Let’s (Really) Talk about Suicide

In a week when two celebrities, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, died by suicide within days of each other, so did hundreds of other people in the U.S. One of them was named Flinn, a classmate of mine in high school.

On Flinn’s public Facebook page, an outpouring of sympathetic posts, one after the other, creates a trail of digital tears. In a long stream of posts expressing their heartbreak, people lament the pain and suffering that Flinn endured.

Nobody uses the word “suicide” or “killed himself.” Nobody says he intentionally ended his life. But he did die by suicide.

Stigma and Suicide

It’s heartbreaking – not only Flinn’s death, but also the conversation around it. There is so much stigma, fear, and pain attached to suicide that many people don’t even say the word.

I understand that families have their reasons for not disclosing when a loved one dies by suicide, and I would never pressure someone to do so. And I don’t fault others who avoid naming suicide. Instead I fault society and social conditioning for teaching us to treat suicide as unspeakable.

If we can’t acknowledge suicide when a person has died, then how can the living expect to talk openly with friends and family about their urges to end their life? It’s awfully hard to help suicidal people – and for them to ask for help – if we treat suicide as if it is a dirty word.

Avoiding the Question

Many people are too scared to talk directly about suicide – even some therapists. I teach a class on suicide risk assessment and intervention to aspiring social workers at the University of Denver. On the first day of class, I ask them to write down one or two questions they would ask someone to determine if the person is thinking of suicide.

Some come right out with it and ask: “Are you thinking of suicide?” “Do you think of killing yourself?”

Others ask, “How has your sleep been lately?” “Are you depressed?” “Do you think of hurting yourself?” Those questions will help you learn if someone’s sleeping poorly, depressed, or thinking of hurting themselves – not if someone’s thinking of suicide. Perhaps the conversation will lead there. Perhaps not.

“Hurt yourself” is a euphemism that some people use to avoid naming suicide. Instead of asking, “Do you want to kill yourself?” they might ask, “Do you want to hurt yourself?” Yet there are people who intentionally hurt themselves without wanting to die. There are also people who desperately want to die and view suicide not as a means to hurt oneself, but to stop hurting. So the person’s answer to “Do you want to hurt yourself?” might not mean what you think it does.

Fears of Asking about Suicidal Thoughts

Why don’t people ask directly about suicide? They may fear that talking directly about suicide gives others the idea (it doesn’t). Or they might consider it impolitic to name suicide, because of the stigma attached to it. Or they might be afraid of saying the wrong thing, or of angering the person, or of being unable to help, or of feeling overwhelmed by their own painful emotions.

These are all legitimate concerns. It’s scary to ask someone about suicidal thoughts. But avoiding the topic does not make the problem go away. It drives it underground, where a suicidal person may feel even more alone in the darkness.

Ways to Help Suicidal People

© Skdesign | Dreamstime Stock Photos

To truly foster open, constructive conversations about suicide — to create an environment where people can ask for help from loved ones and professionals — more people should try to name it. Only then can more suicidal people feel welcome to reveal their thoughts.

Only if we name suicide can we reach out to those we worry about and ask, “Are you thinking of suicide?” And then we can truly listen and join with the suicidal person.

There are specific techniques for asking a person about suicidal thoughts that can lessen the potential for stigma, shame, and discomfort. One way is to convey that the person is not weird or wrong to have suicidal thoughts: “Sometimes people who feel as crappy as you do have thoughts of suicide. Do you?”

Talking about Suicide

Once potential helpers can talk openly about suicide, it opens the door to potentially life-saving conversations. If you’re wondering how to respond to a suicidal person, check out my post “10 Things to Say to a Suicidal Person.” I also have a post, “10 Things Not to Say to a Suicidal Person.” Those are my own ideas, and if you have time to read the comments, you’ll see many other ideas, too.

I don’t know if these conversations occurred with my old classmate Flinn, or if they would have helped him. I remember him as someone who loved to surf in the feeble waves of Galveston and play hacky sack in between classes, but it’s been 30 years since I last saw him.

What I do know is that Flinn died in a way that many people actively avoid naming. This silence about suicide can be deafening, making it exquisitely hard to hear those whose cries most need to be heard.

If you think of suicide, please consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 (TALK), texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741, or getting help from other resources listed at www.SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources/#immediatehelp.


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 SpeakingOfSuicide.com. All Rights Reserved. Except where noted, photos purchased from Fotolia.com.

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  1. Tom H says:

    Read through every comment in this article’s comment section. The ones that struck me as most breathtakingly callous or purposely obtuse were, ironically, put forth by the author of the article. I suppose that makes sense, given the author’s profession and background. Like the comment that suicidal people aren’t entitled to involving others in their suicide. I suppose that means if you’re debilitated and in extreme pain but your death isn’t imminent and palliative care isn’t working for you, you must linger in suffering until your body finally gives out. Compassionate, that. Or the one that suicidal people who “really” want to end their lives can already do it (so there’s no need for further legislation to define and protect autonomy rights). Never mind the survival rates among people who choose even gruesome methods–like gunshots directly to the head–and the even greater suffering they endure after their attempts. There are many such comments in the comment section that betray the true intentions of many who staunchly oppose the right of individuals to decide for ourselves.

    My real motivation for commenting, though, is to underscore what others have already eloquently written–that laws are evolving. Clearly, what American psychologists and social workers and psychiatrists prevalently feel about end-of-life decision-making is just their cultural opinion. More and more governments are deciding in their highest courts that the dominant religion-based perspective is wrong. Quebec’s Supreme Court recently declared that limiting assisted suicide to only those with imminently deadly disease (6-months prognosis or less) violates human rights. Switzerland, where for a long time assisted suicide has been DEcriminalized, has recently legally sanctioned a 3D-printable machine developed by Dr. Philip Nitschke with the express purpose of removing the medical team from this most personal of decisions. So while many will continue to excoriate the intimate life decisions of others (it’s what we human beings have done for eons), the choice is becoming more and more available for those able to travel to other legal jurisdictions. I most admire Nitschke’s bold assertion that people now (with the development of the machine referenced above) will no longer have to “beg a panel of doctors [and others] for permission to end their lives [peacefully and painlessly–as far as modern medical science understands].” An assessment engineered to assess participants’ mental capacity to decide is already a requirement of access.

    I can’t believe it’s necessary to add this final comment, but earlier comments above prove it is. Freedom to end our lives does NOT imply others should not be free to try as many therapies as they want to make their own lives better. It just means that others, especially professionals and the state who together can incarcerate and antagonize us for wrong-thought, are no longer entitled to decide for the rest of us what we can do with our own lives. Here’s to everyone’s peace and personal autonomy.

  2. No One says:

    Nobody cares. Men are told to ‘man up.’ If we hurt, we are told that we’re weak, or selfish for ‘think about ourselves.’ So we hold it in and when something happens, THEN it’s our fault too for not ‘letting someone know,’ or for not ‘seeking help,’ when a damn friendly word or a simple hug could’ve made all the difference.
    So, when someone is gone, people will say, “if I only knew,” yet the reason they didn’t ‘know’ is because they didn’t give a damn to begin with. I don’t want a person to weep one f-king tear when I’m gone if they didn’t care when I was here.

