way more than its counterpart, at times even denying the existence of mental problems. Rise above that and be the change. You will not be able to shame someone who is already gone into returning. But you can prevent countless others from losing their will to live, just by being a little more empathetic.