Is a Suicide Attempt a Cry for Help?

“She is not really suicidal. She just wants attention.”

“He did not really attempt suicide. It was just a cry for help.”

“If she had really wanted to die, she’d be dead.”

These are often the reactions of friends and family to a suicidal person. Sometimes, it is true that a person who made what appeared to be a suicide attempt did not really want to die. One large study found that of people who reported that they had attempted suicide, almost half nevertheless endorsed the following survey item about their intentions: “My attempt was a cry for help. I did not intend to die.”

The flip side of those study results is that the majority of people who reported a suicide attempt did intend to die. They endorsed one of two survey items: “I made a serious attempt to kill myself and it was only luck that I did not succeed” or “I tried to kill myself, but knew that the method was not fool-proof.” (On a side note, I take issue with the wording of these items, as no method is fool-proof. People have survived gunshot wounds to the head, falls from great heights, and more.)

When Suicidal Behavior Really Is a Cry for Help

Even among those who reported a suicide attempt but did not actually intend to die, there still are serious problems for which these people deserve compassion and concern – certainly not derision – from others.

First, people who hurt themselves in what they view as a suicide attempt do so because of great pain, desperation, or other distressing emotions. If they are crying out for help, there is usually a good reason for them to do so – and a good reason for others to listen.

Second, it is normal for people to need and want attention. Everybody has a need for attention; what differs among people is how they go about getting it. Threatening or attempting suicide is a very unhealthy way to get attention or communicate distress to others. It is a sign that something is wrong. Even if the person does not really plan to die by suicide, they do need help. There are other, more healthy ways for people to let others know that they are suffering, angry, depressed, or otherwise in trouble and need help.

Third, even people who threaten or attempt suicide to get other people’s attention can still die. Mistakes happen. A study of teens found that half overestimated the amount of Tylenol needed to cause death. So, a teen could overdose on Tylenol in the hopes of showing others how much they need help, without realizing the overdose will be fatal. Who knows how many of the suicides every year are a cry for help gone awry?

Take All Suicidal (or Potentially Suicidal) Behavior Seriously

In short, suicidal behavior is a serious, potentially fatal problem. This applies to suicidal thoughts as well as attempts. If someone you know is saying they really want to die by suicide – or has already tried – take them very seriously. They deserve empathy, compassion, and assistance, whether from you or professionals (or both).

Which would be worse – to presume that somebody really is suicidal when they are not, or to presume that somebody is not suicidal when they really are? Although both situations are complicated, the second scenario can result in death. It is better to err on the side of safety.


Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, is the author of “Helping the Suicidal Person: Tips and Techniques for Professionals,” a psychotherapist and consultant, and an associate professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work.

© Copyright 2013 Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, All rights Reserved. Written For: Speaking of Suicide. Photo purchased from

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  1. Mick says:

    Help me

  2. Eric Goble says:

    What do you do for someone who explicitly stated after a suicide attempt, while still hospitalized, that they want their friends to know that they attempted suicide?

  3. Anonymous says:

    reading this lets me know what to expect so i won’t let it happen when it happen

  4. Danielle says:

    I attempted suicide over the weekend. The hospital released me back into the care of my partner. Since I came home Monday, nobody has given me a hug or tried talking to me! I feel very vulnerable and alone. The NHS crisis team is visiting. But it’s Support I want from family. I am really disappointed that my attempt did not succeed in death. This past week has shown me that I do not want to be here!

    • Anonymous says:

      I really hope you eventually got the help you needed. Sometimes people respond to a loved one’s attempted suicide differently. I think often times they don’t even know where to begin, just as you may have felt lost and resorted to suicide as a solution. Please give people a chance to help you whether it be family or a therapist.

    • Eric Goble says:

      Lots of people respond with anger, or just plain don’t know how to respond and would rather not. This does not justify their behavior, but it may explain it. Source: am sitting next to my partner in the ER after a suicide attempt. Your family and friends are likely very scared. I hope they can come to understand. I’m sorry. No one deserves to feel alone. Try and find a therapist near you that accepts a sliding scale payment. They are often the sort that is understanding about this kind of stuff. I hope you come out okay.

