In Defense of Suicide Prevention

Someone stands at the end of a long pier on a gray day, holding an umbrella

Many of this site’s readers send me angry emails or texts. They post challenging comments. Some are so passionately opposed to suicide prevention that they resort to harassment. I have received threatening missives and phone calls from numerous people. Some urge me to kill myself.

A common argument is that people should be free to die by suicide without intervention by others, no matter what:

“For some people there is little to be done sadly and if they want to exit life then I completely understand and I believe they should be helped: either by medical personnel or at least by giving them access to pain-free means. This is the humane, moral and decent thing to do and it respects their autonomy and human dignity…”

That comment, by a reader named Zara, raises good points. It is just one comment among many that have caused me to question myself:

By advocating for stopping people from suicide except in the context of terminal illness, am I wrong?

Why don’t people, regardless of terminal illness, have the right to end their own life, without anybody interfering, interrupting, or otherwise intervening?

What if the suicidal person’s mental or physical suffering truly is intolerable and with no end coming soon, if ever?

Is it inhumane to stop a suffering person from ending his or her life?


Why not?

The Most Difficult, if Fleeting, Question

People who long for suicide typically want to escape unbearable torment. They experience deep emotional or physical pain, or malaise, or fear, or trauma, or psychosis, or something else so powerful that it snuffs out the biologically ingrained will to live.

The sun peeks out from behind a fog-covered treeThey feel hopeless that things will ever change. Indeed, they do not simply feel hopeless. They are convinced their situation is hopeless.

People intent on suicide often want to end their lives for very compelling reasons.

I think of all this, and a troubling question settles on me. I dedicate my work to suicide prevention, but even I wonder, if momentarily:

Why not let them die by suicide?

Suicide Prevention and the Greater Good

In preventing suicide, yes, we are trying to help the suicidal person. We know, based on years of research about suicide attempt survivors, that even intensely suicidal people are likely to regain the desire to live. As I describe in the post “Where Are They Now?: The Fate of Suicide Attempt Survivors,” most people who survive a suicide attempt do not later die by suicide. 

But we are not only helping the suicidal person by working hard to prevent suicide. We also are helping people who care about the suicidal person.

In this abstract art, what appears to be random shapes is actually the outline of two faces pointed away from each otherSuicide hurts the living. We strive to prevent suicide not only to save the suicidal person from dying prematurely and unnecessarily. We also strive to prevent suicide to save children from losing parents, parents from losing children, partners from losing love, and communities from losing valued individuals.

As Jennifer Michael Hecht wrote in her book, Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It: “The whole of humanity suffers when someone opts out.”

In seeking to prevent one person’s suicide, we also seek to prevent even more suicides. People who lose someone they love to suicide are at higher risk for suicide themselves. One suicide can lead to another, what is called “suicide contagion.”

Please let me be clear: In describing the harm that suicide does to others, I am not blaming the suicidal person. Rather, I blame the forces that lead to suicide, just as the blame for a person’s death to cancer belongs to the cancer, not to the person who died. In this regard, the person who died by suicide is suicide’s victim – but not the only one.

A World Without Suicide Prevention

Some people lament that suicide prevention measures deprive people of the ultimate liberty – that is, the freedom to die on one’s own terms.

A wooden figuring of a person with their head in their handsConsider the alternative: A society where people are not stopped from dying by suicide. Where parents and children and friends and lovers watch, without recourse, as tragedy unfolds. Where there is no pathway for keeping a suicidal person safe without the person’s consent, even though the chances are very high that the person will recover the will to live if given the chance. Where friends, family, and professionals are not allowed to prevent what might be preventable.

A society that tries to prevent suicide sends the message to people who suffer, and to those who love them, that their lives matter. That suicide is not the answer. That people care and can try to help.  That things have a good chance of getting better.

No doubt, we need to do more as a society. On a large scale, people need more resources and more reasons to want to stay alive. If society treated people better – if there were more jobs, better access to health care, and less violence, for example – fewer people would want to die.

Society needs to do more for suicidal people besides keep them alive and miserable. But letting people kill themselves without providing any means for prevention isn’t a solution, either.

Questions In Search of Answers

Text: STAY. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.TALK. Trans Lifeline: 877.565.8860. Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741741.

Graphic by Dese’Rae Lynn Stage

More emails from strangers will come to me, missives full of challenges, perhaps even anger. I know this. I anticipate some of the comments:

You are selfish. Why should one person suffer so that others don’t?

Why should people stay alive to help society when society doesn’t provide enough help to people who stay alive?

Who decides what is best for the suicidal person? For society?

Those are good questions, and maybe I will tackle them in future posts.  

What are your answers?


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 2018 by Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW. Written for All Rights Reserved. Photos purchased from

Want to join the conversation?


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

143 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. Stacey, suicide prevention measures are presented here as a way to help get temporarily troubled people back on track to a life that they would deem meaningful and worth living. However, is this not belied by the fact that these suicide prevention measures do not discriminate one iota between a teenager who is heartbroken after breaking up with his first girlfriend, and someone who has been seriously psychologically troubled for a period of decades, and has actively been engaging with treatment services over a period of decades, but still finds their life intolerable?

    I don’t know how we can take the claims of suicide prevention advocates at face value with respect to this, if their relentless zeal towards suicide targets applies equally in cases where based on the individual’s history, there would appear to be a very low chance of that person finding life to be rewarding in the future.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can I copy part of this article here to be used in an Instagram post for @fromrockbottom_up ? I resonate with what you wrote about preventing suicide for others. Probably because that’s why I’m still here. And would love to share it. Obviously crediting you (it’s only possible to link to an Instagram account on instagram).

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Sure, thanks for helping to spread the word. I’m grateful the post resonates with you, and that you’re here.

  3. Noone ever says:

    Suicide would stop me from being a burden anymore on my family…for 30 years..One year and they would move on…I’ve fought for 8 years I’ve been on medications that I will never survive without and doctor is retiring….no quality of life..nothing but pain…let me end it ..

  4. Laura says:

    Dr. Freedenthal, first I want to follow up my previous comment with an apology; I know your heart is in the right place, and as long as there are individuals who are still reachable, your website is a goldmine.

    After having read more information on your site, you have inspired me, and I love your idea for a “hope box”. I would like to create one and pay your idea forward.

    One thing that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other (which doesn’t happen every day) is knowing that I still have something useful to contribute to the world, even if I haven’t found that precise something yet. All of us do, even if it’s just connecting with others in similar situations. Not a single one of us is alone. It is so, so important not to isolate, but most of the time, I still do. I thought I would snatch this opportunity to take a small step forward.

    Contemplating how to dig out from the bottom of a deep well of sorrow is overwhelming, and when one doesn’t know how, it seems impossible. I think a good place to start is knowing that as long as most of us are all still breathing, there is more right with us than there is wrong, and then build upon on the next right thing, and the next, in manageable, bite size pieces.

  5. Laura says:

    The “forces of suicide”? Bipolar I was not forced on me. There are no known cures for bipolar disorder. None. Not diet, not exercise, not therapy, and especially not religion – superstition is contraindicated to bipolar. My condition is disabling and I will be on medication forever – at least until I become treatment resistant. “Regain the desire to live”? I would never want to relive the rest of my life as I have spent it so far, and I never have. It has in no way been “desirous”.

    My conditions may not kill me, but they are terminal and I will eventually die with them. In that respect, if and when I decide that I have exhausted my treatment options, I deserve to end my life just as any individual who is terminally ill with a physical condition.

    Yeah, if I committed suicide, people would be hurt, but people who hurt over the deaths of loved ones hurt for selfish reasons. A few empathetic individuals might be glad that their loved one’s lifelong suffering has finally ended. And so it should be with people who have battled lifelong mental torment – I bet these people have subjected much of that torment onto loved ones, just as I have so unwittingly done.

    Please get real.

  6. Jeff says:

    Having a loved one commit suicide causes pain, but so does having to stay alive for other people. And not every suicidal person even has other people to stay alive for them. At the end of the day, a suicide prevention “expert” considers themself the savior of suicidal people but is actually their jailor.

  7. Paul says:

    I think it’s a huge mistake to lump all suicidal people into one category.

    Teen suicide should always be prevented, nearly all of the time things are going to get better for that person just by default. The same is true of nearly any young person. Life at 35 is completely different and often better than life at 22. Most acts of suicide at those ages are impulsive acts.

    I read a story a few years back about a 13 year old who killed himself because he lost his iPad, and of course there are the stories of people who were being bullied. That stuff is tragic. Of course it should be stopped.

    I would try and stop that by cracking down really hard on bullies, myself, rather than working on suicide prevention… but I’m getting off topic.

    Anyway, I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of the success stories regarding depression revolve around that age group.

    Then you’ve got people over 40 and the elderly.

    By the time you’re 40, you pretty much know how your life is going to turn out. If you’re not well established in a career by 40 you probably never will be. Likewise for romance, money, etc. Those people, not all of them but a higher percentage, have been depressed for a long time, many of them have been slowly withdrawing from the world for years. The life of a 40+ year old, unless there are some acute stressors causing their lives to be bad, is NOT going to get better by default. And they know it.

    I’d like to see the numbers on people who have been in a state of depression for 2 years or longer, and who are over 40. I bet they’re abysmal. Even if they don’t kill themselves, they’re just chugging along in no-mans land, contributing little and with no notion of why they’re really on this Earth. A lot like a ghost – a faded entity which resembles the person they once were, but in most respects not here anymore.

    (I can talk so harshly about that group, since I am one of them)

    Stacey, be honest… you’ve been practicing a long time. What percentage of those types of people who walk into your office, the older long term depressed people, are living meaningful lives free of depression within 2 years? I ask that knowing you do your best, but still, there are cases where you can’t draw blood from a stone.

    As for elderly with chronic conditions and a low quality of life, and the terminally ill… I think it’s horrifying that people are trying to fight against THEIR right to die as they wish. By all means, you can have your opinion on it but don’t tell someone with stage 4 cancer, who is likely in terrible pain, what they should and shouldn’t be doing. That’s a very personal decision IMO and it should be. Arguing to deny that is akin to telling someone they can’t practice their religion – and oftentimes, people arguing against such things are motivated not by caring but by religious dogma.

    In general I think most efforts to prevent suicide are cynical, like people who talk passionately about helping children in Africa but who would never even dream of actually going to Africa and helping them themselves. It’s a knee-jerk response which makes people feel good and tells the rest of society that, “Yes, I care about life”, or “Yes, I’m saying what Jesus would say”.

    People listing the suicide hotline number kind of make me angry for that reason, even though I’m sure they mean well. To me it comes off as insincere, a lot of it does, and I really hate insincerity especially in a topic like this.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Those are good questions. I can say that I’ve worked with, and also know personally, people over 40 who did come out of severe depression and find hope and meaning in life again. But I agree with you that suicide prevention needs to be different for different age groups. The issues are different, and the approaches to (possible) solutions also need to be different.

      I wish to clarify a couple things, and one day I’ll write a post about this: I don’t tell people whether or not to die by suicide. But if they come to me for help about their suicidal thoughts, I try to help them stay alive. If they come to others for help about their suicidal thoughts, I think others should be free to help them stay alive. If they involve others in their planning or are found after a non-fatal attempt, I think others should be free to help them stay alive, too. What people do in private about their life or death is their choice. This is why we have almost 50,000 deaths by suicide in the U.S. each year. I know, commenters on this site have criticized me for holding a view that prohibits suicidal individuals from being able to freely discuss their suicidal thoughts without fear of intervention, and thus being forced to die alone by a method that method that might not actually kill them but instead make them worse. I struggle with that. I do. But, so far, I haven’t come up with an easy answer. I don’t think it’s fair to loved ones to force them to do nothing; it’s human nature to want to save a life, not (necessarily) out of some love for Jesus or sanctimonious belief in the sacredness of life, but out of a blend, I think, of compassion and instinct.

      For the record, I do support physician-assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness where the condition is irreversible.

      Thank you for sharing here, Paul. I appreciate your letting us into your thoughts and beliefs about this sensitive topic.

  8. Michael Muehe says:

    I appreciate your efforts to prevent suicide. As a disabled person, a disability rights activist, and an advocate working against physician-assisted suicide, I also appreciate many of the points you make in this article regarding the societal and ethical dimensions of suicide prevention. In particular, it is important that we continue to have robust discussion and action about these dimensions, and what more could we be doing as a society to prevent suicide, without blaming or shaming. You mentioned a few – that society should be devoting more resources to improving the quality and availability of employment (including widespread low-cost and no-cost training options and good-paying jobs), violence reduction (including restorative justice), and healthcare services. The latter needs to include not just universal access to healthcare generally (including palliative care), but also universal access to behavioral health services. Behavioral health services need to include ample counseling options (individual counseling, couples counseling, group counseling, etc.) as well as medication and other options. (A disproportionate amount of behavioral health resources and research are unfortunately spent on medications instead of counseling options.) Moreover, we need to redouble our efforts to increase opportunities for all (including the areas of employment, housing and transportation) and to eliminate social stigma and prejudice. The latter especially includes eliminating stigma and prejudice directed against disabled people (including people with “mental illness”) and the barriers which discourage an open and honest discussion and resolution of problems associated with the devaluation of disabled people in our society. Social devaluation of disabled people (especially against mentally disabled people) has an enormous cost to our society in many ways, not the least of which is how it results in the social isolation of disabled people. Lastly, suicide prevention programs and services need to be open and available in a nondiscriminatory way to everyone, regardless of disability status. I hope that you and other professionals devoted to suicide prevention will continue and strengthen your efforts, and to actively seek alliances with disability rights activists working to increase opportunities for disabled people in our society. Thank you.

