“What Stops You from Killing Yourself?”

I advise my students to ask their suicidal clients, “What stops you? What stops you from killing yourself?”

Some are horrified. They see this almost as a dare, as if they are saying to a hurting, suicidal person, If you really wanted to kill yourself, you would have done it already. What stops you?

To the contrary, asking the question “What stops you?” merely involves saying aloud what many suicidal individuals ask themselves constantly. And if they don’t consider the question already, they should. Otherwise, they might not recognize hopes and fears that are reasons to keep fighting for their life.

Something has indeed stopped a living and breathing suicidal person from acting on their suicidal thoughts. If nothing deterred them, they would not still be alive.

So, if you are working with a client who has thoughts of suicide, it can be helpful to ask these questions. 

“What stops you from killing yourself now?”

“What has stopped you thus far?”

A related question to ask, as I discuss in this post, is:

“What are your reasons for staying alive?”

And if you are reading this post because you yourself have suicidal thoughts, please ask yourself these questions, too. The answers might fortify you, or even surprise you.

Reasons to Stay Alive vs. Reasons Not to Attempt Suicide

With my therapy clients and in my readings of research studies, I have observed two types of reasons people give for not killing themselves: life-affirming reasons, and fear-based reasons.

The life-affirming reasons center on the good things that can still happen for the person if they stay alive: the things to do, the people to love, the sights to see, the hopes to realize. These are the reasons the person has to stay alive.

Unfortunately, many people who struggle with suicidal thoughts are bereft of hope or pleasure, so there may be no life-affirming or hopeful reasons to keep going. In these cases, fear-based reasons tend to dominate. 

The fear-based reasons for not attempting suicide center on the bad things that can happen:

Their suicide attempt might not be fatal, and they might suffer lifelong injuries. Many people have shot themselves, overdosed, tried to hang themselves, and cut themselves only to suffer blindness, paralysis, brain damage, or disfigurement.

They believe they might go to hell. I hear this often. Many of my clients fear what might await them after death.

They worry they will be reincarnated into a life of more pain. This is another fear that has stopped some of my clients from killing themselves. They fear that escaping their pain in this life will consign them to more pain, and more lessons to learn, in the next.

They do not want to hurt others. Some parents are deterred because they know that their suicide would make it more likely that their child would die by suicide. Others simply don’t want others to hurt.

They fear what would happen to their pets. As an animal lover, I get this. Many people don’t have family who could care for their pets, and the thought of the pets going to a shelter – or even worse, being killed – horrifies them. It would horrify me, too.

By Dese’Rae L. Stage

Generally speaking, I do not try to persuade the suicidal person with all the reasons not to end one’s life. To do so would invite a power struggle, one in which we are on opposite sides: the persuader, and the one resisting persuasion.

Instead, I elicit from the suicidal person what their reasons are for still being alive. I assess how strong these deterrents to suicide are, and I look for opportunities to reinforce them. But it’s best if the reasons come from the individual, not from me. The person’s answer is the only one that matters, because it is what has kept them alive thus far.

Beyond Fear of Suicide

Fear of what would come after a suicide attempt is a powerful deterrent. Ideally, though, people will have more than that. They also need hope. And they need a life worth living.

In my book Helping the Suicidal Person: Tips and Techniques for Professionals, I discuss many ways to help someone discover reasons for living, grow hope, find meaning, and improve their quality of life. (Sorry for the blatant plug, but there are too many tips to go into here.)

The more reasons a person has to stay alive, the more answers the person has when asked, “What stops you?”

Copyright 2017 Stacey Freedenthal. Written for SpeakingOfSuicide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Photos purchased from Fotolia.

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  1. Ben says:

    Why am I still alive? Living well is the best revenge.

  2. Just me says:

    I have been contemplating suicide for several weeks recently. I’m fifty one years old and I have done almost everything that I’ve wanted to do. Now, that is not to say that I’m a wealthy person. My list of things that I wanted to do was pretty short and not all that grand. I feel as though I have failed my famiy. My oldest daughter was raped in my home 10 years ago by a friend of one of her brothers, I’m not supposed to know this. Thus I can’t comfort her. My middle child has become a cutter, and I put a financial strain on my family because of a poor business decision, and recently have developed irritability and anger issues due to post concussion syndrome. I have a meme on my Ipad as the locked screen that says ” It’s easy to find a hundred reasons to quit, the trick is to find the one reason to keep going.”. My wife and daughters are what keep me going for now. I’m not afraid of death as I have looked him in the eyes on more than one occasion he blinked first. I’m afraid that one day I may just be tired of the fight and see what comes next.

    • Someone's Daughter says:

      My dad is 53. He escaped his homeland to avoid serving in the war. He got stuck in a refugee camp. He saw horrible things. He still can’t say some words but describes them. He’s been stereotyped and mistreated by his own family and police. He keeps going. He blocks a lot of things out as “I can’t handle this all alone, what can I do?”. Not in a woe is me sort of way, but a truly “I have no control over this. He is right to some degree, but sometimes, when I mention alternatives to him as he is now “wealthy-wealthier” he refuses because he has already pushed himself into a corner. He was powerless for a long time and that mindset has stayed with him on some issues.