  5. Jen says:

    My mum was a missing person for two nights she did attempt suicide, was a cry for help with tinnitus, came back for family. No help from NHS. I tried to help begining of June but doctor was too slow on her m.h. She followed what my brother did, its a shame. I loved her so much. She ended up drowning herself. Very tragic ended.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      I am so sorry for your losses. To lose a brother OR a mother to suicide is devastating. I’m sorry that suicide took both from you.

      It’s sad that she wasn’t able to get the help she needed. Thank you for sharing your experience. It shows the need to take all suicidal behavior seriously. Even if a suicide attempt is a “cry for help,” then the person should be helped!

  6. Any says:

    There are no false allusions things will improve. I am kind hearted, honest and hard working but I see no way out. I fought for 46 years but nothing, nothing ever got better. I was abused as a kid daily by a sister who was only two years older than me. Not like it was her fault, she raised me and there were no parents around. I used to call my mom and beg for help behind closed doors and she would hang up. I was made a sexual buffet at two years old who my sister charged for the pleasure…Prob pennies…Once again, I do not blame her. I was abused by one of my mom’s friends husbands and I told her. She said I was mistaken. I am intelligent and attractive but cannot do anything correctly. I choose abusive situations most likely because that is what I am used to. I have my own child and seeing a family that seems normal now around her sends me into a panic. I have nothing and no one other than my kid but she has zero respect for me too. I am weak and a failure. I love her and she has kept me alive but I can see I am a failure….Cannot support her, provide a regular home. Nobody has ever apologized it acknowledged anything at all and things just get worse. I feel as though I have always just been a punching bag or just someone to ignore and I have no idea how to cope with the pain that doesn’t stop. I try to convince myself I should live but my daughter would grow up more confident and better adjusted without me. I am a joke I feel others sincerely hope disappears. Medicine doesn’t work and life is getting harder and I am getting older. I find it increasingly difficult to justify my life. It has no worth…Even my child at ten has little respect for a cry baby like me. I see no hope.

  7. Esme says:

    Not always. Suicide is a way out for me when I’ve finished trying everything else. It’s a potential light at the end of a very long and very dark tunnel. For me it is a very rational solution and one I have considered in great depth for over 20 years. I would not stop someone with terminal cancer from choosing a controlled death rather than continuous suffering and I strongly believe certain other situations warrant the same approach. There are many health issues that are currently incurable in certain individuals and they should be allowed to choose death over a life of suffering.

    I don’t follow any particular religion, but I suppose I will either be reincarnated and get to reset everything and hopefully get a better deck of cards next time, or it will just be over and I can rest finally. If a god exists, which I highly doubt, then he/she/it created me this way and therefore cannot punish me for their own screw up. So threats of hell do not concern me. I certainly do not believe in a cruel and evil god that enjoys making people suffer for entertainment. I rather believe that I am just a mistake of nature with damaged genetics. It is what it is. We all die eventually anyway. Most people get to live either most or some of their life in happiness before they die and I can see why they would value life and assume everyone else should be kept alive as long as possible. However sometimes happiness isn’t possible due to chemical defects or psychological disorders or some other reason and the nicest thing anyone can do is let that individual end the pain early. If I knew an animal was in constant suffering, they were exhausted and there was currently no treatment that improved things, then I would consider it compassionate to end their misery. I hope when I decide to leave then I will be treated with at LEAST as much compassion as I would treat an animal. I see life as a big party where most people are having fun and therefore assume everyone else must be and want them to stay, but others aren’t enjoying it and are tired at the end of the night and want to leave. They should be allowed to.

