Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s an act of desperation, pain and often compulsion. The majority of those who have family or friends who have lost someone to suicide would agree. Having been friends with Kirsty since the age of 16, we had become closest in the last few years of her life. She had suffered with mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety for many years. She took her own life in September 2016.
I believe strongly that mental health illness is a serious as any other long-term and or terminal illness, yet however much it’s discussed in the press, there are not the same resources of support. When you have a physical injury, you attend A&E and a process follows. If you have a terminal illness, of which I have lost my mum and father-in-law to cancer, a timely treatment plan is put into place with a range of treatments and regular check-ups, in most cases with cancer, forever. For mental health I can only speak of my own experience, but 25 years of being “in the system”, three suicide attempts and a million medications, I am still on a waiting list for another 18 months for therapy, having never been offered any in the quarter of a century I have struggled. I was finally “diagnosed” at the beginning of this year, which allowed me to be added to the waiting list. Most of the time I fight, but other days, I simply think “I can’t carry on like this for another day, let alone another year or more”.
The system lets us down. If we’re going to start accepting mental health in-line with physical health, then we need find the same pathways. There needs to be more centres such as A&E that we can attend when we are mentally unwell, rather than being pushed into a room, looked down on and made to feel like we would have been better not telling anyone about the overdose. And next time we reach crisis, our brain is unwell, that’s the first thing that pops into our head when our inner voice tells us we’ve tried for the last time, just give up.
And so many people say - do. Not through selfishness, but through pain, desperation and a lack of support for something they have been encouraged to speak out about. We speak out, finally admitting to ourselves and others, but there are not the resources or treatments available in this country to help.
It’s not selfish. The definition of selfish is “a person, action, or motive, lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure”. My friend Kirsty wasn’t trying to gain profit or pleasure, but respite for herself and others. I genuinely felt like I was saving other people, that my family would have a better life without me and I believe Kirsty will have felt the same. As much as she wanted the suffering to stop, she would never have thought solely of herself. She’d have thought her friends and family needed saving. Mental illness can twist and distort your thoughts so much so that you’re lying to yourself and you have no idea.
Some refer to the devastation left behind, and it does, which I have first hand experience of. But I still never saw Kirsty’s decision as selfish. To me it was the same as someone who had had enough of suffering with a terminal illness and could no longer bear the pain, or the pain she thought she was inflicting on others.
Of course I wish she was still here, I still wish we were having girly nights in, laughing and crying together. I’d do anything to bring her back. But she never acted selfishly, she was the most selfless person I ever met. She is now an angel, I am sure of that, watching over me during my recovery and being my inner cheerleader drowning out the annoying inner critic when he rears his head.