      As for your oldest daughter–I don’t think I would have wanted to tell my dad if it happened to me. Even though my dad is loving, he’d probably feel like shit. I’d like to avoid that. I might also think maybe I did something to deserve it. Maybe dad might get in trouble trying to track the sicko down. For example this exact shame you feel was exactly what your daughter was trying to avoid by not telling you. Which sucks. I think at some point even now you might need to speak to a professional. Maybe your daughter wants you to know somewhere in the back of her mind. Not necessarily repeat the rape, but a quick. Dad something happened to me.

      It’s not as much as the actual rape, but the secrecy could be weighing on her. You never know. She might want to keep it secret from you forever. But since you’re 51 might be worth it to explore the idea. Might lessen some kind of burden on her.

      I was abused physically and emotionally by my mother. My father not knowing english or enough of this country just—let it be. He would try his best to protect me and stand up to my mom when he was home, but when he left to work I was helpless. I started having suicidal thoughts and harming myself (not by cutting) because I felt stuck and miserable.

      Years later when I was 22 so maybe 15+ years LATER. I finally told my dad in a text. I told him that I have been having nightmares and that he should understand the risk he is putting potentially on my younger siblings by not fighting for custody. Does he really want a second child to possibly suffer as I did? I told him that I am in therapy and that I needed help.

      Why my father chose to leave my mother with custody I don’t know. Easier I guess. He said he’ll have money for college and a car. I said do you really want your kid to see a therapist?

      THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT MY MOTHER MISTREATS MY SIBLING AS SHE DID TO ME

      Regardless of this ongoing issue. My dad who comes from a culture that does not believe mental illness exists was on the phone with me one day and he said “you know, I’ve been doing some reading and it says kids that hurt a lot by their parents they end up not having confidence and hurting them-self. It’s ok you’re getting help and I am proud of you for enduring your mom for so long. You didn’t deserve to be born into that situation. Your mom just took all her anger out on you because she knew it would hurt me. I never want you or anything to hurt you ever again. So I hope you talk to me when you feel sad or angry or anything. ”

      I admit I had to be the one to start this dialogue with my dad for MONTHS. Just little parts. Sometimes I’d offload so many texts and calls because thoughts were scattered and all over the place.

      I would like to end by saying. I do not know how my dad endured as much as he has. If he ever gave up and died by suicide I would be really really crushed. I don’t see myself as having two parents. Only my dad. I have friends who have lost their dads and they’re my age too. I usually try to call my dad once a week but sometimes I don’t call for months.

      He’s always there when I need him though and I have thoughts about him more often then he knows. He likes fishing,cooking, and woodshop stuff. So things remind me more of him than he knows. So just know things do remind your kids of you even if they never say anything. Your oldest and your youngest especially since she is cutting 1/30 thoughts might be of you when she can even focus on that.

      I hope your youngest daughter gets help. Some things are very hard to say. To express and maybe it’s too much for her to understand how to handle to it expresses in other ways.

      As for your oldest—even now maybe say I’m proud of you (because the youngest might not be in a state of mind of believing you though you should say it to her as well).

      What makes me sad is that I don’t really see a bright future. Hard work you assume you’d get somewhere. but a lot of buttheads say “you’re not entitled”. Yea well a lot of uncontrollable factors go into that. I worry that I won’t ever find a well paying job. That if I do I will be as I am now. Fat because my commute is too damn long. No time for actual life enhancing hobbies because again—my commute is too long. Mentally drained. Like—there isn’t even dreams of a house or retirement in my life right now. I don’t see things getting better although I am back in school. There’s no guarantee of anything. What if my dad leaves me alone?

      I read somewhere that it’s the weirdest feeling when you are close to your dad and you do call weekly. Only for them to have died and you still forget sometimes and you still think “hey I’ll call dad” only to remember—you can’t.

      You’ve already said your family and wife are keeping you going. I guess it’s the same for my dad. The thing is if financial worries and emotional worries are plaguing everyone in some way. Then you’re not thinking in a clear headed manner.

      My dad said that to me recently “ok…what were you thinking that for? You know you have school and full time work but you want a 2nd job for money? You earn enough. ” I said ” but dad what if something happens to my job due to this contract? Where will I go? Where will I be? I am so scared. I have been paying off my loans and have very little savings. I don’t know what’s going to happen!” My dad said “Look I’m still around. I know your mom took all our savings and blew it on gambling and that guy (the affair) but I’m still around. I’m only 53 and you know I take care of my diabetes. so you got nothing to worry about me. Just worry about you.” I said “but dad! you have no retirement so I’ll have to take care of you and your diabetes will one day will get worse and …” My dad said “Look, you’re not thinking straight. You’re worried about all these things and I am not sickly. I am not retiring anytime soon obviously. If you do not focus on your schooling you will be in trouble with me. So you need to take this weekend to relax. Not work a 2nd job that your 1 job already pays for. I’m still helping with your bills for your car too so what you worrying about?”

