Suicide Is Shameful

"The man who kills a man kills a man. The man who kills himself kills all men. As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world."

Many views on suicide can be very polarizing. One side sees it as an option to end the depression or suffering that they feel is too much to handle. But the other half view suicide as a shameful and horrible act, an act worse than homicide or even genocide. While there are characters who don't want anyone to kill themselves due of their beliefs that things will get better, there are other characters who frown upon it and even go as far as to demonize it for many reasons.

In one case, they view suicide as an act of selfishness. A character who is contemplating on killing themselves will be reminded by others that they have friends and family who care about them and that if they carry it out, then this means they will leave them behind to suffer the pain and grief that the character has killed themselves. The character's loved ones will be dismissive and will accuse them of being selfish and expect them to get over it already, instead of actively helping them deal with their depression.

Suicide can also be viewed as an act of cowardice. If a character is thinking of killing themselves, there will be those who will dismiss their claims of wanting to end the suffering and state certain ideologies that "life is a meaningful gift" or "life is a battlefield" and that killing themselves meant that they have "given up" or have "taken the easy way out". Another explanation for this conception is that suicide is a means to escape problems that society expects them to confront. Idealistic characters like the Anti Nihilist will firmly believe that no one should kill themselves just because life is too much for them. Another variation of this category is that a character, usually a villain, will kill themselves to escape punishment for their crimes, much to the disgust of heroes (and the audience).

This trope is often cited as a reason I Cannot Self-Terminate. This can be a harsh manner in Talking Down the Suicidal. It can also be the cause of Suicide, Not Murder if someone tries to make a suicide look like murder in order to avoid this stigma (and make sure that life insurance pays out). This can also trigger Suicide, Not Accident. Compare/Contrast How Dare You Die on Me!. Contrast Martyrdom Culture, Not Afraid to Die. Contrast Heroic Sacrifice and Seppuku, which while technically suicide, are considered heroic and noble acts. The opposite of Heroic Suicide.

This is absolutely Truth in Television since there are some cultures which not only discourage suicide, but also illegalize it (English common law termed it the crime of felo de se), although the criminalization of it in Western countries (mostly for the purpose of property forfeiture) has declined (ironically, people who attempted suicide would be hanged under this principle originally). Always remember that it's best not to list any real life examples that will lead to a hostile editing war.

As a Death Trope, there will be a major part of the spoilers that will be unmarked, so please tread carefully.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Noragami, Yato is disgusted by suicidal individuals. He sees them as wasting their lives, a Shinki (dead person soul turned into a weapon of god) could only have wished to live.
  • Hellsing: Alucard is absolutely disgusted and furious when the last survivor of the SWAT team he just butchered chooses to shoot himself rather than face his wrath.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first issue of X-Factor (the post-Decimation iteration), Wolfsbane tries to talk Rictor out of killing himself by saying that it's a sin and he'll go to Hell.
  • In an early issue of The Sandman, Morpheus visits Hell and notes that the wood of suicides (where each victim is a tree) has grown from a small grove to a forest in the time since his last visit.
  • There was a Spider-Man one-shot called Soul of the Hunter in which Spidey learned from the embodiment of Death that he and Kraven share a spiritual bond, and that Kraven's soul cannot find the peace it craves because of Kraven's suicide; he can only be saved if Spidey agrees to fight on his behalf. At first, Spidey refuses, given what Kraven did to him, and Death cannot force him. However, eventually, Spidey feels a small amount of pity, and fights Kraven on the Astral Plane, defeating him and letting him rest in peace. Sadly, Kraven wouldn't be allowed to rest in his grave forever; his daughter Ana and son Alyosha used a foul ritual to resurrect him as an undead being. However, according to him, he now can only die by Spider-Man's hand.
  • In Cerebus the Aardvark, this is a deeply-ingrained belief for Cerebus. Thus, the suicide of Ham Ernestwaynote  rattles Cerebus to his core, mainly because he idolized Ham so much and for Ham to die by his own hand says some seriously shameful things about Cerebus in his self-estimation.
  • In the final part of Bruce Wayne: Fugitive, David Cain is locked up, broken over his estrangement with his daughter Cassandra and hasn't eaten anything for two weeks. Batman comes to him to warn him that Deadshot has been hired to kill him. After David makes it clear that he has no intention of defending himself when Deadshot comes, Batman tells him that he's either a fool or a coward. When David asks what kind of coward would face certain death without hesitation, Batman says "One who knows it's easier to die than change."
  • In Runaways, this is why the Gibborim reject Chase when he offers to give up his soul to them in exchange for Gertrude's revival. They need a pure innocent soul, and apparently someone willing to kill himself doesn't qualify.

    Fanfiction 
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfed Behind: Smurfing In Heaven", Polaris Psyche tries to talk Empath out of killing himself when he fears that his fellow Smurfs may have all been killed while traveling through time, with Polaris telling him that suicide will cause him to go to Tartarus instead of Elysium, which is the Smurfs' version of heaven.

