Yes, Parental Suicide Is Actually Pretty Selfish
There is absolutely nothing poetic about depression and suicide should never ever be romanticized -- especially if you have children
I suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and have battled with depression for several years now.
Disturbing thoughts would creep into my mind and strange voices would whisper in my ear to either step in front of an oncoming train, leap off the top storey of a high-rise building, jump out of a moving vehicle and into busy traffic, slit my wrists with a knife, or just hold my head under water.
I also experienced the anguish of pregnancy loss which left me completely devastated and at one of the most lowest points in my life.
But my five-year-old firstborn daughter is the biggest reason why I fight back to kick the suicidal ideation out of my head and yell at the taunting voices to leave me alone.
I do not want her to grow up without a mother or experience the unnecessary trauma of losing a parent, especially at such a young age.
So when I hear that a parent decided to end their own life, although I understand they must have experienced such immense pain to conclude that dying and leaving their kids behind was the best solution, I am unable to accept the argument that nothing more could or should be done because it is ultimately their choice.
Death by suicide
The recent passing of Chester Bennington, lead vocalist of American Rock band Linkin Park, comes as a great blow to his fans who looked up to him and even attribute his angsty music as a coping mechanism for their own mental health issues.
He had always been open about his battle with depression and would speak candidly about it in interviews — a lot of the song lyrics he wrote would also reflect his troubled thoughts:
“I don’t like my mind right now
Stacking up problems that are so unnecessary
Wish that I could slow things down
I wanna let go but there’s comfort in the panic”
(“Heavy” from One More Light – 2017)
But the most tragic part of this shocking news is that he leaves six children behind — the youngest being six-year-old twin daughters.
Impact of parental suicide on children
When you become a parent, there is a tiny human being who depends on you for everything.
You brought another life into this world, so please don’t be so quick to end yours.
Even if you think that your partner is capable and can do a great job of raising your child on their own, there any many negative impacts on a child who loses their parent to suicide, such as:
- Feelings of sadness
- Withdrawal from participating in normal activities
- Refusal to attend school
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Decrease in appetite
- Emotional numbing
- Selective amnesia
- Increased risk of also attempting suicide
Is suicide a selfish act?
Many argue that those who choose to die by suicide are not selfish but rather the ones who want them to just continue living in pain are.
However, Brian “Head” Welch, the guitarist from American Nu Metal band Korn, who is a friend of Bennington received a lot of backlash recently for his brutally honest online statement:
“Honestly, Chester‘s an old friend who we’ve hung with many times, and I have friends who are extremely close to him, but this is truly p*ssing me off! How can these guys send this message to their kids and fans?! I’m sick of this suicide sh*t! I’ve battled depression/ mental illness, and I’m trying to be sympathetic, but it’s hard when you’re p*ssed! Enough is enough! Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!!”
It may be an unpopular opinion and came across as rather insensitive, but I must admit that I agree with him to a certain extent.
Those who lose a loved one to suicide obviously do not want that person to continue living in pain — they just want them to still be alive.
A lot of the articles online urging people to stop saying that “suicide is cowardly and selfish” are mostly written by suicide survivors themselves who argue that those who do not struggle with depression or suicidal ideation have no right to make this hurtful accusation.
But what about those like Welch who does suffer with mental health issues and admits that it could have easily happened to him as well?
People like me who are battling depression every waking day and make it a point to remind myself that life is worth living?
We are calling it out by saying that yes, suicide is actually pretty selfish.
Your children look up to you and love you with all their hearts — by giving up on life, it sends them the wrong message that their love for you wasn’t enough and that they weren’t worth it enough for you to fight on.
Remember that you are not being selfish by doing your best to function day to day.
It isn’t selfish to not be a perfect parent.
There’s nothing selfish about asking for help and seeking treatment for your depression.
You are not being selfish for staying alive.
Stop romanticizing suicide
The ones who do not suffer from mental illness or regularly stare down the face of death should avoid speaking on our behalf by saying that suicide is acceptable and they understand why we would take our own lives, thinking that they are being supportive or politically correct.
There is nothing poetic about depression and suicide should not be romanticized.
When I am in my darkest hours, wondering whether my family is just better off without me, I don’t need someone to tell me that it’s okay to give up and end it all.
It doesn’t help at all to hear someone telling me that they acknowledge I am going through a lot of pain so yes, they agree that I should just end the suffering and kill myself.
That is not being supportive.
That is not being understanding or helpful in any way.
There is nothing normal about a human being wishing they were dead.
There is nothing acceptable about thinking that death is the only solution to all the pain one is feeling.
People who commit suicide do not want their life to end — they just want to stop the pain.
So we need your help to end that pain — not encourage us to end our lives.
Bennington chose to end his life on the birthday of his close friend Chris Cornell, vocalist for American Rock band Soundgarden, who also died in an eerily similar fashion just a few months ago, and although they were not related, they shared a strong bond and most probably relied on one another for support through tough times.
So for Cornell to give up fighting and succumb to his afflictions could be the final push that sent Bennington over the edge.
Normalizing suicide is extremely dangerous for vulnerable people and also perpetuates the suicide cycle.
Self inflicted suffering
Everyone experiences various degrees of suffering in life, it’s how you deal with it that makes all the difference between succumbing to the pain and overcoming it.
Granted that some of us may be more prone to overwhelming feelings and depression, but all the more we should realize that some times things aren’t as bad as we make them out to be.
Bennington himself admits during a radio interview:
“I drive myself nuts actually thinking that all these are real problems. All the stuff that’s going on [in my head] is actually just… I’m doing this to myself, regardless of whatever that thing is. So this is that conscious awareness of that thing. When you can step back and look at something, you’re actually elevating yourself consciously — you’re enlightened at that point, to a certain degree. And so this is that moment of enlightenment, where you go, ‘I could do something about this, and by doing it, I can move forward and get unstuck from this, and I can actually…’”
Although depression is not a completely made up condition or an excuse people come up with to explain their feelings of hopelessness, health experts do recognize that putting mind over matters can actually help you beat it.
Use that lifeline
If you are drowning in a river of sorrow and someone throws you a rope to pull you in to safety, they need you to meet them half way by grabbing onto that rope.
Tell yourself that things aren’t that bad.
The river isn’t as deep as you think it is.
Just keep your head above water and grab onto that rope.
Use the lifeline.
Your family and friends love you.
Your children need you.
There can be 100 people standing on the riverbank throwing ropes, reaching out their arms, or holding out tree branches desperately trying to save you from drowning, but ultimately it is entirely up to you whether or not you want to continue to struggle by treading water and allow the strong currents pull you under — or just reach out and let yourself be pulled back to safety.
Have the strength and courage to save yourself and let your thoughts of suicide be laid to rest.
If you need help, please reach out to the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) by calling their 24hrs hotline: 1800 221 4444