All Articles Tagged "coward"
I’ve always been sensitive to news of someone’s death, whether I knew them personally or just happened to come across their story in the news. This is particularly true when it comes to suicide. Immediately I think of what it must have taken to get the person to the point of not just having suicidal thoughts but to actually pull the trigger, or take the pills, or make the cut.
But while I sit in sympathy and ponder the sadness they must have been feeling and the emotions those closest to them must be experiencing, I’ve realized there are others who have drastically different reactions to news of suicides. While I ponder explanations like depression and isolation, they think selfishness and cowardice.
It’s interesting since news of Don Cornelius’s apparent suicide yesterday, those words haven’t been brought up. Perhaps Don’s positive influence is so great that it overshadows his controversial passing or perhaps suspicions of dementia or Alzheimer’s give him a pass from simply being a weak person who couldn’t handle the cards he was dealt, because that’s often the attitude that is projected when someone takes his own life. It always baffles me that if even in death you can’t understand someone’s suffering, how are you surprised that those same people didn’t seek help when they were living?
As far as we’ve gotten away from Catholic teachings that someone who commits suicide is automatically damned to hell, it’s clear that isn’t what makes suicide such a taboo in society, so what is? This issue is far from being one that’s solely black but it bears a deeper look in a community that is typically resistant to accept or discuss mental health. If we can’t accept or understand someone’s choice to take their own life then how can we be accepting or understanding of the circumstances that lead them to that decision while they’re still living? People tend to question why a person didn’t just “say something” but I tend to believe the person has been saying something all along—either vocally or indirectly through their moods or behaviors—and those signs were either ignored, unrecognized, or brushed off, as was the case with Ashley Duncan. That’s not something we can afford to do any longer.
Black women are more likely to attempt suicide but black males are much more likely to complete it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death among African American males between the ages 15 and 24, and in 2007, of the 1,958 African Americans who committed suicide, 1,606 or 82 percent were males, according to the American Association of Suicidology.
I understand family and friends who are left behind feel as though a person’s choice to commit suicide was selfish but it’s also selfish to only think about the pain they’re feeling in that moment and not the pain that must have driven their loved one to take that step. It’s also unfair to assume what another person should be capable of handling. What one person may think they can take, another simply may not, and no one can say who’s right or wrong. I think it’s safe to say the perceptions of anyone dealing with thoughts of suicide may not be fully in line with reality as outsiders see it. While people may be around and willing to help, those battling depression tend to not see things that way or to feel as though they are a burden and may in fact be doing their loved ones a favor by taking their own lives. Our perceptions create our realities and once someone is gone there’s no way of knowing what they were truly thinking at the time.
Rather than attempting to admonish any guilt that may be felt by disregarding a suicide victim’s circumstances, it would be far more beneficial to think about what can be done to prevent more deaths in the future. Responsibility for a victim’s death cannot be placed on the shoulders of everyone around them but we should be accountable for the attitudes we have toward depression and other mental health issues so that we can eliminate those stigmas and not worry about people taking that next fatal step in the future.
What are your thoughts on suicide? Do you tend to see it as a selfish or cowardly choice? Do you think the black community is more likely to view suicide as taboo?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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