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Is Suicide Selfish? If It Is, So What?

September 6, 2021 Laura A. Barton

Content warning: This blog contains a discussion of suicide and suicidal ideation.

I'll start off by saying that I don't believe suicide is a selfish act. This opinion comes from living with suicidal ideation since before I even knew there was a term for it. For the sake of this blog post, however, I want to explore the opposite. Is suicide selfish? So what if it is?

So What If Suicide Is Selfish? What Does That Idea Help?

To me, seeing suicide as a selfish act is an element of mental health stigma toward those who struggle with thoughts of suicide and, sadly, even those who'd died by suicide. However, to play devil's advocate, let's say suicide is selfish, as many argue it is. For those not familiar, the argument is that ending your own life is selfish because it's seen as not considering how others left behind will feel, and you're only continuing the pain by passing it to someone else rather than ending it with you.

Again, I disagree with this, but let's pretend for a moment I do agree or that I'm wrong and it's proven it is. Let's pretend suicide is selfish. That begs the question: so what? What changes with this notion? If we all accept this as reality, how does it help those who are suicidal or prevent suicide?

The way I see it, seeing suicide as selfish doesn't change that it's a mental health struggle. It doesn't change that many people aren't able to get help for their suicidal thoughts and feelings because they're not taken seriously or because of backlogged mental health systems. Suicide being selfish doesn't end the pain of those left behind after the fact or of those who are still here and struggling with these thoughts.

Telling me suicide is selfish doesn't banish the thought of wanting to die from my mind. It doesn't correct whatever is in my brain that makes these thoughts occur in the first place. It doesn't heal me.

Why Do People Say Suicide Is Selfish? Here's My Theory

I have a theory about why people say suicide is selfish. Saying suicide is selfish seems to be a coping mechanism that allows the sadness of loss to turn into anger. I know that, for me, anger is easier than sorrow, so it makes sense to me that people would gravitate toward that sort of reaction.

While I believe that suicide isn't a selfish act and rather a misguided attempt at selflessness because we feel we're unburdening others of us, I can see why people believe suicide is selfish. My point is, however, that saying suicide is selfish isn't helpful. It doesn't solve suicidal thoughts; it doesn't help people get treatment, it doesn't bring those we've lost to suicide back.

If you truly want to make a difference when it comes to suicide prevention and helping those who struggle with thoughts of ending their lives, then it's time to try to let go of that perception that suicide is selfish. I'm not saying forget your grief or pretend that the pain isn't real. What I'm saying is thinking of suicide as a selfish act doesn't help anyone. It doesn't help the people struggling with suicidal thoughts, not you, no one.

Instead, I encourage people to think about what we can do to positively help those who are considering suicide and contribute to suicide prevention efforts. In doing that, we can make strides toward reducing suicide and saving lives.

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

APA Reference
Barton, L. (2021, September 6). Is Suicide Selfish? If It Is, So What?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, November 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2021/9/is-suicide-selfish-if-it-is-so-what



Author: Laura A. Barton

Laura A. Barton is a fiction and non-fiction writer from the Niagara Region in Ontario, Canada. Find her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.

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