Is dying from cancer selfish? Did my husband not try hard enough to get better from the disease that afflicted him? Did the doctors not try all of the treatments available to him to cure him? His death from cancer wasn't because he was selfish.
And someone who dies because of suicide is not selfish. Depression is a disease. It is not a choice. Treatment can be complicated. It is not a matter of willpower to just "get over it." (More than 90% of the people who die from suicide has risk factors related to depression or other mental disorder, or a substance-abuse disorder—often combined with a mental disorder.)¹
So, when I see remarks about suicide being a selfish act, I call bullshit. Loudly.
Do the grieving have a right to be angry with the loss of their loved ones? Fuck yes! Depression, just like cancer, robs us of too many too soon.
And unlike cancer, mental illness is still taboo to discuss. It's hard to find treatment. And the stigma of telling people you struggle with a mental illness will give you pause in the workplace, with friends, and with family members who don't understand that it IS a disease and not a choice, that you are not weak, that you would love nothing more than to "get over it."
When was the last time you were asked to donate to a mental health cause? How many colored ribbon magnets do you see on cars for depression or suicide?
How many do you see for cancer? Which types? What colors? I bet you can name at least three colors and what cancers they represent, and another few ribbons for other causes, none of which relate to mental health.
Nowhere in the list of risk factors for suicide will you find selfishness. Shock. Awe. Or, just logical if you stop and think about it.
If you are in a crisis and need help right away:
Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.