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Calling Suicide Selfish is Disingenuous

A commentary on celebrity deaths, suicide, and Chester Bennington.

By Nathan FoxPublished 5 years ago 4 min read

So, Chester Bennington is dead via suicide. He was the lead singer of one of my favorite all-time bands. Chris Cornell was too and, in fact, if Eminem and RHCP went next that would probably be my all-time top four.

Per the usual when celebrities commit suicide, there’s an absolute flood of social media, radio talking heads, and miscellaneous media coming to say RIP and also say that suicide is selfish or both. Really, whatever else it is that people who have never been there typically say. It happens every time a celebrity dies of suicide, nonstop flooding of any cliche you can think of from “nobody saw that coming” to “don’t understand why he would have done that.”

I’m going to preface this by saying that I went through years of major depression and suicidal intent, multiple medicinal and alternative treatments, have a BA in Psychology, and have other deeply personal experiences with the subject of suicide. Also going to say that, yes, he did have six kids and a wife and, even if that were not the case, suicide is always a sad affair and I wish anybody could have been there for him on the level that he needed it.

However, I absolutely cannot stand these lazy, disingenuous, and, candidly, bullshit things that people say after events such as this. Aside from a multitude of psychobiological influences that can affect a person in that situation, a person who commits suicide isn’t being any more selfish than your average person. Your average person typically looks out for themselves and the people closest to them which are typically family and maybe a small social circle if one is fortunate. They don’t stop to look after strangers or the people who are in the mental space where suicide is a preferable option to living. Everyone’s priority is always their own self, generally speaking. Which includes looking after family too because there’s not a lot of discernment there considering how obligated every individual feels to look after family and how ingrained our identity is in our family.

Speaking of identity, that’s typically something people lack when in a suicidal mindset. That and support or a sense of belonging. Now, maybe Chester was a selfish prick who shouldn’t have done it or maybe he was under too heavy of a biological influence or maybe there were factors nobody really knew much about except him. Regardless, it’s probably wise to just shut up about it and literally let the dead lie and bid a respectful adieu.

Point being, I don’t see suicide as any more selfish than what the average person does. The average person just doesn’t have to bear the burden of carrying a mental weight that crushes them. If anything, I honestly see suicide as kinder than what a lot of society does, which is take out their anger and frustrations and incompetencies in the form of criminality, neglect, abuse, or otherwise societally-embedded horrors that people have tolerance for.

At least if someone who has been there and rebounded to a state of healthy functioning or other normalcy and sees suicide as selfish, I can agree to disagree. It sickens me to see the same type of people come out after every celebrity suicide to predictably spew hotline numbers and “RIP” and the “suicide is selfish” drivel. Those are the types of people who have never been there and thus don’t know how it feels to be completely, hopelessly, and utterly alone and miserable every waking moment of your day. Nor have they ever had to face their own mortality by their own hand, trying to counter every latent survival instinct that tells us not to.

Then again, it’s all relative. So, fine, call suicide selfish if one wants to but at least be intellectually honest enough to admit that it is no more selfish than half of what society does every single day. If that weren’t the case then I would argue that the amount of suicides would be extremely small. Most, if not all, people I’ve known who have been there see society for what it is and don’t have the social support, identity, self-esteem, or tools to face society on their own. I also ponder how many of these people who claim suicide to be selfish then go on to ignore the whole world of mental illness or the problem of suicide until the next celebrity death happens. I imagine it is quite a lot.

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