Suicide is not a selfish act
January 20, 2016
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Many people fear death and could never fathom inflicting it upon themselves. Some, however, welcome the idea with open arms.
Suicide, the act of deliberately causing one’s own death, is the third leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 to 24, and the tenth leading cause of death among Americans of all ages. Females are more likely to attempt suicide, whereas males are more likely to complete it. Such methods as self-poisoning or drug overdosing, which are not immediately lethal, are more prevalent among females, thus females who attempt suicide are more likely to be found before death. Males, however, tend to more frequently use immediately fatal methods, such as hanging or firearms.
Some of the most common suicide methods include hanging, drug overdose, carbon monoxide poisoning, use of firearms, jumping from great heights, drowning, exsanguination and jumping in front of moving vehicles. Less common methods include self-immolation (burning), electrocution, suffocation and hypothermia (freezing). Suicide can be attempted for a variety of reasons. Depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, abuse, assault, bullying, drug addiction, grief and terminal illness are common motivations for suicide. “It could be identity issues, family issues, relationship issues, mental health or trauma that they experienced,” said Mana Vue, counselor.
Senior Andrew Borgstrom has attempted suicide in the past. “I personally have only tried two times,” he said. “It was a combination of ‘Life is stupid, this is pointless, I’d be better off dead… One of them was ‘If I was dead I wouldn’t have to go through this anymore.'”
Andrew said that his suicide attempts have made him more distant from his family. “I think it’s separated me from them a lot,” he said. “In their eyes I was just doing things to hurt them. It happened right after one of my cousins had actually committed suicide, so that was already a touchy subject in their minds, and it just kind of escalated from there.”
Andrew’s sister, junior Karinna Borgstrom, said that her brother’s suicide attempts were frightening to her. “Honestly, it was really scary for me,” she said. “I didn’t know how to feel about it. When my mom told me about it, [my reaction] was shock, actually. I knew that he was in a really rough place, but I never expected that he would go that far with it. It was really hard to handle overall.”
Some people believe that suicide is a selfish act, as they often feel that the person committing suicide does not care about their loved ones’ feelings or the grief they will cause them. Ms. Vue, however, disagrees. “I don’t think it is,” she said. “When people feel too overwhelmed with the issues going on and they don’t have that support, [they feel] they have nowhere to go… I feel that it’s more just not having resources or not thinking right at that moment.”
Beth Breen, social worker, agreed. “I absolutely don’t think it’s a selfish act,” she said. “It’s mental illness, and it’s depression. When someone gets that clinically depressed, they’re not thinking about other things. They’re actually thinking that other people would be better off without them. They’re not trying to be selfish.”
Most people who commit suicide do so not out of selfishness, but out of the desire to end their pain. Karinna said she understands why her brother attempted suicide and does not feel that it was selfish of him. “I don’t [think it was selfish],” she said. “I know a lot of people do, but personally, I lost my cousin to suicide, and I saw what my brother went through. I think that people feel that it’s selfish because they don’t know how to wrap their head around it, but honestly, that person is handling something that nobody else understands, and [for someone to be pushed] to the point where they don’t want to live anymore, that’s not selfish. They just want to escape it all. My brother was talking about when he did it, and [he said] he knew that it would hurt us, but the pain he was going through was greater than that, and he wanted to end it, so I don’t think it’s selfish.”
Karinna said that the suicide attempts have actually resulted in some positive changes. “It brought me and my brother closer,” she said. “Me and Andrew are a lot closer that we were before. It also made us more aware of our surroundings. If my mom notices I’m having a bad day, she’ll specifically come up to me and she’ll ask me what’s wrong, if I want to talk about it… I feel like we’re more open to talk about things now and not hold it in as much because we’ve seen what it can lead to.”
Signs that someone may be suicidal include poor grades, withdrawal from family and friends, alcohol or drug abuse, loss of interest in activities they once found pleasurable, impulsivity, self-harm and verbal or written comments implying suicide or self-destructive behaviors, such as “It would be better if I were dead.”
Counselors and social workers are available at Harding every day to students who are feeling suicidal or depressed. There are also helplines students can call:
1-800-422-HOPE (Depression hotline)
1-800-784-2433 (National Crisis hotline)
1-800-SUICIDE (Suicide hotline)
1-800-273-TALK (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)