“How Selfish!”

The inconvenient truth of suicide on the tracks

Before we embarked on this epic journey, we had been sitting in front of Pearl Jam for over three hours at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. So, however long this trip would take, I was as chilled as a stoner at a weed convention.

A taxi to the airport, a flight to Germany, followed by a seven-hour wait in Frankfurt airport, and then a second flight to London, then a three-hour train journey from London to home. As I sat down on that train, I felt like Bilbo Baggins returning to the Shire after the Battle of the Five Armies. We had, after all, completed our Pearl Jam quest.

We were an hour into the last leg of the journey, dozing off on the train when it stopped. And there the train stayed. With the use of smartphones, we the passengers had discovered that some poor soul had thrown themselves in front of a train further down the line.

The comments we then heard from disgruntled passengers were about as sensitive as Trump giving equality and diversity training to a room full of Mexican orphans.

“I just wanna get home; just my luck; I’ve been at work all day.” My personal favourite was the shockingly insensitive, “How selfish!”

Let’s break this down, people. Yes, the train’s engineer would have no doubt been traumatised. As well as the family of the deceased. If, indeed, the individual had any family. But when an individual is in a suicidal crisis, there is no consideration for others. That poor soul was experiencing an indescribable acute psychiatric crisis. To the extent that death was the only available option. By any means possible.

Expecting that an individual who is determined to commit suicide would be considerate of others is like asking Boris Johnson to stop disobeying the law. Both expectations are a waste of time.

Now I accept that those of us who live in post-modern, first-world countries still retain the right to moan about stuff. That is how social change emerges and grows into progressive action for the betterment of society. But expressing annoyance at the inconvenience of an individual committing suicide is more below the belt than bra-less boobs at a bingo hall.

Yes, as a society, we are talking about mental health more. Yes, we have public campaigns to raise awareness and challenge the stigma of such issues. But I expect this to equate to a better understanding of mental health. I understand that people wanted to get home. But what I heard was disturbing.

Maybe I expect too much of people.

“Don’t be an arsehole”

Eddie Vedder

Originally published in Medium publication ‘The Bigger Picture‘ 20/09/19.

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