    I have been suicidal since childhood (I am in my 30s now) and can’t remember being happy for more than a few minutes in my entire life. I believe certain disorders run in my family as my aunt also committed suicide and other individuals have been diagnosed with bipolar, ADHD, high functioning autism, severe depression and other issues. Fortunately the ones who are formally diagnosed are much younger and have had support early on, so I have hope for them. Although if medication/therapy does not fix things, then I would not blame them for choosing suicide. My aunt did not have a good life and in hindsight it would have been much kinder to let her go. But certain people forced her into medical interventions for years that made her suffering far worse. She attempted suicide previously and was not happy that doctors resuscitated her. As soon as she had the freedom to try again, she did. Suicide certainly was not a cry for help in her mind.

    I have been in and out of therapy since highschool and put on various medications for different things. None have worked and most made me very sick with side effects. I am exhausted and unable to support myself financially as I cannot hold down a job longer than a few months (and struggle to get one at all). I do not have friends and cannot understand most social situations, so I am isolated from the rest of society. I cannot multitask, have a terrible short term memory and forget instructions. I also can’t drive, so many things are literally out of reach. If my routine changes or I am focused on something, then I forget basic things like washing, eating and sleeping. I can do things that most people find difficult, but can’t manage the ‘easy’ stuff. My life is a complete mess. I am mostly reliant on my parents to remind me to get dressed and pay bills and basic things like that, but they are getting older now and cannot afford to take care of me. My family have their own problems, so I do not have any other support network. The few relationships I’ve had have ended badly as I am too difficult to live with and cannot understand the way other people think. I also do not like sex, so offering sex to a partner in return for basically being my PA would not work in the long run. I tried to live by myself and quickly got ill. I have not been diagnosed with any specific disability, so I do not get government help either (and would not be happy receiving it anyway as I am physically healthy, my IQ is very high and I should be able to look after myself). My brain simply does not work correctly and I am unable to participate in normal life as a result. I am not willing to spend another 30+ years existing like this or being used as a guinea-pig by medical professionals. It is hell. I have considered that brain damage would be a slightly better option than suicide, as I would still technically exist (so my family would not be as upset) but I wouldn’t be aware of living so I would no longer suffer. I also considered joining the military, as constant routine and direction with food and accomodation all managed for me sounded ideal and potentially lethal situations would not bother me. However I repeatedly failed the physical tests so this was not possible.

    The only reason I have not yet killed myself is the guilt I would feel at my father losing both his sister and daughter. I will try to stay alive long enough to outlive him (and hopefully my mother) and then I will end my life. The thought does not upset me. It would be a huge relief to not have to do this any more and I think many individuals feel the same way. People assume those who commit suicide must be really upset and hurting at that moment and the decision must therefore be a hysterical and panicked one, but the day I am free to leave I am sure I will be very calm and happy finally. I occasionally have dreams that involve death and they are always positive. I am glad there are places in the world that offer assisted suicide that will allow me to carry this out in a ‘safe’ and controlled way, as the only thing that concerns me is the thought of something not working and ending up in additional physical pain on top of everything else. I do not want someone trying to talk me out of suicide and it would not be a ‘cry for help’. I have had multiple doctors, therapists and others try to fix me over the years and their ‘help’ has failed. Suicide would be a definite solution.

    • Brian M says:

      Sounds like you are going through a hard patch, I’d like to offer advise, but I’m in the same place. It’s only personal oaths and religion that is stopping me.There has to be something that keeps you keeping on, not a great solution but it’s all I’ve got

    • mike says:

      This comment makes total sense to me. I also believe there are rational arguments for such a choice. With regard to not wanting to hurt those who are left behind, if that were the main reason I remained alive, then at that point I would have to conclude that I am living my life for the benefit of others. It was and is that line of thinking that got me to the negative place I’m at right now, along with other experiences. Much of my life experience is based upon fear. Thus, again, if I refuse to commit suicide because I’m afraid of what awaits me, I’m STILL living a life of fear, which, again, is one of the main reasons I’m in such a negative place right now.

      So, in regard to the writer’s comment, I agree that there are very rational reasons for choosing a solution of suicide, as rational as those reasons for NOT choosing such a solution. In my opinion, as I have stated, the negative effects of either proposing such a choice or denying such a choice can be very much the same.

