Is Suicide the Coward's Way?
As the Jovan Belcher case shows, sympathy is waning for the tragic act.
Whenever a high-profile suicide makes the news, it's always a tough subject to tackle. Initial thoughts of sorrow are followed by questions about what was behind it, which usually leads to strong opinions about the tragic act.
In the past when high-profile entertainers like Phyllis Hyman, or more recently Soul Train founder Don Cornelius, took their own lives, most people expressed words of sympathy, saying things like "you never know what someone is going through." This would especially be the case when it would later be revealed that the celebs were suffering from mental illness.
In other cases, such as those of former record execs Shakir Stewart and Chris Lighty, both of whom were fathers and husbands, people's feelings seemed to straddle a line of concern between what drove the men to kill themselves to labeling them selfish for leaving their families to deal with their problems alone.
[Also Read: Suicide Now Kills More People Than Car Wrecks]
Now, with the world still finding out details about the murder-suicide of NFL player Jovan Belcher, another word is starting to be associated with suicide: coward.
Believe it or not, during ancient times, suicide was often considered an act of honor. Japanese samurai would commit "Seppuku" or "Kaishaku-nin" where the samurai would either cut their stomachs open with their swords or allow themselves to be decapitated. In those times, suicide was committed by warriors who wanted to avoid torture after being captured by their enemies or as a form of self-capital punishment for serious offenses or to find relief from shame.
But in 2012, taking yourself out is being seen as anything but honorable.
Kansas City Star columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah writes, "No one but Belcher -- who took the cowardly way out of this life by killing a woman and then himself -- is responsible for what happened Saturday."
"Was Jovan Belcher a coward? Sure," adds CBS Houston sports writer Nick Wright. "I think that’s more than fair to say. In fact, I would go as far as to say any man -- especially a man as physically imposing and dominant as Belcher was -- that hits or batters or physically abuses any woman is a coward, so of course a man who shoots the supposed mother of his child is a coward."
[Also Read: Suicide Rate Rose With Unemployment Rate]
Later in the same article however, Wright says that Belcher should not be called a coward for committing suicide.
Which leads us to ask: Where is the line drawn? Is there ever a time when suicide should be considered a cowardly act?
In the case of Belcher, until it is confirmed that he was suffering from mental illness or perhaps depression related to playing football and getting hit in the head too often, we are led to believe that he killed himself only after realizing that the terrible crime of murder that he committed would probably end his life as he knew it. Millions of dollars and freedom gone. Jail time guaranteed.
Rumors continue to swirl around what led Shakir Stewart and Chris Lighty to suicide, and most are of the shame and money problems variety. Were they cowards for leaving families behind to fend for themselves?
With times being hard for just about everybody out there, sympathy seems to be waning for those who decide that they don't want to live any longer.