Who is to blame for suicide?

The recent suicide of a nurse in the UK has brought these thoughts to mind and I'm posting this blog entry to help clarify the debate for anyone unfamilliar with the issues.

When I was younger suicide almost seemed fashionable. Kurt Cobain killed himself and my generation was devastated. Around the same time a personal friend of mine also took his own life and our social circle was never really the same again. In the immediate aftermath I was furious at the society he'd turned his back on. It made me quite an angry person. Then another friend killed themselves and I was forced to reconsider my perspective.

Suicide is defined in most cultures as "self-murder". That's a definition I am more comfortable with. Part of dealing with the grief of losing someone like that comes, I think, from understanding this dynamic. The person you know has done something you disagree with on a profound level. It's not disrespectful to think that, it's an expression of the fact you loved them and still want them to be around. If another person had killed them you would likely be baying for their blood and probably never forgive them. In this instance though you have no one to blame in such a way.

Furthermore blaming others is, I think, entirely the wrong thing to do. It runs contrary to the above logic and justifies the action of self-murderers. Firstly it implies you think they were partly right to take their lives. They weren't. No one is. Whatever problem it is you face it will seem less awful if you give it time. Life is hope. Stand on the side of those who want to live. Secondly though such "sympathy" for the victim's motives could encourage more suicidal people to take their lives. Keep that in mind while posting on this topic. People of this mindset look for excuses to murder themselves. The current ill-informed online frenzy around this topic is very likely to increase the number families who will have someone murder themselves just before Christmas. Self-murder is always the ultimate responsibility of the person who does the deed. Ironically though the ones who encourage it the most are the ones who think they're being "sympathetic" by blaming society and anyone else but the victim.

Nick Margerrison.


Janine said…
Does it have to be about blame though? Can it not just be about understanding or explaining? I just sort of feel, if someone is feeling suicidal, a viewpoint which blames the victim might make them less likely to seek help about it.

You know that story I'm sure, about people who survived jumping from the golden gate bridge. Most of them changed their mind on the way down. Suicide is a phenomenon that happens to the person, just as much as it happens to the people who loved them. I'm sure you wouldn't 'blame' someone who died of, say, anorexia, would you? It's a mental illness, albeit one which is a psychological response to stressors. Kindness, and yes, sympathy, not blame, is what is called for, I would say.

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