First published at Huffington Post on January 3, 2014.
When former Ontario cabinet minister George Smitherman released his brief statement announcing his husband’s presumed suicide, my heart went out to him. I’ve never lost anyone in my life so suddenly, certainly not to mental illness. But the words of his statement touched me even more deeply as the survivor of a suicide attempt.
Toronto Police just confirmed that my darling Christopher Peloso has been found dead.
We will celebrate his life and we will find comfort somehow in knowing that he has found peace from the depression that has wreaked havoc on his mind.
A son and brother, a husband and father of 3 he will always be remembered for his dedication to others.
We have been greatly aided by the compassion of the Toronto Police service and we will find strength going forward from the legions of people in our extended family who loved him so.
I can only imagine what Mr. Smitherman himself is going through; but I don’t have to imagine the thoughts passing through Mr. Peloso’s mind in his final days and hours. And it is precisely that reason that I think it is so dangerous to suggest, even if unintentionally, that suicide brings peace.
By expressing a desire to “find comfort somehow in knowing that he has found peace from the depression that has wreaked havoc on his mind,” Smitherman reinforced the flawed logic that those who are suicidal endure while contemplating the fatal act.
Suicide is not a choice in the true sense of the word as it is not a choice made by weighing rational options from a healthy state of mind. It is, however, still a decision that one makes. And for those on the fence about suicide, the slightest nuance can have starting repercussions.
Despite a solid career, a happy family life and what objectively would amount to a bright future, I found myself three years ago without hope. Depressed. My worldview gradually evolved to the point where I was no longer weighing between pain and death rather than life and death. Eventually, the dichotomy evolved –or devolved — to deciding between pain or peace.
Many will say that it is mean-spirited or cold-hearted to parse the words of a grieving man, but they are words which, regardless of intent, risk doing more harm than good.
Some say that suicide is a coward’s way out; others that suicide is a malicious act towards loved ones. In reality, it’s a symptom of illness — illness that is so often ignored both by those afflicted and by those who should be supporting them.
Suicide is many things, but a solution is not one of them.
In the three years since narrowly surviving my attempt, my life has presented opportunities that my suicidal self could never have recognized were possible. Anyone who believes that suicide brings peace may be robbing themselves of the same growth and redemption.