Why are people so selfish about death

"Thoughts of suicide are not a cowardly act by selfish people"

Survivor of a suicide attempt (56 years old) and mother of a suicidal daughter

How can a small child as young as eight develop the feeling that life is unbearable and death is the only way out? I don't know, and yet it was the same for me many years ago. I stood on the banks of the Aare and wanted to jump because I just couldn't stand life any longer. I was stopped from doing it. They didn't talk to me about that. Not even when I tried again at the age of 17 and almost succeeded. That was simply not an issue in the family or among friends: "You don't talk about it!"

Uninvited guest longing for death

At the age of 19 I became a mother and was convinced that I finally had a meaning in my life that would protect me from further suicidal thoughts. But unfortunately that was not the case. Despite the great happiness of being the mother of three wonderful daughters, I always got to the point where everything just seemed insurmountable and the longing for death - like an uninvited guest - reported back. This triggered very strong feelings of guilt and shame. Because as soon as I felt a little better, I couldn't imagine how I, as a mother of three daughters, could even think of something like that. I couldn't talk to anyone about it because nobody wanted to hear it, neither my foster mother nor my then husband. Both were of the opinion that this can be influenced with positive thinking and pulling yourself together. In short, it's up to me to keep it happening.

Thoughts of suicide: such as fever in pneumonia

It wasn't until years later, when my eldest daughter got schizophrenia, that I started dealing with mental illnesses. It was a long and rocky road, but for me it was finally "salvation." I have understood that suicidal thoughts and acts are not a cowardly act by selfish people, as I was repeatedly told, but a symptom, in my case caused by an illness called depression. To find out that I wasn’t alone in this and that I couldn’t help it was very good. Thoughts of suicide are like fever with pneumonia, I was told. You can't help it. But as with pneumonia, "fever" - or even suicidal thoughts - can be treated. In therapy I have learned to take my early warning signs seriously and to react in good time so that it never gets to the point where these thoughts take me off guard.

Talking about it helps

Unfortunately, my daughter's schizophrenia also resulted in innumerable suicide attempts. Also there it was said again and again: "How can she do this to you?" or «How long do you want to let yourself be manipulated by her?". Such statements were even made when she was lying unconscious in the intensive care unit and I had nothing left but hope and fear. Thanks to my experience, I am able - even if it hurts - to talk to my daughter about it. Addressing and listening to «it» without moralizing comments and blame. And still let her know what the fear of losing her does to me.
And as with most people, this value-free talking about it and the acknowledgment of deep emotional pain is often the way out of the longing for death. As long as suicides are taboo, those affected will find it difficult to confide in someone. But if suicidal ideation and attempted suicide are recognized as a symptom of an illness, people in crisis can reach out to someone before it is too late. Without fear of being judged for it. In a conversation, I think it's important to answer these questions: «What kind of situations or circumstances lead to such serious emotional shocks? Who can I turn to if it happens to me again? "

Hope that love carries

I understand that talking about it is no guarantee that my daughter will never try again, or worse, not die from it. I am also aware that I love her with every fiber of my body and still may not be able to prevent it. One day I was faced with a question from my daughter, what would I do if she killed herself? Spontaneously, but with a heavy heart, I replied to her: «If you can no longer endure life and assume that you jump into the water because of it, even though you cannot swim, then I would throw a life preserver after you and make a very strong wish that you take it too. But if you don't do that, I wouldn't force you to be dragged onto the bank. " This is still my attitude. I love my daughters and hope that this love will carry them through all the storms that life has in store for them. But I have understood one thing: it is not always possible to prevent suicides, unfortunately! Nevertheless: I can love my daughters beyond any illness, even beyond death.

Franca Weibel
Peer worker
Clienia Littenheid AG