      I hope somewhere in my long text you might have found some kind of link between yourself and your daughters. We need our dads as long as possible because life is unpredictable. Even if one day it’s all rainbows and butterflies —something is going to upset them or make it worse by suicide. I tell you when I was 22 a man 57 years old tried to have sex with me and hit on me in a grocery store. I just heard I was going to lose my job. A very weak deep sad moment for me. You know who I thought about? My dad. So I told the creep to go away but he got my number so I met up with him and every 3 times he tried to get me to sleep with him while talking about his 22 year old son. You know why I didn’t even though I was truly alone? I thought about my dad. That my dad wasn’t this creep and so I finally I told the dirt bag to shove it and go F himself. When I was little I always tried to sleep on my dad’s shoulder and even now a lot of hard days I wish he didn’t live so far away so I could come home and silently lean on my dad. So you know—there’s a lot more impact that you might think. There will always be some predator out there waiting and I know my dad is only a phone call away. He doesn’t know about the old 57 creepy man, but I call him when I wonder “hey dad I’m about to buy this thing—am I being ripped off?” Or “dad. I feel angry because” —my dad is always there. Sometimes he doesn’t find out about things until it’s too late like “dad mom took my college funds and I can’t graduate because I owe tuition”.

      I know a lot of this sounds solely financial. In reality beyond it is a “someone really has my back and is willing to help me and is also open to understanding how I think and where I am coming from” I have family that loves me like my aunts, but they are super traditional and I am a (to make it easy to understand) a tomboy. My dad never tried to force me to fit a mold except to dress better and brush my hair. Not in a feminine way—he just wishes I would look more refined even if I wear tshirts and jeans. He wish it was tshirts and real pants.

      Best wishes

  3. Destiny says:

    I feel like killing myself and crying

  4. hana says:

    Well the only reson that i am alive is because i am orthodox and i fear if i kill my self i will go to hell i mean i have no hope and happens in my life the thought of going to hell doesn’t really excite me and that’s what keeps me alive

  5. EmmeeH says:

    I have learned to say F* them instead of F* life.

    I try to remember that nothing in life stays the same. There is only one thing I have found to be true and that is that life constantly changes. There is no getting around it. If I’m so low and things are so awful, I can rest assured that things will change… and the odds are in my favor they will change for the better… because sometimes the only direction from where I am is up.

    I also try to take a few moments to realize that what I think are immovable factors in my life are actually movable. They are often my choices. If I have a hateful mother, I do have the choice to end my relationship with her instead of ending my life. If I have an awful job, then I give myself permission to find something different to do – maybe really, really different.

    I try to think about my own beliefs about disappointing others. I might think suicide is my only option because I don’t have the freedom to make a radical choice or a decision for myself. But then I realize that when I’m at the place of considering suicide, I’m actually at that place Janice Joplin sang so truly about, where “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” I have total freedom to save myself in any way possible. Would my friends and family be more hurt by my death or by my doing everything possible (including making a radical change in my life) and still be alive?

    I think back on my life so far and realize that everything in my reality is absolutely not what I planned in my idealized version of my future. OK. So what future do I want to make with the crooked puzzle pieces I have before me? I have to grieve the loss of what I always expected of myself.

    I think of the traumas I’ve experienced so far and decide that those awful people no longer get to abuse me, especially if it is only in my mind. If they are not abusing me now, then I do have the power to recognize that right now, in this moment, I am not being abused. If they are abusing me now, I get to ask myself if I choose to be abused, to take my life, or dive into some unknown future. What do I have to lose by choosing an unknown future?

    When I feel like the mental health system has failed me, I try to remember my power. I can fire doctors or therapists who dismiss me or who don’t listen to me. I can try something new. Part of that “new” might mean that I put on dress clothes and make-up for my appointments so they take me more seriously.
    I recognize that mental health professionals are also human and they respond with human actions and make human judgments. I play the game in my favor.
    Reclaiming my role as the leader of my own recovery has been very empowering.

    I acknowledge and accept that life is indeed full of pain, but not defined by pain. We all go through difficult periods. The more I resist my pain, the worse it becomes. I spent many years thinking that life wasn’t worth living because I didn’t agree to the pain that comes with it. Now, I use the visualization of dark chocolate (bitter and sweet at the same time) to understand my experience. The bitter makes the sweet so much sweeter. I have learned to use my pain to make my joy more pronounced.

    Lastly, I remember that we all have experiences that bring us to our knees. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship. Yes. I have a mental illness but that doesn’t mean I don’t share in the common human experience. Deep grief is not pathological. It just is. I once had a therapist tell me that I could only feel joy to the degree that I was willing to feel pain. I didn’t understand it at the time. But now, when I open myself to pain, grief, and hopelessness I also open myself to the simple pleasures of life, gratitude, joy, and at rare times, ecstasy.