  3. Regina says:

    If you really want people to open up about suicidal ideation, then the well-known threat of being locked up in a mental hospital and then charged a medical bill for involuntary treatment and deprivation of freedom for no crime other than desperation needs to be abolished. Otherwise, it would be counterproductive to talk about suicide. It would not be in a suicidal person’s best interest to invite others to prolong and even intensify their suffering by tossing them into the loony bin upon hearing what they really think about and where their mind has truly arrived at. Having been on the receiving end of this twice now (so you must understand that I speak from experience here), talking about it WILL get the cops called and regardless of what the letter of the law suggests is the procedure, anything that can be construed as suicidal ideation obligates them to take it seriously, arrest you, and haul you to the nearest psyche ward intake for involuntary evaluation, which can be up to 72 hours in most states. We call it the Baker Act in Florida. The receiving clinics also charge you more than what a doctor’s visit costs before insurance, but a little less than what a hospital visit costs before insurance, too. You didn’t ask for their services. You were forced to take them and NOW you’re forced to pay for it? I lost days of my freedom because I opted to talk to someone instead of just doing something rash. I am now afraid to ever talk about my feelings when I have depressive moments, not even to my therapist. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells when I deal with my mental health providers because I cannot bring up the darkest thoughts of my mind without risking getting locked up in a psyche unit again. it is not fun. it is not productive. They do NOTHING to make anything better. If anything, I got worse for both experiences, hence why I fear it so in the first place.

    So, that said, there is literally ZERO incentive to talk about suicide and, for the sake of anyone wishing to keep their freedom and whatever shreds of sanity you still possess, don’t talk about your feelings to anyone unless and until involuntary commitment laws of any and all kinds are abolished.

  4. Liability says:

    The yellow graphic lists the suicide hotline as a resource as well as the URL for this website. Clearly, this sites URL shouldn’t be listed in the same information space because this site is not designed for crisis intervention. Please consider taking it down

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Thanks for your comment and concern. The yellow graphic states, “If you think of suicide,” and gives the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Textline, along with this website’s address. Addressing it to people who think of suicide doesn’t apply only to people who are in crisis or promise crisis intervention. Having suicidal thoughts might or might not constitute a crisis, depending on the person and situation. (I describe in this post how suicidal thoughts can be some people’s “normal”: When Suicidal Thoughts Don’t Go Away.)

      You’ve gotten me thinking, and I appreciate your attention to detail!

  5. Stephen B Armiger says:

    I agree, lets really talk about suicide. In our society, suicide is seen one way. Bad. But to have a real conversation, I think one should not preemptively decide that it is bad. Current methods of suicide have significant implications. A gunshot to the head will in many cases result in death. Under what circumstances might this occur? Typically the person is alone and may have been drinking. Not thinking about anyone but themselves regarding the blood and gore. Someone will eventually find the person. Perhaps law enforcement. A family member. At least one if not many people will be traumatized. Someone or many will have to clean up the gore. Some may have memories if they encounter the location. A bedroom perhaps. A basement. Inside a car maybe not so bad. The car can be sold or hauled to the junkyard.

    What if we as a society were willing to accept suicide? What if I could talk openly to my children? My friends? What if helping me commit suicide would not be considered murder? Religion views suicide as a sin. A person is condemned to hell. Not everyone believes in that. But significant numbers do.

    I have considered suicide many times for different reasons. Feelings of worthlessness. Rejection-my wife said she didn’t love me anymore. Not wanting to live without love.

    Now I am thinking about the effects of aging. I would not want to be in a nursing home in diapers.

    But again the problem of how to do it. Who will discover my body. I would want to have my children with me. I would want to have had conversations with them. Hopefully productive conversations.

  6. todd says:

    i want to die

  7. Sophia Santana says:

    Just wanted to give huge props to this article, it was really great to read about different ways to bring up this topics and help others close us. 🙂

  8. Pattie says:

    Update on my mom: a week after she tested positive for covid, I finally got to talk to her and she sounds like shes doing great! I slept and ate so much better after, not worrying she would die at christmas and leave me so much worse than i could handle. So, I’m not so panicked now. Thanks.

  9. Pattie says:

    Hey, I’m going to throw something out here to all of us who know exactly how the system has failed us.
    What I hear that is common to all of us is that in spite of the failed system, we are still here. I dont hear any of you saying ” I’ve packed my bags and am leaving today”.
    Is anyone open to a zoom meeting of like ninded people to support our own needs?
    I mean a lot of know what we need, we just can’t find the support for it. We dont have to pretend things are rosy if we just seek help.
    I know for me SUPPORT is key, and yest I dont know how to find anyone who gets it.
    If you are interested you can post it here or email me at NADAZONIE@GMAIL.COM
    And type: ‘yes, im in’ in the subject line.
    I’m more than willing to set something up.

    • Anon says:

      Pattie, I like this idea. And I’d join, so long as I can leave video off. At least I can listen, maybe ask questions. Tonight, a few days before yet another holiday that makes me feel horrible, my whole family dead decades now, I’m beside myself… But I won’t dare call any hotline for reasons you and others have already mentioned. They’re a joke. Last hotline I called I was told to get a cat before the bored-sounding responder rushed me off the phone.

      Anyway, yes, I’d like to participate in a community meeting among those of us the mental health system has failed and who have few or no other resources. If you’re open to the idea, I can propose a few alternative modes of audio/visual conferencing, as some people may use Zoom for school or work–and Zoom admits it’s no longer encrypted (so no longer private).

      • Pattie says:

        Anon, Yes Please!
        I’m really pretty new to the whole zoom thing, and I too do NOT like the video part on. So, any suggestions or assistance would be great.
        I dont know if I put this in my last comment, but my 94 yo mom tested positive for covid last Friday in a long term demetia care home in another state, and I haven’t been able to talk to her, so yeah, good timing. Thank you.

        • Anon says:

          Pattie, I’ll email you at the address you left (and this blog’s owner was kind enough to publish) in your opening comment. Maybe we can figure out a way to safeguard people’s privacy while still allowing us to get together and brainstorm.

          Very sorry to hear about your mom. I wish I could offer some relief for you both. Wishing you both the best.

  10. EK says:

    If suicide is “wrong” because human life is precious, then why do we let so many people die of poverty? Or how about communities that for decades health scientists have told us are dying due to systemic problems (related to poverty and bigotry) we COULD fix but choose to allow to persist–like how in the US we’re seeing that the poor and many minorities are getting much sicker and dying at alarmingly high rates relative to the rest of us? If suicide is “wrong” because a human life could be saved, why aren’t we applying the same moral reasoning to the many lives we can save from death due to poverty?

    Many of our politicians and average citizens actively vote AGAINST policies proposed to help the most desperately vulnerable–even when studies show helping them would save the community money (several US housing first initiatives as just one example). I don’t think we actually are against suicide. We SAY we are because (1) some of us earn our money in the anti-suicide industry & (2) others of us want to feel good about ourselves. Peter Singer says you can judge the true ethical values of a culture based on how it spends its money. We have lots of money for police departments’ new toys, for the military, to bail out big banks (Chase Banks, one of US’ biggest, was just found out illegally manipulating the precious metals market…), for corporate lobbyists to buy politicians’ votes. But poor, struggling, high-risk “essential workers” (euphemism)? “Back to work!”

    The hypocrisy of a great deal of anti-suicide is appalling.

    • Pattie says:

      Absolutely! Well said.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Those are excellent points. There are huge social problems in our midst that need attention – poverty, racism, violence, unemployment, homelessness, unequal access to medical care, to name just a few. If we solved (or, at least, lessened) these social problems, there would be fewer suicides. I don’t think the work of suicide prevention contradicts those aims. That is, where is the hypocrisy?

