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Why does suicide seem like a solution to your problem(s)?

Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

You may not be aware (or you may be forgetting) that there are other means you might bring to bear in solving your problems and coping with your stressors. Examples of coping mechanisms you might not be taking full advantage of include but are not limited to: psychotherapy, medication, various forms of social, occupational and educational assistance, and the support of other people who get where you are coming from.

You may be confusing thoughts that feel true for thoughts which are true. There is a difference! Just because you feel hopeless doesn't mean that life and your situation are truly hopeless. In most cases, a variety of thinking errors (called cognitive biases) conspire to make situations seem more dire than they really are.

You may be assuming that your current feelings and situation will never change for the better. This is not likely. Suicidal feelings and thoughts tend to decrease over time. Suicidal feelings are NOT a permanent state in most cases. Your mental state will change with time, your pursuit of treatment, and your active efforts to alter the things in the environment that are bothering you. It is very likely that if you kill yourself, you will have confused the temporary for the permanent.

You may not be thinking about the other people you will harm. Suicide will affect your entire family as well as your close friends. All of the people who are close to you will be very wounded by your death, and the ones who care about you the most, or need you the most, will be the most affected. If there is even one person in your family (or one friend, even) that you care about, your suicide will carve a permanent hole into that person's heart that will never quite successfully heal. Life will go on, of course, but living with a permanent grief is never a good state of affairs.

You may be thinking that this is an effective way to punish or communicate pain to people who have previously hurt you. You may be thinking "I will show them all", that you'll prove something, or get someone to listen to you or take you seriously. Your decision to commit suicide won't prove anything. Plus, if you're gone, how people react to you or think about you doesn't matter anyway. There is nothing you can do, ultimately, to force other people to change, or to care about you. However, you can change your responses and reactions to them. Also, if you can learn to care about yourself, you will find that various people notice that, and will start to care about you. It's not a paradox, but it may seem like one at first.

You may have a mental illness that is contributing to your suicidal thoughts. Alternatively, you may have become suicidal in response to having to cope with a chronic physical or mental illness. Feeling suicidal is pretty common when you're moderately or seriously depressed. If you are depressed, things that used to feel good to you will lose their motivating capability. It is common to feel worthless and helpless and to start thinking in negative and extreme ways when you are depressed. For example, it's common for people with depression to start taking responsibility for all the negative things that have ever happened to them. At the same time, they simultaneously discount their role in helping to create the good things that have happened. You may rewrite history so it seems that things have always been terrible/horrible/awful when this isn't really entirely the case. In general, the brain starts doing a sort of attentional narrowing and filtering such that everything is seen through the excrement-colored glasses of depression. Your perspective and your vision narrows until everything looks depressing and there is no apparent way out. Once this negative thinking style sets in your judgment becomes compromised and it is rather easy to look to suicide as the "only way out" and as an appropriate and well deserved fate. In depression, even though these sorts of thoughts occur frequently, they are NOT TRUE! Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, and various anti-depressant medications can help clear up these negative thought biases.

You may also have forgotten to thoroughly think through the consequences of committing suicide. Some people have impulsive personalities, or are sensation seekers that like to "live life on the edge." If you fit into either of these categories, take a moment right now to stop and think carefully about what you are considering. It may even be helpful to make a list of the pros and cons of engaging in self-destructive behavior. If you are unable to think clearly, find a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional to help you sort through everything. You may need ongoing help from a mental health professional in order to "reign in" your tendency to act without careful deliberation. There are other ways to achieve the "high" or "alive" feeling you desire that don't involve harming yourself.

Are you the only person that feels this way?

Absolutely not!!! You're in good company, in fact. Estimates suggest that approximately 800,000 people commit suicide per year. This number most probably underestimates the true magnitude of the issue, but there is no way to tell for sure.

We don't present this number in order to lead you to think that suicide is the best way to handle your situation. Just to show you that a lot of people come to see suicide as attractive in any given year. Use this statistic to remind yourself that you are not alone, and that mental health professionals have tons of experience helping people who have been through experiences that are similar to what you are going through now