  6. Raven says:

    What stops me? Yeah, the fear, the unknown! I have brain damage from an OD and coma. And I still want to die. David Foster Wallace states it well:

    “The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

    Be well!

  7. Terry says:

    I’m bipolar. I have been suicidal several times in the past (no attempts), though not for years. It was wife and kids, and the lack of a sure fire method that wold not leave a risk of ending up worse. I have a very good imagination for ways things can go wrong. My depression is much better controlled these days, so no worries, readers. – Because with the kids well grown issue one is weaker for me and I looked at #2 as a problem to be solved. I’ll only say about that that my job title before I retired was literally “Senior Solutions Engineer”. Infer what you will.
    The life affirming never cut it for me for reasons I will not write here as that would be extremely inappropriate.

  8. John says:

    I had two overdose attempts a few years ago. Some times I still have thoughts of it. What does this mean?

  9. Mika T. says:

    Yeah… I’m thinking about suicide (. Especially now, when I had a dream where I was being escorted into a psychiatric ward by a doctor and a nurse – but I knew that there was nothing that the society could do, if I truly wanted to kill myself. And I felt happiness, or joyfulness, relief, in that dream.
    What does that tell about me? Just my corrupted mind (and thoughts) talking back at me? Telling me that I’m just f***** up, plain and simple, beyond repair and hope? Or what?
    Because I haven’t felt any kind of feeling of happiness (or the like) in any of my dreams in a looooooong time. No, I just always wake up exhausted, wondering what the f*** were those images that were being delivered into my dreams? Why can I not get any rest from the demons that haunt me?
    Am I just a lost cause, someone who is bound to commit a suicide? Because there will always be suicides, just as there will ALWAYS be unemploymency and bullying (and so on).

  10. Anonymous says:

    I need to die but I love my pets more than myself.

  11. Natalie says:

    I’m trying to kill myself because I’m so alone

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Natalie,

      There are many people who want to try to help. I hope you will connect with some of them; I provide a list at http://www.SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources/#immediatehelp of places that can help you by phone, text, online chat, and email.

    • al jones says:

      Natalie, I haven’t done this in a while and Stacey seems to let me get away with it (thank you ma’am)
      I have a forum over at ChronicSuicideSupport.com that’s small but we’re a good group of people if you just want someone who understands the desire to ‘just do it!’ We all are / have been there and know how rough putting up with some people can be or how rough it can be when we have no people on whom we can fall back.
      I’ll invite you (and anyone else here) to come over and set back and talk about life and the desire to end it. Maybe we can’t *do* anything, but we can listen with a sympathetic ear.
      (( NB the discussion of methods (how to kill yourself) is completely forbidden. If that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t find it at CSS ))

    • Anonymous says:

      Me too

  12. TJ says:

    If I was not married and didn’t have kids, I’d have left by now – probably 2009

  13. Newlywed says:

    I have always looked at it, if I say that I am going to do it. It gives me a peace of mind. I have told my suicidal thoughts that they will have their way, but I have to wait until I get to this point in my life, and then when that time comes I move it up more. I do want to die, but I am not ready, it would hurt more people in my life.

  14. Jay says:

    I read what you have posted. And from someone who thinks about saying goodbye a lot,I found it as a different way of looking at why I haven’t done it yet.
    I am afraid.
    But I am ready.
    I have a wife and 3 kids and leaving them is what scares me and what stops me every time I think of it.
    Who will be strong for them.

  15. Nodesire2live says:

    I’ve stayed alive because I have a grown child that would experience grief, guilt, and the idea that she didn’t do enough to prevent it.

  16. Sway says:

    I wont even read past the first few lines… yes, it is like saying go ahead and do it and stop being a wimp! And the reason it isn’t done as often as it would be is because this bastardized GOD fearing dumb ass country /world, thinks its a sin – when fairy god in the sky is a lie! Stupid people don’t allow the drugs to off oneself with ASSURANCE that they will succeed in a painless, dignified manner. THAT is why its not acted on. You can screw up shooting yourself in the head, google it and you’ll see. You can screw up OD’ing and end up alive with half a brain or paralyzed in a MUCH WORSE condition than now. So if you fearful god-believers would get your head out of your ass and allow DIGNIFIED RIGHT TO SUICIDE than a ton of these shootings would stop and people could opt to off themselves and not take you innocent jerks with them. I’m all for the RIGHT TO DIE BY DIGNIFIED MANNER with assistance from medical professionals. Until our society grows the hell up and allows this, things will get worse and the unhappy suicidal people will take it out on all of us. Get with reality and stop pretending there is anything more after life. There is nothing more. You KNOW that, but you FEAR believing the truth and you cause others to suffer here in this world, on this earth that they no longer want to exist on. So you want them to THINK about things…. they don’t need to, they already know, and they know a lot more than you do, and a lot more than they can articulate. Let people die in peace with family BY CHOICE when they want to. Such children are you who control other people, forcing them to live when they want out. Let them go already.

    • RudyM says:

      Yes, make it easier for people to die peacefully. Then we’ll see how much this life is worth to how many people.