      Helping a suicidal individual to stay alive while also advocating for societal level change are not mutually exclusive. I don’t know anyone in suicide prevention who would argue that solving social problems isn’t needed, too. You can learn more by looking up “upstream” suicide prevention, or by looking at various works on suicide as a social justice issue, such as the book Suicide and Social Justice: New Perspectives on the Politics of Suicide and Suicide Prevention.

      Thank you for sharing here. You’ve added a valuable point to the conversation, and that is that suicide prevention is not only an individual issue; it’s a societal issue, as well.

      • EK says:

        Stacy, the hypocrisy lies in the dichotomy between how we treat suicidal individuals versus the culture dramatic biomedical evidence shows increases suicide risk. To “save” the life of a suicidal person, we’ll inflict grave violence on them, such as law enforcement’s physical assault and even killing of cognitively impaired victims in the US whom law enforcement is called to help. Or the involuntary commitment and non-consensual treatment of individuals under the justification that saving a life is worth the use of force. We must save a life at all costs, we say. Nonetheless, we are perfectly willing to allow people to die from neglect and deprivation even when we have more than enough resources to prevent both.

        If we applied the same save-a-life-at-all-costs zeal to supporting those who’re suicidal due to insidious poverty–who the most recent reports disclose are growing internationally, including here in the US–then we would also use force to redistribute life-saving resources to those who are dying without them. It’s hypocritical that we are able to force an individual into treatment to save their life, but we are not able to force politicians, courts, law enforcement, and corporate moguls to abandon policies our health scientists tell us are suicide precipitants.

        It’s noteworthy, too, that a growing body of suicide and mental health researchers in the US and abroad are re-visiting the causation of suicide–highlighting that sustained trauma and deprivation (such as seen in the full-time employed who are nonetheless homeless, or the plight of low-wage essential workers who have no survival alternative but to continue to place themselves and their families at great risk every day for the benefit of the rest of us and corporate stakeholders) are significant mental stressors related to suicidal ideation. But the use of force is absent in drastically decreasing these societal stressors. Because too many of us benefit from them. That’s another hypocrisy I’m calling out.

        With all due respect, I don’t accept the general argument that forced treatment is necessarily “help.” Especially when these “helped” individuals must eventually be released back into the larger community where they’ll face many of the same factors that induced their suicidality—often poorer and more traumatized than before. We force treatment on individuals because we can control them and this makes us feel better about ourselves. Because we think we have done something about the problem. Corporations and governments, both which create policies that precipitate many suicides, we cannot (or choose not to) control, regardless what would be compassionate or moral.

        If human life were precious, then every single human being would share in our plenteous survival resources. The real world doesn’t treat people as precious. It treats us differently based on our wealth and other characteristics we have no control over. And then it labels, maligns, and even harms people for succumbing to society’s injustices. We force changes on weak individuals, but we don’t dare to force changes on the powerful who remain free to continue making society more harmful to the vulnerable. That is the hypocrisy.

        • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


          Thanks for explaining. I think I misunderstood your initial comment. I thought you were saying people in suicide prevention are hypocritical, but really it appears you’re saying that society itself is hypocritical for valuing suicide prevention but not taking other steps to reduce suffering and make life worth living for everybody. On those points, I agree. It galls me to see such hypocrisy on multiple levels, well beyond suicide prevention, too. As a society, we need to do more than save lives. We need to make life worth living, too.

        • Pattie says:

          oh, I gotta add here something that is really easy to reveal the hypocrisy.
          I live in a community now where I see and feel the OPPRESSION all around me in everything my community does.
          Its a result of GROUP 1:POWER, and GROUP2:POWERLESS.

          GROUP1 are the VOICES, the only ones who are ever included, connected, and acting together to resolve problems and reap the benefits in society.

          GROUP2 are the VOICELESS, the only ones who are always EXCLUDED, disconnected, and unable to act together to resolve problems and reap the benefits in society.

          Its what the disability community means by:
          Its why consumer- driven practices are effective and cost efficient, and don’t claim to be the answer to everything.

          Our voices have been co-opted by the people who speak FOR US, the ones who “know better”, the experts, the professionals, who dont let us speak for ourselves.
          Its not about their intention to be be hpocrytical, its the RESULT of what they do that matters.

          We would tell you that — if only we had a VOICE.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It is indeed very upsetting to talk about, think about and to even dream of it but some people do think of committing suicide but we have to be there for everyone. some people may not have anyone to talk to.

    I lost a friend to suicide because her and I had a massive argument about a boy (i know it happens) but I didn’t know that her parents were getting a divorce (because of the argument), but when I found out I was too late she had already done it and unfortunately I was the one to find her. I rushed to get to her and apologizes and give her big hug, and just to tell that it was all going to okay.

    But from that day I have always written, talked and dreamed about what life would be like with her and all the arguments we would have about her wedding dress. But unfortunately I will never get that chance. So yeah I forgive her and I hope she can forgive me.

  12. Just Sad says:

    This is yet another void I’ll yell into.

    I really wish that a peaceful, celebrated death was an alternative to getting whittled away, reverse mortgaged, managed cared for, zoomed last moments. The new tech suggests we can perhaps transcend consciousness by uploading our avatars into the cloud.

    Well what if my biological reality is throttled by my provider? What about errors? What if my memory is only worth 64mb of digitized suffering?

    This is the new paranoia. And I’m stuck on earth with it until I die. I don’t really wanna see the end of this anymore. I’m 44 and a vet who worked to secure and protect the technological dystopia we all live in.

    It’s giving birth to a technical monster and while it’s not entirely evil, it is mostly evil. And I don’t want anything to do with it anymore. Nothing.

    When will mental health recognize that the tide has turned and we are all simply mental now. “Health” is a moving evolutionary target.

    Not just emotions, but facts about why I just want to check out. I won’t get whittled away and I can end my suffering.

    Maybe someday. 3 years of yelling into voids.

    • Just Sad (still) says:

      DBT is a valiant thing I’m studying on my own. Haven’t made any friends that I can talk to about it. Therapy was an expensive waste of money with providers who couldn’t meet me during times I was available. Many others are not taking any new patients.

      The suicide hotline is a joke (especially the Veterans line). I had one of them tell me that I’ll end up in a mental institution if I call and express my feelings.

      So, all around…fear, ineffectiveness, quarantine, fear, fires. I’m always one thought away from packing it all up and saying goodbye to this world…but I’m still here.

      And this might as well be therapeutic to say. I’m still here. Still very sad. Wish I was never born. I don’t know how to create a “life worth living” as the hierarchy of goals of DBT so proudly state.

      I’m fed up. I’m just consuming and adding waste like a cancer to the planet. I derive no joy from life and I’m lonely as I’ve ever been. It doesn’t get any easier to make friends when you are older, but I try.

      I wish I could take Nembutal and go to sleep.

      I’ll post here until I die naturally if I have to. But I hate life.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just Sad, I feel your suffering and honor your right to choose your future. Just as those suffering from medically-sanctioned terminal illness now have the legal right to die with dignity (and assistance to do so in some humane states), so to should those of us with intractable, not easily quantified emotional distress. This 66-year-old documented brain injured with creeping dementia oughta have legal protection and medical support to ease their transition out of this life.

        • Pattie says:

          Yes, you should.
          For me, I know that what stops me from living a meaningful life is systemic. And that makes me angry, because even though I too have been ready to leave this world for a very long time, I could find the value in living if the system would stop saying they are helping when they are the main obstacle.
          I wish you peace.

