Don’t Judge Suicide: Understand Depression

 There is a blog I have been reading regarding the suicide of young gays in America. http://talkaboutequality.wordpress.com/

 As usual on good blogs most comments are heart-felt and supportive but a few come through that…hmmm…lack class, lack wisdom and are…well showing up the individuals ignorance to be blunt.

 Today I read someone opinionating that these young people killing themselves are committing crimes against god, that there are places they could go, and the worst of all that “Suicide is a selfish and cowardly act and any adult who commits it will not have my sympathy.”

 There is much that could be said that would, however, be rude. 🙂  And their god is clearly not mine.

 But there are also glimpses within these words that I have heard over and over throughout my career that need to be clarified. For those seeking knowledge as to my qualifications please see the page named the same to your right.

It is evidentially clear that the author has never experienced or witnessed severe depression. I have often heard relatives, friends etc of a person depressed say similar things:

Why can’t they just pick themselves out of it…why don’t they just get busy…etc etc?

Well, the answer is as follows.

In clinical depression the three major symptoms in thinking are hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.  These concepts dis-empower ones ability to act, hence, reaching for help becomes nigh impossible.

Powerlessness. A sense of having absolutely no ability to control anything that is happening. Not external circumstances, not their thinking, sometimes not even their ability to get out of a chair.

Hopelessness. How can you have hope when you have no power. How can you have hope when in your head all is dark, all is despair. Without hope folks we collapse. Over and over I have seen this and depression is a blackness that hides all light thus hides all hope. I think until hope is gone we don’t realize just what an integral part of our psyche it is.

Worthlessness. Why would you ask for help if you are convinced you are not worthy of anyone taking the time to help you?

Furthermore, young folk haven’t had the time to understand that ‘this too will change’.

So they sit in absolute agony, told by folk about crimes against god, feeling abnormal, feeling no one will understand them. They understand that their being ‘different’ wounds the very people they want to impress; i.e. their parents.

And on top of all that they are dealing with out-and-out abuse.

Suicide is a dreadful choice. Of that there is no doubt. But it is an even more dreadful statement about the way the community treats each other…be it via active prejudice or by taking no action.

So please understand.

When a person is feeling this way they can’t put up their hand for help. It is up to us to keep an eye out for those that are vulnerable. And it is up to us to create a community around us that is inclusive of all. 

Cheers Leesa

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18 thoughts on “Don’t Judge Suicide: Understand Depression

  1. You know, while I was still a young Christian I went to church camp. (Hold on it’s relevant…) There were a few hundred teens there packed in the evening service to hear a 20-something old youth pastor who was studying to become a psychologist tell us that, contrary to your post, suicide is the most selfish thing a person could do. Most often, he claimed, it’s simply an empty threat and that what we really want is attention. And when it’s not a threat, those who commit suicide do it because they selfishly think of the pain they’re going through and not of their families or of God. It’s a sin worth spending an eternity in hell for.

    Thinking back, I have no idea why I believed this crap. Perhaps it was my age, looking up to an older role model, or maybe it was the atmosphere, with people holding their hands up high towards what they thought was god (I admit, I was one of them) and music numbingly pulsating through the tears of those who felt moved by the speech. Or it could have been that I believed his words were inspired by god, so they couldn’t possibly be false!

    Thank you for posting this Leesa. I absolutely agree with you. I wish that people didn’t immediately come to the conclusion that one who is depressed must definitely be a terrible sinner who is undeserving of empathy.

    • I hear you. I was in a fundamentalist christian group from 12 years to 18 and believed all. For me it was a time when I was hoping there were simple boxes to how to live, to the deep stuff and I found comfort in the thou ‘shalt and thou shall not’. The Christian concept of suicide as a sin is easy because folk dont have to think any further.

      Thanks for your comments…Leesa

      • Whoops, my previous comment was meant to be a general one about your original post. While I’m here, I know Catholics traditionally think suicide is a sin, I think other groups may be more compassionate. Certainly when I was a Christian I didn’t regard it as a sin.

    • I do think suicide is selfish on an ‘objective’ level, because of the devastation it leaves behind. Often those left behind feel angry for that (and other) reasons. However, very few suicides would be thinking ‘selfishly’ when they do it, so I don’t think that’s very helpful.