    • Sally Summers says:

      I thought I was the only one who thought about that you have a choice whether you want to live or die sometimes people have excuses for Staying Alive on all they want to do is die I’m just waiting for my son to be all right he’s a disabled vet and working to stabilize his life once that’s done I’m gone I’m out of here I am so ready to stop fighting trying to stay alive and trying to maintain that all I can do is just lay in bed all day thank you for putting in words

  17. suicide girl says:

    MY LITTLE SISTER IS WUT KEEPS ME FROM KILLING MYSELF

  18. Anonymous says:

    ok

  19. John says:

    So the author has no human connections, and lists what would happen to my animals as a serious excuse why they would not self exit. Interesting, a shut in with anti-social traits and severe isolation traits, wants to lecture social humans about life and suicide.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      John,

      For many people, what would happen to their pets is a strong deterrent against suicide. I have known some of them. I say, whatever works! That is, whatever stops people from dying by suicide, no matter how seemingly small, is huge in my book. This poem, “Don’t Kill Yourself” today by Hannah Dains, captures well the value of embracing whatever reasons for living are available: https://youtu.be/-Ktdf2KQ58c.

      Whatever reasons you have, I hope you will embrace them.

      p.s. I wonder what I’ve written that gave you the impression that I’m a shut-in with all the other characteristics you listed? I actually am neither isolated nor a shut-in (and I don’t think I have antisocial traits), but I have great compassion for those who are. The anxiety or other health problems that create such a situation inflict a very painful state of existence on many people.

    • Annonymous says:

      Worrying about what will happen to my pets is the ONLY reason I haven’t taken my own life yet. I don’t care about what my family or friends think. That doesn’t matter to me at all. What worries me most is what happens to my pets because of my actions. The thought of them being taken to a kill shelter because a family member wouldn’t take them in horrifies me. I love them too much to do that to them, so that’s why I’m still here. Think it stupid if you wish, but it is a valid reason.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

        I don’t think it’s stupid at all! Many of my clients over the years have expressed similar feelings. They were terrified of what could happen to their pets. So they stayed alive for them.

  20. Beth says:

    Right now, I feel like the very thing that causes me to be suicidal is what is preventing my suicide.

    I’ve had social anxiety since my early teens. I made a suicide “attempt” (I really don’t know if it’s fair to call it that, I started out with the intention to die, and changed my mind halfway through because I was too scared. Nothing really happened other than a few hours of discomfort and no one else found out about it) when I was 17 because I felt like my inability to communicate/interact with people would make it impossible for me to live as an adult. Obviously that didn’t work, and I lived. But things haven’t changed at all. I’m in my mid 30s now, and I’ve structured my life to avoid people. I have no friends, no job. I turned down every opportunity I ever had to accommodate the social anxiety and now of there are no more opportunities. Even if there were more, I’d turn them down again, even if I really want to say yes. I feel hopeless, worthless, trapped, and lonely.

    I’ve planned my suicide with meticulous detail, and I have more knowledge than I did when I was 17. I often really want to just do it, but I’ve convinced myself that only one method is acceptable because 1) I think it’s the one that gives me the most confidence that I’d actually die, quickly and 2) I can arrange things so that only law enforcement/other professionals would have to deal with the body (this feels more ethical, I have no desire to traumatize anyone). The problem is that I do not have the means, and obtaining the means requires way more social interaction that I am able to do. Once again, the social anxiety is stronger than any desire I’ve ever had, including the desire to die.

    I’ve often thought that if I was able to seek help for my social anxiety (and the social anxiety itself makes this impossible), maybe I’d be able to do things I’ve always wanted to do and find some contentment and happiness. But now I feel like it’s much too late. Even if it were fixed, I’d still be left with this life that I created to accommodate my fears, and I don’t want it. So if the social anxiety were fixed or even got just a little better, I feel like I’d immediately go out and acquire the means to kill myself and then do so.

    I feel like this is a conundrum.

    • Mike H. says:

      Beth, I feel similar to you. When asked why I would want to commit suicide, I’ve told therapists that my desire is due to fear. When asked why I haven’t committed or succeeded in committing suicide, I have the same answer – fear.

      Fear has driven my life up to this point. I’m simply tired of dealing with that, and I don’t know how to find another way. Living without fear is like living without oxygen to me – I don’t know how to do either.

  21. pulse says:

    My therapist asked this. My answer is still and always, “Because I am too weak to end it.” There’s no real reason to existing, besides that it would hurt family, which could perhaps be overcome in the right moment.

