Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Philosophical Ramblings #1: Is Suicide Selfish?

Geeks, you know that I love talking about deep, philosophical, pretentious things (as long as it's not a John Green novel). So I've decided to start a new series on my blog, now that the People Who Annoy Me series has run its course (although that may change once I return to college).

Today, I'm going to talk about something that isn't really much of a question: is suicide selfish?

Suicide and mental illness are two of the sub-themes of the novel I'm currently working on, and a few weeks ago, when I was rewriting a crucial scene, I remembered something a very important person in my life had said to me, many years ago: "Suicide is one of the most selfish things you can do."

And I'm here to tell you that it absolutely isn't.

Suicide is a touchy subject, especially here in India. It's like premarital sex or homosexuality, in the sense that we like to pretend it doesn't happen. Or that even if it does happen, it's a shame to society.

Suicide is a shame to society, but not in the way people think it is. Suicide is not a cowardly act or a way to get attention. Suicide is simply the result of a mental illness, and most people who've attempted suicide or even seriously considered it aren't doing it because they're selfish. They're doing it because they can't help it. They see no light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe they've asked for help before, only to be laughed at for being so 'weak'. Maybe they see no other way out.

And that happens because we as a society don't believe in mental illnesses. We don't understand that being depressed and being sad are two different things. We don't understand that telling someone to 'get over it' or to 'compare themselves to starving kids in Africa' can do more harm than good.
I'm all for being grateful, but you can't put an end to your suicidal thoughts by praying to God or thinking about the good things in life - at least, not most of the time.

By perpetuating this belief that suicidal people are selfish, cowardly or immoral, we are only making things worse. We are being selfish by denying medical treatment to those who need it.

So let's start accepting mental illnesses for what they are: illnesses. Not exaggerations or hallucinations, but real illnesses that need immediate attention.

The next time someone confides in you about their bad thoughts, think about the power your words have. You could help save a life. You could keep a million hearts from breaking. You could make a real difference in the world, just by being open-minded and considerate.

If you're having suicidal thoughts, or if you know someone who does, please ask for help immediately. You don't have to go to a hospital or look for a psychiatrist. Even emailing a suicide helpline anonymously can help.

Have you ever come across someone who antagonizes mentally ill people? Or are you one of them? Let me know in the comments if you disagree with what I said - I do love a healthy discussion... some  of the time.

Next time, I'll talk about the morality of death sentences. Are they really doing us any good?
Until then, have a great week!


  1. I agree with you on the fact that suicides are not selfish, but although most suicides are the result of a mental illness, not all of them are. Some are due to people feeling there is no point in living the kind of life they lead, whether due to poverty (e.g. farmer suicides), physical/mental abuse (e.g. brutally raped victims), terminal health conditions (e.g. quadriplegia as shown in the movie Guzaarish) or some other social stigma.

    The government has also decriminalized attempt to suicide which I think is a positive step since a person trying to kill himself does not need a fine/term in jail. Rather they should try to find out the reason why he/she was trying to kill him/herself.

    Mercy killing could be seen as abetment to suicide by some but has been legalised in the form of passive euthanasia as part of a verdict of the Aruna Shanbaug case. Although euthanasia was not the point of this article but it is an important part of any discussion on suicides.

    Conclusion - Suicides are not selfish, however, are also not caused by mental illnesses.

    1. According to statistics, more than 90% of all suicidal people have or have had a mental illness in the past, although most of them go undetected or untreated because of social stigma. So suicide isn't always because of an illness (sometimes it can be a total spur-of-the-moment decision), but in majority of the cases, it is.

      And euthanasia, as you mentioned, is a completely different topic, which I'm not addressing.

      "People feeling there is no point in living the kind of life they lead" is a common symptom of a mental illness. I can tell you that from personal experience.

      People who have undergone physical or mental trauma usually do end up with some amount of PTSD (another sub-theme of my new novel).

      I think decriminalising attempted suicide was a brilliant move on the government's part. The problem is that (even worldwide), there aren't enough doctors to treat mental illnesses, because there's a lack of awareness on society's part. I really hope that changes soon. :)

  2. Correction - Suicides are not selfish, however, are also not ALWAYS caused by mental illnesses.

    Oh and I already love this series, great job on tackling a sensitive issue. Looking forward to the next article.

    1. Thanks so much, Anushka! If you have any topics you'd like to suggest, I'd be very grateful. :D

  3. I agree and don't agree. Not all suicide cases are psychological. There are lots of factors too. What I liked about this post is that you are raising awareness for suicide. Kudos xx

    1. Thanks for commenting, Carmela!
      Scientists have found, though, that close to 90% of suicides are due to mental illnesses. That's why I'm mostly focusing on psychological factors. :)


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