    • Esme says:

      “Sounds like you are going through a hard patch”

      Nope, a ‘patch’ suggests a temporary, short term situation. This has been the vast majority of my life. A 30+ year patch. When people tell you over and over and over for years ‘don’t worry’, ‘it will get better’, ‘just keep going’, etc and nothing changes (or it just gets worse), then eventually you run out of patience. In fact, hearing that yet again makes it even worse as basically people are telling you ‘I have no solution, I can’t think of any way to resolve your issues, but I’ll say something to make myself feel better’. Words are utterly useless. Words do nothing. They are cheap and easy to throw out. You don’t tell a homeless person ‘it’s ok, hang in there’. You give them money or a home. You don’t tell a person with cancer ‘it’s ok, hang in there’. You either offer practical medical treatment or at least pain medication. You don’t tell a person who is injured in a car accident ‘it’s ok, hang in there’. You get them to a hospital ASAP. But people think it’s perfectly fine to tell someone who’s suicidal and out of options ‘it’s ok, hang in there’. Why? It’s clearly not ok and they clearly can’t hang in there. Society should be more compassionate and not guilt-trip those who have had enough of constant suffering. I find it really sick and twisted how humans treat eachother. I have to go all the way to Switzerland just to ensure I have a humane and peaceful death and no one else is threatened with jail time for helping me. That’s seriously messed up. Imagine if we had to travel all the way to across the world to give our pet dog/cat a calm and pain-free death!

      Yes, there is something that keeps me going – guilt at making my parents suffer. I therefore plan to stay around until they are gone. I calculate I have about 15-20 years left at absolute worst (likely much less, thankfully). I don’t think staying around purely for the benefit of others is such a bad thing. Other people stay alive to have fun or to spend time with family or whatever other reason. My reason is to outlive my parents to avoid causing them additional pain.

      • Eleanor says:

        I totally get this. I have a few mental health issues and have been suicidal numerous times. The only reason I am still here is because of others, especially parents

  8. K. says:

    I am way too done with my life and I want to end it but at the same time I feel like I don’t want to end it but I just want those people’s attention (my parents) that I am becoming suicidal because of them. I just want to cut my wrist in such a way that I only become unconscious and not die but I don’t know how to do that. If possible than please tell me how to otherwise it may happen that I may cut it in a wrong way and die but thats also nice but though I hate them I don’t want them to be in trouble after I die. Please suggest me how to do it correctly????

    • Shannon says:

      If your main reason for this is to show your parents how they’ve hurt you, you should try something else. Whether they find you unconscious or dead, they probably won’t accept the blame. They’ll say it was because you were weak or crazy. Or they’ll blame it on that friend they don’t like, the music you listen to, or the Devil. And the first thing all of their friends, relatives, coworkers, clergy, and therapists will tell them is “it’s not your fault.”
      You’re probably better off trying to communicate with them some other way or trying to ignore them until you can move out. If the relationship is really toxic, don’t talk to them after you move out. You don’t have to have a relationship with your parents in order to have a good life. Hope that helps. I’ve lived through a similar situation and have had friends suffer through it too. And I’ve watched the parents of dead children bask in the attention their kid’s suicide brought them. A-holes are always a-holes, know what I mean?

  9. William B says:

    I honestly feel like there is no more hope for me. Like There is a missing part of me that I will NEVER get back, and the pain is too much for me.

    • Shannon says:

      William, I hope you’re still alive. I was there about six weeks ago. I took two Dramamine (an over the counter medicine used to prevent car sickness) in hopes it would prevent me from vomiting the prescription drug I planned to take that was supposed to finish the job if I messed up shooting myself. The instructions on the Dramamine said to wait thirty minutes for it to work. It calmed me and helped me realize I had other options. Maybe you can do something to help you get through the night, then seek professional help when you’re not so desperate. BTW, when I’ve told Drs I had a plan and/or might kill myself later, I’ve been hospitalized. If I said I had just been thinking about it but was very depressed, they didn’t. Please get help. It can get better. You have to keep fighting and finding the good parts. <3

  10. William B says:

    I can’t take my deep depressing pain any more. I’m scared to talk to someone because I don’t want to go back to the hospital again. I need help. I was planning on jumping off a bridge into the water. I don’t want to kill myself, though. That is why I need help quickly. I’m scared but I don’t want to mention it to any one I know.

