The Case for Compassion, Not Judgement

Articles Ask the Experts Mental Health Varkha Chulani

By Varkha Chulani

I am writing this from the city where Kate Spade unfortunately ended her life. In a matter of a few days, two celebrities had taken their life into their own hands, and decided that they wanted no more if it. While their families grieved, these acts became discussion points for complete strangers at dinner, and a shockingly common theme that played out was: “How selfish!”  Anthony Bourdain and Spade had 11 and 13 year old children, respectively. So the question became: “How could they do this and leave their kids orphaned?”

Insensitivity apart, it occurred to me that not too many of us realise that no one wants to die. I know it sounds absurd when I say this; we all eventually are going to die. But no one really wants to. So imagine on the one hand we don’t want to die and yet (as we know) people end their own lives. It ought to reveal to us the agony that people experience when they choose to end their existence.

To me, it’s clear that their pain is unbearable to them. A relief from anguish seems infinitely better than enduring the torment.

ALSO READ: SUICIDE IS NOT THE ANSWER: A SURVIVOR’S STORY

The desolation and despair, the distress and torture gnaw at their being. So much so that the only alleviation feels like it is death. And here many of us sit, passing moral judgement on their ‘selfishness’, ‘cowardice’, ‘lack of strength’ and what have you.

Suicide Survivor Quote May 2018

Pause and reflect. Do you believe by any chance that Ms Spade or Chef Bourdain and countless other people made this choice lightly? Absolutely not! This is their last resort. When they believe everything has ‘failed’ and see no light at the end of their tunnel, they believe the best option is to end it all. To them they have been ‘defeated’. There is no hope. Rather than suffer, they believe they don’t have the strength to endure. And it’s there — when a person believes he can’t take it anymore — a radical step ensues.

(Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know feels distressed, or has been contemplating or discussing thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help and know that you are not alone. You will find a list of helplines here on our site as well as on the Suicide Prevention of India Foundation site.)

So let’s empathise with those who unfortunately self destroy. And stop labelling them. Let’s try and see life from their point of view, even if we don’t agree with their view.

ALSO READ: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT SUICIDE PREVENTION

Unfortunately people feel ‘ashamed’ to reveal their emotions. In the need to always be ‘positive’, feeling ‘low’, ‘sad’, ‘disappointed’, etc is looked down upon. So people try hard to maintain facades. They/we wear masks where the perception is exactly how it should be – ‘no issues’ – they/we’ll say when people ask how things are going. And they/we really do NOT talk about things which really matter.
So if one is really talking about giving up – sit up and take notice. Rare is a person who will express something as ‘not cool’ as this. So if people are telling you “I need help”, “I think I should see someone”, ‘Can you share a number of someone I could see?” “Can you come over” etc, then please have your antennae up and be there.
Besides being vigilant to signs like the person not interacting as much as they did before, to skipping meals, to sleeping too much or not at all, to ‘zoning’ out with preoccupied thoughts. If you’re worried, try to check in with them or a loved one, and reach out to professionals for help.
REACH OUT FOR HELP: A list of INDIA helplines is  here on our site . Also see the Suicide Prevention of India Foundation site

Views Expressed are Personal. Material on The Health Collective is not intended to and cannot substitute for expert advice from a trained professional. 

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