A mother once emailed me, after viewing my exhibit, and told me that her son had died from suicide. She refused to say he "commit" suicide. She viewed her son's death as a direct result of his mental illness. I agree with her because my own brother has attempted suicide, thankfully he has not succeeded. These attempts were made in order to escape psychosis, the pain and a lower quality of life. This is sad since life can improve with the help of medicine, therapy and family support. Another woman I know (who lost her sister to suicide), was not allowed to talk about her feelings with her family. Her mother called it an accident. Her father never mentioned his deceased daughter's name again. Very sad.
Many view suicide as shameful act; unethical and immoral in most cultures. Lack of awareness and lack of empathy prevent our society from viewing suicide as a way to cope with severe and chronic illnesses. Death from cancer (for instance) is thought to be out of the person's control. Mental illness is also out of a person's control, yet we criticize those who die from suicide. When someone dies from cancer, he or she will be viewed as a victim. When someone dies from suicide, he or she usually dies feeling very alone. The individual is viewed as a quitter, not a victim. Over ninety percent of people who die from suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death. This is reason enough to believe that suicide is sometimes the only way one can cope. I don't think we have the right to judge since we are not experiencing the intense emotional turnmoil that may trigger suicide.
But can suicide be prevented? I have often asked myself this same question. I think that the more accepted mental illness becomes, the more open others will be to discussing their thoughts of suicide. Instead, those suffering feel as if their mental illness is their fault. (Side note, I am watching Jennifer Hudson sing the Star Spangled Banner at the start of the Super Bowl right now, just trying to hold back the tears :) If suicide is the direct result of untreated mental illness, then how can we improve the incidence of recovery? One reason why individuals will not seek treatment is due to stigma. This stigma can cause most to feel alone. You become unacceptable to society and as a result, begin to question your future. Education and awareness may cause others to embrace those with a mental disorder. It makes me sad to think that certain illnesses are acceptable over others.
The individuals in the above image (from left to right) are: Donny Hathaway (recording artist, suffered from schizophrenia, died due to self-inflicted fall from a hotel window), Kurt Cobain (songwriter, guitarist for grunge band, Nirvana, battled possible manic depression and drug addiction, died from self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head), Vincent van Gogh (pioneer of Expressionism, suffered from mental illness, died to to self-inflicted gun shot wound), Elliott Smith (singer-songwriter and musician, battled depression, alcoholism and drug addiction, died from two stab wounds to the chest)