    • Shannon says:

      William, my therapist made me make a list of things to do when I’m feeling desperate because sometimes just putting something else in your brain helps. You could call a friend; you don’t have to tell them what’s going on, just talk. Hang out with your pet if you have one. Take a hot bath or shower. Listen to music. Go some place that usually makes you feel calm. Watch a movie or show that you like. I don’t know what might work for you, but doing something that kind of puts me pause helps me get through those really dark spots. I sympathize about the hospital. I hate them too.

  11. Stacy says:

    I am quite serious about killing myself. At the same time – I don’t want to actually die. It’s terrifying. So I’m asking people for help (sometimes repeatedly that it’s become some sort of dependency thing) I am sure it must be really frustrating for them but I don’t know what else to do.

    It’s either that or I carry out my plan. Is this even healthy.

    • William B says:

      I feel your pain I am seriously still going to jump off the bridge If I dont get help quick.

      • Shannon says:

        Before you kill yourselves, please get some professional help. Sometimes it’s hard finding the right medication or combo, but they help. Sometimes it’s hard getting the right diagnosis. Someone might be depressed, but someone else could have borderline personality disorder, or bipolar Il–so what works for one might not work for another.

  12. Vanilla says:

    I sometimes do a suicidal attempt. And yes, i sometimes do it because i want someone to help me. I didn’t talk about to my friends or my family nor the school’s conselour. I hope that someday they’ll see the scars on my wrist. But i feel guilty, because i think my problem is not big enough for me to do suicide. And it made me think everyday ‘you just did this because you want some attention’ or ‘you weren’t serious about this’. Help?

  13. Lisa says:

    Actually, yes. The problem with me is – I crave attention. And the reason I want to kill myself is FOR that attention. At the same time – I recognise that this is a serious problem. And I hate myself for wanting to do that for attention because well, it is weird. So I want to kill myself anyways because I hate this part about me, This need for attention to that degree that it would drive me all the way to death.

  14. Norma says:

    A guy I was dating sent me text that he intended to shoot himself but heard his mother’s voice (she’s deceased) tell him to go home. I got this text at work and was sick over it. He’s got a huge gun collection. Recently he signed himself out of a psych hospital. He’s also but me out of his life. He said he never wanted a relationship but if he did he’d work on it with his ex wife. He suffers from ptsd. I don’t know how to cope. Half of me is worried about if he’s ok and the other half feels used and devastated. This had been extremely traumatic and I have an overwhelming sick feeling.

  15. Ryan says:

    Yea it really sucks when your friends dont take you seriously.when I first got depression all my friends didnt really take me really that serious untill i started cutting then they were all like” oh my god why are you doing that we love you” and” we’re here for you at all times” but after a while they stopped caring

  16. Francisca says:

    Yeah, ’cause when you make an appointment to help with your suicidal behaviors, they’re not going to take you that seriously. When you tell your friends you’re depressed, they’re not going to take you that seriously. When you tell your parents you can’t control how you feel, they’re not going to take you seriously. But as soon as you jump off that bridge or take those pills, they’ll be rushing to the hospital to get help, your friends will be there hoping you get better and your parents are finally going to get it. It doesn’t matter what you say, actions speak louder than words. The scars on your arms, the bruises on your legs, the gun in your bag, all of these things will say more than your mouth ever will. So, we shouldn’t care if people think we’re attention whores for attempting suicide, ’cause these are the same people that called us attention whores for trying to get help. Fuck them all and help yourself.

