How to Understand Suicide 


By Ariel Minter

I’m still rattled by the tragic news of Robin Williams death. 

Like most 90’s kids, I grew up to Aladdin, Hook, Fern Gully, and (of course), my number one favorite….Mrs. Doubtfire. The list of his talent goes well beyond film, as he was known as a huge donor to many charities, and truly loved by all.  

I have often heard people say “Suicide is the most selfish thing anyone can do.” In fact, I have said that. 

Depression, on this scale, first felt real when I was 14 years old, and I was a new student in a large high school. A lovely young man named Logan was one of the first to speak to me in my Health class. He was nice, blushed easily, and like most Freshman in High School, he tried really hard to seem like he wasn’t trying very hard to fit in. About 5 months later, he took his own life. 

Most of the student body attended his memorial. There were probably 2,000 people in a large auditorium, and every single person that spoke of Logan shared similar stories to mine: He was thoughtful, he was sincere, he was one of the first to speak to those who seemed uncomfortable. 

Depression manifesting into suicide has not stopped. But what has passed is my thinking that “Suicide is the most selfish thing anyone can do.” I truly feel shame and sadness for, at some point in my life, speaking those words and believing them to be true. 

Not long ago, someone I knew took their own life. I was confused, I was sad, I was angry, and I was deeply hurt. I didn’t understand. I shared these feelings with my mom. She went on to explain a bit:

“Ariel, I don’t understand either. But when I was just a little older than you, one of our dearest friends lost his battle with depression. Your father and I attended his service, and I will never forget what the minister said. He said that there are absolutely no differences between his death and someone who had died by being attacked in an alleyway.”

How could this be? How could you compare the two? 

“No one knows what Vince was battling or going through. No one. His depression was like a gang of bad people attacking him: Attacking him every. single. day. They put him down. They took his joy. They crushed his spirit. And he couldn’t keep fighting them any longer. No one could survive that torment, and so there was unmeasurable peace in making it stop.”

Finally I had some clarity. It made sense. It didn’t make my heart hurt any less, and it didn’t take away from the enormous loss all of his loved ones were feeling. But, I was finally able to have true compassion. 

Depression is an ugly disease. It takes your joy; it crushes your spirit. And how do you battle something that doesn’t have a shape or a face? How can you overcome something that is always with you, and ignorantly understood by the masses? 

Many people don’t treat depression as a disease. I have heard (too many times) people say “Just get over it,” or “Why can’t you just stop?”. And I think….would you say that to someone who was terminally ill? Would you have the nerve to think that about someone who had Lupus? 

This is a very real ailment and a very real epidemic. 

According to WHO, the World Health Organization, approximately one million people commit suicide each year worldwide. That is about one death every 40 seconds, or 3,000 per day. For each individual who takes their life, there are at least 20 attempts to do so. Suicide has a global mortality rate of 16 per 100,000 people. 

When I first read the data on the numbers, I couldn’t help but re-read where it says that for every one person who takes their life, there are 20 attempts to do so. Twenty. 

I have been thinking about my own mortality lately. I never used to think about it. But now, when my husband and I are thinking about family planning and potentially bringing another human into this world in a few years, I have a hard time not thinking about it. 

The gift of life is powerful. And death is equally as powerful. Of course, everyday we all risk the potential end of life. However, most of us aren’t tempted, because of an unseen battle, to do so. 

I continually think about the power of kindness. One smile to a stranger, one small gesture of connection in this human experience, can literally save a life. Understanding and supporting those you love who have expressed some level of depression, can save a life. 

I think that a lot of people who are undertaking this challenging battle don’t necessarily come out and tell you. It’s usually in very small ways. So, my request to you is to take some time everyday and really listen: Put your phone down, stop waiting for your turn to talk, and listen. Listen to the non-verbal. Genuinely ask about someone’s day. We are all so busy and so distracted and have all the excuses in the book to keep our heads down and be self-serving. But please, don’t do that all the time. 

One of the reasons Passion Provokers started was to help people. We have an amazingly talented therapist, Mindy Baze, who specializes in EMDR Therapy. If you or someone you know needs assistance, please contact us. You are not alone. 

13 thoughts on “How to Understand Suicide 

  1. beautifully written ariel…thank you for the clarity. everyone is fighting their own battles and we as humans should be more compassionate with what we don’t understand.

    1. Thank you, Donna! I felt compelled to share…the more we can understand something, the better we can be at supporting the issue and helping others.

  2. That is so true it makes me stop and think we have to listen and feel open our hearts to others one never knows who is hurting.

  3. Beautifully written but my mother died at 51 of a terminal disease and she probably would’ve much rather had depression; whose treatment is not radiation or chemotherapy. If it meant she’d have another 30 years with Dad and I.

    1. Thank you for sharing that thought, Heidi. In my opinion, it’s not a fair comparison to suggest she (or anyone, for that matter) would have rather had depression to terminal illness. My point of comparison was to suggest that depression be publically viewed as seriously as something more tangible, like a life-threatening disease, since so many people think it is something you can choose to have or not to have. Of course your mother would have done, and did do, everything she could to be with you and your father as long a she could. I continue to believe that those who lose the battle of depression to suicide feel the same way. My condolences to your loss.

  4. What a great perspective. I, unfortunately know the battle of depression all too well. Your words could not have been better in describing this awful disease! I will call it disease because it is just that DIS – EASE! All the time! The scary part about my situation is that I hide it so well. Most people would never know that I fight this EVERY SINGLE DAY, because I smile thru it. But make no mistake, just because I am smiling does not mean that I am happy.
    “That person with the biggest smile, just might have the saddest heart”

    1. You are not alone, Kristi! Please don’t hesitate to get in contact with one of our coaches or someone who can help, there are many resources for you. Thank you for sharing your experience. The more you share, the more those around you will be encouraged to as well.

  5. Extremely insightful. You are so talented and I love reading your writing. Thank you for such a great blog! I love you :)

  6. TY Ariel! I wish more of us would spend time educating ourselves in order to foster understanding. Depression isn’t particular to sex, race, age, denomination, culture, socioeconomic status, or career. I’ve battled depression, I believe now, since childhood. And like Kristi, hid it really well. I’ve had amazing support but the hardest part was not having my parents’. I was told that they would beat it out me, that I would go to hell, or that I must of sinned and need to repent. Not so long ago, I had someone tell me to just “pull up my britches and just get over it, it was all in my head.” Come to find out, it is in my head. It was telling my body that it wants to die. Those words are loud and drown out everything else. I’m blessed to be in “remission” now with medicine, support, therapy and other remedies. TY once again. You are an amazing writer. Love you.

    1. Thank you my beautiful friend, Laura!! I love your perspective on this struggle, thank you for sharing.

  7. I lost someone today….due to long standing depression, and a battle of demons he couldn’t fight even one more day. How random is it that this article would reach me today on the day I needed it most? Thank you for your perspective regarding the torment and unmeasureable peace attained when the tormenting stops. I absolutely agree with your thoughts on the importance of making connections; helping me realize again that one small gesture can truly make a difference. Thank you.

    1. I don’t believe it was an accident at all that you found this. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you are filled with comfort during this time of your loss.

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