      I did have a counsellor ask me to think about the effect it would have on others when i was considering suicide, and I found that helpful. I couldn’t do it because I knew how awful it would be for others. So in the sense of getting you to focus on something outside of your own misery (eg other people) it might be beneficial?

      However, the WAY in which such things are communicated needs a lot of care.

      • Thanks for your comments Jon.

        “I do think suicide is selfish on an ‘objective’ level”. Yes, suicide causes massive pain for those left…I have experienced it. But respectfully I do not think the word selfish actually applies here as much as that may challenge standard ways of dealing with such.

        The aloneness a human feels in the pre-suicide state…the sense of unworthiness, of hopelessness actually makes them perceive suicide as a loving act; an act of releasing their family from the misery of themselves. In this state one could say it is the most selfless act…giving their lives so others can flourish.

        Of course often (not always) this is disordered thinking, but that’s the whole point and that is what I want people to understand. When a person is feeling truly suicidal the world is black. That’s why we need to be alert and there for each other

        Yes as a therapist I have used the ‘how would others feel’ routine and it can be effective for those who haven’t fallen into the mental abyss that ends in suicide. But there is a moment one must be very cognizant of when the weight of responsibility to others can actually make it seem all that more hopeless.

        I do not think suicide selfish. I think it an act of pure pain. When pain overwhelms us it’s nigh impossible to think of others.

  2. Depression is never easy for anyone who has never gone through it to understand. I battle depression to this day, but I’ve gotten better at dealing with. During my darkest days, I contemplated suicide. I just felt like what was the point? I really went through a time when I found my own inner strength and started to pull myself up out of all that darkness. Now, I’m focusing on what I’ve learned from that and putting that into my book.

    • Thanks for dropping by and sharing your story. Your right, depression is dificult to understand for those who havent had direct experience. And I hope my post might enlighten those folks. Good luck with the book !

      cheers…Leesa

  3. Absolutely.

    My father killed himself, and I still remember that day, and the police coming to the house to deliver the news. I still see it.

    I think, often, of how that last moment was, right before people commit suicide. How do they talk themselves into it?

    No one knows what that desperation must be like, to make a decision so forceful.

    No one.

    So, how can we judge? We’ve never been there. If we have been, then we’d have carried it out.

    • Your so right. Suicide is I think the ultimate agony for those left behind yet the agony of someone who actually does take that step is known only to those beyond us now.

  4. (We) appreciate and are amazed at the understanding by almost all of the comments. But, I’m sure those who have been close to the precipice, or were at it know what these comments may cause for those who are there now… I’m just saying that, hope you guys are aware that there are those of us who are observing from the shadows, though we may not openly show ourselves here. The last thing individuals with a terminal thought pattern need to hear is of what we are going through, of what it may mean for others around us. This may prompt us (those who haven’t done it yet) to sever ties, and go into exile to minimize any ‘assumable’ repercussions.

    I don’t mean to stifle any sharing of thoughts, understanding, or even experiences, but, just be sure to tread carefully. If I found this post, it’s very likely that others like I have found it as well…

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      I am indeed extremely aware of the issues you present. Suicide is a difficult subject to discuss for the reasons you gave and because of taboo around it created by many different fears.

      That said, both personally and professionally I believe it must be discussed honestly and openly. It is only bringing things into the light that we can see them clearly and take positive action.

      cheers…Leesa

    • After some more thought let me please add, as difficult as this is…

      There are certain realities that cannot be denied. Using your comment, if anyone thinks disappearing will lesson the agony of the impact of suicide well my professional experience has informed me with no doubt that this does NOT work.

    • I agree with Leesa. Leaving everything behind will not work. Since, it will only make your near and dear even more worried, apart from making you more miserable. I think that’s why you used the word ” ‘assumable’ ” knowing that it usually doesnt work the way most of us believe when we do such a thing.

      Yet, I do understand how hard it is to go on, when I too experience such thoughts. I may or may not be wrong when I say: “I dont want to jump off the frying pan, just to land in the fire.” coz, no one can say with absolute certainty of what awaits after death. So, my game is “to be safe than sorry.”

      My word of experience? Be patient. Time will tell of what is to come, dont run into something precipitous. Who knows, the next day may bring a change of weather. 🙂

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