Suicide has been a hot topic lately. More so than in past years. A staggering number of celebrities have taken their lives over the last couple of years and it has since put suicide at the front of conversations again. Because of this, you have the inevitable blaming of the victim themselves. I would say often times it is a result of lack of knowledge of mental illness, but I can resoundingly say it is 100% the result of not knowing anything about mental illness or suicide. This extends to even those who have a loved one who died by suicide. Just because it affected you, it doesn’t mean you understand it. Therefore you have no place to blame the victim. It’s paramount to blaming the victim of a sexual assault. Let me explain before you jump on me for the comparison.
Mental illness is beyond the control of the person afflicted. The same can be said for a sexual assault victim. People, including me, are very much against blaming the victim of a sexual assault. It’s common sense that the victim is in no way responsible for the attack that another person committed. It should be just as easy to see that a person who is genetically predisposed or afflicted with mental illness did not purposely plant the instability in their head. They didn’t shoot themselves up with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, etc. Although the person who committed suicide is the one who took their own life, they are a victim to their disease.
Now that I explained that, let me get to the real point of this post. When people take their lives, we are met with the inevitable ignorant comments and accusations of that person maliciously setting out to mess with the people around them. This is often phrased as them being selfish or cowardly. Although a lot of us understand this as a completely nonsensical thing to say, many people still say these things. I understand not everyone knows everything about everything. But for something as prevalent as mental illness, there should be some very basic understanding. Understanding that prevents people from blaming the victim, just as much as we don’t blame the other victims for things beyond those peoples control.
The idea that people who take their lives premeditated their intentions and negative effects on others as if it were by design to screw with those around them is absurd. People take their lives because they truly believe it will solve the problems they feel like they cause. When I am stable, I understand this fully. When I am in one of my depressive states, I have thought how much better the world might be if I weren’t a part of it. How much better family and friends might be if they didn’t have to worry about me and my self perceived drama anymore. One of the darkest times I ended up in that mindset resulted in me nearly taking my life. I wrote about this back in 2014. Thankfully, the shot gun hit the ceiling and not my head.
There is a common thought among the people who say these things that they think the victim had no regard for their life. Although this may be true, it’s not a result of a coherent full formed thought since there are other demons at play here. Someone who takes their own life is not all there, for a multitude of reasons, the main being some form of mental illness. Where this gets blurred is that people only see the person who took their life, not them as a person who lives day to day just like the rest of us, just with something else on their shoulders.
There are plenty of medicines out there that help people get out of these dark places. However, not everyone has access to them or to doctors who prescribe the proper and necessary medicines to them. They also may not be able to bring themselves to believe they personally have a mental illness, therefore stopping them from seeking treatment to begin with. But even after getting help from a doctor, it’s not always full proof. There are so many things at play when it comes to mental illness and working with it in your life. I come from a place of deep personal understanding, seeing as I am diagnosed Bipolar Type I.
Instead of blaming the person who took their life, how about we try and help prevent them in the future? Let’s try and look deeper at what brought that person to that point in their life. Let’s recognize the warning signs of suicide risk and help those people before it gets there. Instead of adding armchair commentary to the death of someone by suicide, stop for a second and think about what they must have been feeling in their last moments and try and understand that they felt there was no other option. Not by choice, but by illness outside of their control. Be better for your friends and family and strangers on the street. Mental illness does not discriminate, and neither should you.
Suicide claims the lives of an estimated 44,000 people every year. 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness. 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness in a given year. Nearly 60% of adults don’t receive mental health services.
National Alliance of Mental Illness – Mental Health By The Numbers