Is suicide selfish? Does it matter?

I heard another discussion about suicide on a podcast recently. The usual response is to immediately find the reason. Then the conversation goes into immediate pity and fake sorrow and how people don’t understand how precious life is. Blaming suicide in selfishness however is a different kind of deep philosophical debate few are willing to have. Who’s really selfish though; The survivors or the deceased?

Suicide is a horrible choice made to solve some pretty horrible problems. However one can argue that it is the best choice at hand. Maybe people realize that there are notions larger than life that mitigate their choice and reason of existence. So maybe suffering it’s not worth anything let alone living. But so think the people that are survived by the victim; the suffering of losing a loved one isn’t worth going through. Consequently more blame is placed on the perpetrator in addition to the emotional stress the victim had when he or she were alive. Maybe the argument of selfishness comes from people committing suicide without regard of anyone else but themselves. The survivors apparently think it’s very rude or unacceptable that the victim didn’t ask their family members for permission or how they felt about the decision. What a shame?

In the United States suicide is most prevalent between the ages of 14 and 19 and especially on females . One can argue that the teenage years are delicate in regards to emotional development. It is probably the age when more family attention is needed, but it’s also rejected. Teenagers go through rebellion phases, but that doesn’t mean families need to give up on them entirely. So there’s a grave responsibility on adults to deal with their children’s; emotional changes. If the the unspeakable happens then is it safe to say that the family acted selfishly by not extending their support as needed.

Suicidal behavior is often explained by biological causes and patterns of brain activity. A study conducted among suicidal men concluded that the patients showed “increased sensitivity to others’ disapproval, higher propensity to act on negative emotions, and reduced attention to mildly positive stimuli” . This is one of the many studies that suggests biological effects on behavior that drive suicidal thoughts. This suggests that for some people it’s not a choice at all let alone a selfish one. Mental illness can manifest itself in many forms and can cloud one’s judgement. In many cases it can cause emotional pain that’s sometimes unbearable. Why would anyone expect people in this situation to think about anyone else? So if it suicide is selfish does it matter?

Suicide is not a choice one should make or is encouraged to make. I believe it is our duty to reach out to people in emotional need to overcome problems that may seems unbearable. Adding blame on them doesn’t make it better. Actually I’d argue the people that are most selfish are the ones that cast judgement on an action like this. The survivors are selfish to think that someone would have thought of their pain. It doesn’t matter. It could have not be a more serious emotion than one that drives someone to take their own life. Thinking that the survivors’ opinion matters more than the victims is a selfish act of its own.




Thanks to:

Nock, M. K., Borges, G., Bromet, E. J., Cha, C. B., Kessler, R. C., & Lee, S. (2008). Suicide and Suicidal Behavior. Epidemiologic Reviews, 30(1), 133–154. http://doi.org/10.1093/epirev/mxn002

Am J Psychiatry. 2008 Jun;165(6):740-8. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.07081239. Epub 2008 Mar 17.



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