(Un)Popular Opinion Original

Suicides happen because we’re quick to judge but slow to listen

When was the last time we actually stopped to listen?

TW: Mentions of suicide and self-harm

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(Un)Popular Opinion | If you’re a Penangite or have been keeping up with the news, you’d probably known that the last two weeks were nothing but one tragedy after another at Penang’s most iconic yet deadliest landmark — the Penang Bridge.

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Photo via Viator

Before you ask why this place was chosen to be the location of choice for so many to end their lives prematurely, I think the more important question to ask is what has driven these people to such decisions.

As I’ve previously pointed out in another opinion piece, Malaysia is one of the few countries where suicide (both successful and unsuccessful attempts) are criminalised, leaving the person facing years in prison or a fine for wanting to end his/her life.

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But I’m not going to talk about that. Instead, I want to turn your attention to one aspect that most are less willing to admit — the absolute lack of sympathy and awareness towards those grappling with mental illness.

‘Why don’t you just fall?’

At first glance, this phrase may sound harmless, benign even, to many. However, what if I were to tell you that these were the words which were said to a person about to fall several stories down?

Horrifying, isn’t it?

In a heart-wrenching Facebook post, a netizen lamented over the callous and cold-blooded nature of certain Malaysians who left nasty and toxic comments on a video showing a woman standing precariously on the edge of a building.

Screenshot via Facebook

In the post, there was one paragraph that particularly struck me to the core:

There are so many things that we do not know about people. Their minds. Their hearts. Their lives. We don’t know ANYTHING. And yet ANYTHING can happen to us or our loved ones. Be kind.

Upon reading those words, I suddenly felt tears prickling my eyes as I was reminded of two people who went through the same struggle: a uni friend and myself.

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Two broken people, but different outcome

During my university days, I always wondered why this friend of mine named K* wore long-sleeved clothing, even when everyone else was melting thanks to the sweltering heat. Naturally, I assumed that she probably loved protecting her skin from the sun 24/7.

However, it wasn’t until that fateful day when another friend received a frantic call from K’s brother: “K has locked herself in her room and I think she’s trying to kill herself.”

In a panic, I hurried over to K’s hostel with a few other friends and spent at least five minutes banging the room’s door and screaming at her to let us in. After what seemed like forever, she finally unlocked the door.

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While I won’t go into the details, it was plain to see that K had intended to kill herself by slitting her wrists so deep that she could’ve bled out within a few minutes if we hadn’t reached her in time.

Suicides happen because we're quick to judge but slow to listen | weirdkaya
Photo via BMJ

As I tended to her wounds, she told me that she had been hiding her struggles from her family and friends as she was afraid that she would be condemned for doing “something stupid” and had no one to pour out her heart to.

My own journey started when I was 17, where throughout the years I struggled with suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Though my right wrist and arm are marked with scars, my experience was vastly different from K’s, where I crossed paths with individuals who actually took the time to listen to my emotional pain and never judged me for my suicidal tendencies.

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And it’s thanks to these people that I owe my life to. Because if it weren’t for them, I would’ve probably wound up dead.

Suicides happen because we're quick to judge but slow to listen | weirdkaya
The scars of the author’s youth

Don’t talk. Listen

A wise man once said, “Speech is silver, silence is golden”, and this can’t be any truer for those who’re currently enduring the pain of depression or recently lost someone to suicide.

Even if you’ve never experienced what it’s like to fall to the clutches of depression, the best thing you can do is not to pass judgmental or cutting remarks, but listen in a manner that says, “Hey, it’s okay to not be okay. I’m here for you.”

And to those whom we’ve lost, I’m sorry that we’ve failed you as a society, community, and as human beings. We can and must do better.

*Names have been changed for privacy

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WeirdKaya.

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Cover image: AskLegal and The Star

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