    • Oscar says:

      You have recommended solutions to many of the side-effects of unfortunate situations which induce people to commit suicide, but you fail to consider the situations themselves, many of which are beyond solution. Consider people with renal failure, for example, who have a very high suicide rate, since dialysis requires them to waste the entire day on treatment one day and then the entire day recovering from the exhausting effects of treatment the next day. This is not a life but a living death, and since the availability of transplants is so low, only a tiny fraction of patients ever escape this horror by getting a new kidney. Similarly, what is your solution to things like people going blind, becoming paralyzed, being utterly abandoned by friends and relatives, losing a cherished career forever, becoming bankrupt, having a stroke that leaves you largely brain dead, countless things leave people in intolerable circumstances with no possible solution except escape.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


        I understand the point you’re trying to make, but I want to point out, not only for you but for other readers, that a great many people who have experienced renal failure, blindness or paralysis live meaningful, fulfilling, and happy lives. Same with people who lose a cherished career, go bankrupt, suffer abandonment by friends and relatives, and so on.

        One of the great mysteries of suicide, to me, is how some people experience grave physical, financial, and emotional hardship but do not want to die, while others experience no outward source of suffering and might be affluent, successful, and well loved but do want to die by suicide. Of course, it’s not either/or; some people with external sources of suffering want to kill themselves, while some people with affluence and success don’t have suicidal thoughts. But it’s simplistic to believe that any one thing causes suicide.

        Thanks for sharing here. Your comment adds to the complexity of the discussion.

        • Michael C says:

          Stacey, I just don’t see how you can, in good conscience, say that the people who don’t find that new lease on life under those circumstances should simply be trapped, with no way out. You seem like a compassionate person, and I cannot see how you reconcile that nature with the knowledge of the fates to which you are condemning innocent people, a certain proportion of whom will not change their perspective to match yours. Just imagine still being quite young and feeling trapped with no way out, with a great long future of suffering stretched out ahead of you with almost nobody advocating on your behalf.

          We wouldn’t be allowed to inflict on the worst criminals the types of fates to which we are abandoning a certain proportion of suicidal people who never get the happy endings. If we started actively putting people in the positions that we are trapping suicidal people in, it would be decried internationally as an abominable human rights abuse.

        • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


          I’m not actually saying what you think I am. Of course I don’t want people to be trapped in endless suffering (and thank you for acknowledging I seem like a compassionate person). My challenge is, how do we know that someone’s suffering is endless? I’ve worked with countless clients who were convinced they were trapped, hopeless, and better off dead, and who no longer feel that way. The damage caused by suicide is so great, and the people can be so bad about predicting their future, that I try to stand on the side of hope, not hopelessness. There are very few circumstances (though I concede there are some) where a person’s life is completely incapable of changing for the better.

          You state, “Just imagine still being quite young and feeling trapped with no way out, with a great long future of suffering stretched out ahead of you with almost nobody advocating on your behalf.” Many, many young people have felt trapped with no way out, felt certain that a great long future of suffering awaited them, and been wrong. The question then becomes, who should mental health professionals help: the part of a person that is convinced things are hopeless, or the part that is seeking help and trying to change?

          These are big questions with no easy answers. Thank you for making your points here and for the constructive, thought-provoking conversation.

        • E says:

          This makes me sad. Because I wonder what will happen when I try see the damage I’ve caused to myself. I don’t want to know. For if i know, and it’s hopeless, i won’t keep to the side of life. Yet if I keep to the side of life now, then find out the damage I’ve caused, then what?

        • Oscar says:

          The real question is, why resist suicide if it is the easiest, quickest, and most certain solution to horrible life circumstances? If you strip away the remnants of religious mysticism which say ‘God owns your life; you may not take it yourself,’ then there is no reason not to treat your life as the inconvenient rock that holds your misery in place, the strategic force which does not let you escape your troubles . My recommendation is that keeping life or just getting rid of it should just be regarded as one more step in the practical improvement of our lives, and that life should not be regarded as something sacred against the interests of its owner.

  9. Mark says:

    Your vision of a world without suicide prevention has not come true in Belgium and the Netherlands, two countries that have legalized physician-assisted suicide for people suffering from constant and incurable pain (whether physical or mental). Suicide prevention efforts, as well as psychiatric hospitalizations and antidepressant prescriptions, did not decline following the introduction of these laws. In fact, the suicide rate in both countries has come down, not up, after legalization.

    Furthermore, public opinion remains strongly in favor of keeping these laws in place. There is no constant public outrage from the families and friends of those that choose to die by assisted suicide. This is because the people who ask, and get approved, for assisted suicide are in acute pain (which, in mental health cases, often includes continual self-harm) and their loved ones understand that this is not only the sufferer’s choice to make, but that it is also a valid choice under the circumstances.

    The number of people in both countries that are approved for assisted suicide on the grounds of mental suffering remains tiny (less than 100 each year). Furthermore, some of those who get approval eventually decide not to go through with the suicide, so the final number of psychiatric euthanasia deaths is even smaller. In other words, legalization did not result in a “suicide epidemic”, “suicide contagion”, or anything remotely like that.

    The following short documentary (which you may have already come across) might change your perspective on the matter:

  10. vicki damico says:

    Been a bit since I have been here. I will speak only from my own experience.
    Suicidal or not Suicidal?
    I once asked my son if I died what would he do? Without a doubt, he said he would kill himself. Clearly, within a second he imagined pain and loss. Yet he never gave one thought of how I would feel if he died. As a mother trying to survive the suicide of my 22-year-old son, in my case, I have a direct cause for his suicide. It really does not matter. The end result is the end result. He left a two-page letter and one thing he stated that is vivid to me is it would be selfish for him to stay alive unhappy than to be at peace in heaven.
    Should he have killed himself? NO!
    The view he had formed based on the meds being prescribed was wrong. The end result was wrong.

    In my case, my son was given an overwhelming sick-making amount of drugs. His issue was sleep. After much education about Benzos & SSRI, Antipsychotics I am left with amazement about the lack of education given when prescribing these types of meds. There are no tests that can clearly state how this class of drugs work, instead it is a hypothesis that this class of drugs works a certain way.
    So I pose a question? If drug manufacturers state to take a certain way every day at a certain time. yet that very drug is prescribed by a doctor to take on an as per needed basis. You can not take BENZOS OR SSRI’s like this. Yet, everyone I talk to has told me this is how they are advised to take their meds. So are doctors setting people up for a fall? Suicidal? not suicidal? Although I realize not everybody is on meds. Yet meds are the go-to for most, not all, but most doctors.
    My son took his life as he was withdrawing from these very meds.
    I understand people are depressed for varying reasons. But as the mother of a son who took his beautiful life, I urge you to continue to seek help and don’t take your life.
    The effect of this will never leave me, I will not get over it. The person I was moments before the police knocked on my door, also has died. Each day I learn how to live, In the early days, I had to relearn how to breathe, and eat. Today I speak out against suicide.
    Whether you believe it or not Suicide is not a personal experience. It affects everyone in your life forever! You may think its only you but you are wrong.
    I go to a group once a month and I see so many hurting, devastated people left behind from a loved one’s choice to end their life. The depths are so deep.
    I also urge you to go to a suicide survivor class and see first hand what suicide survival looks like. You might change your mind.

    • Oscar says:

      As in every area of human endeavor, mistakes are made in choosing suicide as well, but the fact that some suicides, such as this, are clearly based on erroneous premises does not mean that all of them are. If things can creatively be changed for the better, by all means, do so, and all our ingenuity should always be applied to find every avenue to make it possible for ourselves to live. But life traps many people in absolute dead-ends, from which there is no possible escape, no rescue, no relief, ever, and when it is obvious that people are trapped in some situation they can never leave which they also find intolerable, then suicide may be the only rational way out.

    • Mike says:

      I am so sorry to read of your loss.

      The very sad truth here is that the pharmaceutical industry does not care about the people that die using their products. Nor do the physicians that prescribe them. They all hide behind the defence that it is the choice of the patient whether or not to take prescribed medications and thereby make informed decisions about their side effects. It is a complete non-sense. Most people trust their physicians and follow their advice. And most people have no idea the harm that pharmaceuticals can do to them.

    • Paul says:

      I’m not a doctor but I have been on both Benzos and SSRI’s (going off SSRI’s now).

      Unless there’s an SSRI that is different from any of the ones I have heard of, “As needed” is absolutely not how you should take them and whoever prescribed it that way should not be practicing medicine. I think, at least I hope, that not many doctors are doing this and the ones that are, are GPs and not mental health specialists. Or maybe it’s a situation where they’ll prescribe 10mg of something with the idea that they’ve told the patient to start at 5mg and go up at their own discretion. But yes, you absolutely do need them every day.

      Benzos are different though. I’m an ‘as needed’ and I would never, ever, ever take Benzos daily. There are some people who need them daily but Benzos are not to be trifled with. The withdrawals alone, with nothing external, can kill you. I know a guy who died from that. Even small interactions can be fatal. The stories I’ve read about Benzo addiction are terrible. They’re the worst.

      That said I agree some doctors are staggering in how irresponsible they are. I once talked to a girl who had been placed on 5 mg of Lexapro. She’d been on it for some time, and I forget what exact symptoms she mentioned but it sounded almost exactly like seratonin syndrome and I got her to go to the ER, who told her pretty much the same things I did and got her off the meds.

      Where was her doctor? He wasn’t replying to her. Doctors oftentimes do nothing in terms of follow up or even answering questions in a timely manner.

      I myself am in a position where I lost my physician without warning, so I have to go off my meds. When I got off Lexapro a few years ago I tapered too fast and was almost incapacitated by the withdrawals. Where would I be now if I was on a 20mg Lexapro dose (which I was), and had nothing stockpiled in the event of an emergency? Or if I was on a daily Xanax dose? I’d be completely screwed. It takes months to get a new doctor if one leaves, and again, there’s no follow up with anyone other than a message “Call 911 if you are having an emergency”.

      I think some of the lack of accountability is because the mentally ill are seen as fundamentally flawed and if something happens to them, it’s on them. A suicidal person goes to a doctor, they try some meds. Something happens to interrupt the flow of meds and the suicidal person kills themselves. No one questions the series of blunders that led to this, the physician fills his 4 O’clock appointment with someone else, and life goes on for everyone except for the suicide victim and the survivors. It’s a horrible situation with common sense solutions, psychiatrists should have assistants who do follow up work and make sure no-one falls in the cracks, but no-one in a position of power seems to care about it.

      I hope you’re doing better now.

  11. Mark says:

    Everyone who experiences prolonged suicidal ideation, with no relief after attempting counselling and medications, should have the right to end their life in a humane manner. Nobody knows my mind, my circumstances, and my resolve, better than myself. Not having a choice to make my departure a peaceful one only adds to my depression.

  12. Mike says:

    Anyone can put a spin on anything. Life is that subjective. We all live in our little bubbles. We can never really hope to be truly understood.

    But trying to make out that suicide is always a mistake is just wrong. We need to accept that some people may indeed be better off out of this world.

    Evolution has made us conditioned to avoid death. Those people that seek death over life must therefore be deeply troubled. Sometimes this is temporary. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes it can be resolved. Sometimes it cannot.

    In recent years there have been a couple of very high profile cases of young adults that had autism talking their own lives. I wonder about this, as I was once in the same situation, though I did not know it at the time. I wonder if their lives might have got better or whether their decisions have saved them from a lot of suffering. We can never know. I can say that my decision to try to live has led to a depth of despair that I could never have imagined.

    There needs to be some balance in this debate. It is not all black and white.

  13. Xxx says:

    So many people defend suicide prevention by saying that most who attempted are later glad to be alive.

    The flaw in the argument seems obvious. Those who are, or would be, glad they succeeded are not here to tell us!

    It makes sense that those with less ambivalent feelings about dying would be more likely to succeed.

    I think preventing impulsive suicides makes sense. But if someone has really thought it through and still want to do it after, say, three months, they should be given painless means to do so.

    In my opinion, for whatever reason. It is a matter of autonomy and respect for other person, who often has quite accurate and realistic idea of how much hope he or she had.

    • Pattie says:

      Totally agree. Well stated.

    • Eliza says:

      There are both. The people who attempted suicide and are glad to be alive. And the people who attempted and wish they had succeeded but have reasons they didn’t have then not to attempt again, and wish they had succeeded still. I’m sure it goes both ways. That of those who succeed a good number of them (can’t begin to guess percentages) don’t want to succeed. Either they weren’t trying to kill themselves but did so through their actions kind of by mistake. Or they regretted their choice as soon as they saw it’d mean death. And there are those who will be happy they succeeded and be relieved that they don’t have to continue living. I don’t know who we should be catering for. For those who aren’t trying, or those who are. For those who won’t regret or those who will. I do’t know if there is ever any ‘right’ answer.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


        That’s an excellent point — just as some people who survive a suicide attempt regret it, some who didn’t survive regretted it in their final moments. We know this happens. There have been cases with physical evidence that the person struggled (and failed) to live after taking action to end their life. And we know of people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived and said the moment their feet left the bridge, they knew they’d made a terrible mistake.

        This is for people who have lost a loved one to suicide: I’m sorry, I know it’s upsetting to think that your loved one might have experienced regret or emotional pain in their last moments. When I published an essay about my own change of heart in the midst of a suicide attempt in my 20s, someone posted a comment on Facebook about how much it upset them to have to imagine that their loved one wasn’t at peace when they died. I’m very sorry, and yet I think it can be valuable for people at risk for suicide now to consider the possibility that they’ll change their mind when it’s too late.

        Anyway, back to your comment, Eliza – thank you for sharing here.

