Letter to the Editor: Submitted by Mark Jacobson

To the Editor:

Our society has come a long way in understanding the importance of taking care of mental health. Although there have been many improvements in how mental health is addressed, there still is a stigma involved, especially when it comes to suicide. One common misconception that leads to the further stigma around mental health is that “suicide is a selfish choice.”

Is suicide selfish? To be frank, no, suicide is not a selfish act. People who contemplate suicide are often in such a state of emotional distress and pain that they don’t feel they have many choices to help end their suffering. There are many complex factors that could contribute to someone attempting suicide, but the bottom line is that people do not commit suicide out of selfishness.

Many people who contemplate suicide consider deeply how their death could affect others. Many people actually attempt suicide because they feel their existence is a burden to their loved ones. They think their loved ones will live more fulfilling lives without them in the picture. This means they truly are not acting selfishly, but genuinely think the world is better off without them.

Often, people talk about suicide as though it is just another wrong choice to be made. Suicide is hardly a choice. It’s easy for someone on the outside looking in to consider how many different options another person has. Unfortunately, someone experiencing a mental health crisis can’t usually see their available options clearly. Intense hopelessness and emotional pain can hinder a person’s ability to think rationally. If someone attempts suicide, it is likely because they saw that as either their best or only choice to deal with their pain.

It’s time to change the way we talk about suicide. The way we talk about suicide as a society is important in breaking the stigma around it. We can work to change the way we talk and think about mental health by viewing those with mental health conditions the same way we would someone with a physical impairment. Just as someone with a heart condition may need a doctor’s care to help them stay healthy, so does someone with severe depression.

If you take anything away from reading this, remember that suicide is not a selfish act. Those with severe mental illness, such as major depression, are fighting their inner demons, who make them feel isolated and like they are a burden to others. Someone in a mental health crisis who is contemplating suicide is facing a distorted perception of reality. They cannot see many options before them and just want to unburden themselves and others.

If you or someone you know struggles with thoughts of suicide, now is the right time to seek help. In a crisis, where someone is in immediate danger, call 911. If you are in a state of crisis, you can call the suicide prevention hotline at 988. The suicide prevention hotline has a network of over 200 crisis centers with trained mental health experts who provide help 24/7.

If you are not in crisis and are seeking additional support, I may be reached at gottahavehope38@gnail.com or by letter to 559 W. Broadway Street, Winona, MN 55987.

Respectfully submitted,
Mark Jacobson
Peer Support Specialist
Winona, MN