    • Eon H says:

      You have no idea how true that is with my family! When I was 15 I had mentioned wanting to kill myself in front of almost my entire family. Grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it. I don’t remember much immediately after that, but a few days later after we arrived home my mother choked me and said to never say that in front of the family again and then offered me a rope if I really wanted to kill myself. I haven’t spoken to her in 17yrs.

  17. Sylvie says:

    I’m bipolar and have PTSD. I’ve been suicidal and been hospitalized for three attempts but have made others. Some were real, others were more like expressions of deep hidden pain. I think this variability makes it difficult for people to understand what’s happening–even for the person with the suicidal ideation. The issue is further complicated by people (like a friend with borderline personality disorder) who seem to want to upset and control people by announcing they feel suicidal. Since it’s difficult to tell what’s going on, I think it’s best to take all threats seriously. However, there is a point when the friend or loved of someone who keeps making threats and refuses help must let go and realize not all people can be helped. Some people just don’t want it or aren’t ready to accept it.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Sylvie, you make an excellent point – it is very hard to know someone’s intentions when a suicide attempt is made, and even the person who made the attempt may not know! I have definitely worked with people who were in deep pain, who wanted to die, AND who also wanted others to pay attention to them. So even if it seems like someone is being manipulative with suicidal behavior, they still can very much be in danger, and they definitely still need help.

      And you make a good point about how hard it can be to try to help people someone who resists or refuses help. I write about the limitations of helpers here: “You Can’t Do Everything”: Limitations in Helping a Suicidal Person.

      Comment edited on Feb. 13, 2015. – SF

  18. Depression Point of view says:

    I tried talking to close friends I trusted when I felt depressed or anxious but they never really seemed to take it seriously or they did not know how to react to my depression. I am/was almost constantly anxious and or depressed and I tried asking my mother and my friends for help but nobody ever believed that I was really in great distress. After trying to talk to them and hoping for even a bit of concern and failing to receive anything but “You can choose to be happy”, “Stop being depressed”. I stopped talking to my closest friend, My boyfriend and my mother. I felt abandoned by them in a way and horribly misunderstood. I felt that the only way I could make anyone take me seriously or understand that the way I was feeling wasn’t something small was if I did something drastic like Cut myself, Drink alcohol or even attempt suicide and sometimes I wanted help and other times I really did want to die and sometimes I the thought of dying didn’t scare me at all.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      “Depression Point of View,” your comment profoundly portrays the struggles that many people with depression face. Not only must they suffer from the depression itself, but also from the pain and isolation of not being heard or understood by others. Statements like “You can choose to be happy” and “Stop being depressed” blame the victim. As if it were so easy to just choose to be happy! If it were, then surely everyone would happily make the choice.

      I am sorry that you are experiencing this type of emotional abandonment. And you make the important point that self harming behavior like cutting or a suicide attempt can get people’s attention.

      My hope for you is that you have found someone who can give you the empathy, understanding, and support that can help you heal. That person might be friend or family, or they might be a professional or volunteer. And if you haven’t yet found that person (or persons), maybe the resources here will be a good place to look:

  19. Key says:

    I know this article was posted over a year ago, but I felt the need to post a personal experience. In the summer of 2012, I started hanging out with another high school kid. He was from a different school than me, so meeting up was hard. One of the times we hung out, I saw scars all over his lower back. I asked him about them, and although he didn’t tell me how he managed to do them, he did admit that he was suicidal. Later that evening, we were watching a movie and I noticed that he had something tiny in his hand and he was pushing it into his chest. He surrendered it to me when I asked for it. Jump two months forward, and he and I were in a relationship. I was a volleyball manager and a few hours away on the night he FaceTimed me and almost took his life. He didn’t, but that’s because he realized that I cared about him, that I loved him.
    ….he had been abused and bullied as a kid, then as a teen he finally wanted out. If I hadn’t come along when I did, he would be dead right now. I probably wouldn’t even have known him beyond “the kid that played with my little brother one time at our parents’ work party”.

  20. Roger says:

    I take some issue with “If someone you know is saying they really want to die by suicide – or has already tried – take them very seriously. They deserve empathy, compassion, and assistance, whether from you or professionals (or both).”