      • Oskar says:

        I don’t think the issue can be settled empirically. Some may regret having attempted suicide, others may regret having survived a suicide attempt, but still the questions of the right to suicide and the potential wisdom of suicide for some people remain open.

        • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


          Very true. There are definitely those who regret surviving. We do know that from research and also I know that from my own clinical work. As Eliza said, regret goes both ways.

  14. Vlad says:

    How ill do you think I have to be in order for assisted suicide/euthanasia/… to be OK for me? Does it have to be terminal? If so, what about all the non-terminal illnesses that can’t be cured or treated well?

    And does the illness have to be physical? If yes, what about the few mentally ill people who have spent long times in therapy etc. to little or no avail?

    How low does my quality of life have to become? And don’t you think it’s selfish of people to say, “I’d rather see you suffer tremendously than know you dead”? They sure have said that to me a lot, even if they know that I’m chronically ill and that I only want to die if things ever get too bad…

    • Oskar says:

      An even stronger argument, Vlad, is to ask why you should need anyone else’s approval or agreement is order to have access to suicide, which manifests your own ultimate control of your own body. People should be able to command the assistance of a doctor to help them commit suicide comfortably and securely, since this assistance is essential to their ability to realize their ultimate autonomy over their own body.

  15. Elinor says:

    I believe it is very harmful to attack someone for believing passionately that given a chance most people who are actively suicidal right now may well regain that will to live, firmly disapprove of the targeting you have received. A classical example is a nurse / doctor being berated for bringing someone back – do you put lack any understanding of how utterly wrong it is to expect healers to ‘gracefully accept the patients right to die’…

    As a suicide survivor I would advocate all day long that we ensure the person in that position is helped to be able to weigh up the enormity of a life in balance and ensure they can see there is hope – beyond that it is their decision and all anyone can hope is they make the best decision for them and then their loved Ones

  16. A widow says:

    I truly admire what you do to prevent suicide. My husband died by suicide a few months ago and it destroyed me. I feel so alone and deserted. Worst of all I am terrified because now I am the sole provider and care taker of my three small children. I wish my husband would have gotten help, I wish that so much!

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      A widow,

      I’m very sorry for your loss. I hope you will take a look at the resources I list for people who have lost a loved one to suicide. A support group might be especially helpful for you during this terribly painful time. Thank you for sharing here.

    • Oskar says:

      As in the exercise of all freedoms, the side-effects can be either negative or positive for other people. The person holding the freedom should weigh the side-effects of their choice on others in all cases. In some cases, the horror of continuing to live for the person holding the autonomy right to die over their own existence may outweigh any concerns about the side-effects on others, in other cases it will not. It is for the person holding the right to continue living or to die to draw the balance. On the other hand, it would be a horrible intrusion and massively selfish to force someone to life who did not want to live just because you happen to want him or her to live.

  17. Wilhelmina says:

    Not gonna lie I was feeling okay and then these comments were making me feel more suicidal. To me someone who isn’t suicidal saying “you have a right to kill yourself” sounds a hell of a lot like “kill yourself”, and someone who is saying the same thing is projecting their own feelings onto me.

    • Oskar says:

      If you think of all the contexts in which the phrase ‘you have a right to X’ is used in English you can easily recognize that they are not imperatives, nor do they imply instructions or commands. ‘You have a right to buy a house, to join the army, to major in English Literature, to marry Mary,’ etc., all imply open options, not commands, so the same should be true of recognizing that you have a right to commit suicide. A right describes an option, not an obligation.

  18. Ignatz says:

    In America, at least, anything that can be medicalized will be, for the generation of profit. Not because American society cares so deeply for its individual citizens that suicide occupies the level of concern that therapists making money off of books (who don’t have the time to deal with serious questions on an individual level, of course), the press, the WHO or whomever would have you believe. Even on this forum, the basic issues are avoided, and while I don’t have empirical data to back this up, I would wager that at least 50% have issues leading to chronic suicidal ideation that are socially determined – they have to do with isolation, lack of access to quality mental health services, over-medication, joblessness, etc. all of which I experience and deal with on a daily basis. The who industry is a pile of bullshit, frankly, and has very little to do with any serious examination of the existential issues to which people here are alluding. I have a new idea – to hell with therapists, unless you’re lucky enough to have one who really understands you, to hell with the industry around the medicalization of mental illness…perhaps the best therapy would be to work together, face to face, to change the society itself. Thats what some of the humanists and definitely the Marxist psychologists were saying back in the ’60s. Personally, I think they were spot on.

    • Oskar says:

      I think the honest English translation of the phrase, “You are clinically depressed” is “I hereby announce that I invalidate all the opinions you have on the topic relevant to your sadness and label them symptoms of a chemical imbalance in your brain, even though I have never conducted any chemical analysis of your brain to see if there are any imbalances there. Further, I now take possession of your invalidated sadness which I have announced is only a medical symptom, and so I can legally treat you as a child, since you are not in your right mind, and I can also make money off of you by making you my psychiatric patient. In addition, drug companies can make a fortune off of you selling you pills to restore the imbalance in your brain which we don’t even know exists.”

      In truth, the patient’s problem is simply whatever there is in the objective world which is bothering him or her: the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, poverty, loneliness, incurable illness, etc., which often cannot be repaired and so the patient either remains profoundly sad forever or prefers to die rather than continue in a state of misery. If the real world problem could be removed, you would be surprised how quickly the imaginary ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ justifying the description of this situation as a clinical depression would disappear.

      • John says:

        What absolute conspiratorial nonsense. The fact of the matter is, whether you personally have experienced clinical depression or not, there are those of us for whom it is a constant and overwhelming force totally removed from factors in the objective world.

        Guess what: I have a fantastic family, close friends, a caring partner who I love deeply, financial security, and no world-shaking/life-changing events in the last few years, but suicidal machinations still worm their way through my mind nearly every hour of every day. And, at least in my experience, while not curative by any means antidepressants and SSRI’s have nonetheless acted to slowly but surely transform my mental experience of the world.

        I’d strongly urge you not to speak on behalf of all “sad” people, but hey what do I know, I’m only sad.

      • Brandon says:

        It looks like someone wants to refute what you (an apparently upsetting object of the external world) has to say on the issue.
        That’s quite ironic.
        It’s amazing how some people can be histrionic in their defense of drugs that are essentially no different than so-called illicit drugs..They make you feel good as long as you take them.. which is your entire life. Stop taking them and watch what happens.

    • Paul says:

      The irony is that the people with these various conditions who would need to rise up to make this change are unable to do so because of those conditions.

      With the mentally ill, many of us can’t get out of bed or leave our houses. Many who can think the system, and life itself, is hopeless and not worth fighting for. Many others due to their conditions are considered ‘unreliable narrators’ and have no credibility within general society.

      The people who DO have that kind of energy probably believe the system works because they’re doing OK.

      IMO the only thing that might work regarding change is if people with power realize how much productivity and money is lost due to mental illness issues, and how that might be harnessed for their own gain.

  19. Oskar says:

    No one can know how another person really feels about his or her own life, or how much pleasure or terror, dread, and oppression fills the existence of any other human being. Since we cannot know this, since we cannot, in principle, walk in someone else’s shoes and experience their existence as they experience it, we cannot possibly know if life is livable for them or not, so our fundamental respect for the autonomy of other human beings requires us to respect their own decisions about what they want to do.

    The basic approach of the website sponsor seems to be that suicide should be resisted because of the pain it causes other people, but since we cannot know whether the pain of continuing to live is greater or less than the pain that that person dying by suicide would impose on their friends and relatives we cannot make the judgment for them that one choice is better than the other. Generally, for intensely personal choices, like who we love, who we want to marry, what job we want to select, which country we want to give our loyalty to, etc., it is the tradition of our society to respect the individual’s autonomy to make that choice for himself or herself, rather than to let what other people feel about that choice determine the freedom of the person making the choice. It should be the same with suicide.

  20. Tonya Taylor says:

    Wow, sometime people gets wore down mentally trying to help a person in need, that they can easily start wondering about letting someone complete their suicide, sometime you might need a group help

  21. Oskar says:

    People assume that life, which some individuals want to free themselves from, must always and under every circumstance be so valuable that it must always be wrong to want to escape it. But given what we all know of the enormous variety of human experience, we should realize that life may be a thrill for some, a duty for others, and an absolute horror for still others, and let them all do with life as they will. In this sense life is like anything common to most people but also different in each person’s experience, such as marriage, parenting, work, sleep, exercise, sex, reading, studying, religion, etc. For some people some of those institutions will be great, for others just indifferent, and for others even oppressive, so let’s be understanding and allow people to respond to these common experiences as their individual perspective and feelings require, rather than tyrannically prescribing to everyone exactly how they must value everything, regardless of their personal experience.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The sad truth is that if someone is hell bent on killing themselves, you cannot stop them. You can put them in a closed ward-they will lie to get out of it. You can take away toxic substances, then they will use a belt to hang themselves. If someone truly wants to die, you cannot do anything except locking them up. And that is basically what psych wards are: prisons for those who want to end their suffering. There are people out there beyond help and so maybe suicide can sometimes be merciful towards these people-but most suicidees aren’t like that.

  23. Kate says:

    What a stunning coincidence that I came to this page today. Just this morning I moved from thoughts of thinking my adult daughter may successfully take her own life to being fairly sure she will and wondering how I will live once she’s gone.

    She is my best friend. Birthing and contributing to raising this amazing young woman is about the only thing of value I’ve done in my life. She’s been in so much pain for so long, been in therapy and hospitalized and tried so hard to shed the black dogs that have followed her since her teens. I think she’s entitled to quit, to end the pain, even though it will mean the end of her life and likely mine.

    I’ve worked with people at the end of their lives. I’ve always thought it was terrible for family and friends to demand their loved ones endure futile treatment, continue to eat and drink even though miserable and keenly aware that their bodies are telling them it’s over. Why should I demand anything different of the one who is the sun, moon and stars to me?

    I’ve tried in every way I know to let her know she matters to me and to so many others. I’ve shown her in ways untold that she matters. I’ve offered a vision of a life with less pain. But she can’t see it, she can’t feel it, and more than that she’s lost all hope of ever seeing it.

    Should I Baker Act her to try to see to it that she continues, in agony, to breathe the same air that I do? That seems pretty selfish to me.

    • Oskar says:

      Thanks for your clear and insightful thoughts, Kate. We can only hope they help educate the hybrid psychiatrist-policemen who cannot understand the true reality of suicide, and who just blindly lash out it, preventing it, forbidding it, and dismissing it as nothing but the product ‘depression’ which needs some ‘happy pills’ so that they can avoid having to think abound it seriously.

  24. Oskar says:

    I find the idea of trying to prevent suicide as absurd as if the people enjoying a film in the theater were to grab onto someone disgusted with the film who was trying to leave the theater and keep him in his seat. The general assumption of our culture is that people know infinitely better than others do what they want for themselves and have the right to act on their desires unless they invade the rights of others, and no one has the right to force another human who wants to die nonetheless to continue living. I suspect a lot of the self-righteous, sanctimonious urge to force others to live comes from the general fear of all people that life may really not be worth living after all, so we don’t want anyone to force us to think about the real value of life and the option of suicide too seriously, so we label their actions the product of depression and mental illness so we don’t have to worry about the implications for ourselves.

    Since people living when they really don’t want to live must be suffering hideously, and the general goal of any humane society is to reduce human suffering, perhaps we should worry not about reducing the suicide rate, but about whether it should be higher? It may well be the case that people whose misery would be reduced by suicide are still living and suffering because of over-generalized life-affirming ideologies in religion, psychiatry, and social work viciously keeping them alive.

  25. Eliza says:

    One of my questions is about passing it on to others.
    People say suicide is selfish, as in the person is hurting others to ease their own pain. Yet, for that token, either way someone is being selfish and hurting for others. Either the person who lives for others, the suicidal, s/he lives instead of dying, and lives in pain so as not to spread the pain. Or s/he ends his/her own pain and others suffer. Either way one or the other ends up in pain. Who’s to decide what is right/wrong? Who is to say which is more important? Just something I wonder and would love to hear more about.

  26. JP says:

    I find all of it very interesting. I think the main reason for why we as a society have adopted the attitudes we have towards suicide is because of religion. But that same morality doesn’t necessarily apply when you’re not religious.

    I think suïcide prevention would fare better if it was suïcide support. I think that if there was no stigma and people knew there was an organisation that could help them make last arrangements, have conversations with family etc without telling them what to do or what not to do and to just be there. The whole process in itself would maybe even divert someone from doing an attempt, especially if all they wanted was to connect instead of die.

    • Ignatz says:

      From a legal standpoint, such an organization based in the US could be charged with manslaughter. Not going to happen here. The only way that a person can seek any sort of assistance is if it is state sanctioned. Belgium now “allows” for physician assisted suicide for chronic depression and other psychiatric disorders. An interesting debate is ongoing in that particular country…
      The Belgians, however, do not have to legally notify anybody, that’s still the responsibility of the patient.

    • Bhavik says:

      I completely agree with this. I don’t lean completely to either side of this debate, I think suicide prevention is necessary to some extent, but also the taboo around suicide as a topic is terrible, and pushes people further to the edge. I think what would work is being able to openly talk about suicidal thoughts, rather than simply being taught to dismiss or ignore them. This would prevent people from being scared of reaching out because of the fear that their suicidal thoughts will lead to them being chained up in an asylum somewhere, knowing that if they want to, they can go through with what they want to do, but that there is also a place where they can openly talk about what they are feeling and why.