    It is baffling to me that there could be any other answer for myself. I get that it’s about pointing someone to some reason, no matter how small, such as enjoying food or looking forward to a concert. Trust me, I’ve heard so many times that one should put it off for a day, death isn’t going anywhere, but then the next day comes and it’s the same…

  22. Pattie H says:

    I want to make one last comment on this question. I think therapists absolutely should ask this. Its the only thing that gets a person from simply ‘hanging on’ for some unknown duty, to actually contemplating their own truths.
    Unfortunately, I moved to New Mexico a year and a half ago, and found a world back in time, that was not competent to trust having any opinions on suicide. I was totally misdiagnosed, therefore assumed to be ‘noncompliant’ with their ‘inappropriate meds’, and they haven’t got a clue about suicide, and they recklessly use their power to involuntarily force you to be hospitalized, and medicated without regard for patient rights that require court authorization. I see someone now, who meets minimal standards for the help I need with PTSD and depression, but I will never subject myself to their incompetence again by EVER discussing anything I’ve mentioned here. The mental health system here has only re-traumatized me each time I tell them what traumatizes me! Like others have said here: they really don’t care anywhere. And in NM, they are frighteningly unqualified and incompetent.

    • Rudy says:

      I had to laugh at that. I also live in New Mexico, and am not originally from here. I don’t see things here as being quite as grim as you describe (there is a lot that is positive, actually), but I haven’t had much dealing with mental health professionals here. The two psychotherapists I saw here were pretty awful, although only one was a native New Mexican. (In fairness, I saw several awful psychotherapists when I lived on the east coast, as well.) I’m sorry you’re experiences have been so bad, and I take your comment as a warning about local conditions. Would you be willing to say whether or not your experiences were in a small town in New Mexico? I’m wondering if things would be better in Albuquerque, where I live, as small townish as it is in some regards.

  23. Pattie H says:

    I have very definite reasons for staying alive/not killing myself.
    First, let me say I’ve never found this life very interesting, and since a teenager and throughout my many years, I can’t wait to pass on from this life to whatever comes next. But, starting as a young adult, I was on a quest for ‘the meaning of life’. I wanted to explore the possible regrets of ending my own life, and if I concluded that it was a valid choice, I’m sure I would have already done so. But, there was something that nagged at me, that made me feel like it would not be a choice without consequences. To simplify, let’s just say I believe that “nothing worth having comes that easily”. I believe this life has lessons to be learned, and that choosing to skip this lifetime is like skipping part of my very big education. It will leave gaps in my understanding that can be filled no other way than living it out. So, yes, karma in a way. But, more like “we can’t learn lessons we skip. Whatever comes after this life, I believe that lesson will always be right there waiting for me, so I may as well get it over with here. I do believe there is a spiritual purpose to this life– I just can’t wait for it to be over, lol.

  24. deb says:

    is there any way to ask a question through private message ? how can i contact

  25. Tandy says:

    I appreciate your posts–and have barely started reading them. Thank you for making this resource available.

    The question, “What stops you?” was a bit disturbing. (I’m a little sensitive to that kind of wording because I have had a close family member challenge me to–his words–commit suicide. Yet another family member–struggled with the spiritual implications of my battle with suicidal ideation and–came to the conclusion that, even if God had destined for me to “commit suicide, my family member would still be able to praise His glory for His love, justice and mercy to me.”) So…I know I have a heightened sensitivity to this discussion.

    However, after reading your full post, I can see how there would be a strong protective value to exploring this question in therapy. It would be very protective to brainstorm and pull together those “last defense” safety reasons and beneficial, I think, to put them in writing. It needs to be done in a safe and supportive environment because just remembering those reasons takes the suicidal person back to a very traumatic and scary place. However, going back to that scary place to pull out and pull together the “successful defenses” of the past is a pretty cool technique. Nice work…thank you for sharing!

    I do recommend an addition (or qualifier) to your initial question. Perhaps you could ask, “[Patient’s name], when you think about the past, what has been important enough to stop you thus far? What were your best–even most desperate–reasons that kept you safe? What–people, activities, ideas, even fears–gave you the strength to reach out for help?”

    • Suze says:

      Saw GP today, hoped she would be in a receptive mood as I’ve had a good relationship with her in the past, felt she was helpful and on my side… She wasn’t…! Her comments were very invalidating; when I said about not expecting to be told about LP results by letter, she said they haven’t got time to see everyone, that’s how it is, and that MS wasn’t a death sentence (like I shouldn’t be upset about getting such news).

      She asked about my mood and when I said I was very low, she said “I didn’t seem depressed”; she said I keep saying I’m suicidal, but was I really? That (because I didn’t admit to a plan to her) I couldn’t be. I didn’t see any point in telling her that I am just about holding on.
      She made it sound as though I was just saying it for effect.

      Is that what people think, that it’s nothing but attention seeking? I came out wishing I hadn’t bothered to see her.

      For all the recent ‘positive publicity’ about mental health issues, at the end of the day it’s just media hype and empty words. Why would a person share how they’re feeling when they are not believed, and get accused of being manipulative. You certainly don’t expect your own GP to make you feel like a fraud.

