Mental illness is one of the most important things for us to acknowledge in the world right now, and anyone who knows me knows I’m incredibly passionate about mental illness awareness and suicide prevention. Few things in this world are more heartbreaking than knowing a million people feel lost, alone, and hopeless enough to take their lives every year--and that’s only the numbers of those who succeed, which is roughly 4-5% of all attempts.
In recent years, there have been many more suicide prevention efforts, perhaps most notably things like the semicolon project and media-Thirteen Reasons Why and How to Save a Life being prominent examples. And I love this-I love that people are speaking up and trying to encourage people that there is hope out there, that there are finally voices out there for such an important cause.
But I think there is a huge flaw in the way many people currently approach suicide prevention.
“How would your family feel?” “Think about your parents!” “Think of your friends.”
Always, always, always, suicide prevention is focused on the effect it would have on one’s family if they were to die by their own hand, but that’s not confronting the main problem.
More than this, people accuse those who've committed suicide of being selfish--"How could they, didn't they consider what it would do to their family?!"
Honestly? I think this kind of logic is part of the underlying problem that drives people to suicide--they're taught to live for other people, and if you're not living for yourself what's the point of any of it?
I think the truly selfish thing is being mad at people for trying to escape their own misery solely for the sake of others' happiness. If we want to truly encourage people to push through their pain long term, we have to focus on changing their outlook and making them believe their life is worth living solely because it’s theirs, and we have to convince them to keep living not for others, but for themselves, that their lives have intrinsic value and potential just by being theirs, regardless of the people around them.
We can't treat people like they're bad humans because they decide to prioritize their own feelings; instead, we have to prevent them from thinking these feelings are ever lasting and inescapable by reminding them of how bright the future can be.
Stop teaching people to live for others, and encourage them to live solely because they deserve a life, and the life that is theirs has nameless value, regardless of anyone and anything else.
Your life is not given meaning by the absence of a negative impact on others, but rather by your own goals, choices, and the purpose you choose to live for--and there is always one out there waiting to be found, however arduous the road to find it might be.