    Film 
  • Played with in Constantine. The title character has been assigned a place in Hell due to a failed suicide attempt during his childhood, a fact which he has spent his life trying to correct. At the end of the film, however, he decides to kill himself again, and ends up saving the world because of it (the Devil comes to claim his soul personally, and ends up dismantling the Big Bad's plan in the process). This, plus his negotiating with the Devil to have another damned soul (also a suicide) released from Hell, is deemed heroic enough to allow him to enter Heaven.
    • It should be noted that the reason why Constantine's previous deeds were not good enough to gain entry into heaven was because they were ultimately self-serving actions, attempted bribery at best. By damning himself to negotiate for another suicide's release, he performed an actual selfless act.
  • Part of the setup of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Vlad Dracula's fiancee, believing Vlad to be dead, killed herself. The priests declare her damned to hell because of this, which causes a grieving and distraught Vlad to renounce God and become a vampire.
  • Played for Laughs in Beetlejuice: Suicides get an afterlife as a Beleaguered Bureaucrat working in limbo's social services department, depicted as being every bit as fun as a dead-end (pun intentional) job in the DMV. The woman at the front desk in the afterlife waiting room who shows off her slit wrists as proof she made the mistake, clearly regrets it, and wouldn't have done it had she known.

    Literature 
  • In The Divine Comedy, Dante portrays the souls of the suicides as residing in the 7th circle of Hell, reserved for the violent. For carrying out violence against themselves, they have their bodies entombed in oak trees or strewn across thorny bushes and are feasted upon by demonic harpies, and for rejecting God's gifts, they will be denied the chance to regain their human forms come the Day of Judgement.
  • In Temeraire, Lawrence is facing execution in Japan for trespassing. However, his host offers to let him perform Seppuku in order to preserve his honor (and the host's honor). Lawrence is aghast at the suggestion, since as a devout Christian and an Officer and a Gentleman he regards suicide as a cowardly act and (more importantly) a mortal sin.
  • Two examples from a collection of ballads called the Songs of Silesia. The narrator's sympathy is clearly with the suicide victims, but they are judged harshly by society, and cannot be buried in the graveyard because holy soil is not for them.
    • "Teacher Halfar": Halfar suffers because he wants to teach children in their native language, but it's forbidden. He goes from school to school and has no money. He hangs himself, and the poem ends with a sarcastic statement that he has finally found a position-a suicide's grave.
    • "Marycka Magdonova" tells a tragic story about a girl whose parents die and she has to take care of her younger siblings. They are poor, hungry and freezing. Marycka goes to steal some wood but she gets caught. She's ashamed to be seen and embarrassed by people, so she breaks free from the policeman and jumps from a rock. The ballad ends with describing her grave behind the graveyard wall "without crosses, without flowers".
  • In My Ántonia, Antonia's father shoots himself because he was too homesick and couldn't bear the hard life. The Shimerdas are Catholic while other families in the neighborhood are mostly Protestants. Jim's grandparents are sympathetic to the poor family and another Catholic explains to them that for the Shimerdas, the suicide is a terrible blow with an extra layer of suffering.
  • One of the interviews in World War Z is from a German soldier. He was forced by his commanding officer to leave civilians and other soldiers behind to die as part of their version of the Redeker Plan, a world-saving but hideously amoral survival strategy. The soldier later confronted the officer, intending to kill him, but the officer kills himself first. The soldier hates him even more, saying he killed himself to avoid the guilt of what he'd ordered and the hard times ahead.
  • As seen in the page quote, G.K. Chesterton argued in his book Orthodoxy that suicide was exactly as wrong as the annihilation of the universe, since they're the same thing from the perspective of the one doing it. A suicide, he argues, has insulted every bird in the heavens and every leaf on the trees by declaring it unworthy of living for. Interestingly, there are hints in his works that he'd considered suicide himself in his pre-Christian days.
  • In Chronicles Of Nick, Nekoda gives a long speech in order to dissuade Nick about how suicide is for cowards. He doesn't when he realizes what it would do to his mother.
  • Confessions Of Felix Krull is set during the Fin de siècle when this attitude was very much the prevailing one and suicide was considered a sin. So the suicide of Felix' father is disguised as a gun-handling accident by the family. At the muster scene, when he pretends to be over-excited Felix Krull goes on and on that "the shooting-thing went off by itself" and that he can provide documentary proof and witnesses that his father had a church funeral.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Ethics" and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes "Sons of Mogh" and "Children of Time" Klingons' ideas on suicide are discussed. They believe in this trope, except in certain circumstances like paralysis, or loss of honor. They will request the help of another person to end their life if unable (due to paralysis, say).
  • In the CSI Crime Scene Investigation episode "Who Shot Sherlock?", Greg cites the possibility that a relative of the deceased covered up a suicide as a possible explanation for contradictory evidence at the crime scene. In an odd twist it turns out to be a murder staged to look like a suicide which was staged to look like a murder because of this trope.
  • In 24, Day 3 a devout Catholic CTU agent is dying from a painful virus attack. One of his CTU friends offers him a quick and painless poison to take so he'll go easy, but he refuses on the grounds that suicide is a sin and he'll go to Hell. He dies in agony instead.
  • Present in an episode of Cadfael, in accordance with the medieval Catholic view on it. Cadfael believes that a young woman was a murder victim and thus should be given a Christian burial. It turns out that she really was Driven to Suicide because the local priest was an asshole about her being pregnant out of wedlock and she remains in her plain grave... but Cadfael puts a small cross on it anyway. It's a noticeably darker change from the novel where the villagers agreed that it didn't matter and gave her a proper burial anyway.
  • Subverted towards the end of season 2 of Waterloo Road: teacher Lorna Dickie has taken her own life because she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and a creationist who is trying to take over the school by funding a Corrupt Corporate Executive's bid to upgrade it to an academy tries to hijack her memorial service and condemn her suicide as a sin, but deputy head teacher Andrew Treneman steps up to challenge the creationist's views, even going so far as to challenge God to strike him down.
  • On Dexter Debra, thinking the Skinner jumped to his death to avoid arrest, says he 'took the chickeny way out'.
  • On Breaking Bad, Hank and Marie suggest that Walt has two honorable alternatives: turn himself in, or kill himself. Both would be seen as extremely dishonorable and unmanly by other groups.
  • On The Dead Zone, Johnny's ability reveals that there was more to his grandmother's death than was officially reported, and Reverend Purdy was involved. His grandmother was so distraught over Johnny's coma that she killed herself. Purdy, who had unrequited feelings for her, discovered her body and covered up her suicide to protect her reputation.

