Yesterday, July 20th, Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington, was found dead in his apartment. Cited as suicide, the 41-year-old musician hanged himself and was discovered around 9 AM. He left behind a career, six children, and a wife. He left behind millions of fans (my social media was full of tributes all day). Personally, I never really listened to Linkin Park and I don’t know much about Bennington or what he went through, but I do know that we both have one thing in common: suicide.
I’ve talked about suicide on this blog before, but I wanted to share my input on a debate about this sensitive subject: is it selfish?
I — and everyone else who has either attempted or contemplated suicide in the past — have never considered suicide to be a selfish thing. In fact, I don’t really mentally categorize suicide under selfishness. But sometimes I’m reminded that there are many people out there who consider suicide to be the ultimate selfish act.
It wasn’t until I clicked on another viral tribute video for Chester Bennington that I saw the comment. The particular commenter was a white male, with a seemingly happy life (yes, I stalked his profile): good looking, young, a girl in his profile pictures. This guy’s comment, among with many other similar ones on this video, shocked me, stopping me in my tracks. He called suicide selfish, called Chester Bennington weak and selfish, and did all of this on a tribute video to Bennington’s life.
Obviously, this guy has no clue how it feels to want to end your own life.
Over the years, I’ve determined one thing: people who call suicide selfish just don’t understand what it feels like to be suicidal.
I remember the first time I was called selfish for wanting to kill myself. I was thirteen. I was thirteen, with tears streaming down my face, with uneasy breathing, with shaking hands, and with a look in my eyes that I knew was taken seriously. I sincerely wanted to kill myself, and I was told I was being selfish for doing so.
But I can tell you that being selfish was the last thing on my mind at that moment. I had struggled through at least a year of extreme depression that hadn’t been diagnosed or treated, I had been bullied in school and at home, and I finally broke. I had been made to feel insignificant and, at thirteen, I felt unwanted, by everyone and everything around me, and I was lost for support. Mainly, I wanted to die because I felt like a burden.
And I remember, in this moment, how utterly serious I was about death. I remember being left alone after the incident (which, by the way, you never do with someone who is suicidal) and lying, motionless, on my bedroom floor, considering strangling myself with the coat hanger within arm’s reach, as a last, feeble attempt at ending my life.
Since then, I’ve had multiple brushes with depression and a few encounters with suicidal behavior. I’ve been destructive to myself and to other things. I’ve fallen asleep at night fantasizing about killing myself. For the last seven years of my life, suicide has never left my radar, and it probably never will.
But this isn’t because I’m weak or selfish. It’s because I struggle with depression. And though my depression isn’t nearly as bad as it has been in the past, it’s still present and can still make appearances even though I’m medicated for it. Depression is a mental illness, and an illness like any other, but its only difference is its silence: depression is a silent killer.
Depression is what eats you up inside, it’s what causes you to always find something to worry about or ponder on when you’re supposed to be having fun, it’s a heavy weight on your chest that appears sometimes out of nowhere and completely affects your mood. Depression is what keeps you in bed for 12+ hours even though you’re not tired, or what causes you not to be hungry even though it’s been days since you’ve had a decent meal. Depression can take the form of taking a simple “mental health day” off from work or it can be illustrated in matted hair and yellowed teeth from weeks without proper hygiene.
And when this goes untreated by a medication, by a professional, by society, by your family — you feel like a burden, and you feel useless, and you feel like there’s no other way out.
Mental health is shoved under the rug too often. We tense up when suicide is mentioned or just attribute depression to “having a bad day.” It’s not taken seriously, and we’re literally losing lives because of it…and blaming the victim.
Imagine if we treated any other common illness like we do depression. What if we shrugged our shoulders at cancer and attributed it to “just having weaker white blood cells than everyone else”? What if, because of this, most cancer patients went untreated because they were embarrassed or ashamed or made to feel like it wasn’t important enough to seek help?
We ask “what if” with this cancer scenario, but with depression, it’s a question of “when”: when will someone commit suicide because of their depression? Because it’s too inevitable — and that’s what our society has labeled it: “inevitable.” We don’t offer help, we don’t accept it as a legitimate issue, we shrug our shoulders and blame the victim.
Depression is hard to notice in many of the people it affects; it’s silent, and sometimes you won’t even notice signs of suicide until someone attempts to kill themselves. But this can be helped, if we just start trying to aid the illness before it takes hold of a person (after all, we don’t wait to treat a cancer patient, we do it immediately — as soon as we find out they’re affected).
We need to begin recognizing depression and mental illness as serious problems that affect more than 43.8 million adults in America alone. If we don’t begin to fix the problem, we’ll continue to compartmentalize suicide with selfishness, which is not at all what it’s about.
Signs & Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation
Symptoms marked with an asterisk (*) are ones that I have personally experienced.
– Giving away prized possessions
– Talking about death, dying
– Decreased social contact
– Changes in eating or sleeping habits*
– Feeling helpless; trapped by emotional pain*
– Mood swings*
– Severe anxiety and agitation*
More signs and symptoms can be found here.
If you, or someone you know, are in danger of committing suicide, please call or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Photo Courtesy of: Nihat via Pexels