  27. Ignatz says:

    I’ve always found Jennifer Hecht’s quote, repeated in this article, to be absolute nonsense: “The whole of humanity suffers when someone opts out.” Being chronically unemployed in the USA, suffering from refractory depression in my late 50’s, I experience very little evidence to indicate that to the broader culture in which I exist that I am valued at all in life. Without serious attention to the social determinants of mental health, e.g. lack of access to meaningful employment, this sort of pronouncement of my objective value to the “whole of humanity” rings very hollow indeed.

    • Oskar says:

      I agree, since if anyone can overcome the enormous instinctual resistance we all have against death to make the conscious choice to take our own life, that act is in itself proof that our desire to die is infinitely greater than the desire of any number of others that we continue to live. The whole development of western culture has been to respect individual autonomy over social duty, so that children can now marry the person they want and adopt the career they want rather than what their family wants, as in previous generations, to cite just one example, so to insist that people ought to continue to live even if they don’t want to just to serve the interests of others is absurd. The selfishness of others to require those who want to commit suicide to continue to live just to please those external observers is beyond belief.

  28. Oskar says:

    I think Brandon is right in the discussion with Rick, in that there are many blocks to suicide which mean that even those who sincerely desire to die persist in life without really wanting to be there. Some are afraid of the pain of death, others are existentially terrified of making the greatest change life admits of, and still others struggle unsuccessfully to overcome the irrational, biological instinct to stay alive whatever the cost, by their sober awareness that continued existence will only bring pain. The fact that so many people actually manage to overcome these impediments to suicide testifies to exactly how intractably hideous life can be.

  29. Oskar says:

    Consider the case of the meddling grandmother who desperately wants her grandson to become a priest, even though the grandson is an atheist. Should he endure an intolerable life in a profession he finds meaningless and burdensome just to please his grandmother? Of course not. Our society respects the individual autonomy of people to make their own decisions about matters affecting their own personal, vital interests, even if these choices have major impacts on other people. Now the argument against suicide presented here is mainly that people shouldn’t commit suicide because it may influence others badly or hurt them in some way, but this is foolish, given the way our society recognizes the boundaries between individual autonomy regarding essential and intimate personal decisions and the influence those decisions may have on others. So what your argument is recommending is that those boundaries be suspended solely in the case of suicide, so even though Mr. A loathes his life and eagerly wants to escape it, he has to keep living because his mailman will be irritated at having to cross A’s name off the parcel delivery list, or because some other ridiculous, minor interest of a third party will be negatively impacted by A’s decision. The desire of A to die is twenty trillion times greater than the interest of others that A live, so any rational utilitarian calculus, and any culturally appropriate respect for human autonomy and personhood, has to recognize the autonomous claim of each person to decide for himself or herself whether to continue living, regardless of its affect on others. The reductio ad absurdum of your argument is that the atheist grandson would have to become a priest to please his grandmother!

    It is important to keep in mind that there are many cases of rational suicide where situations will never get any better and the fact that they will never improve can clearly be calculated at this moment. If someone has lived alone with a sole caregiver for her entire life and is now aged and infirm and has no other human contacts yet that caregiver dies, there is clearly no realistic prospect of that lost beloved person ever being replaced, for example. So if this loss is intolerable, why continue to tolerate it? If you were strapped to a bed being slowly tortured to death in some Middle Eastern prison where your tormentors have announced their intention to kill you and I give you some poison to end your torture now should you take it? Of course, that is only rational. Life is full of hopeless traps which can never be escaped and which will never get any better, so when we find ourselves in those situations, our rationality tells us to leave life if there are no other avenues of escape.

    So much of the irrational opposition to suicide which exists is an inheritancee of the Christian myth, that an infinitely good, infinitely wise, and infintely powerful God (who somehow permits terrible evils not caused by human agency) has given you your life so you have no right to end it before He says so. Although this whole mythology is dying out, it leaves its modern remnants in the irrational fear many authors have of the rational self-deliverance of suicide.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I have been kept alive for over 30 years. I have given up on suicide and now just wait to die naturally. Am I alive? No. People that prevent suicide are just plain selfish.

    • rick says:

      There’s nothing stopping you from committing suicide. If you are talking about suicide it means you are sick of your life and considering death which means you want to live you are just looking for a good reason to keep going and having a hard time finding one.

      No one can truly prevent you from suicide. Thinking anyone can prevent you from killing yourself is you fooling yourself into thinking you can’t do it.

      If you can’t kill yourself it means you want to live. Things happen only if you want them to happen.

      So stop pretending you want to die and live.

      [This comment was edited, per the Comments Policy. — SF]

      • Brandon says:

        “No one can truly prevent you from suicide”

        That’s an obvious falsehood. Suicide requires tools. And one certainly can be blocked from obtaining those tools for any reason. So why don’t you stop pretending people want to live. If a simple stress free, maybe even pleasurable method of suicide was discovered/offered as a service, you can bet your ass people would choose it in droves. The sad fact is that all of the “tragic, painful” suicides that happen only happen because people are shamed/pushed to the darkest methods available.

  31. Oskar says:

    The central point your analysis is missing is the following: Since we all have an enormous instinctual drive to continue living, just because we are biological entities and are programmed to persist, we must have an even greater drive to die if we have reached a point where we wish to commit suicide. But a drive massive enough to overcome the instinctual desire to live will inevitably be much greater than the mere interest of others around us that we continue to live. Therefore, your entire argument that suicide should be prevented to avoid the harm it causes others collapses, since it is anti-utilitarian to require that suicidal individuals continue to suffer the much greater pain of continuing to live so that others can avoid their much smaller pain at the death of those who prefer to die.

    But further, a decent respect for human autonomy requires that we allow people to chart their own course with respect to the matters which most intimately concern them and are within what the U.S. Supreme Court identified as the ‘right to a private sphere’ in cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade. The total weight of the community’s desire that a woman not have an abortion may be greater than a single woman’s desire for an abortion, but this utilitarian calculus is trumped by the fact that her choice in this matter relates to what most intimately concerns her own life, where her decision must rule. To try to prevent suicides by pointing to community interests against this is wrong in exactly the same way that preventing abortions is wrong: it allows the community to invade a matter too deeply personal for the community’s interests to count.

    • Paul says:

      Oskar, you do have a point there. There are many that have posted here that their quality of life is the major reason behind their desire to leave this place. In fact if you read Psalms, this world is the valley of the shadow of death. Satanism also promotes life, and self. Unless one us ever increasingly suffering to the point that they can no longer go on.

      I have lost friends and family to illnesses, and I know a number that have given up the fight against death, but most are not considered suicide. Yet I do have at least one distant relative that comitted suicide because he was in severe pain due to cancer, and it was just to end his suffering. He did not have any pain medications strong enough for him so he found another way to end the pain.

      What some people fail to realize and that is they are the cause of many suicides in this country, ones that make reports to the CDC and others that it is just a psychological drug abuse problem that needs treatment, yet the physical and biological evidence says otherwise. Cancer is not the only thing to cause horrible debilitating pain to people. Problem with many doctors and the way they are taught is not conducive to preventing suffering or unneeded pain. If someone has a serious infection that needs treatment they need treatment for that to get rid of the pain. I have someone close to me that is suffering from pain, and I help in ways that doctors usually do not. That is because they are more interested in going by the book more than looking at the whole person, or looking at more than one thing at a time.

      It is the closed mindedness and saying to people they can just live with the pain, but it is more than they can handle. This I feel is the main cause of many to give up on life. I worry about my wife as she is in pain, and yet no pain medications help her. Yet I can tell that it is real by more than what I am told, I know it is a nerve problem that is not helped with any of the regular pain medications. I’m not sure who will help her, and worried for her. I find it crazy the difficulty that it is to get disability these days, yet it is easier for those that have little wrong with them other than wrong job training, yet those of us with medical problems that are the problem it is more difficult, and even over 62 unable to get SS.
      I wonder what is out there that could help us.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I offer nothing in this life. I’ve been disabled due to amputation and due to a disease I got as a kid and my own neglect to take care of myself, my teeth have fallen out.
    So what do I live for? That’s the whole thing, all of my life screw-ups have always been my own fault.
    Why live? I will answer that when I leave my current home before I’m forced to “live” where I don’t want to.
    Why not leave this world to the living?
    I’m not living I’m existing!

  33. Pattie says:

    To A.B. You said it well. I like the comparison to the abortion debate. No one should involuntarily force someone to get treatment or stay alive– especially if that’s all they do for them.

    • paul says:

      The part that gets me is when it is acceptable to a country to let people get away with felonies against others that leave them permanently injured where they are not able to take care of themselves any longer, yet they worry about suicide far more and are willing to do something about that instead. That is very sick and cruel. I know Buddha said life is suffering but he was referring to life challenges.

      • Brandon says:

        Sadly the only reason this world even functions is because of the sufferings of the underdog (those on top know this quite well) and even more pathetic is how we create inane religions that glorify and justify the suffering archetype such as in Christianity. It fills me with indescribable contempt. There would be no “haves” if “have-nots” did not exist. Imo, one has one of two options, either accept suicide or adopt an Antinatalist philosophy. Otherwise any claims of wanting to help end suffering are invalid/false.

  34. A.B. says:

    To the author of this article, it must be emotionally daunting receiving negative comments often. I wish you strength in dealing with these. It’s encouraging that you and others care about suicidal people–about wanting their pain to end.

    That said, imagine if society decided to make abortion illegal under all circumstances despite the way many of us women feel about our own bodies. There are a lot of pro-life women, too. But the women who feel society wants to control their bodies and lives would understandably be incensed if articles online proclaimed–and laws supported this–that a woman, once pregnant, must bring the pregnancy to term. I’m not trying to argue pro-choice or pro-life. I only mean that in any instance in which the state assumes the power to coerce people as regards their private lives, many people are going to be very, very upset. We should expect this. We even owe our freedoms in many senses to this kind of behavior as a shocking number of our liberties resulted from cantankerous troublemakers who refused to be silent in the face of perceived injustices.

    So I don’t think people are sending you specifically angry comments. They’re responding to what they feel is an absolute injustice that those in mental health either directly or through available legal and enforcement channels can force them to do what they do not want to do with their own lives. I get that you don’t think suicide is usually the “right” decision. But we will never be able to answer the question of whether suicide is right or wrong. If someone disagrees with that, the burden is on them to prove it.

    Interestingly enough, academic and clinical psychology are putting out a number of papers challenging the clinical illness models of psychiatry and clinical psychology which the courts use to justify forcing people to do what they don’t want to in regards to their private lives. So if there is no reliable philosophical argument or hard science evidence that what otherwise amounts to a personal decision is “wrong,” it’s very, very, very dangerous for our culture to set national policy and laws on this basis. And that is what so many people are angry about.

    You probably remember a time when gay and lesbian people were thought to be “mentally ill” just because the majority disagreed with their lifestyle. The courts allowed doctors and therapists to torture these poor people because of a judgment of “mental illness.” Imagine where we’d be today if enough people had not reacted angrily to these abuses of power over others’ private lives. Only recently have clinical psychology and psychiatry removed homosexuality as a mental illness in the US DSM. But today we can force “treatment” on the suicidal on the basis of the judgment of “mental illness.” It’s disheartening we don’t seem to have learned our lesson.

    One last point: governments already know how to decrease suicide. You must have read the WHO’s, the UN’s, and other reputable organizations’ reports about how building people-centered governments that provide robust security nets for citizens produces far better mental health and far fewer suicides. People who are adamant that suicide is “wrong” should, then, follow evidence-based principles and realize the kinds of large government changes that have proven effective at reducing suicide risks. It seems a shame to force treatment on people even though they eventually have to go back out into communities we already know increase suicide risks, especially since suicides here in the US have for years been on the increase.

    I think therapists are great. They devote their lives, often for very little financial compensation, to helping the emotionally distraught. What a tragedy that many in this otherwise compassionate field stray down the path of controlling others because they (therapists…) know what’s best for them (the suicidal). What horrifies so many is that courts allow and even encourage this. I can think of few things more worthy of outrage and fighting against.

    Just wanted to offer my two cents as a biomedical ethicist about why many people react so very strongly to anti-suicide publications in particular.

  35. Anonymous says:

    how do you cope up in a situation where u are reminded every day of the biggest blunder of your life? The one thing which used to give comfort and now that thing is the biggest cause of your pain now? It is so painful that you can not get out of it? it is sucking the life out of you.

  36. Amey says:

    Nice article on suicide prevention. Keep posting.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Well I’ve been dealing with thoughts and feelings of ending it for 18 years. The only reason I stayed all this time is because I kept hearing people tell me hang in there things are going to get better and shit like that. But in reality it’s only getting worst. So why live? I started hearing all the mojo b.s. when I was 6 years old now I’m about to be 35 next month and that would be 19 years.

  38. Brandon says:

    If you want to prevent suicide, fix the actual social problems that make it happen. Start with addressing the fact that people breed needlessly. With so many people in existence already needing help, what aside from raw ego would possess one to think it’s a good idea to reproduce. It’s a sad testament to what the human species is all about.

    • Cheryl says:

      Brandon, as easy as it sounds, not reproducing isn’t that simple. There are mental health illnesses that have increased sexual drive and risky behaviors. I had three unplanned pregnancies and chose to keep my children. Without the proper medications and education not knowing how the mental illness affects the sex drive and the genetics involved in the mental illness, along with being young, I was not aware of the consequences. However, I have taken responsibility for my children and educated them. I did not choose abortion because it was not the right choice for me. In order to accomplish not reproducing maybe we should go back to sterilizing the mentally ill? Or not be so racist and sterilize all young women? Give it 20 years and then let the population reproduce again. Then would we go back to having families with 10 children? Society has already gone from having large families to small ones. How is not reproducing an answer for allowing suicide or not? I appreciate your passion but I don’t feel that it is an answer to mental illness and the issue of the pain a suicidal person goes through that makes them want to die. You never know if the person next to you has a mental illness or not. There are many great people in this world with mental illness and there are many bad people without mental illness.