    • Pattie says:

      Well, I will tell that your comment was not wasted on me. I appreciated hearing someone say EXACTLY how I feel too. And we both know that doesnt solve our problems, but the fact is that we are both still here. So, hopefully it won’t always be like this for us. Until then, thank you for reminding me how many of us are out in this world. It does help when nothing else does.

    • Elizabeth says:


  13. Valek Sykes says:

    I cant stress enough how important it is to get help if you are feeling suicidal. the truth is that these feelings can pass and you can be a right as rain. But you need to seek help and find ways to get out of the mindset. I know that depression needs to be fed and we often give into it and dwell on the misery we feel by feeding it with thoughts, depressing music, laying around and living in it as if that’s all we are. You need to force yourself to get out and change your surroundings, talk to someone that can help you and not feed this depression, take on a task or project that will refocus you but you must try to get help if this becomes a pattern. Depression happens, just as a good mood does, its ok to get depressed once in a while because we all do but you need to keep it in check and find mechanisms to deal with it and have some support. I find that working on several projects keeps me. Talk to others and don’t be shy about it, force yourself to get help and for others dealing with people that seem to be showing signs of severe depression, talking about suicide or they give you the feeling they are looking for help, be there for them and start talking about it. Find them help and listen to them. You may actually save a life. This is a great article and I agree, get people talking so that the weight of suicidal thought are shared by many and not just the one. Talking may just be what someone needs so be there for anyone who needs it. if you don’t know what to do, stay engaged but find help for them immediately, call suicide prevention, call friends and family, make an effort and you will never regret it.

    • Pattie says:

      Gee, I never thought about any of these things, I just sit around and create my own misery. NOT!
      Sorry to sound sarcastic, but these forums here are filled with people who are way beyond all that. We’ve done and continue to do what we can without relief.
      A lot of what you suggest depends on an effective mental health system, which we dont have. Many of us have been extremely damaged by those we’ve sought help from, and I personally cant risk any more harm, so I hang on each day, hoping I can figure out an actual solution to get all the things you mention that I dont have: someone I can trust to talk to who actually cares. In the meantime, i do all those other things you mentioned just to distract myself from the reality of my own life, and the hopelessness, until I finally expire.

      • Anon says:

        Pattie, thank you for your reply. I get notifications from this forum and was sickened reading the comment you’re replying to. It’s as if it’s useless trying to talk about the experiences many of us have with “the system.” We get the same insulting responses. I’ve stopped having these discussions with most others because it’s an exercise in frustration. But it’s validating knowing there are others out here, like you, who really understand.

        Here’s hoping for the best for you.

    • ComaLife says:

      You have obviously never been suicidal. Or majorly depressed.
      Your comment is nothing but pain to a suicidal person.
      ”Depression happens.” Is that the next title to your screenplay? These are real people with real problems. Don’t happy meme your way out of this.
      Next time you go to comment to suicidal people, don’t.

  14. AJAY SHARMA says:

    I had similar problem in my college days when I found that I found the secret to destroy the world but I have to retain it and not disclose; I pulled up myself , concentrated thinking nothing is impossible, and cleared all my educational goals and even got married and have a wonder boy who is an engineer . I also found new talents of singing and am pursuing it ; Please do not give up life- living is important if not for yourself; Go out in the open – think about those whom you can help and the happiness you derive , There are so many ways to lead life and be busy – do some crowdfunding or ngo for poor people . Save them as you are not meant to die or give up ; Gandhiji said only GOD HAS RIGHT TO GIVE AND TAKE LIFE; MAN DOES NOT.

  15. TrashHeap says:

    Reaching out at all has only brought judgment, long-term. Initially there is empathy and a little help, then just increased scrutiny and anger that I’m not better. Since I’m a mom, it’s magnified. How dare I finally lose this fight… after 40+ years and 5 years of stress, disappointment and lack of understanding / support.

    I now see all suggestions/offers of help as lies and traps.

    • Pattie H says:

      I got 4 emails today from the various discussions I follow here. Each of them spoke of the same disgust I feel about a useless system that pretends to care, when in truth they just set you up for more pain. Thank you to each of you for speaking the truth. I refuse to pretend there is help abailable.

      • P Sorresey says:

        @Pattie H

        You’re very brave to say what our culture refuses to allow people to say. Or to label people “crazy” merely for acknowledging. After 35 years in the mental health system at some of the best universities and health centers in the world, I agree with you. Like many other things (diet…), therapy can work for some but is no guarantee of relief for all of us. Thanks for your bravery.

    • P Sorresey says:


      I recently celebrated my 50th birthday. All my family is long dead. I’ve been in and out of the mental health system (US) since I was a late teen. I did what they told me. I took the drugs. I did the CBT & DBT therapies. I attended group meetings. I faithfully followed their instructions. And while I think some people in the industry want to help, I just don’t believe many of them can do what they seem to think they can. If life is painful enough for long enough, there just may not be anything here to anchor someone to life. Worse, as you get older, no one–absolutely NO ONE–cares anymore. You become invisible. And as your body breaks down, you might just ask, “Why bother?”

      Thanks for being honest about your experience. I wholly relate.

  16. John Doe says:

    Suicide well i contemplate it daily. Im a veteran whom the government has failed to help! Im still waiting for my benefits almost a decade later and im tired and dont want to go on. Im tired of excuses, and straight bull shit. I fought the war now fix ME or compensate me NOW as per our contract. I cant go another day living in this dark place.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      John Doe,

      How sad and painful! I’m so sorry you’ve been let down this way. I hope you’ll keep fighting. Have you tried talking with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255 (TALK)? They have an option for veterans. The Crisis Text Line at 741741 also might be of help. I list other resources at https://www.speakingofsuicide.com/resources/#immediatehelp.

  17. Anon X says:

    No need to (really) talk about something if the listening parties have ALREADY concluded you’re wrong. At least that’s my take–and I gather it’s the perspective of many suicidal people. When I was in college, I spoke to a counselor about being gay. When I told him, he crossed his legs, cringing, and, despite trying not to, betrayed disgust on his face. Decades later, I remember this vividly because it’s played out over and over and over again throughout my life. For the next several sessions, my therapist tried to get me to distract myself from my natural developmental thoughts. No matter how much I, the patient, tried to reason with him that I wasn’t depressed BECAUSE my brain chemistry was abnormal, but instead because of the way others–from other students to faculty–were treating me, my therapist wanted only to talk about behavioral interventions I should be using. No mention of laws or university rules that were being broken. Not a peep about, what I would later learn about–that chronic prejudice and purposeful social exclusion can, all other things equal, cause depression and other cognitive issues.

    Today, my therapist’s approach to mental health would be largely condemned. But my point is, it can be futile to talk about an issue if enough people, especially the professionals in charge of assessing and treating issues, have already made up their mind that your perspective is wrong and, therefore, indicative of YOUR needing treatment. Often enough, that’s just not the case.

    Today, the big assumption is that all suicidal people are “ill.” That we haven’t reached our conclusions after a long time living with discrimination and abuse which spill over into survival–whether we’re deemed employable, despite our academic and professional qualifications; whether people want to rent to us, or how banks and mortgage managers treat us; how bosses and teammates at work interact with us; the probability we can build a protective, healthy community of support. These things, and many more, determine how much money we can make, and money is very, very important in our culture. Transexuals, for example have a hard statistical odds of lifetime chronic unemployment and poverty due, according to US government findings, to discrimination, NOT mental illness. It’s not shocking to people who actually LIVE with the lifetime pain of these kinds of discrimination that, using transexuals as an example again, this community suffers one of the highest rates of suicide.