    As one who certainly does not intend to live out another decade and who does not look for anyone’s empathy or compassion, I take issue with the underlying assumption: that more years of life is good. For everyone. No exceptions.

    There are. Exceptions.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hi Roger, thanks for writing. Your comment touches on one of life’s fundamental philosophical debates: Is suicide rational? Must it always be prevented? Are, as you put it, “more years of life” always good?

      In the suicide prevention community, the fundamental assumption is that, yes, suicide should be prevented, although some would say otherwise if terminal illness is present. And I know that there are many, like you, who disagree with the premise that life should be preserved in the suicidal, in all of the suicidal, that is.

  21. Hopeless and invisible says:

    If only people who say that a suicidal individual “didn’t really mean it” or ” didn’t want to die; it was a cry for help,” could see the irony in their dismissal. It’s that insensitivity and lack of compassion that drives us to want to escape this world in the first place. We are tired of being told we are just weak and just want to be victims. That we need to just buck up and be positive. People who view us as a burden, a social outcast while we are alive and avoid us are the very ones who after we do kill ourselves are crying on our coffins claiming they wish they “knew” and are so distraught.

    Make no mistake, people who attempt suicide want to die. We are in unbearable pain caused by mental illness — we are not just weak. We often haven’t had regular success with treatment and have encountered the same judgement and callousness ironically from so called mental health professionals.

    When someone has cancer, friends and family rally around them with support. But when someone has clinical depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc, people see it not as a disease deserving of the same compassion and support but as a character flaw and flee. We deal with it alone and ashamed. I actually had a “friend” say to my face that suicide is an evolutionary solution, because people “like that” shouldn’t keep polluting the gene pool. I imagine a similar comment about cancer patients might have drawn some angry responses.

    It starts with ending the stigma associated with mental illness. Until that happens this sad story will continue to repeat itself.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Beautifully said. I can only hope that other friends, parents, siblings, spouses, etc. of suicidal people read your words and fully receive their meaning. Because depression, overwhelm, and other stresses are invisible, friends and family often misunderstand. They may think that the suicidal wish emanates from the person’s personality, rather than from the stress or the illness. And so they blame the suicidal person, when in fact suicidal people and their loved ones share a common enemy: the forces of suicide.

      The tricky thing about mental illnesses – and extreme stress and trauma, too, which can also lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior – is that they are invisible. There are no X rays, blood tests, or brain scans that can confirm that somebody has a mental illness. There is nothing growing inside their body, no fracture of a body part, nothing to blame except this invisible strain that turns thoughts inside out and makes death seem like the solution, when in a healthy person, the mind views survival as the utmost goal.

      People who experience mental illness, trauma, and other stresses that can provoke intense suicidal thoughts (and suicide itself) are the victim of these forces, not the cause. Until people fully appreciate that, you are correct – many people with suicidal thoughts will continue to feel stigmatized and alone. Posts like yours, above, can have tremendous impact on whoever reads them. Even if just one person reads your words and is touched by them (and I have no doubt that there will be more than one), you have made a huge contribution. Thinking of your comment on another post, my hope is that somebody can do that for you, as well.

  22. ann says:

    It isn’t a cry for help. It is a way out. It doesn’t say ‘please, won’t you help me get a handle on things’, it says ‘I want out’. Suicide is a way to make it all stop, to quit doing anything. Suicide says ‘I QUIT…I refuse…I’m out’.
    Suicide is a statement of a direct desire to not participate.

  23. John says:

    I think that many people who talk about what would happen if they killed themselves want to know how much they mean for people. This is something that I experienced in my own life…

  24. Ellen says:

    I wish that the term “a cry for help” had not been twisted into meaning “just a superficial spoiled brat demanding attention, so it is safe to disregard this behavior.” A cry for help IS a serious thing, and it takes a lot of courage to expose hidden pain to the world. Saying that an action is a cry for help should not be a reason NOT to give the help that the person needs!