      • Brandon says:

        I highly doubt that the majority of people having children are those with cognitive issues that prevent them from knowing the consequences of their actions. If all the people who can take responsibility, took it, that would make a huge difference. Not sure why you predict that large families would happen in the future. The whole point of slowing reproduction is to increase motivation for problem solving not mere problem tranference. The irony is that this is often the argument against suicide, when in fact it’s breeding that attempts to lay a past burden on a innocent furure. On a macro level, it’s a perfect recipe for disaster or hmm depression.

    • jules says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more Brandon, people don’t even think about what their kid will have to go through-except after they are born it’s suddenly like “Ooh I worry for my kids future in this world” as if those problems didn’t exist before they had a kid. People are just selfish egomaniacs and society heaps praise on them for breeding which most people get off on because of the attention they get. Which is amazing since it’s the most mundane least special thing that can happen and people are popping rugrats out everywhere ALL the time. People don’t wanna make anything of their own life they want to live through their kids.

      Ask any parent what their biggest proudest achievement is they’ll probably come out with drivel like “becoming a parent” because it’s all they’ve done in their sad life. I hate parents, I literally HATE them, they’ve created this world we all have to suffer in, and to make it even more ironic they’re probably the majority who are depressed and hate life but can’t wait to inflict it on someone else. I’m going to die in agony of cancer thanks to my parents passing it onto me-they’re evil.

      • Brandon says:

        Thank you for expressing that. It should be said more often. Parents also guilt trip their kids by pretending that your existence, something that happened because they were selfishly having a good time one day is somehow something you should be grateful for. There is no reason to be grateful about the ability to work for someone else, pay taxes on that hard work, deal with other people’s maddening quirks on a daily basis, risk being attacked by muggers or a wild animal, being homeless or starving or becoming a criminal because you just can’t get along with society and its petty bullshit, or maybe even if you’re lucky, you get impaled in a freak accident, only to get sick and die in the end anyway. It’s becoming more and more obvious to me everyday that suicide prevention is the parent’s cry on a wide scale. Well the time has come for the child’s cry. You don’t want to lose me, yet you leave me first. Such a profound illustration of how effed up life is on a fundamental level.

  39. Brittany Odle says:

    Hey I am here for you. I dealt with suicide, prayers to JESUS is the only thing that helped me. Reading The Holy Bible helped me too. If you need to talk email jesuscaresfor

  40. one of many says:

    During my involuntary hospitalization after my brother in law had me 51/50’d he and my husband told everyone in the family and they treated me like a lunatic and cut me off. I was sexually abused and stripped and terrified even though I did nothing to provoke a 51/50 (I didn’t tell authorities I was suicidal and I was calm when they came in because I was napping and had no idea what was coming to me. It was the worst, most degrading, dehumanizing experiences of my entire life. And then to add insult to injury I had to pay for all of it even though I didn’t need it and I didn’t consent to it and it only harmed me and it destroyed my relationships with everyone I used to love and trust. I was never even given a less restrictive and assaultive alternative. Just dragged from my bed and taken away and had my whole family told and not allowed to wear clothes even though there was no evidence I had tried to harm myself, my toxicology reports were clear, and my behavior was normal for someone kidnapped from her bed and stripped and abused. I hadn’t attempted or obsessed about suicide before I got taken to the hospital. But after the hospital I got pills thrown at me and I just saved them up and overdosed a few times and almost died. Why? You might want to die too if you lost your whole family and got abused because of involuntary treatment

  41. Dave says:

    I believe that in many cases suicide is preventable. Just not in my case. I have been unemployed for six miserable years. I have tried 19 times to get public assistance. I have sent 4600 resumes and gotten zero interviews. I’m 52. I’ve lost everything and I’m not going to be able to ever retire. I’m just not interested anymore. I’ve done all that work to try to correct my situation and nobody has done anything that significantly helped. Preventing my suicide is downright sadistic. It’s not going to get better no matter how much therapy or meds I get. And it’s pretty fucking pretentious to think that you know better than I do what is good for me. I need to get out of this body.

  42. DF says:

    A common refrain heard from those who comment here is to insist “life has no meaning” which ironically runs parallel with another truth: That if “life has no meaning” then that statement also has no meaning. Both are true and neither is a determination of what one should or shouldn’t do.

    • mic says:

      DF – How do you get from that to justifying laws which force people to live in misery, when allowing them freedom to end their existence will not cause them to be harmed or deprived?

  43. Ben says:

    Antidepressants make me actively suicidal. I have figured out how to kill myself on a locked psych unit, and so not even such a unit is a safe place for me.

    Unfortunately, do-gooders have saved my life on a number of occassions, damn them. Lest you say that some day I will be glad of those savings, let me say that I am 58 y/o and I’ve NEVER felt like thanking anyone for saving my life. Quite the contrary.

    How dare you try to force me, or anyone else to live in misery?

  44. Miles Skocik says:

    You are making a false dichotomy. It’s not a choice of either prevent no suicide or attempt to prevent all suicides. Death does not have to be any more crude or rude than it demands. Life is not is a game, it’s not a gift, it’s real. People have a right to their individual philosophies, and understandings of reality and a fundamental right to invest in those if they do not in any way encumber the right of others. The premise of the constitution is based on that idea -That one’s man’s rights end when another man’s rights begin. Consistent with that prospective, there is absolutely no reason for popular culture to impose it’s will on other people and force them to respect the notion of the gift of life. It’s a person’s right to believe God gave them the gift of life, but it’s also another persons right to say that is nonsense, I do not see my existence that way. So we would have an infrastructure that protects people from moments of insanity or poor judgment that in not consistent with their beliefs. It’s not that hard to do. You would have a system where person had longer waiting periods to be approved to gracefully die a medically advanced death. Access to that would be distributed based on people qualifying. So people who have a long standing will, stating a right to control their own death would not have to wait as long as people that said the opposite. To make sure what they are thinking now is consistent with their previous stated believes and their was a cause in that change of mind. The younger/less a condition the longer the person has to wait. The point of this is to protect people from moments of poor judgment, etc. Beyond that society has no business meddling in any other way with a person’s right to utilize technology that belongs to all of us, it’s belong to civilization. It does not have one agenda and that’s all. It’s has an agenda to care for the needs of people and their allowed to define what their needs are. If you are going to respect life, you have an obligation to respect death. It is a choice and a legitimate philosophy to recognize the inefficiency of wasted suffering.

    • mic says:

      Great post, Miles. In reference to your point about the right to an individual philosophy, I see the current laws on suicide as being effectively blasphemy laws to protect a primitive religiously oriented outlook from philosophical challenges, and the right to die as the freedom from religion. This is a culture war that is to be fought on the same ground as the gay marriage, but the stakes are much higher, and the right to reject the notion of life as a divine gift is the final frontier of the civil rights and secularisation movement. Unfortunately, even most avowed atheists still want the primitive philosophy of the sanctity of life to remain enshrined in law, for now.

  45. Momo7 says:

    Struggle to find solutions and increase the research and help to mentaly sick and suicidals. They live miserable life which no one can realize and understand what they are going through. Love, care, respect and sincere treatment may resolve this miserable disease.
    More then expected people are sufferings and needs help from the Government as treatment and precession is very very lengthy. Govt must compare the losses verses benefits to cure help this disease.

  46. Milos says:

    I believe in both individual’s freedom and that some suicides can be prevented. For sure, all preventive efforts should be focused on adolescents and young people. Not sure if we should be interfering with desires of those over 50.

  47. Tanish Singh says:

    How can I get rid of suicidal thoughts, completely?

  48. J H says:

    Thank you for this article. I’m looking through all your articles and you are giving me lots to think about. Thank you for talking through the idea of not committing suicide and continuing to work through it. It’s been a long road for me. Twelve years in therapy, a lifetime of trauma. I’m thankful for your site.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      What a lovely note of thanks. I appreciate it, especially in light of the challenging responses I sometimes receive. Thank you.

      I’m sorry to hear about your trauma. It sounds like you are working hard. I hope you will continue to stay on this long road.

      Thanks again!

  49. Joe says:

    Stacey, you are talking self-assessment; I am talking external corroboration. I posit that the point of no return is far less blurry than you believe as the conditions that affect quality of life are hardly ambiguous, but because we live in a society that condemns such blunt evaluation and simply rules the issue to be distortions all the way down, that theory will never be put to the test here.

    You call it the humility to accept uncertainly. I call it the abdication of responsibility. The reality is we will always be working with incomplete information. Every day we make life or death decisions with lasting impact in an uncertain world: withdrawing life support, going to war, the death penalty, rushing into a burning building, etc. There’s nothing exceptional about the subject of suicide unless we want it to be.

    While a doctor’s prognosis is not perfect, it would be the height of irresponsibility for them to throw their hands in the air and declare “maybe it’s cancer, maybe not; maybe it’ll get better; maybe you don’t need intensive treatment; it’s all uncertain; we doctors don’t know, nobody knows.” Imagine how ineffective medicine would be if every doctor was too afraid of being wrong, too paralyzed by potential consequences, to offer their expertise. Easier to appeal to the uninterpretable chaos of the universe and play the bystander.

    I hope this helps illustrate the abandonment inherent in your position. It may not be your intent, but you yourself acknowledge that not all will come to share your upbeat experience. Suffice to say, such people would find your approach unhelpful, to put it mildly.

  50. Anonymous says:

    I read why should someone be able to take their life, if they are an asset to community, for their families not to hurt, only for that person to not hurt. I have been on both ends ,my father committed suicide. I suffer from major depression, anxiety, panic attacks , chronic pain , and many other things. My family has abandoned me , society is cruel to me , I have no friends, and I don’t openly tell them my problems or that I don’t want to live. I have to move, because landlord need a much larger amount for rent , forcing me out. Section 8 told her 2 bedrooms go for 800 so in less then 3 years they’ve made me homeless. Apartments from property managers haven’t helped me, knowing I need a place to live. I worked very hard till 36 I had a nervous breakdown. I lost everything due to my illnesses, my ex left, my family considers being sick, drama. You may not post this . But there is no reasons in my life that I have fought 12 years to just survive to be thrown out like garbage. I wanted to do it today. I guess i didnt have the courage yet. Everyone keep up with your opinions, but know, everyone has them and they’re all different . All I ever needed was a friend . I have openly spoke of this and not wanting to live . No one has ever reached out to me. No one has worried about if I did or didn’t. People should be able to live without judging others. You never know what they’ve been through. I only wish I had the courage to end it. Because it wouldn’t affect anyone’s life, only mine, which I feel I have no life, being alone 99% of the time, not knowing the last time I felt good. Not remembering what it feels like to feel love , or just a loving touch . This is pointless , if you don’t have money, or tons of friends and family support. I’m pretty much doomed. My hurt is so deep , I feel it will never change. I do try , but only hours into a day, I am crying and physically not able to move, mentally I’m mush, mind , heart and soul want set free.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      You describe vividly and painfully the torment you experience. I’m sorry nobody has reached out to you. I am reaching out to you now. I am reaching out to tell you that from your words, it sounds like you want to hurt less, to love more, to feel loved, to enjoy life, to feel good. None of those is possible if you are dead. It sounds like you’ve completely given up hope that any of those are possible in life, either. But how can you really know what the future holds?

      Reading your words, I wondered if you’re receiving any help – from a therapist and psychiatrist, yes, but also from others. Depending on where you live, there may be peer support available. There may be support groups. There may be therapy groups (like Dialectical Behavior Therapy). If you could do something like that, perhaps you’d feel less alone and unloved. Perhaps?

      And if you want to connect with someone right now, try calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at 1.800.273.8255 (TALK). They will route you to the hotline in your local area, which then should know about support groups, classes, and other possible resources for you. They also may have information about housing options.

      The crisis text line at 741-741 is also a good resource, and you can find other resources on this website at

      I hope that you find help, Anonymous, or that help finds you.

  51. Joe says:

    I would argue that it’s our cultural attitudes towards suicide that not only make it into a tragedy but exacerbates the pain by marginalizing suffering individuals declaring them sick, delusional, and unfit to make decisions about their own life on the basis that they don’t think and behave as people say they should. Would others really be as prone to suicide in the wake of one if we lived in a culture that could accept suicide as the best choice in light of circumstances? Would it really be such a tragedy if we could accept death as a part of life rather than some faux pas in a cure-all society?

    I’d like to discuss the downsides to suicide prevention.

    One strike is that it prevents closure. In criminalizing assistance or even tolerance you render the person completely alone in their final moments. Successful suicide in our society requires total secrecy leaving behind not just a body to be found but potentially many unanswered questions. I wonder if the shock value would be nearly as great if they could instead drift away peacefully at the side of their loved ones?

    A second strike is that it pushes suicide into the public realm where it can produce real harm. In reducing access to reliable methods, the suicidal will resort to such methods as lying on railroad tracks and driving into oncoming traffic subjecting bystanders to trauma and lethal accidents. If a policy of suicide prevention is to receive an accurate scorecard, we must consider not just deaths prevented but the splash damage caused.

    Third, it generates stigma. The social isolation families often experience following a suicide [and a major contributor to their higher suicide risk] is simply paternalism taken to its logical conclusion; if the suicidal are to be dehumanized and infantilized, then that extends to those who fail to control them to the culture’s liking. If the suicidal were treated as suffering human beings rather than as pets mishandled by their irresponsible owners perhaps there could be empathy rather than judgment.