    Thankfully, some people suffering terribly can be helped. But there’s no guarantee of this. For one thing, the people who have the power to help must WANT to help. Just because someone is a law enforcement officer or a court official or a social services administrator … or a therapist doesn’t mean they care about someone’s particular issue or even agree someone’s experience constitutes “an issue.” The potential of the advice to really talk about suicide depends at least on the attitudes and openness of the person you’re talking to. And their ability to stop abuse you may be experiencing.

    • TrashHeap says:

      Just SO well-stated. It’s sickening that even search algorithms are set to return self-help pablum instead of anything related to the actual search.

      A few years ago, I had to have a half page of -terms to find ANYTHING critical of positivity culture. It was out there but hidden by an algorithm and content saturation that doesn’t just drown out other voices… but redacts them. Purposely.

      It’s not a struggling algorithm that turns a search for “positivity is harmful” to results completely dominated by “get rid of toxic people” and “how to be POSITIVE.” It was intentional.

      Now, for a while, we have articles about toxic positivity. A nod to veritas I guess.

  18. AJAY SHARMA says:

    LOGICALLY speaking suicide is a cowardly act ; But there are situations which make you feel suicide is the only answer; But no. One cannot end a life in minutes which you have lived till now and especially where you have parents and close relatives who value you a lot ;

    One such situation is non-logical issue which I encountered but I refused to give up and fought till now; I have the most non-logical, deranged brain and I could make up my logic in last 36 years that I had this brain drain . Hence, never give up life – learn to live for others

  19. Alan Jones says:

    Be careful of the questions you ask
    In your opening paragraph you write, ‘I describe a co-worker at a counseling hotline who explained that she would never dare ask anybody if they were having suicidal thoughts. And she thought I was a freak for doing so.’ I think your co-worker is right, though I would put it stronger, I think your question is dangerous and here’s why. Questions set frames and force people to think and check to answer. So, asking someone if they have had suicidal thoughts, forces them to do a mental search and revisit all thoughts of suicide they may have or have not had. If the client has not mentioned the word, why would you want introduce it? As a client, if you asked me that question, one thought that would now go through my mind is, ‘Wow, my psychotherapist thinks my problems are so bad that I should be thinking about committing suicide. Otherwise, why ask it.’ Nice priming of the idea of suicide!
    Where a client says, ‘I’m thinking about suicide or I’m having suicidal thoughts,’ then explore the issue. If they haven’t, by asking your question you are introducing the idea and contaminating their thinking with ‘Suicide.’

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Thanks for sharing your views, Alan. However, I respectfully — and strongly — disagree.

      Considerable evidence demonstrates that many people with suicidal thoughts are not prone to spontaneously disclose them. This includes people who died by suicide within 24 hours of seeing a mental health professional.

      Stigma, fear, and suicidal intent each can create silence. When someone with suicidal thoughts is asked directly if they are thinking of suicide, they might still hide, but in my experience as a therapist they do not. Some express relief at having been asked and being invited to unburden themselves of their secret.

      Nobody can be given the idea — or “primed” — to die by suicide. We are not “introducing” the idea. People learn of suicide at a very young age. They already know about it. And asking if they are thinking of suicide does not make someone suddenly want to kill themselves. I can assure you that of the hundreds of people I’ve asked about suicidal thoughts, not one developed them as a result of my question.

      • Alan Jones says:

        I note that you respectfully and strongly disagree with me and an intellectual argument would be a waste of time for both of us. I would ask you to indulge me in a quick experiment around questions. Below are two, do no harm, questions. All you do is, as you answer the questions, notice what processing you have to do inside to answer them.
        Question 1 How do you learn?
        Question 2 How easily do you learn?
        To answer question one, you will have done a mental search of your learning techniques and processes that you use. For example, reading, lectures, mind-maps, flash cards, etc.
        Question two will send you on a search for times in the past when you learned something easily and may even take you back to childhood learning. For example, the words to a song you like and did not set out to learn, a nursery rhyme, the route to work, etc.
        Also notice that until asked those question, the chances that you were thinking about learning are millions to one.
        To answer the question, ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts?’ You have to do is go inside checking your thoughts for any that you could interpret as suicidal, because the scope or frame of the question is ‘Suicidal thoughts.’ Or if you have taken the verb ‘Having’ as being ‘Right this moment,’ unless in that instant they are having a suicidal thought, their answer must be no.
        By asking a specific question you are directing their thoughts and lighting up all the neuro networks in your client’s brain associated with the words in your question. The more the network lights up the strong the network grows.
        Why not ask something like, ‘To help me better understand and appreciate what is going on for you, tell what thoughts you have? After each thought, if they seem stuck, simply ask ‘And what else?’ This implies there are other thoughts and takes them deeper into their thought processing.
        I am not suggesting you avoid discussing suicide or suicidal thoughts. On the contrary, if the client brings them up, you have a duty to explore them with the client.

        • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

          Alan Jones,

          Thank you for your respectful reply and engagement. Respectfully, I believe there are two key flaws with your argument:

          1. Researchers have heavily studied the question of whether asking about suicidal ideation increases suicide risk. The answer is no.

          2. I hate coffee. Every time I eat at a restaurant, I am asked if I want coffee. I have been asked this thousands of times in my life. The question has never made me want coffee. That is only one, perhaps trivial, example, but it demonstrates that asking about something does not make the person want it. Everybody can draw from similar examples in their own life.

          You asked, “Why not ask something like, ‘To help me better understand and appreciate what is going on for you, tell what thoughts you have?” Here’s why: The topic of suicide is so laden with stigma that many people feel too ashamed or afraid of others’ judgment to volunteer that they are having suicidal thoughts. By not asking directly about these thoughts, not only do we risk never learning this very important information, but we also collude with the forces of stigma and shame around suicide. We treat suicide as unspeakable. We also risk conveying that we ourselves can’t handle talking about suicide, when we need to be able to do so.

          What’s most important is that someone with suicidal thoughts feel safe and welcome to talk about them. Avoiding the question, talking around it, and operating from the unfounded fear of causing someone to want to die by suicide — these actions (and inactions) do not help the suicidal person to overcome the forces of stigma and shame. As a result, the person may feel even more alone and hopeless than before.

    • Pattie says:

      As someone who has considered suicide many times, I totally disagree with you, Alan. And I dont like the way you state your opinions as claims, when in fact they ARE your opinions, and that’s fine. I just have a different view on asking someone about suicide.

    • TrashHeap says:

      I agree.

  20. Tom H says:

    Nearly all the arguments I’ve ever read or heard against suicide make the same fundamental mistake: imposing moral perspectives on others’ life considerations and personal decisions. We did the same thing with racial minorities and non-heterosexuals and people of other religious faiths … for thousands of years. Everyone who wasn’t like us or didn’t agree with us was “wrong” even though we couldn’t produce hard evidence of their wrongness. And now we’re doing the same thing with people who have been consistently suicidal and are resolved to end their lives. These kinds of reasoning errors (assuming there are universal moral answers) sadly seem hard-baked into humanity. But we could at least refrain from insulting others by not encouraging respectful and honest conversation while we assume we already know the “right” answer (for others) to questions being discussed.

