Suicide is not a cowardly act – here’s what you should know

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Published on Health24, 6 August 2018

Suicide is often labelled a cowardly and selfish act – for those who are left behind to pick up the pieces. But it’s not. I know this because I’ve found myself having those dark thoughts, and coming close to calling it a day on life.

To someone on the outside, it may have seemed like “the easy way out” when I contemplated suicide, but you have to understand that it was an incredibly difficult decision I was faced with. And the last person I was thinking about was myself – it was the people in my life who love me who were number one in my mind.

Yes, depression affects me first and foremost, but it also has a devastating impact on my husband who rides the emotional tides with me. He knows when my mood starts to dip and I know how it affects him, how I bring his mood down with mine.

He lives with the exciting weekend plans that we have to cancel because getting out of bed is too much of an effort. He has to find the right words to console me on the nights I sit crying on the couch for no conceivable reason. He has to convince me that I’m not a failure when a project I’ve spent months on has turned out (in my mind) to be rubbish. Perhaps this seems trivial, but it’s not. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating and it’s called depression.

When you reach a point of contemplating (or planning to commit suicide), you believe that ending your life is the single easiest way to bring peace to your loved ones, to end the suffering that you cause them. Following that, it’s also about finally finding your own peace – depression is exhausting. It consumes you on a daily basis. The ‘Black Dog’ constantly reminds you you’re not good enough, you’re a failure… It’s completely irrational but it’s also completely real to the person who is suffering.

When suicide is newsworthy

We’ve lost so many well-known people to suicide over the years and every single time the news breaks, the world stops to mourn, to show anger and to throw judgement against the person, labelling them a coward and calling them selfish.

Chester Bennington.


Anthony Bourdain.

Professor Bongani Mayosi.

All of them immensely talented individuals who committed suicide. Suddenly mental health takes priority and we start to have conversations about it. But soon those conversations come to an end and the next big thing happens – protests, the petrol price, the unemployment rate…

What you need to know about suicide

1. Should it really take tragic celebrity suicides to shine the spotlight on mental health? 

Health24 writer Mandy Freeman reflects on the recent suicide of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Why does the world only take notice of mental illness following the suicide of a celebrity?

2. What to do and say when someone wants to commit suicide

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s recent suicide sent shock waves through the world. Here are ways you can recognise somebody who’s contemplating suicide.

3.  ‘I Googled how to kill myself’

Suicide is not a cowardly act. It’s also not an easy decision to make. Health24 writer Mandy Freeman opens up about wanting to commit suicide.

The ugly face of depression

Depression is real and affects so many people differently. Don’t assume that because someone you know seems happy, full of life and always smiling, they are not secretly suffering. Chester Bennington’s wife, Talinda, tweeted this following his death:

You cannot know what demons a person is battling with internally. And in many regards, suicide is brave. When life is good, it’s good. But for someone with depression, when the dark cloud arrives, life gets pretty damn impossible.

Show compassion

So all I can ask is that we show a little more compassion to those who suffer from mental illness. The journey they’re on is not an easy one – it’s an emotional roller coaster day in and day out. And when a person finds themselves at the point of suicide, know that they have analysed every possible aspect and they believe this is their only way to find peace, and allow their loved ones a happier life.

Do you need help?

For a suicidal emergency call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 567 567. Their 24-hour helpline is 0800 12 13 14. 

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