    Fourth, it ironically promotes suicide. Think reactance or ironic process theory; the more you try to bury a behavior the more it proliferates. You might say that there was a “drinking contagion” during Prohibition much like the suicide contagion we see now.

    Finally, it obstructs any real change by putting all the focus on suppressing symptoms while placing the issues out of sight, out of mind. Despite living in a society that repeatedly beats us over the head with health fads, pills, and meditation apps suicide rates in the US have increased by over 25% since 1999 with more than half being undiagnosed with any mental health problem. Yet through psychiatric labeling and the denial of rational suicide the suicidal are othered and suffering is pathologized effectively erasing any need to examine why what we’re doing isn’t working, why rates continue to skyrocket despite our hotlines with trained cliché-lobbers and ostentatious prevention campaigns.

    Can you not see how your solution creates the very problem it purports to solve? You say that suicide hurts the living, yet anti-suicide sentiments created this very reality of stigma and loss. Another perspective is that suicide isn’t a life lost but a life fulfilled; the reality of death doesn’t dissipate no matter how much society may glorify slogging on to old age (in spite of our cultural attitudes of the elderly even!). We ought to learn to embrace the human legacy and promote dignity. Instead of focusing on how many days we can squeeze out of a life span like molecules of a rolled-up tube of toothpaste we should look beyond the mechanical process at what makes life valuable. A true suicide prevention campaign would, instead of keeping people captive and punishing those who empathize to justify a starry-eyed cultural ideal of life being worth living at all costs, appreciate the circumstances behind suicide and invest resources into making living more bearable.

    The policy you support is not one of genuine care but social control. The future of your campaign is plainly evident from history: more paternalization, more punishment, more virtue signaling, more lamentations into the void as to why “society” won’t do “more”, yet the suicide rates will just keep climbing and climbing as cost of living goes up, as wealth disparity grows, as loneliness increases, as access to clean air and clean water and quality education dwindles, as higher and more expensive credentials become required to stock shelves, as we discover more ways to extend the duration of human life to produce more age ranges for us to dread and more people over the age of 40 to be discriminated against. And, in that future, there will be people defending the very same failed policy on the basis that to do otherwise would devalue human life!

    The greatest flaw in this self-defeating approach is its unhealthy preoccupation with an ideal of human life over the reality.

    • mic says:

      Joe – I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your in-depth analysis of the flaws of the anti-suicide campaign. I agree on all of your points.

      As to the fourth point that you made, I can attest to the fact that I feel more driven towards suicide by the fact that I feel trapped in my life by laws which prohibit me access to reliable and safe methods of dying. This causes me to spend most of my time trying to look for an ’emergency exit’ out of this trap, as opposed to being able to relax about the possibility of being able to escape and expend my mental energy on improving my circumstances. You can’t make people want to live by making them feel trapped. But unfortunately, the goals of the suicide prevention campaign is focused on entrapment and is willing to make more people feel like they don’t want to live as a price worth paying to have the quasi-theological culture of life and ONLY the culture of life validated in society.

      To the pro-lifers reading this comment section, I would refer them to this quote which sums up the issue nicely:

      “A prison becomes a home when you have the key” – George Sterling.

    • Joe says:

      Thanks, mic! It’s not just the laws but the social taboo. So thoroughly will people move to bury the subject as to not only alienate the suicidal but their families as well. It’s hard not to feel trapped when society treats your very suffering as an indictment.

      My heart also goes out to those stuck in the middle – those who can’t simply push their conscience beneath a veneer of false optimism as they plainly witness others only further sink into decline with no realistic prospect of improvement. The draconian punishment for assistance ensures that these individuals are stuck between a rock and a hard place of either compromising their principles by denying their neighbor the mercy they would grant a beloved pet or being labelled a criminal and dealt hard time for being a caring human who can’t simply play the part of the “it gets better”-chanting bystander.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


        You raise great points, and I’ve often heard people complain about the taboo around suicide. I do want to challenge one thing you wrote. You referred to people who “further sink into decline with no realistic prospect of improvement.” As a psychotherapist, I have worked with numerous clients who were convinced that they had no realistic prospect of improvement. Their depression, stress, trauma, or whatever other factors might have been pressing down on them distorted their thinking. They couldn’t see the light beyond the darkness. They thought that the darkness was all there was. And life proved them wrong.

        I myself was one of those people, which I describe in my essay “A Suicide Therapist’s Secret Past.” I was convinced that my intolerable pain was permanent. I was very, very wrong, fortunately.

        I know that my story is not everybody’s story, and I know that “it gets better” sadly is not a phrase that applies to everybody. But over the years, I have developed the humility to accept that just as we don’t – and can’t – know for certain that life will get better, we also can’t know that it won’t. Not even the person mired in hopelessness and pain can know that with certainty.

        It may feel like life will never improve, and that feeling is excruciating. I don’t mean to dismiss it, and I certainly am not merely chanting “it gets better.” But I do think it’s important to hold on to the fact that it might get better – and in almost all the cases I have witnessed, it does.

  52. Rudy says:

    Oh yes, think of the people who “love” you. You know, the ones who won’t ever actually listen to you.

    • Cheryl Johnson says:

      Rudy, that hits home for me. I guess that I have always been irritated by the think of the ones who love you statement. These are the ones that you reach out to and they say you just need to get out of bed and do it. Or tell you to get over it. The ones that you tell about NAMI support group and they don’t go. The ones that you send book titles to for reading so they can try to understand what you are going through and they ignore it. But they continue to tell you that you have to straighten out your life. The ones who judge you because your house is a mess. I agree it should never be about the ones that”love” you. I understand that people do care in their own way. These are the same people that can make life more miserable with their uneducated advice.

    • Yes. Guilting someone into survival.

      As a long-term solution that is as ineffective as it gets, not to mention cruel, invalidating, or having huge potential to backfire and make one feel even more worthless.

      Treating someone as if there’s something fundamentally defective for suicidal ideation when they’re reaching out for help is the absolute worst response I can imagine, short of handing them the means to act on their suicidality and telling them to go and do it – which is also horrific and actually happens; the idea behind it being that if they don’t accept that challenge, they’re just attention-seeking or being emotionally manipulative, not really suicidal.

      TERRIBLE. Both concepts are completely flawed and only add to stigma and shame.

  53. Cheryl Johnson says:

    I just came across your website. I have had suicidal thoughts for over 30 years. Some days they are less intense than others. I have felt on days that suicidal people should be allowed to die.The pain some days can be unbearable. I agree that more had to be done to help those who suffer with suicidal thoughts need more help finding hope and happiness. Attempting suicide and then being treated in the emergency room can be degrading. I was treated like I was wasting their time since I tried to commit suicide. Now when the urge is overwhelming I just go to the emergency room to be evaluated for psychiatric admission. In most cases the inpatient admission can bring me back to stability. Then again, this is no way to live. I have been committed twice in the past in order to keep me past 72 hours. When I am really sick I don’t cooperate very well with anyone. (I have 2 adult children who suffer also). Once out on my own there are little resources for me. I know where to find help and what I need to do. Mental Illness resources are so few that usually services are for low income or people who cannot manage on their own. I cannot apply for disability because I work. I cannot even keep my house clean because work exhausts me. Having a dirty house causes additional self hatred. I had three children to raise on my own and could not make meals or clean since I was working to pay bills. I couldn’t try different medications because if the side effects were bad, I wouldn’t be able to work. The biggest issue I have come across lately is the lack of psychiatrists. It takes an average of 3 months to see a psychiatrist or Nurse Practionier for medications. My son just went through a horrible experience with it. He had a psychiatrist who left the clinic my son was seeing him at. My son was finally on a medication that seemed to help. He was unable to refill his medication because he was unable too find another psychiatrist to fill it. His wife called every month for six months to try and get him in to another psychiatrist. They did not have any openings. My son had attempted suicide in the past. He had an episode and was hospitalized. While inpatient on a 72 hour hold he was seen by the only adult psychiatrist for the unit. I was committed by this doctor 7 years earlier so I knew his bedside manner. This doctor was so out of line that we called the hospital administration and at the end of the meetung the hospital pulled the adolocent psychiatrist to treat my son and the adult psychiatrist was supervised when seeing patients in a locked unit off the unit. Please understand that if you need help that you need to get help to keep yourself safe. There are many good doctor’s out there. My point is that there are too few doctors and resources. This incident has set my son back in the progress he was slowly making. If I did not know to call the administration, my son would have continued to be mistreated. I have always been able to survive but I want to live. I signed up for a DBT program last year. I waited 6 months to get to the top of the waiting list. I was unable to go because it was during work times. My story is very complicated and it would be a novel if I explained it. I am at a loss of how to let people know that people with a mental Illness need help from everyone around them and the professionals who help them. Education is lacking and I come across daily people who say suicide is selfish and a cowards way out. I can guarantee they would think differently if they had to deal with my mental health. I battle on my own and vowed to be there for my children if they battled too. I am reassured by the mental health professionals for my daughter and by my daughter that she is lucky I understand the illness. Family members need to understand the illness (mine do not) in order to help themselves and the person suffering. This is a family disease both emotionally and genetically.

    • Leann says:

      Wow! Reading your comment is like reading out my own life story.

    • Rudy says:

      “I cannot apply for disability because I work. I cannot even keep my house clean because work exhausts me. Having a dirty house causes additional self hatred.”

      I am able to work, too, but due to chronic (multiple) allergies/general sinus problems/barometric pressure sensitivity*, it is also a struggle for me to get through a work day. I have next to nothing left over at the end of what is generally a frankly not very challenging work day. My apartment is dirtier than it should be, but there are always lots of chores to get done on my days off, and cleaning often takes a back seat. Of course, the dust and dirt are not good for my allergy and sinus conditions; but then, I have to be careful when I clean, because if my sinuses are already inflamed, kicking up dirt can make them much worse. (I do use masks, but they aren’t usually adequate.)

      One of the most difficult things for me about my situation is having one foot in the larger social world, but having one foot out as well. I am half in and half out of life. I have the energy to work full-time, but I don’t have the energy to get to much of anything enjoyable on my days off, which are focused on chore triage. (What absolutely needs to get done before my energy gives out, as it probably will?) This means I have very little to talk about when my co-workers engage in the usually social rituals of asking about weekends and so forth. Those social rituals constantly remind me that I am half in and half out of life. I think it might be easier if I could live essentially as a hermit, rather than feeling pressure to meet the normal social expectations when I am not living a normal life.

      “I had three children to raise on my own and could not make meals or clean since I was working to pay bills.”

      I really can’t imagine this.

      *These problems may sound easily solvable, but I have been unsuccessfully try to get them under control with both conventional and unconventional approaches, for fifteen years. I still have some things to try, however.

    • Ryan says:

      Cheryl, I feel you when you said “I cannot even keep my house clean because work exhausts me. Having a dirty house causes additional self hatred” The lack of energy is so exhausting when we become suicidal. I have learned a few things because of their protocal if you tell a therapist or a doctor at an ER that your suicidal ideation is at an 8 on their scale and that you had a plan everyday for the past 20 or 30 years they won’t lock you up. If you say that your plans are tonight and are at a level 10 then you will be involuntary commited and usually the ER mental health doctors are a joke. In my experience with therapist they are no real help they use their computer to build a profile of you and after that they should not even use the computer to treat you they should do more to help your problems than just listen they should actually give advice to your situation, which would be far more helpful but I think they worry about liablity too much.

      I’ll give you some insight stay as close physically and emotionally as you can to your son and daughter that is truely the one blessing that will get you, your son and daughter through rough times. Also take baby steps to whatever your motivations maybe, Take care Love, Ryan

    • Ryan says:

      Rudy I can try to give some advise be real and say things like how good a burrito you got at a taco shop this weekend or how you got to get caught up on laundry. You don’t owe fake happiness to anyone in the social world.
      Because of my current situation I say live like a hermit until you fix your brain don’t be burdened by having to front high expectations of how great of a weekend you had.

  54. Cledwyn Baps says:

    “A society that tries to prevent suicide sends the message to people who suffer, and to those who love them, that their lives matter. That suicide is not the answer. That people care and can try to help.”

    It sends the message to me that my ass is government property, theirs by right of conquest, and therefore not mine to take out of circulation.

    Suicide prevention is a gamble at best, one all the more readily taken, in that it isn’t your ass that incurs the losses.

  55. vicki damico says:

    Hello Stacy. I read through the post from others and I think to my self both sides of suicide. I share my story where ever I can in the hope that I prevent another person from taking there life. Even though my son’s choice was weighed heavily on him being over medicated. I would be foolish to think that he did not struggle with his own metal illness. I don’t think there are enough trained doctors who truly want to dig down on issues and find solutions. Pills seem to be the easy fix. The deeper question is what happens when the pill no longer works and the issues come back? What people don’t realize is that suicide effects everyone associated, not just the suicidal one. I want to stress to anyone who is thinking about suicide, here is a perspective of my life as a mother, I am forever shattered by the suicide of my 22 year old son. My life will never return to what it was, my business has suffered greatly, sleepless nights the endless questions of why God Why? Day to day function of my life, The endless hair loss and uncontrolled crying. This is just a small snip-it of me trying to learn how to be human again. And as for my husband goes, “our son showed him how easy it is”. Wow I can’t express the lifetime effect suicide has had on our family. My pain began the day his stopped. I am over whelmed with grief and loss. But this is not about me the suicide survivor right? Its about the right to die. Not if its at a family’s expense!

    • mic says:

      Vicky, I appreciate how much suffering you’ve endured because of your son’s suicide. But your alternative is for your son (who never consented to his own birth) being burdened with suffering for the rest of his life in order to spare the people who chose to bring him into existence. Do you feel that it would have been fair for you to require your son to pay such a price for your benefit? Or would it be fairer for you to bear the consequences of a choice that you made on his behalf rather than using the long arm of the law to force your son to suffer for a long lifetime?