    I’m all for trying to help people. But not for controlling people (in their personal lives), other than to protect other living beings from immediate harm. If we can’t give people what they need to live safely and contentedly, and these people have through many trials failed to amass these things themselves, often with professionals’ help, we ought not to have the prerogative of telling them that their personal life evaluations and choices are “wrong.” Many people won’t discuss suicide because they intuit, rightly, that the person they could speak to about it already believes that suicide is universally wrong and that speaking about it could lead to civil commitment. Physical restraint and forced treatment are the elephants in any room where suicide is being discussed. Without the law addressing this, many will continue to make and carry out their plans in secret.

  21. Tonya Taylor says:

    The subject of Suicide should be bought back in school, educating staffs, and students, on the NEW, so that everyone can have a helping hand and help

  22. Ben Basile says:

    Thank you for this post and for the work you do. It’s very much needed, as you know. We must keep trying to end–or at least mitigate–that huge stigma associated with suicide and mental health issues in general. You’re so right when you say that avoiding talking candidly and directly about these issues doesn’t make them go away. That is so true.

    Thank you again for this posting. Saying a prayer for you, the whole staff and the friends and clients that come to you for help.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Suicide is honestly looking like a GREAT option. This world is so shit that a “God” that allows for all this shit to happen cant tell me how to live or die. 0 respect for that bastard (if it exists). Suicide is an actual answer. I’ve avoided it due to my christian upbringing that i’ll go to hell etc. But if you see everything plain and simple you can’t really believe that there is a being allowing all this shit to happen for no reason. You could give it a reason in short term reasoning but if we all came from nothing and to nothing we shall go then this game is the most retarded game that exists.

  24. Kimi says:

    Why do we all live? Even if we have a happy life it doesn’t matter. We will die soon or late so why not just die now. Why everyone says that we shouldn’t commit suicide? C’mon, death is a very normal thing. Can’t we choose when to die???? I wanna die now don’t you know that living is the worst thing for us? If you save us we will be like zombies. So please leave us alone…

  25. Kimberly says:

    I don’t feel safe anymore I just want to end my life I’m not happy here anymore can I just die don’t nobody care for me I can here people call my name I don’t like my life anymore I hate my life don’t have friends I don’t have any body I just want to die

  26. Anonymous says:


  27. Michael says:

    In 92 my step brother Ed took his life with a garden hose in the tailpipe 95 my Brother Jim hung himself. In 05 my nephew Matthew shot himself, 08 my girlfriend took pills, in 12 my high school sweetheart hung herself, 2015 my second daughter’s mother shot herself a few months later 2016 my brother took pills.

    Suicide is just as common as losing keys or going on a holiday to me. It’s just a normal occurrence, a part of life from my perspective.

    I’ve had a death wish for more than 35 years myself and it shows in the few photos people took of me over the years.

  28. Tara dawn eveland says:

    Why is no one TALKING about it though? If you google it for information you get 10 warning pop ups with the crisis # to call. Where can someone just read about it?

  29. Averon says:

    I just scrolled through every article to find answers for my question, but seems like no one knows exactly about everything..

  30. Amy says:

    Perhaps instead of pouring out grief all over the social media pages of those who have died people should tell them they care while they are still alive when it actually matters to them. Sometimes a bit of human contact, whether talking directly about thoughts of suicide or not, can make a huge difference to someone who has that on their mind. Pictures of pigs and fluffy socks just don’t cut it for most people who feel like they want to die-certainly not for me.

    • Death wish says:

      This is the best response here. Show people they matter when they are here.

      • TomH says:

        But this would mean people would actually have to be bothered. Much easier to post fake grief AFTER/IF others die–and gain social media brownie points at the same time.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Excellent points. People need to show their loved ones that they care. But I also don’t think we should assume that a person who dies by suicide didn’t receive love, support, and connection. Sometimes, sadly, family and friends fight hard to help a person but the suicidal mind still wins.

    • Anonymous says:


  31. It seems we don’t have enough safe outlets to speak our mind. With mental institutions telling us to hide our real thoughts and feelings, so we can go home quickly, and a lack of information or kind caring help, I think many people just hide their problems and issues. Scared to tell the truth, because our modern day help judges the surface and limits our freedom, instead of healing or solving the problem. When loneliness is a root cause of many suicidal tendencies, we don’t know who we can talk to or we don’t feel comfortable with those available to help. I like to vent and scream. Where are those friends that will allow me a moment of release, even if it takes forever? Our world is quick to judge and we are lazy in our investigation thinking it is someone else’s job to help our friends in need. Just think if someone you love only needed an open ear, and not thousands of dollars of useless help, when you roll up to their suicide note gently placed nearby their lifeless body.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Society is a shithole. The stigma is horrible. The only ones that understand it are the ones with it. I could write the books for the drs. Maybe then they could understand it,but i guess you need a degree to help people. Funny thing is, why do people confide in me soo much. Maybe because i understand the disease. I have done almost everything, short of brain surgery, and would even consider that, but losing hope in myself and the medical field. Best to ALL MY DEPRESSED FRIENDS.

  33. Niema d says:

    Why is society so obsessed with forcing people to live who don’t want to? We didn’t ask to be born. We didn’t ask to exist. Why would you want to keep inflicting life on us when we don’t want it?

  34. AJAY SHARMA says:

    There is no reason to commit suicide ; Life is given by God to live and he only has the right to take it ; No one alive should ever commit suicide even in worst of circumstances and even if she feels sick or mentally deranged; Live life for others if not for yourselves; There are so many services to be given back to the world – you can look after orphans, work in orphanage or shelter for aged people and give services- why waste a life ? I am sure people who feel like committing, like I did once, are not cowards ; Suicide is not a brave thing to do – braveness is to overcome it and move on in life. YOU CAN GIVE LIFE TO OTHERS INSTEAD OF TAKING YOUR OWN LIFE

  35. JJ says:

    The odds I will kill myself soon are fairly high, but I won’t tell anyone about it. I won’t contact anyone. The last time I did that, the police came out and were abusive. I won’t make that mistake again. Why bother with life?

    • izzy says:

      Life is tough. Especially for people like us. But the truth is there are so many amazing things out there, make a short list. Cake, fuzzy socks and cute pictures of pigs all exist! And right now you may feel that the world has nothing for you, that you don’t matter, that you want to die. But the reality is is that you are loved, even if you don’t know it. Because that’s what it’s like when you’re suicidal. You only think of the negative, of every reason you shouldn’t be here. I don’t know you, but I can say I care. I can say that I would feel grief if you were to go, that I would be upset, and we have a whole community here to talk! So say what you need, say everything bottled up inside! Because we’re all in the same situation and we all care.

    • Jason says:

      I’m with you.

  36. Anon says:

    As a suicidal person, I’m pretty open about it. However, ironically it’s mental health professionals that have a tough time dealing with it. Their knee jerk response is to get you out of their hair as soon as possible so they’re not liable if something were to happen. My experience is they want nothing to do with you once you mention the ‘s’ word.

    • Tom H says:

      Funny how so many mental health practitioners won’t recognize this. I’ve overheard psychiatrists and clinical psychologists talking about when to “fire” a patient who isn’t responding to therapy and poses a serious threat of self-harm and, therefore, professional or legal risk for the therapist. And I’ve read several blogs by practicing clinical psychologists actively advising family members and friends to abandon persistently mentally ill community members to protect their own mental health.

      Yet still the common message is, “Get help!” But what’s often meant is, “Get better quickly. Or else.”

