We need to stop calling suicide 'selfish'

Glenn Cooper was on the way to work when someone committed suicide. Here he looks at our attitudes towards suicide and why perhaps we are in fact the selfish ones.

By Glenn Cooper / 22 March 2017
4 min read

At Getinspired365 we've written some articles around anxiety and depression. We are proud to provide a platform to people to talk about mental health, and to do so free from judgement. If you want to write a blog about your experience then we are all for it. Inspiration isn't confined to climbing mountains or overcoming odds to achieve the impossible. Inspiration can also be being brave enough to share your experience that allows us, the reader, to think or to act differently. We got an email from someone who wanted to share a post they'd written around suicide. We read the post and immediately felt inspired. Inspired to think differently about a subject that we knew very little about. Inspired to show more compassion in our daily lives. Inspired to become better people.


My train was delayed recently. Just what I needed, another day that I turn up to work late, another bollocking from my boss. I felt the train grinding to a halt a full thirty minutes from my destination. We sat there for at least 15 minutes when the train driver came over the tannoy to say someone had jumped in front of a train to take their own life and that the train service was ending at this station - a station in the middle of nowhere.

The carriage became a cacophony of groans. People in suits pissed off that they were going to miss their 9AM meeting. I was one such person. I was on a warning from work about my time management and this wasn't going to play well with my manager. We all trudged off the carriage and jumped on our phones to work out what to do next.

I logged into Facebook to moan, of course I did. Moan that I am going to be late to work. Moan that I have been inconvenienced and that I am about to embark on a journey from hell.  

I wasn't alone. Facebook and Twitter was alight with comments.

"Selfish prick could've waited for me to get to work."

"Brilliant, another jumper. Just what I needed to start my day."

It was at this point that it dawned on me. What the fuck is wrong with people? Scrap that. What the fuck is wrong with me?

Someone had just lost their husband. Someone had just lost their Dad, their brother, their best friend. And here I am complaining that I am about to be late to work. The mob ruing the fact they're going to miss their morning coffee. When did we become so selfish?

'We'? Don't I mean 'him'? He's the selfish one right? After all he was the one that committed suicide.

Selfish? A man stood on a ledge and was in such indescribable pain that for that moment the best solution he had was to throw himself in front of a speeding train.

Oh, so he's selfish because he was a Dad, because he was a husband? Can you begin to imagine what must have driven a man, who seemingly had so much to live for, to end his life in this manner? The moment that he did what he did he must have been utterly consumed by depressive thoughts. Depression is a disease with no apparent cure. It's a disease that ravages the mind like cancer destroys the body. 

Surely he could have just tried to 'get on with it'? You think somebody chooses to commit suicide? You think that's their go to solution? Wrong. Suicide is complex. According to the International Association for Suicide prevention 'It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide.' The lucky ones are able to beat this disease at the suicidal thoughts part and are able to do so because something has helped them - counselling, medication etc. But for lots, counselling, medication, diet, exercise simply doesn't work. And if it doesn't work then what do you do?

I would be amazed if you have not met someone with depression. Someone, who on the surface seem incredibly happy, gregarious, care free and trouble free. Someone can possess these wonderful qualities but that same person may be suffering, suffering in a way you and I could never imagine. One such person is the comic Rob Delaney ‘The first thing I did each morning was vomit. My mind played one thought over and over, which was kill yourself. It was also accompanied by a constant, thrumming pain that I felt through my whole body. I describe the physical symptoms because it helps to understand that real depression isn’t just a “mood”.’

Rob Delaney has tried to kill himself twice. Rob Delaney survived. “It can be survived. And after the stabilisation process, which can be and often is fucking terrifying, a happy productive life is possible and statistically likely. Get help. Don’t think. Get help’.

In the time taken so far for you to read this post someone has killed themselves. One person kills themselves every 40 seconds. By 2020 that number will be every 20 seconds.

In the time taken so far for you to read this post someone has killed themselves.

Was the guy who killed himself and delayed me in getting to work on time selfish? No. For that moment at least, this person was riddled with depression and ill equipped to deal with it. He was helpless, alone and at that moment a victim of a heinous disease. A disease that is woefully misunderstood, and a disease that can leave a family without a husband, without a father.

The reaction on the train that day should have been how can we help? How can we, as a society, reach these people before they tragically take their own life. How can we can spot signs, how we can ensure people are not suffering in silence? It has taken the death of a man, and an abhorrent reaction by many on that train, for the penny to drop for me. The only selfish thing I can see that has happened is that it has taken a death of a husband and a father for me to start treating this issue with the respect it deserves.

Next time this happens, and tragically it will happen, try to image the anguish the person taking their life must have been in and just thank God that many of you happily can't possibly imagine it.

Need help? Don't think. Get help. Call the Samaritans now 116 123 (UK).