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

        Mic, how can you be so certain that someone would be “burdened with suffering for the rest of his life” or that it would be someone’s fate “to suffer for a long lifetime?” That, to me, is one of the many tragedies of suicide: the certainty that someone has that their pain will never end, when really it might. It also might not, but we can’t know what fate awaits us or another person. We have to stick around to find out. That Vicky’s son was unable to stay alive is devastating, and she deserves sympathy, not rebuke.

    • mic says:

      Stacey – the blog doesn’t allow me to respond to your post. Some people do go on from being suicidal to enjoy life, but the suicidal individual deserves some right to be able to make that decision for themselves. Parents, therapists and doctors can do all they can to help to swing the decision towards motivating people to want to live, but ultimately nobody should be legally required to live in order to spare anyone else from grief. I can’t be certain with any specific case, but there surely are some cases that are completely futile, and nobody is more qualified to determine whether the chances of improvement are worth the continued costs than the person in suffering.

      I do feel sympathy for Vicki, but approaching the topic from the other side, I find it unacceptable that parents gamble with the wellbeing of their offspring by bringing them into existence, and then not wanting to allow the offspring any rights at all in regards to whether to continue that existence, because the child now has a legal obligation to spare the parents the suffering that would be caused by losing their child. I know that Vicki is absolutely devastated, and that is a terrible thing, but we don’t have the testimony of her son to be able to know what he was going through that led him up to that point and the toll that it would have taken on him to continue to stay alive with only the possibility that things would improve substantially.

    • Ryan says:

      Vicki Im sorry you lost your son I’m 39 I have no kids though I wish I had. I am highly suicidal like your son. I was on Resperdal. I agree about the over medicating part. The only courage I don’t have right now is to take my life because I’m afraid to die.
      I feel heart wrenched since this was your little boy who you brought into this world and saw him grow up as a baby.
      “My life will never return to what it was, my business has suffered greatly” I’m sorry to say this but in some cases such as mine your son wants you to know he is sorry and the deep pains in his mind was more than you will ever feel.

      I can tell you what he was feeling it was like this your on the edge of a deep cliff you look to right you see your mother you look to the left and you see anyone else that cared about you then you look behind yourself and see nothing there so you inch closer to the edge day by day.

      When people die of suicide it is not a normal way to die and his spirit is shunted out of his body. You need to call out his name and feel the deep pain that was going inside him right now he is still here but only when you feel what pain was inside him and tell him how much you loved him as his mother that you and him can be free. Love, Ryan

    • Anonymous says:

      Reading this one . If the survivors stopped thinking about all their pain. Maybe take a step back and realize the struggle your loved one went thru. Was very real and as in my world it never ends , I have told people how I feel , how I don’t want to be here. I’ve reached out . No one reaching back

      My dad committed suicide , I know both ends. Nothing is any different since my dad died in 1995 , other then with age , I can relate how he felt . I only wish I had the guts to have done it today

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


        I’m sorry that you’re in so much pain and having suicidal thoughts, and that your dad died by suicide. It’s unfair, especially combined with how alone and hopeless it seems you must feel.

        Please consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 or checking out other resources where you can get help by phone, text, or email, at

        You came to this site for a reason, perhaps to find a reason for hope, perhaps to feel a connection with others. Whatever the reason, I hope it will guide you to the understanding and hope that you seek.

  56. Paul says:

    The way I look at suicide is that there are three reasons that it is attempted or tried, one is that the person has mental problems and they are depressed and seeking attention that they are not able to get otherwise (these people can be helped), then there are those that have mental problems where they hate themself and the fact that they even exist (sometimes they can be helped with medications and therapy), then there are those such as myself that know that one day it will be the only way that we can resolve our medical problems because we are not seen as cost effective to help enough that our life is worth saving. I am currently at somewhat of a knife edge, I need proper medications to take care of medical problems and there is more concern about abuse of those medications in the world than my very existence and millions of others like me. I have good feelings towards myself and others around me, but I am worried about the fact that we live in a world that paranoid about things is a normal condition, and I know that if I had a place to myself away from most and were allowed to for the most part do as I please I could see that it would be easy for me to life another 40 years and be able to enjoy my life to its fullest. However, I am not allowed to even have much of a say as to what I can and can not even put into my own body. How is it that we even live in a world as sick as this? The majority have basically tuned out of the real world and live in some fantasy of dreams that they get from watching TV, novels, etc, and sometimes drugs. The so called experts know a bit more about a small number of things, but when it comes to actual survival and being able to think on the fly about how to do the basic things many people today are lost, they can’t figure out how to even change a light bulb quite often, as they need to call someone such as myself. I know it is not too difficult to make the medicines that would help me to live a few decades more, but I would probably end up shot dead for trying that is if I could get my brain functioning enough to figure it out in the first place. We are told from a young age that we live in a democracy, even though it is not, it is a federalism system as the founders of this nation were afraid of democracy. This is one of the many things that many believe that is easily proven false, and we know how all of this will end, they will be glad to go off to war, and some of us will see they chose their own fate. After all when 3 people can read something and we can get 10 or more thoughts about what it was actually saying this just shows how deep problems in the world can run. when there are easy solutions someone always figures out how to earn a profit off of it, and keeping this in mind it helps to understand how things function around us.

    • mic says:

      It’s very unreasonable to categorise the non physically ill who want to be allowed to die as having “mental problems”. A lot of people just aren’t predisposed to overlook the mundanity of day to day living (if you’re relatively lucky) and the constant risk of being harmed, or actual adversity that you have to go through just to survive.

  57. mic says:

    Glad to see another entry on the blog. The only non-religious argument against suicide is the idea that suicide will harm others, which it does. If pain-free assisted suicide were available for all who needed it, then it would not be the person receiving assistance to die who would be harmed. Far from it, they will be helped to escape from any future possibility of harm, without any downside of having to be deprived of any future joys that they may have gone on to experience (including the feeling of being glad to be alive).

    Ultimately, life is a lottery and outcomes are distributed via unintelligent forces without any reference to fairness or equality. People who are persistently suicidal throughout their life have drawn a short straw in the lottery, and should have no obligation to carry a heavier share of the burden than those who were more fortunate in the lottery (and axiomatically, the people who get the least benefit out of being born are the ones who pay the highest cost). It’s also worth referencing the fact that this obligation doesn’t seem to cut both ways and the most privileged (you know, the people who are supposed to selflessly sacrifice their own wellbeing for the benefit of those far more privileged than themselves) are happy to sustain the status quo in which there exist homeless people, people being ruthlessly exploited by rapacious capitalism which benefits the wealthy, mentally ill people who are left in an asylum and forgotten about, people who have fallen on hard times and can’t get the benefits they need in order to put them back on their feet, and so on.

    • Paul says:

      I would like to make a comment on the thought of being glad to be alive, that is when you are allowed to enjoy life, if life is nothing but suffering and even more suffering each day, that is not what most would say is enjoying life. I get a little bit of enjoyment of life, but not nearly as much as I used to. This is mainly because how difficult it is to get the medications that keep me alive and a functional part of society. This is because now there is more concern about addicts than those that need medications for medical reasons such as to breathe, to think normally such as those of us with ADD, and pain. All medications can kill if used improperly, and the same can be said for many common items in the grocery store including foods. It is also possible to die from drinking too much water. Also if anyone thinks I am making it up please show me the research that shows that. I am going by actual deaths as reported. I am concerned about my health and ability to function, and told to relax, if I were more relaxed I would be dead at this point. It is hard to enjoy life when I am sleeping 14 hours and more a day. Does anyone know of anyplace in Southern California that can help me get back on my feet so to speak so I do not end up between two choices sleeping out on the street or ending my life?

  58. PattieH says:

    I do understand and respect your views, and how difficult it would be for society to see it even that broadly.
    Yet, I do feel there needs to be an understanding that “suicide” and “people” are not all the same.
    I’m frustrated with the lack of meaningful differences in public information about suicide. It really is stigmatizing and only adds to feeling of isolation when you know you’ve been reduced to a boilerplate 2D version of a person before you even speak.
    And my anger is about a mental health system, along with its increasingly less qualified, and often incompetent professionals, who DO NOT KNOW how to address suicide or WHEN intervention is appropriate, and ESPECIALLY the WAY! Its their business to have the training and expectation that RESPECTING A PERSON WHO MIGHT BE SUICIDAL OR MIGHT NEED TO BE HOSPITALIZED IS STILL THE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS DUTY TO THEIR PATIENT!!
    We are not animals to be removed by the game warden in a surprise attack, as if we were dangerous beasts who might kill the neighborhood if they told us first, so they have to sneak up on us, to get a good shot to knock us out, and throw us in a cage to be quarantined.
    Dont show your ignorance by assuming we are evil or demonic, or lack the capacity to communicate as a justification for your derogatory comments, your punitive demands and threats, and dont think we dont understand abuse when it’s forced onto us or into us or strapped around us and pinned down “because it was necessary”.

    That, Stacey, is a bigger issue than contemplating whether suicide is right or wrong. Regardless of laws, rights, policies, etc. Abuse, degradation and assumption of demonic possession and excorcist-like-danger is still common practice, and still considered necessary and acceptable by police, emergency rooms, and psych units.

    Thats what people need to be discussing in public policy, and how to demand the sufficient punishment for any abusive actions, and for those who do nothing to stop it or report it.

    • Paul says:

      You are right on with your statement, and I will put it this way… If I were to be locked up, I would lose everything in the world that holds me here. I would have absolutely no reason to go on living if I were locked up. I am a material person, and even my spiritual things would be lost as a result. I would much rather be dead than be a homeless person given my medical problems and the things that I enjoy in life. This is something that far too many people in the world fail to realize. It is why so many end their lives when they lose everything, as they have nothing left to live for in life. If life is nothing but suffering, and absolutely nothing to enjoy, death is the best option.

  59. anon says:

    At least one of the reasons for this hugely male phenomenon is that for the past 60 years, men have been blamed for every problem women have ever had; we’ve been constantly ridiculed, lied about, trashed, and thrown away. I’m pretty typical: married 34 years, 2 sons, totally dedicated to family. After a cancer diagnosis in 2011, with a 7- 9 year prognosis, I didn’t die. After a lifetime of being told I was the best husband and father ever, at age 72, not only am I divorced, but thrown away, with her taking every penny she could get away with. Instead of a 50-50 split, she’s gotten herself an in-court connection and I will get virtually nothing. A basic psychological need is for love and belonging. I regret that I was a loyal, faithful, completely family-minded husband. If a man did this to a woman, he’d be a pariah. A woman does it to a man, she’s liberated. Double standard indeed.

    This comment was edited to abide by the Comments Policy. – SF

    • PattieH says:

      Oh please dont think we dont recognize a female pariah!
      I understand your pain, and i would feel equally hurt and angered, but really, dont make it a generalization about women against men. In that vain, there’s the wife-beater, etc.
      No, what you describe is close to how I feel about ALL people, if that makes you feel any better, lol.😯

    • Paul says:

      I have read about things like this and know guys in that situation. One of the many reasons I chose to not have children (as long as I live in this country). There are some options, but the question comes down to what ones you are willing to choose. One of them is to skip the country, but to do that you will need skills that are wanted by companies in that new country. In the past people used to have an easier time of disappearing, that is about your only choice other than getting a better lawyer and moving to a place where you are better off, there are probably other options as well. This is the primary reason that I am married to the woman that I am, I spent a few years with her first to find out what I was getting into first. Also one of the most difficult things is finding someone that it is possible to get along with even if there is no sex, and also one that does not want to burden you with children. It is less expensive to go out and buy luxury cars and many other things than raise children in the world today. If more of us would keep this in mind before conception we would have fewer people getting into problems today. The other biggie is student loans, as they are more of a problem than housing for many people, speaking from personal experience. Also there are many other countries that you could move to and with the money that you are barely getting by on and be able to live there and enjoy life. I know there are a number of websites that promote other countries in Central and South America. All of them are easier on the pocket than the USA, but you need some source of income and many of those sites do show that as well, as you do not want to compete with the locals for work, but have an internet income. All of this beats the alternatives that you have in hardly getting by here. Trade what you have in on a plane ticket, you will be glad that you did.

  60. Gideon C du Toit says:

    In my opinion based on the road I have traveled through life and experience that i have gained, a suicidal person could be easy to spot if society pays as much attention as it does trying to “recover” someone after an unsuccessful attempt. If the person could be helped before it spirals down to the point of no return, less would even get to the stage of attempted suicide.

    If then after this pro-active intervention the individual still wants to exit, it should be respected and the means should exist to realize this in a humane and dignified way. Sure it is heartbreaking for the people staying behind, death is never easy to deal with, and we always tend to beat ourselves up with regrets like “I should have done more” and “if only I paid more attention.”

    My message is plain, simple and to the point. “Get out of your comfortzone and off your rear-end and do something NOW. Pay more attention NOW, otherwise you don’t have my sympathy, crying crocodile tears at someone’s funeral!” I am not saying that you are to blame for the loved one’s death, but you are to blame for not paying attention.

    I want nothing more than to die, but unfortunately I am not in a position to just leave. I have a responsibility towards individuals in my life and without me, they too would certainly perish. And I cannot do that. Yet I wake up in the morning cursing the day I was born. I was born with incredible intellectual capability, and a drive to succeed but no opportunities. No one wants to invest in me. I tried chasing my dreams by myself, wrote a book and landed up on the street. No-one cared that I was homeless. I had to do the unthinkable to get back off the street, and have for years tried to make a success out of my life, but I keep catching the rotten egg, time after time after time. I have never abused drugs or alcohol yet I am deemed unworthy by society to invest in.