  26. mic says:

    In my case, my reason for not doing it is fear that I will not succeed. And unfortunately, most ‘pro-lifers’ are content just to make suicide unavailable, and there isn’t any real parallel effort to try and improve lives to the extent that people no longer see suicide as an option. So if these anti-suicide measures actually achieved success, then all they would be successful in doing would be trapping people in a miserable existence. Take this piece on the supposedly liberal Guardian, for example. It talks about the zero suicide target, but seems content to tackle the symptom of the problem (i.e. suicide) whilst not doing anything to help people with the problem that leads to suicide:

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/aug/01/zero-suicide-the-bold-new-fight-to-eradicate-suicide

    And of course, they disabled comments on that article so that nobody could raise the ethical implications with the fact that they are advocating for the entrapment of some of the most unfortunate people in society.

    • pulse says:

      I can’t stand the pro-lifers. I listened to a podcast recently that mentioned that girl with the terminal brain cancer… it was astounding how pro-lifers failed not only to grasp the the issue, but to make it so much about them that they were willing to let someone die slowly in agony.

      And all of society is like this, still, unless you’re lucky enough to be in one of the rare places like Belgium. There’s such an intense paranoia not only around death, but mental illness has a whole. So there’s no getting better, since you can’t die and you can’t even dare mention something’s wrong. There’s no discussion, only an echo chamber for pro-lifers and even self-important “normal” people who are both incapable and unwilling to deal with serious issues.

      It is so wrong to trap someone like this. And I’ve been through it to a degree, when one professional threatened to have me incarcerated despite me never saying a word on the subject. I’ve had the police at my door. At any moment, they could have taken me away. Why, because someone in a white coat suggested they do so? Or an anonymous face on the other side of the phone? Current therapist has asked about plans and intent anytime the subject comes up, and I’m all too aware of the implications. It’s a massive hindrance to discussion and a crime to clients.

    • Rudy says:

      The Guardian is rather fearful of comments in general: https://off-guardian.org/

  27. Maree Dee says:

    This post was very helpful yet at the same time a little scary. I support families that have loved ones with mental health challenges. Suicide also hits close to home. Would your book help parents or just professionals? How do we as parents encourage our loved ones to create a life worth living?

  28. Cassidy says:

    Some people don’t kill themselves because there scared they won’t succeed…

  29. Dragon says:

    Stacey, I’m amazed that any response would be to see it as a dare. It might be daring if the person is so depressed that at the moment they can’t see a reason to keep on trying but it can also help each of us to see that maybe we do have something to live for – even if it’s just for a little while longer.

    I wonder how much cross traffic we have between your blog and my forum, again. I’ll make a note of an interesting article that’s well worth reading.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Dragon,

      Thanks for your comment. I think some students’ (and professionals’!) dread of asking such a question reflects their deeper fears about suicide itself. You know, the old “if I ask about suicide, then they’ll go kill themselves” fear. Which, of course, is a myth.

      Thanks, too, for recommending the article! I appreciate and respect the work that you do.

  30. Tore Nielsen says:

    Three things stop me when it comes up (in order of importance):

    1: My family and a couple of other people would be devastated and traumatized if I killed myself. I can’t do that to them. Seven years ago I was convinced that they’d be better off. That line of thinking is shut off to me now.
    2: I’m afraid that I might just end up crippling myself, or otherwise make my life worse.
    3: Curiosity. I’ve postponed my suicide (I ‘only’ attempted once) because I needed to know what happens next. Would there be a black president? What would Walter and Jesse get up to on Breaking Bad? If I get bad enough this impulse falls away and I don’t care about anything.

  31. Suze says:

    Just because a person hasn’t killed themselves, doesn’t mean they don’t still want to, or indeed that they won’t eventually succeed.

    • Rohrback Chris says:

      I had a Traumatic brain injury you really go eventually I lost my ability to work I lost my wife and daughter and suicide is definitely something I tried once and think about My 13-year-old little girl is the one thing that keeps me from actually doing anything like that

  32. Lucy says:

    For approximately 5 years I was thinking of ways to end my life. It dominated my thoughts. At the time I kept myself from doing so because I was trying to find a way that would look like an accident, be complete; and I was sensitive about what I would look like physically to my children. I did not realize that I put myself under so much stress that I wanted to die before my children died before me. My parents died too young, my health was bad, and I thought that my life would end soon also. My love for my children gave me the fear that I would have a broken heart if anything happened to them before me. I was also depressed. The turning point for me was when I decided to tell them, thinking I was preparing them, about my intentions. I spent the summer visiting them all in order to let them know how much I loved them and I wanted them to have recently been with me before such an act. My first awakening was the response of some of my children. I was in so much heart pain that I could feel their pain. I badly wanted to go home (heaven) but my thoughts turned to their pain. Getting out of bed to go see them was actually a good thing for me, it was loosening the hold my depression had on me. Whenever I thought of taking my life, I cut myself instead to help the pain I was in. Eventually, knowing I was causing pain to the loves of my heart, it made me believe that I would sacrifice my going home and staying in my pain to be a good mother to them. I remember a change in my thinking when I prayed and stated that if my children went before me then it was my destiny to be at their side to help them instead of being selfish enough to help myself. Don’t get me wrong, I was still ready to quit and die; it took a good year of visitations and talking it out with them, to make my love for them into them saving me. I was fearful that it would be hard, but I had always sacrificed as a mother for their sake. Eventually my wanting to end my life right now turned into a quest to stay alive long enough to give them and my grand children happy memories with me. I have since then made decisions to reduce my stress and anxiety and had a gastric bypass to make me healthier. This also helped move me from my depression. The real action that saved me from wanting to end it all came from being honest with my grown children and them being honest with me. And the statement that my 7 year old grand son made to me still keeps me on track. I had never told him about wanting to die, he knew of my health, and said he would pray to Jesus to keep his mamaw safe. Such pure love from my children and my grandchildren, pushed the selfishness out of me. Yes, I still have moments when the demons slip back in, but it is easier now to push them back out. I had found your site when I was searching for information on suicide a couple years back. And I am now hoping to give back by letting you peek into my mind and heart.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Lucy,

