It's easy to judge the decisions parents end up making. Most of the scrutiny is about small, daily choices: staying at home versus going to work, for example. Other judgements, however, have life-altering consequences. Like judging a mom with postpartum depression for choosing medication, or looking down on moms who feel so lost they contemplate or attempt to end their life. Most are quick to say they want to assist new moms, but we can't help moms who attempt suicide if we keep judging them endlessly, scrutinizing their choices, and making the conscience decision to dismiss their valid feelings, fears, and anxieties. We just can't.
I've always struggled with mental health issues, but never more severely than after I lost my daughter. When I was pregnant I suffered through a prenatal depression that went wholly unchecked. I didn’t have insurance or the financial resources to seek counseling, either, so my condition didn't improve. When my daughter passed away just after she was born, my life felt like it had already ended. I honestly saw no point in going on. I struggled, daily, with thoughts of suicide. Somehow I managed to overcome these feelings, and it was most likely due to the incredible support system I had in my family, friends, and spouse. But not everyone is as lucky as I was (and continue to be). I’ve had several friends who attempted suicide at various points in their lives, including after losing a loved one, after experiencing an assault, and at times of extreme financial distress. I don’t judge any of them for how they felt. It’s easy to drown in your own emotions and the dark corners of your mind, to the point that you just can't see the point in living.
So instead of judging people for feeling so lost that suicide becomes the only way out, we should comfort them and their loved ones. We should seek to better understand what happened, and why it happened, and how we can improve ourselves as human beings. We need to help others who might show signs of suicidal ideation, by refusing to ever say the following things:
"She Committed Suicide"
According to The Mighty, suicide used to be considered a criminal act. This is why folks have historically used the term, “commit suicide.” It adds an additional level of shame to an already tragic incident, a last resort for those undergoing tremendous amounts of pain, or who for whatever reason are intoxicated or experiencing psychosis to the point they don’t understand what they are doing.
Instead of saying "committed suicide," say "someone died by suicide." Why? Because, as referenced by The Mighty, "By shifting our language around suicide, we have the power to reduce some of the massive shame carried by survivors of suicide."
“She's So Selfish”
There is nothing selfish about suicide. If anything, those who resort to suicide do so because they no longer wish to be a burden to others. A mother that kills herself and/or attempts to kill herself isn’t only thinking about herself.
“She Didn’t Love Her Kids Enough”
This is just faulty logic. A mom who attempts suicide still very likely loves her children with all her heart. But whatever is driving her toward that decision is probably much greater, or more difficult to deal with, than the love she has for her kids.
A person's decision to attempt to end their life is a complex one. In fact, it's as complex as the person themselves. The desire to create some sort of black and white dichotomy in order to understand suicide may be understandable, but it's also harmful.
“Why Didn’t She Just Get Help?”
The reasons are vast, I can assure you, but here are just a few to get you started:
She was a low-income mother with no resources and no time for counseling. She sought out a therapist but it wasn’t the right match and she didn’t return. Stigma in her community regarding mental health and seeking treatment kept her in the dark, suffering in silence. Need I go on?
“Why Didn’t Her Partner Notice?”
Sure, some people show some signs of suicidal ideation prior to taking and/or attempting to take their life. They might get their affairs in order or appear calm after a long time of being noticeably depressed (causing folks to mistakenly assume they are “better.”)
But plenty of people don't show any clear signs that they're hurting, either. Many go to great lengths to hide their pain from those they love the most, often in an attempt to shield them. Others don’t even necessarily die by suicide on purpose (some are simply seeking help for their pain and take it too far accidentally).
"She's In Hell"
In my opinion, any and all mentions of hell should be ignored immediately. This goes double for those who think people who kill themselves go to “hell.” I recall hearing this garbage when I was a teenager, and it terrified me.
I think it's important that we all respect the religious beliefs of others. If you, personally, want to believe there's a list of things you absolutely can't do — like drink coffee, plant different crops side by side, or work on a Sunday — and if you do you'll go to hell, I will respect your feelings on the matter. I will not, however, respect someone who pushes their beliefs onto others by way of unfounded proclamations. No one knows what happens after we die. Not for sure. And what you "believe" happens pales in comparison to what people who are alive are experiencing.
"At Least She's In A Better Place"
I hate when people say this, whether it's about suicide or death in general. Again, we have no proof of what happens after we die — only beliefs. Believe what you will, but keep in mind that others may not agree with you. Your attempt, however well-intentioned, to offer comfort with the promised of an afterlife, may very well do more harm than good.
“Her Kids Are Better Off”
No child is better off without a loving, caring mother. Some children, unfortunately, need to be away from their mothers (if the mother is, say, negligent or abusive), and in those instances I would say that separation is absolutely best for all parties involved. But a mother who died by suicide? a mother who attempted suicide? A mother who felt so alone, and probably lacked the resources and support system necessary to get better? No, her children are not better off.
If you struggle with depression or feelings of self-harm, please seek professional help or call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.