    I am tired, I am going on 50, I feel I have had to endure what most people will not experience in nightmares and I prevailed. But still I am nowhere, I have no-one. My family, who are all doing well by the way, don’t care. I have no close friends, no children, recently got divorced and I realized. “Loneliness isn’t as much being alone as it is been forgotten.”

    My life is a failure, dispite my best attempts and somewhere I have to draw the line, and say “Enough is enough”. If I could find good homes for my pets, I would be out of this hell hole minutes after. Dignified and humane or not.

    • PattieH says:

      Gideon, you just spoke for me too.
      I look back and think “I should have trusted my instincts when I was young and first thought about, and attempted suicide”. It would have saved all the years of hard work and integrity to create meaning, only to suffer through the last 18 years of abuse and false accusations in a society that doesnt care about honesty or accountability, and has no integrity, where people are just mindless spectators at a game to win. The Hunger Games are not my idea of living!

  61. al says:

    As always Stacey, a well written, thought provoking article. I think the phrase “I don’t really want to die, I just want to stop living like this!” is the phrase so many of your respondents are looking for and one that appears all too commonly over at my place.

    I don’t think you have to offer any defense for wanting to help someone live. But, as you said, our society seems to be unable to *really* know how to work with the truly suicidal, there has to be a better option than keeping “them alive and miserable”

    Keep up the good work, ma’am. Even when I disagree with the absoluteness at times, I still respect you and the effort you extend.

  62. Maddi says:

    I don’t have any answers but wanted to say thank you for this thoughtful and considered post. Thank you also for the work you do, it’s difficult and important.

  63. Those questions are prickly, even for someone who is a suicide attempt survivor and who still fights suicidal ideation 20+ years later.

    I am one of the lucky ones who had the chance to see all the things that I would have missed out on, and who is blessed to have reasons to hang on…yet the onset of a painful chronic illness 6 years ago has brought those ideations to the fore once again as it has taken so much from me.

    I’ve advocated for suicide prevention for a little over a decade, but even before the Chronic Illness Fairy gave me her dubious gift, I always despised being seen as an example of “life gets better” or as someone who has “overcome” or “won.”
    The truth is that not all lives and situations will improve…some people who survive will not feel lucky and some will not get the happily ever after of good things they might have missed.
    I feel that advocates who lean heavily on that as a deterrent have missed a large part of the picture…and promising it will get better may be setting up some unrealistic expectations.

    I’m on treatment for depression and anxiety, but am by no means stable currently–I developed tardive dyskenesia from the SSRI that was my godsend for helping depression, so my dosage has been cut to a level that doesn’t work as well by far.

    I’m still fighting though. I know quite well my reasons to stay, and have a crisis plan for the times I can’t see the lighthouse past the rocky shore.

    Do I feel that suicide prevention is worthless?
    Not at all! For every person that just can’t be helped, how many others who can are we reaching? That’s how I measure success–if even one person is all I’ve helped, it’s immeasurably worth it.

  64. vicki says:

    Hi Stacey. After joining an SOS facebook page, I am reminded each time I log in my Facebook I am saddened by the overwhelming stories just like mine of family members who take their lives and the wake of devastation left behind. I see such gut wrenching heart ache of the survivors left behind to pick up the pieces of what is left of life after a suicide.
    In our case my son’s suicide could have been prevented, furthermore we have such a great opportunity to help others who struggle but I think the Gap is recognizing where people struggle. We are all products of our environment, we re- act the way we were taught as children just like our parents did. Except our age group(50’S) were expected to tough it out which many of us did. I dont feel that is the case today. I am a firm believer in behavioral therapy and breaking habits we learned as children. So many lack just the proper coping skills, which is why we are seeing so much depression. It’s OK to be sad and it’s OK to be happy and it’s OK to celebrate life. From the devastation my son left behind for us, it’s not OK to commit Suicide. My life has been ruined by his act. I urge anyone thinking about it to please reconsider.

  65. Alan Martin says:

    I believe that there are few people with a persistent desire to die. Mental health fluctuates. I have bipolar disorder and my moods shift. Fortunately, I now have it mostly under control, but I got paranoid a few times and went to the hospital twice because of it. I think we should intervene because suicide is permanent and the state of mind that produces it is transient. However, I do wonder about the few who have a very persistent desire to die. I do not think we are doing them a favor by saving them. However, figuring out who those people are and why their desire is persistent is hard. I do not know if our policies can be designed to accommodate them.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      You have captured well my own quandary: Even if we were to say that some people’s suicides are permissible, then how would we discern who those people are?

      I also worry about the message it sends for society to say some people’s situations are so hopeless that we will not intervene to prevent their suicide. Many people with severe depression, among other conditions, feel so much pain and hopelessness that they would believe 100% that they are in that category of people, even though, as you put it so well, “suicide is permanent and the state of mind that produces it is transient.”

      In some European countries assisted suicide (and even euthanasia) is permitted on the basis of mental illness. It must be very hard for suicide prevention advocates in those countries to argue that suicide should be prevented while formal mechanisms exist to assist people in dying by suicide.

      Ultimately, amid the doubts and confusion I experience when examining these questions, I come back to that image of a world without suicide prevention. Such a world would do far more harm, in my opinion, than the world we live in now, where people are protected from suicide and given the opportunity to cope, grow, heal, and want to live again.

    • Leslie K says:

      I’ve had a persistent desire to die since I was 17 years old. In my case, it has little to do with mental illness, but moreso due to my utter repulsion of modern day society.

      Humankind pretends to be so civilized yet has shown time and time again to be unable to work together for the greater good of its own species, moreless the planet. Within nearly every Western culture, a subset of the populous is disadvantaged only because they don’t conform to some arbitrary, socially constructed ideal. Tribalism is a fundamental quality of the human condition, and those stuck at the short end of the stick are doomed to suffer due to no fault of their own.

      If I saw any glimmer of hope for humanity, then I might change my mind. But the United States is so screwed up and backwards today (even more than it was 25 years ago), and the rest of the world seems to follow suit. Opting out now is almost the smartest thing I could do to save myself from this pointless torment.

  66. Scott Petersen says:

    Thank you Stacey for this post and for your willingness to engage in and wrestle with these questions and dilemmas. I too struggle with these questions. I lost my mother to suicide when I was five years old. I believe in my heart that she was doing the best she could at the time. I also believe she was enduring profound, indescribable pain and suffering. I also know that I (and many others) continue to be impacted by her death some 45 years later. I often find myself wondering, “If she had known or somehow foreseen the possibility of healing and the legacy of her death, would things have been different?” As Hecht observes, the possibility of our future selves…

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      I appreciate your kind words and your shared understanding. What a profound and painful tragedy your mother’s suicide was, especially at your tender age. It’s powerful that even with your experience, you struggle with these questions about suicide prevention. They are compelling questions.

      For folks who aren’t familiar with Jennifer Michael Hecht’s work (and what Scott referred to in his comment), in her book she talks about the obligation that the suicidal person has to the person they can become in the future: “The suicidal person owes something to his or her future self; a future self who might feel better and be grateful that the person who he or she once was fought through the terrible times to make it to something better.”

      Powerful words. Sadly, many who are suicidal feel no hope that their future selves would want to be alive. Though they often feel differently later, in their suicidal state they see only suffering ahead. Hence, the questions that you and I both struggle with, along with, I’m sure, many others.

      Thanks again for sharing.

    • Brandi says:

      I really needed to read this comment. I have been contemplating suicide for a long time, but one of the major factors stopping me is wondering what effect it will have on my kids. I had almost convinced myself that they would get over it eventually, but your comment makes me second guess that assessment…

      • Brandon says:

        I don’t mean to be disrespectful but aren’t you going to die one day? Why is that society looks at the parent who dies “naturally” any differently than it views suicide by anyone? Seeing as how reproduction is a CHOICE, deductive reasoning dictates that all parents knowingly abandon their children given their prior knowledge of their impending death (only the young and deliberately obtuse can feign ignorance of human mortality), which btw doesn’t necessarily happen at old age when the children are adults.
        It’s ok to put another being in a position to get over that but not suicide? Sorry but that makes no sense.

  67. Sarah says:

    I believe mentally ill people should not be able to have the choice to commit suicide as they do not have the mental capacity to make choices. I know this from experience.

    They do not know what they want all they know is they want the pain to stop. And there is no other way to stop it.

    But there is. At the moment I am severely depressed and i have contemplated suicide but in the same day I can have thoughts that im glad I didn’t. Mentally ill people really do not know what they want.

    If someone helps them with suicide then the person does not have a chance to regret the decision.

    It’s just my opinion but im speaking from experience

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Thanks for sharing your experience. You illustrated very powerfully how the suicidal mind can work: wanting death one moment, not wanting it another. And really, often the person who wants death actually wants – as you note – to stop hurting. If they can have hope that their pain can end without dying, many people lose the desire to die.

      You were brave to leave this comment, because many people will disagree vehemently that people with mental illness do not have the mental capacity to make a decision about suicide. And if people criticize your comment, then you will join me in my club. 🙂 But seriously, thank you for speaking your truth even when it isn’t popular among everyone.

      As for your own suicidal wishes, please check out this page for a list of resources where you can receive help by phone, email, or text.

    • Leslie Krause says:

      I appreciate your viewpoints, but I beg to differ with the claim that mentally ill people are unable to make choices. That effectively reduces an entire demographic to the status of children in which a caregiver is responsible for making their decisions. What then are the parameters for consent? Should the state take legal guardianship of all mentally ill people. Should mentally ill people be required to report to a social worker and to request approval before engaging in any activity?

      I don’t think it is justified or warranted to usurp the liberties of an entire segment of society only because a subset of these same people are prone to bad judgment.

      I am mentally ill, for example, and I have wanted to die for 25 years. This desire has remained persistent despite countless hospitalizations and ongoing psychotherapy. I have very good reasons for not wanting to live, all of which have to do with wrongdoings of society. Given the social and political climate of today, it is unlikely these failures will be addressed and rectified within my lifetime. Moreover, my spiritual beliefs support the right of self determination.

      If an adult has no desire to live despite repeated attempts at mental health treatment, then forcing them to continue living against their will is tantamount to torture. Saving lives in this way is not compassion. It is incarceration.

    • mic says:

      People with mental illness are not one monolithic bloc. Mental health issues are very diverse, and there is also a broad range of degrees of affliction.

      Suicidal thoughts are not the only type of thought that can vacillate throughout the course of a single day. Should I change my job? Should I buy a flat instead of renting? Should I move to a different area? These are all thoughts that can vacillate in one day, for both people who have mental illnesses and those without. Are you suggesting that mentally ill people should be reduced to the status of children (as indicated by Leslie below) and barred from making any significant decisions in their life? The decisions that I have mentioned above are also those which can be regretted, but yet people with some degree of mental illnesses are permitted the autonomy to make those choices. The choice to die by suicide is not a choice that can be regretted, provided that safe and reliable means to do so are provided.

      The right to assisted dying is for those who have committed to that course of action, in order to spare them from having to endure any more pain than necessary, and in order to spare them from any risks, and also from having to traumatise others with their actions. Presumably if you can’t make up your mind, you would not personally go through with assisted dying. But I have made up my mind (I have never been diagnosed with a mental illness and do not feel that my thinking is impaired, but this holds true for those with diagnoses), and I should not be denied my right to bodily autonomy because other people are afraid to face up to big questions concerning death and the meaning and futility of life. That isn’t merely a restriction on freedom of bodily autonomy; it’s a restriction on freedom of thought. Your answers are true for you, but everyone else should be able to determine what is true for them, and be supported in taking action according to their own muses.

  68. Carl says:

    Most people, including myself, come to this web site because we are struggling to stay alive, because we really do want to survive and escape the pain that pushes us towards suicide. We come because of the helpful articles and ideas.

    It’s 2am. I’m struggling, and just need a small boost to get through the night. So here I am, online reading these articles. In 25 years of struggling with suicide, it’s nice to have this helpful site available and I’m grateful for it.

    To some degree we all feel anger towards what got us here. I’ve felt it too. But I can’t direct it easily towards my childhood abusers who merit it. Not unless I’m in an EMDR session with a skilled therapist. Without directing anger and shame in the proper direction it sometimes ends up in the wrong place, like towards a loved one or a suicide survivor advocate.

    I think that 99% of us that come to this site, really want to live, even the angry ones. Otherwise, they would no longer be here with us.

    May all those who suffer find recovery and peace. May we find the help we need so that we can process our lives.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Thank you so much for sharing. I’m very sorry you were struggling in the middle of the night, but I’m grateful it brought you here and you were able to receive that small boost. Selfishly, I’m grateful for the reassurance you provided that even when my views on suicide prevention anger people, there is a greater good. People still might be helped.

      I share your wish for recovery, peace, and aid for all who suffer. Every little bit helps, right?

    • Anonymous says:

      The peace to be found within can only be found once all misery is dissolved. We all have minds that can be tainted by anyone in this world. You talk of childhood abusers. I know some people who went through that. Perhaps the inner demons that are affecting you today are tainted by the memories of these deals. Sometimes the best way to overcome pain delivered by another individual is to face this individual. You don’t have to hurt them, but make them aware of what they did to you.

      I recommend that to everyone who was abused as a child whether it was physical or mental. Seek out this individual and put them into the same situation they put you. More people just want to move on with this life and stay away from them yet they always have that to talk about and how it messed them up.

      They say forgive and forget, but that’s like letting a criminal get away off a crime basically saying it’s ok what they did.

      [This comment was edited, per the Comments Policy. – SF]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.