      Thank you so much for sharing your powerful story. Your sharing will help others, I’m sure.

      I’m grateful that you came back to this website to describe your process – both the heart wrenching pain, and how you moved through it, even with dark episodes, still. May your love and concern for your family – and, judging from how you’re taking better care of yourself, for yourself, too – sustain you and continue to give meaning to your life.

  33. Mike H. says:

    Very interesting perspective, thank you.

  34. Nikky44 says:

    It feels weird to read this post now. I don’t mean weird in a bad way but like there is a message in here for me. I have been suicidal many times in my life and have survived an attempt but usually I can identify a particular situation or trigger. This time I feel I have no reason to feel this way. However it is so strong. The reason I say it is weird is that I wrote a message to my friend asking her: please give me reasons not to do it. Tell me why I should’t and why I must stay alive. I also felt the need to ask her if she loves me even when I feel this way. I wrote the message and didn’t send it. I am scared. I also feel it is kind of humiliating. I so need to hear her reassuring words.

  35. Lei says:

    People who have not battled depression to the depths of suicidal thoughts can’t really grasp it. The fact that I know at any time I can stop this, and have an exit plan helps me go on. When it was really bad I had a kit already to go…but I got rid of that years ago. Now just the knowledge is enough. Then when times get really rough I do the same thing anyone in a 12 step program does. I can hang on for 5 minutes. I can do this for 15 minutes. I break it down to doable increments. Then the urge and the need gets smaller and smaller. The best thing is that something always happens that makes you say “I am glad I didn’t then.”

  36. Michael Hutton says:

    The only thing that stops me is leaving my wife and daughter behind being left to deal with my selfish act ,but to me I feel I am a burden to them and every one else. I get so fed up with being told there is help out there crap every time I phone places that say we care don’t they just say we cannot help you but here is another number for you to call ,they will help it’s like a never ending circle of numbers. I have been assessed by four different mental health teams ,and all they have told me is I have a cluster B ,and sign me off. I also have depression and anxiety, and stress ,and I am told I am fit to work ,I struggle to even get up and push myself to go out ,I try hard to want to go out ,to work I used to love working ,but years I have been fighting a lonely battle where I hear voices see people who are not there and still no one wants to help so ending my life seems like a good idea and one I am fighting even now to keep my sanity ,I want out and I do not want to do it but it seems endless .

    • Dragon says:

      Michael, I’d bet that if you ask them whether you’re a burden to them the response would be something like: “Well, there are times I’d gladly kill you myself – – but then most of the time I know I love you and I know that you love us so it’s all worthwhile.”

      Maybe it’s hokey, but I take the approach of “Hang in there for an hour, if not an hour, try for 15 minutes, if not try for 5, if not try for just one more minute.” Look at your family and know how much they mean to you and just try! If you don’t think you’re worth it, you are – – to them!

  37. Jean Esplin says:

    Nothing stops me in particular. I can’t say, “I am alive because…” I don’t have any real reason. I’ve attempted suicide and died and been brought back. There isn’t anything there. Nothing to be afraid of. There is just nothing and that’s what I want after this life. Nothing. To cease to exist. I do believe I will eventually die by suicide. It’s okay. I’m not going to kill myself today or tomorrow. Probably not next month. I’m still busy living, but I’m not afraid to die.

    • Kalla says:

      If only I could be assured that there really is nothing there! NOTHING!!

    • Pattie H says:

      Jean, I hear you. i, too, would love to just be asleep in nothingness. I actually do believe there is more life than this one, but either way, I kind of resent having to be here. I’m just glad that there is a finite number of years here. Sooner or later, it will be over.
      And, I’d like to add my opinion about people who say they don’t understand. When I ask people why they actually stay alive, they will claim to “love life”, but I think it’s really more that they fear death. I remember a friend who was miserable, and she surprised me when she said she loved life. I said “Then why do you live such a sh#tty one?!” Seriously! I make a conscious effort to make my life the best it can be BECAUSE I don’t love it. If I didnt, it would be intolerable. I don’t believe that people who are sabotaging themselves ‘love life’. That’s not love. Also, She admits she does fear death, something I also do not understand.
      To me, a miserable life is much worse than death.

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