SooToday has received the following letter to the editor from mental health advocate Melissa Cutler in response to the suicide of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington.
After hearing that Chester Bennington died by suicide and everyone talking about how terrible it is, I knew I had to write something. I was going to bite my lip and not say anything, but I have to. In moments like this, I am so vulnerable. Not because we lost yet another person to suicide. Not because it’s another “famous person” who died by suicide (it should matter just as much if it were someone not famous). But because hearing the horrible, terrible, shaming words people still say.
Words like “suicide is selfish” or how that person is a “coward”, or how the “real survivors” are the ones left behind. Saying those things is literally insulting a human being who is no longer alive. People who say those things clearly have never been pushed to the limit by mental illness to the point where they lose their will to live. They have never had suicide at their doorstep.
Everyone (for the most part) knows that I've battled mental illness. For the past year, I’ve been more selective with what I share. It’s not because I am ashamed. It’s because I have been struggling immensely lately. Hearing that suicide is selfish is the thing that shatters my heart the most. Let me tell you why.
At times I was so depressed no matter what medications I was on or counselling I was getting. Dancing didn’t help (which was my passion). Not even being in Sudbury around my little brother, whom I adore, helped. Now let me ask you this... am I selfish? No really, am I? I have been told that I don’t have an ounce of selfish in my body and that I’m the most forgiving, generous and loving person they’ve met by quite a few people (not tooting my horn). But, now, let me ask this, if I died by suicide, would it make me so selfish all of a sudden?
Some of you may think so and I am not here to try and change your mind, but I will tell you this: suicide is not selfish. It does not make you a coward and it does not mean you are weak. It is hopelessness, helplessness and not seeing the light. It’s being trapped somewhere so dark and not being able to envision a way out. It’s “the devil” that prevents you from seeing that light. Those who are mentally healthy preach that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. That I won’t argue – it’s true that it is permanent – but those laying in the pit of darkness can't see that from down there.
It’s okay to feel anger, sadness, and resentment towards the person for leaving their loved ones to grieve, but you should never insult that person and who they were as a person when they were living. Don’t shame them once they are gone. Trust me, they didn’t really want to leave. No one does. It’s the pain that becomes unbearable.
I speak on behalf of myself and those I have lost to suicide and those who I know have been there. Not because I enjoy bringing this up.Ttrust me – it hurts. But I promise you that even if you still don't understand that suicide isn’t selfish, I guarantee you that the people lost to suicide did the very best they could in the worst time of their life; that they held on for as long as they could; and that they were the most bravest that they could have been. They were so strong, for so long, and tried so hard to be selfless.
The problem is that when people use the word “selfish” to describe someone who has ended their life, their description is made by thinking that the person was able to keep themselves alive. The fact here – and I’m telling you this out of pure and personal experience – is that they were not capable.
They were severely sick people incapable of making logical decisions. They were in pure agony and wanted out. There really isn’t one whole explanation for this situation but i can promise you it’s not something that is made with a clear and conscious thought. The person who commits suicide is ill. They have an illness and are sick. It’s not their fault.
I have been in that situation more than enough times. It is the absolute worst feeling in the world. I am still alive because, during those times, I am able to think of my loved ones enough to keep me from doing anything. But don’t get me wrong, I was in the situation where I was not able to think of anyone or anything else other than the escape.
Mental illness is a long, difficult journey, but please look after yourself. You are worth fighting for. There is help out there – please take it.