    Music 
  • The narrative of Sara Evans' "Bible Song" focuses on a suicide, and questions how the dead man's widow can explain "the sorry thing Daddy did" to their children.

    Religion 
  • There are many religions which state that suicide is a sinful act that will condemn the person to eternal damnation in Hell for the main reason being that only God Himself is allowed to take one's life away. According to the Catholic teaching, suicide is viewed as self-murder, a truly unforgivable sin because the person who has done it is not alive anymore to be forgiven afterward. That said, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sec. 2283: "We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives." This is because the Church now recognizes that many people are not in their right mind at the time (for instance due to depression). Some have also speculated that it is possible to ask forgiveness before dying from suicide as well (since one does not always die instantly). Culturally the very use of the words "committed suicide" reflects this view, since it is also used for the phrase "committed murder".
  • There are some cultures that actually avert this trope, and present it as honorable:
    • In some cultures (Like Roman or Japanese) suicide was seen as a courageous act, and in some cases such as after being publicly humiliated/ashamed, it was seen as the only way to recover one's honor.
    • In Mayan Culture, it was believed those who killed themselves went directly to heaven. They even had a Goddess dedicated to that Theme (Ixtab). It must also be noted they had other different gods for regular death and ritual death (Ah Puch) and one for violent deaths and human sacrifices (Manik).
    • In the Aztec Culture, if a woman became a widow, she could kill herself and the state would take care of her children. This was seen not as cowardice, but as a noble sacrifice she made for the good of her children.

    Theatre 
  • Hamlet:
    • A subplot of the play involved trying to decide if Ophelia drowned herself on purpose or not. If it were to be determined a suicide, she would have not been allowed Christian burial rites, which according to the belief of the characters would have denied her soul entry to heaven.
    • There is also Hamlet's famous "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy, which is about how he would kill himself if he weren't afraid it would damn his soul.

    Video Games 
  • In Arcanum, the elves of Qintarra are horrified by a member of their community killing themselves, believing it to be an abomination against nature that will deny his soul any chance of reincarnation.
  • In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, using the "Last Stand" perk allows you to survive otherwise-fatal hits by getting knocked down, where you can only use your pistol and die in either a single shot or after ten seconds. Holding the Use button to skip it and get to respawning is labeled the "Coward's Way Out".
  • In Grand Theft Auto V, you can take a pill to kill yourself should you get stuck. If done in multiplayer, the game will announce that you "took the easy way out."
  • Implied in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's Shivering Isles expansion, which has a location called the Hill of Suicides haunted by the souls of several NPCs. Another character in the Isles suffers from suicidal depression, but is terrified of his soul ending up on the Hill, so he decides to try some Loophole Abuse by hiring you to kill him.

    Webcomics 
  • In Jack, suicides go to hell. On average they seem to have an easier time earning reincarnation than most others damned though.
  • In Something*Positive, Davan tries to insult his friend Scotty out of his overdose-induced coma. Scotty flatlined. At the open casket funeral, Davan is so furious that Scotty killed himself instead of coming to his friends and family with his problems that he throttles Scotty's corpse.