    • Anonymous says:

      Thinking about it right now. Too much pain.

  37. Pravin joshi says:

    The only way to help the suffering person is to talk openly about suicide, it opens door to conversations that can lead to help, hope, and healing

  38. Anonymous says:

    A well written, and insightful essay Stacey, or Dr. Freedenthal (I mean no disrespect, in fact quite the opposite.) For your consideration; if a person is truly considering suicide, and fully believes they are considering it rationally and intelligently (in spite of the cliches), they would have to be savvy enough to see that there is no “confidential”, or “anonymous” help available. Even if they wanted to explore that possibility (which could be considered rational thought?). There is just an illusion of anonymity, or security. The risk of exposure, and thereby potential interference, is too great for an individual such as this. Perhaps there is room for improvement or development in that regard?

  39. Amey says:

    Nice article. Keep posting.

  40. Sarah Cummings says:

    Great post! Asking about how another person’s doing lately will be a big help to let them speak about what’s on their mind. 🙂

  41. Cledwyn Baps says:

    I know things get better.

    Shame it’s only for about five minutes…..

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Those five minutes tend to revisit. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from a song: “The space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more.” (Dave Matthews)

      It’s true that life has much pain, much darkness, and much more we wish it didn’t have. But for many of us, and I am grateful to be among them, the space between the tears we cry keeps us coming back for more.

      Those minutes, when they come, are precious.

      • Tom H says:

        How blessed you are, Stacey, to be among those fortunate people. I’m sure you’ve read the research that shows we humans are fundamentally biased towards positive perspectives–remarkably even when the objective circumstances do not warrant it. And work among cognitive neuroscientists points to a nearly species-wide “survival instinct” which many prominent biologists credit as the evolutionary source of our prevalent anti-suicide sentiments. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many feel those precious minutes, when they come, are worth being around to experience life’s pains.

        Hope you keep enjoying your fortune.

  42. Barbara James says:

    Now I know why people take their own lives, they want to escape the brutal pain of life, and from where I stand, it looks like the only way out of my inescapable pain

  43. Brittany Odle says:

    Hey I am here for you. I dealt with suicide prayer helped me. Reading The Holy Bible helped me too. If you need to talk email jesuscaresforyou777@yahoo.com

  44. Iris says:

    I am just looking for someone to talk to about this.
    I won’t write too much in case comment not-approved.


  45. Ava H. says:

    I wish I could call a suicidal line, but I am 10 {yes, I am on a website for people who want to die} and under protection of adults. When I went to the doctor so they could see why I wanted a therapist, I had a bad case of depression. I took the doctor’s depression test. The doctor said the average score on the test was like, 14. I got like,
    in the 40’s. I am afraid to call a suicidal number because of my parents. They make me feel like this.

    • Mark says:

      Hey, just saw this. Want to talk? Life seems awful at times…but it gets better. I promise.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Good for you for seeking out help and information online, on your own. It’s sad that your parents contribute to your depression. However, I wonder if they might want to do better if they know how bad you are feeling?

      Do you have a cell phone? If so, you could text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

      The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800.273.8255.

      I don’t know what the hotline’s and text line’s policies are, though, on involving (or not involving) parents of someone as young as you.

      For complete confidentiality, you can email jo@samaritans.org. They have a policy of not involving others, not even the police when someone is actively suicidal.

      You also could talk with a teacher, a family friend, a friend’s parents, etc., but I understand that you don’t want your parents to know, and they would almost certainly communicate to your parents if you are thinking of suicide. But there are places you can turn to, so I hope you will try them out.

  46. mic says:

    The problem is that it’s not possible to have an honest discussion about suicide within the parameters that our culture is willing to allow. The entire ‘pro-choice’ side of the discussion is marginalised, if not silenced altogether (do a Google search for ‘suicide discussion forums’ and see how long it takes you to come across one that doesn’t have a rule against advocating for the right to suicide). Reddit closed down the ‘Sanctioned Suicide’ sub, because it outraged the sensibilities of the sanctity of life lobby. The subreddit didn’t even allow discussion of methods.

    The pro-life side can only offer the bland assurances that life will get better (and unless you’ve had a very sheltered life, you will have personal knowledge of cases wherein life never did get better), and that life is so intrinsically profitable that there are always large dividends to be paid by enduring any intensity of suffering. I say that life doesn’t do anything productive, and that by continuing to live, you can only ever hope to (partially) solve the problems that life itself creates. But this view is still fairly radical and too progressive, especially due to the fact that any support of the right to die outside of terminal illness is proscribed in all media. If you can’t admit that suicide can be a rational response to unproductive suffering, and maintain that it’s always the act of someone who isn’t competent to make decisions about their own wellbeing, then it makes little sense to wonder why the impenetrable miasma of stigma and taboo still shrouds the subject altogether.

    • Pattie says:

      Yup. Yup.

    • Janet says:

      Wow. Although I’ve had a pretty good life I’d have to agree. At the end of the day it is worthless. The problem started when we were born. Birth and life are overrated. Sometimes wish I hadn’t had children. My son died by suicide. The pain is not worth the joy.

      • mic says:

        Janet, sorry for your loss. But I respect the fact that you have been able to come to this realisation, especially considering how much you had invested in ‘the game’ by bringing a child into it. I think that most people can’t realise what you have until the truth hits them where they live.

    • Tom H says:

      There are MANY of us who agree with you–and, internationally, our numbers are growing. But it’s futile having this discussion so long as the law is behind one side. No matter how polite the anti-suicide pundits are, they always have the nuclear option of having you incarcerated. I mean, committed. And once that happens, it can be a quick downward spiral financially, legally, professionally, emotionally… So those of us who already agree with you largely remain silent while the professionals preach to the choir, abusing reporting and publication biases to make it seem as if their unsubstantiable position were universal and factual. Thankfully, in different countries around the world, this religion-like anti-suicide bias is slowly crumbling. And polls in the US show that a majority of citizens, especially younger adults, favor people being entitled to make this most private of decisions for themselves.

      Time and values change. So long as we can’t make like much fairer and gentler, more and more people will conclude it’s unjust to force the marginalized and suffering to continue suffering indefinitely.

  47. Anonymous says:

    I have had suicidal thoughts since childhood, I have been in therapy and on meds for decades. I am managed, barely. One thing/treatment/crutch I have not seen in the comments or the posts I’ve read are service dogs. My service dog is the reason I wake up each day and one of the main reasons I don’t actively seek to end it all. I need to be here to take care of her and her life revolves around caring for me. She is unconditional love, something very few if any humans can provide. The caveat – you need to truly love the dog in order for the partnership to work. I live for my dog. She is my world. The downside is that when her time on earth is over, I will lose my lifeline – probably be in hospital for a while, heavily sedated most likely. However, in the meantime, the need to care for her and protect her gives me a reason to exist. She makes me wake up each day even if I don’t feel like it. A hungry dog that needs to pee is more persistent and demanding than 6 alarm clocks and timed lights. Just a thought for those that might find a psych service dog a useful addition to their current treatment plan. It was a previous psych Dr. ( in a previous town) that recommended I get one. She has helped me through the past 10 years more than any pill, although I still take those too.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      Thank you for sharing. What a gift that your service dog helps you so much. What a gift, too, that you shared this hopeful advice with others here.

      I would add that much of what you said applies to any dog, whether or not a service animal. I highly recommend a pet of any kind for improving one’s mental health! That said, it sounds like a service dog can be even more special because of their devotion to their person’s well-being.

