Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

A recent heart-breaking post about suicide, written by Prad over at Metaversally Speaking, lead to numerous comments of the predictable type: One grouping was “Prad you’re so kind and brave” (which he is), and the other line of comments was “suicidal people are evil ass-hats”. What I want to talk about is the dangerous idiocy of claiming expertise in the “type of people” who commit suicide. (I’ve discussed suicide at length before in a previous post here, so I will not repeat what I said there, go have a look though if you want my back-ground broader view on the issue of suicide and Second Life.)

We seem to know that we cannot put forward our understanding of serious physical ailments, as if they were medical truths, without proper training and research. And we understand that doing so would be stupid and dangerous. For example, if you tell me you have bowel cancer I would not assume your genetic or behavioural history that lead to it, even if I knew other people who had suffered and survived or died of it. I would not tell you what you must and must not do, and what it says about you as a person that you have the condition (any more than we can assume that every lung cancer victim was a smoker – a common error). Rather I would show my sympathy for your situation and try to support you, and rest on the expertise of your specialist with their recent and highly researched knowledge, to get you through. (If I did express any opinion on what they should or shouldn’t do I would be exceptionally careful to make it clear it was only my personal view and wouldn’t want to be responsible for them acting on my advice if it contradicted their assigned expert.)

And yet when we hear someone is suicidal – which is an extremely life-threatening mental condition – people are so very ready to put on their expert’s hat: “Oh you’re just attention seeking”, “oh, you’re genetically mentally ill”, “oh, you’re clearly a egomaniac”. What makes people think they are experts on this condition? Just because they’ve felt suicidal before? The reasons you were suicidal will very likely be different than this other person, plus you didn’t end up killing yourself did you so how much can you really claim to understand them? Maybe if you attempted and failed the suicide it might be a tad more believable that you truly understand. I’d also suggest that if you’re saying someone else is evil because they considered or achieved suicide, that you might be projecting yourself a bit there – maybe what you need is to think more about what you’re really admitting to.

The other thing that tends to make people think they’re such experts on suicide is that they know people who have succeeded in committing it. I know people who have died of all sorts of physical conditions, does that make me an expert in their deaths? Of course not. And the mind is an incredibly complicated thing – a bodily organ that is formed and effected as well by our daily experiences. What in god’s name would make you an expert in all suicides just because you knew one or two people who committed the act? Did you do a chemical break-down of their brains before and after the fact? Did you counsel them for years before the act was achieved – with a background of years of professional study in higher learning institutions, that qualify you to comment enmass about the cause of all suicides..? I doubt it.

The fact is the human mind is exceptionally complex in so many ways, and its chemical make-up can differ vastly from person to person. Just because you have a brain doesn’t make you an expert on the ones that kill themselves. In the same way that just because you have a body doesn’t make you an expert on the ones that die.

The extra danger of course with claiming such expertise about suicidal people is that your opinions of them can directly effect whether they follow through on the act or not, so you better be careful aye? And no it’s not so simple as saying “I told them I’d think they were selfish ass-hats if they killed themselves so now they won’t do it!” Cause guess what, if they really were selfish ass-hats that opinion of yours wouldn’t matter would it? You also can’t claim that telling them to stop using suicide to seek attention will make them stop it, cause guess what, if you’re right they still desperately want and need that attention and you choosing to ignore their cry for help will only make it worse.

I have seen suicidal people stop in their plans because someone simply hugged them. Or because someone told them they cared whether they lived or died. Or because someone gave them the right pills to fix their serotonin levels. How helpful have these other people been at stopping suicides, by putting them down both before and after the fact? You might be saying things to make yourself feel better or trying to make the people left behind feel a bit less upset, but wouldn’t it be better to have shown the understanding in the first place in the hope it could have stopped the act happening at all? Knowing you did all you could – like Prad did? Wouldn’t that make you a better person. Even if you didn’t succeed, and even though you know the failure isn’t your fault, at least you know you were there and you did what you could, when they felt that no-one else cared or could help.

It’s so easy to dismiss suicidal people cause they’re not around to defend themselves anymore are they. It’s so easy to label them to make yourself seem superior just for having not killed yourself. Next time someone asks you your opinion about why suicidal people kill themselves, just stop and admit first that it depends on the life experiences, on the brain chemistry and on so many other factors you don’t know enough about, before you label them all as stupid, evil or insane. Because frankly, labelling them that way makes you look stupid, evil, and – if you really think it will stop suicides – possibly insane too.

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