Far too often I hear others say something in regards to the supposition that suicide is about weakness. I can see how it might seem that way from the outside looking in, like just giving up without a fight.
I think the problem here is forgetting that mental illnesses are medical illnesses. If someone were to die of any other medical condition, whether willfully or not, I wouldn’t ever call them “weak.”
For example, there are those with illnesses that decide of their own accord to stop treatment that might save or at least prolong their lives. Are they weak? Sometimes the treatment can seem worse than the illness itself, or maybe those afflicted no longer wish to suffer – or have those they love watch them suffer. I can relate.
In no way can I speak on behalf of everyone who has ever attempted suicide, but I can speak from my own personal experience and perhaps shed some light on something I think is very misunderstood.
I was ill, specifically mentally ill, and had been putting up a fight with all I had, for as long as I felt I could. At the time, I was not in therapy or properly medicated.
There was a darkness inside me that made it impossible for me to see anything positive, bright or beautiful. I was hurting a hurt I could not show anyone because it was within me. And the only thing that kept playing over and over in my head was that “it will never get better, things will never change.”
My first attempt was with pills; in my second attempt, I was standing on the ledge of a building I wanted to jump off of.
What was I thinking?
I wasn’t thinking. I was feeling all the feelings amplified about a thousand times. I wanted a way to shut it all out, to close my eyes and never open them again.
I wasn’t weak, I was sick. I needed medical care, which I did later receive. Over the course of the next several years, I worked with various medical professionals, family, friends and organizations like NAMI to get healthy.
In regards to my mental health, I don’t think I was ever weak, just varying degrees of well and unwell. And I don’t think “wellness” is synonyms with “strength” nor “illness” with “weakness.”
I also think it’s important to recognize that each person has his or her own personal limitations and capacities that have nothing to do with weaknesses. Unfortunately, sometimes some of us are pushed past our own capacities to the point that we may fracture.
I was fortunate to survive both of my attempts and to be able to work to heal my fractures. Not everyone has that opportunity.
But it doesn’t mean someone is weak.
Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and social media blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. #LauraKaponeris1in5 (as 1 in 5 Americans have a mental illness).