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Ellen, thanks for your contribution. I love the way you put it – that the term “cry for help” has come to mean, in some contexts, that the person is a “superficial spoiled brat.” It is terribly sad. I completely agree with you that even if a suicide attempt is a cry for help, that does not negate the fact that the person is suffering and does actually need help. I wish more people would realize that!

  25. Kathie Yount says:

    Thank you for your insights into a suicide attempt being a cry for help, Stacey. Understanding that suicide often results from a cry that has gone awry is very important if we are ever going to prevent suicide. The Houston studies on survivors of impulse suicides are also very revealing. I am Kathie Yount, mother of Dylan Yount who died, ambivalent to the end, in a suicide baiting in Hallidie Plaza, San Francisco, 2-16-10. I struggle each day knowing that my son died with derision and mockery burning in his ears. Dylan had never shown any signs of mental illness or depression and had made no previous suicide attempts. In his case, the “verdict” from the crowd galvanized his suicidal crisis. We have started a suicide baiting prevention page at
    We welcome any support or insights there.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Thank you for your comments, Kathie. I’m so sorry about your son, and the added pain that the crowd’s callousness and sadism during his ordeal must add to your grief. I am astonished at how little attention is given to suicide baiting; although there has been some research, far more is needed.

      I will be sure to check out your suicide baiting prevention page on Facebook. I hope others who see your comment will be moved to do so, as well.

      Take care!

  26. Vannah says:

    Sometimes it can feel like not one single person in the world cares. It can feel like your so alone. People tell you that they will be there but when the line is drawn they are unreachable. I dont want to discuss it but I have been here. It feels like everyone is just always to busy and everyone thinks its fake. But its a horrible feeling that i wish no one had to feel. And ur right it can be a cry for attention but when you get put down over it it makes things worse. Sad thing is I have begged for help for years and years and have been ignored. I dont have insurance to go see a therapists and now i deal with other issues as well. I feel like Im alone 24/7. Like no matter what I do no one sees me or cares. But I just continue on hopin I will get some light in my life. So if anyone needs to talk I am here to listen. Maybe i can help.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hello Vannah, I am sorry to hear about your feeling so alone. It sounds like you have been through very difficult, painful times, yet without anyone to give support or compassion. What you wrote – “I just continue on hoping I will get some light in my life” is very inspirational. When things get dark, please hold on to those words.

      Because you don’t have a therapist and sound like you may be unable to afford one, I am wondering if you’ve looked into any of the hotlines or online resources that are out there. You can check them out on Speaking of Suicide’s Resources page, particularly the section for people who need help with suicidal thoughts. A couple of really useful resources are the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and the Online Suicide Wiki, which contains a long list of online resources.

      Best wishes to you, and please drop in again sometime and let us know how you are doing.

    • Anonymous says:

      I couldn’t agree with u more Vannah. The pain kills u first & no one cares, so u kill your body for them to just get over u.

  27. Tammy says:

    I wish that suicide was not a subject that so many people never want to talk about. i lost my son to suicide and i truly wish that i had had more information about the signs because they were there and i did not even know it and now he is gone and no one wants to talk about it or anything else. And now that i know the signs there are a lot of people that need to watch and listen more closely to their loved ones. Because those of us that are left here on earth are the ones that suffer the most and it needs to be talked about and more information put out there and all the time so that others do not want to do the same thing. it rips our hearts out that have lost a loved one due to suicide and unless you have been there you do not understand and also people need to not talk to someone that has been through it if they do not know what to say. some of the things that are said are so hurtful and they do not even realize it.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hello Tammy, I am so very sorry to read about your son. It’s a tragedy, both for the loss of his life and for the pain you experience as a result. Your anguish is evident in your words.

      If you have not found support already from other people who have lost a loved one to suicide, I hope you will consider doing so. You can find resources for suicide survivors (those who have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide) at the following places on this website:

      Coping With the Suicide of a Loved One

      Resources for Survivors of Suicide

      I wish for you healing and peace!

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