      Thanks again for letting folks know. I hope she’s with you for years more to come.

  48. Tore Nielsen says:

    I often decide against talking about suicide because I don’t have anything hopeful or productive to say. I couldn’t be one of those people who de-mystify suicide by giving talks.

  49. Milestiba says:

    Within the first couple of sessions (group and individual) with my new therapist, I learned that she had a client die by suicide a couple years ago. She felt like she had missed something and talked about how she had to deal with it. I deal with severe chronic suicidal ideation. Possibly a huge trigger for her. In the state where I currently reside, if a person has no insurance, they are only provided 12 individual sessions in a lifetime. So, I was not willing to really work with anyone. By the time I was able to have insurance, I had everything worked out… my suicide plan. I had done recon of the area, I have all the supplies I need, I have everything in place should this next (the sixth) attempt not work, and I have the compulsion to attempt this plan almost daily. Between a mental health wellness center I was directed to, and the tenacity of my new therapist, I have started to have much better days more often. And the bad moments seem even more severe than when it was all I ever had. So, it is terrifying even to me.

    My therapist, however, has avoided any direct conversation regarding my suicidal ideations. It has bothered me because it left me not really understanding her tactic. Was she of the impression that if we dealt with everything else, it would go away? Because after three months, that was not happening. Still, I had my crisis counselors who have worked with me and kept me alive over the last year to bounce ideas off of and keep encouraging me to go back to my therapist and talk. I sent her a post from this blog, I sent her posts from The Mighty, I sent her a screen shot of the book I had ordered (Helping the Suicidal Person by Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW) with the hope that if the advice came from another LCSW and didn’t seem to come from me, then maybe we could make headway.

    I am struggling with 5 “perfect” kill dates in the next three weeks and I just fight the urge to shut down and go ahead and try to kill myself in order to protect people from the monster I have believed myself to become. On Thursday, my therapist told me that she has realized that she has been taking the “punk” way out. Her word, not mine. She also believes that she needs to deal with this better because it has left us in idle instead of possibly moving us forward more effectively. I don’t have any idea what that means. But, how often do providers tell their consumers that they were wrong? Everyone has consistently told me that they hear what I am saying and my therapist is working really hard to help me when she could easily tell me to go find someone else instead of trying to learn how to adapt and work with me. About two months in, my therapist point blank told me I am one of the most difficult consumers she had ever worked with. I know it can get worse. I know what we have to work through. I know what has happened in the past. I have had severe troubles with past therapists (including reporting to the Board of Psychology and having the therapist and her family retaliate with exaggerated claims in order to file criminal charges against me) and that makes for a lot of problems in my current therapeutic relationship. I don’t know what all this will lead to, but I struggle with wondering how much better it really would be just to try and kill myself. If she hasn’t worked with me too long, it can’t be that devastating, can it? That is what my mind tells me. It’ll be easier for her the second time around. She has to know by now it is not her fault.

    But then, I know how crappy that is… not because I know this person all that well, but because I have spent several hours reading accounts of mental health professionals and first responders that were in the midst of dealing with suicide… whether crisis counselors, therapists, police officers, etc… and they all had trouble even with people they never met before… even though I adamantly do not believe anyone will care when I am gone… I can still read those pages and think that maybe my mind is wrong.

    I guess it shows something that I have no longer remained at one with my depression. It is definitely something that I am actively fighting… even though I do not always feel so successful doing it.

    Thanks for your blog, your book, and your work on such an important issue. It was a huge turning point for me when I came across your work. You have continued to speak to me in a manner that reaches me and makes sense and helps me fight to stay alive. Perhaps one day… all my work will be able to help others. Who knows?

  50. Janet says:

    Culture is most certainly a sublimation of death anxiety. Suicide is a taboo subject because the strength to face another day often comes from a group-think… “everyone else is doing it.”

    There is inertia to living, and it’s put in check when someone kills themselves. The unspeakable option reveals itself as “there”, as always being “there”. Death is always a tragedy, but a suicide’s death is marred with controversy.

    There are few things I staunchly believe in; one of these things is the unalienable right of any person to end their life when they see fit. The subjective, personal life of an individual is magnitudes greater in depth and complexity than anything else and it deserves absolute respect.

    • Pattie says:

      Who, among us, has the moral superiority to claim the right to define the act of suicide-for someone other than themselves- as wrong or bad?
      Even further, No laws should give authority to that false notion of moral superiority!
      To justify encapsulating the act of suicide into laws that criminalize it, or more commonly now to “allow for a person’s rights to be denied” if someone is believed to be planning to kill themselves, is wrong on so many levels that I don’t even know where to begin…

  51. DF says:

    “On a scale of zero to ten, how much do you want to be alive these days?”

    • Df, Not sure who you are asking, but I’m in a chatty mood today I guess. On a scale of one to ten, i guess I am a 10 simply because i’m … well… alive. I guess if I stop to consider how much it would take to shift that to wanting to kill myself…questioning how solid or fragile my resolve to live is at the moment. Probably a 2 or a 3. It would not take much to tip me over and pour me out. It is a very frightening feeling, to be afraid of yourself.

    • Pattie says:

      I think you’re suggesting thats what you think the question should be, rather than “do you want to kill yourself?”, right?
      I like it!

  52. Thank you so much for this Stacy! I was nodding my head all along! I even texted my counselor and told him my thoughts on asking “Do you want to hurt yourself?” vs “Do you want to kill yourself?” I would add to that, “Do you want to die?” because there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t want to die… but I do not want to kill myself. Even so, that is a choice I make daily. I know when people ask me “How are you?” or “How ya doin?” they are really asking if I want to kill myself. I’m not sure that I could ever make them understand that to me there is a difference in wanting to die and wanting to kill myself. Even seeing it in print makes me question the validity of the thought. Anyway, I appreciate this article so much. You just have no idea.

  53. Pattie says:

    Yes. Thanks Stacey. This is a safe place for those of us who live with these issues, and are not allowed to talk about them.
    And yes, I hate the phrase “hurt yourself” because of the reasons you stated. It’s a misused phrase that doesn’t really fit suicide, and it has caused many of us to suffer because of offbase assumptions that only confirm our fears that “no one understands”.
    The only thing I would add for people who dont know how to approach the topic of suicide- in addition to listening- is that you actually have to CARE. Many people DONT, and personally speaking, i would prefer that if you are just trying to show that you care, and just want me to feel like you care by listening, please, dont bother. Dont pretend to try. Because if I open up to you, i might tell you how difficult it is, how much pain I’m in, and then i would notice how quickly you back off.. because you are afraid I might ask something more of you, and then i have to find out that you’re really not sincere at all– in fact, you’re quite selfish. And thats something i really dont need to see again and again.

  54. Penny says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. As someone who lives with CPTSD, this piece is a breath of fresh air. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of my condition, results of my right frontal lobe being damaged by years of an amygdala at defcon 5. Yes, it’s sinister. Yes, there are moments when hanging on seems impossible. Yes, I’d like my condition to be reacted to like I just said I had cancer, instead of having to hide in a tower Quasimodo style for fear of judgement. I’m not contagious, so if someone expressed empathy for me, they won’t catch the suicidal thoughts, the dissociating, or the muscle armoring by doing so. Don’t be fearful of having tough conversation with your family, friends, or co-workers. Ask directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Then be compassionate, don’t advise, and just hold space for what comes next. It’s a decompression to be spoken to so genuinely, to be cared for in that horror of wanting to die. