Why You have to Stop Saying Suicide is Selfish

By Steve Austin | Mental Health

Aug 20

“What a selfish bitch.”

I thought I might stop breathing. I hadn’t heard someone say something so harsh and ignorant in years. Not in person. Not in real life. Not about someone who just died by suicide.

Sure, I’ve seen the unthinkable things cowardly trolls say from behind their screens on social media. But no one has ever had the nerve to say something so void of compassion to my face.

I stopped in my tracks. The guy who said this terrible thing a couple of years ago was a good acquaintance, fully aware of my journey with mental health and a suicide attempt. We were talking after work one night, and I could not believe he uttered those hateful words.

What a selfish bitch.

The words bounced around in my guts and echoed through my ears for a while. I put my head down and furrowed my eyebrows, searching for help. Shocked. Uncertain of how to respond. I wanted to punch someone. I considered running away. I needed to scream but had no breath in my lungs.

It was after regular working hours, and the parking lot was almost empty. I stared at the darkness in front of me and wasn’t sure if I could take another step. I’d had the wind knocked out of my lungs.

What a selfish bitch.

Even if he thought it, why the hell would you say something like that aloud? And to ME? Are you serious right now?

I was in middle school when a twelve-year-old classmate hung himself in his bedroom closet. Two years later, my aunt hooked a garden hose to the exhaust pipe on her car and went to sleep forever. And I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide six years ago.

I’ve lost family and friends, a co-worker, a classmate, and a fellow mental health advocate to suicide. I’ve grieved with you over losing Robin Williams and Chester Bennington, among others. The pain is nearly unbearable. The loss never recovered. The gaping hole can never be filled when someone leaves earlier than we expect.

What a selfish bitch.


If you’ve never felt entirely alone while surrounded by a room full of people, you don’t get to say that.

If anxiety has never corroded your insides like battery acid, you don’t get to say that.

If you’ve never tried seven different medications, desperate to feel “happy” again, or just a little less, “I want to die” again, YOU DON’T GET TO SAY THAT.

If you’ve never come to the place where you’d rather let the blood spill from your arms than face another moment of this living hell, YOU DON’T GET TO CALL SOMEONE SELFISH.

It’s not okay. It’s not okay. It is not okay.

It’s not okay to say that someone whose mind attacks them every waking moment of every single day is selfish for wanting the madness to end. It’s not okay for calling a woman selfish for giving into her desperation and considering every single option at her disposal to cool the fires of her living hell.

If you’ve not been there, YOU DON’T GET TO SAY THAT.

You don’t have the right to demonize my despair. You are not allowed to minimize my pain. I do not give you permission to spew toxic ignorance over something you cannot possibly understand if you haven’t lived my experiences.

What a selfish bitch.

The Kindergartener’s Gold Rule is this: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Remember that.

And if you’ve lost someone to suicide and you’re crushed and angry and sad and something more profound than all of those things combined, I’m so sorry. I’m with you. Let’s grieve the time we no longer have with them. Weep for the pain they were walking through. Scream at the heavens for not doing something. All of our feelings are valid.

But please don’t call them selfish.

Call it irritational. Call it unwise. Say it’s short-sighted. Mention the pain of those left behind.

Suicide is a major problem. The numbers keep rising. Diseases of despair are killing people every single day. 

But calling it selfish helps no one.

So let’s work together to end the stigma around mental illness. Let’s start a healthy dialogue and educate everyone we can about the signs that someone might be thinking of suicide. Let us link arms with mental health agencies, churches, schools, and anyone else who will approach the topic with compassion and understanding – and let’s do our damnedest to help people understand that suicide is not the only option.

But don’t call it selfish.

It’s not fair. And it’s not true.

You don’t get to say that.

Read more:

  1. How to Keep Your Friends from Dying
  2. Download From Pastor to a Psych Ward on Audible.
  3. When Your Brain Breaks

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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Darin Francis says:

    Thank you. It’s funny. I’ve always seen myself as extra selfish given my constant rumination and wishing I could stop.

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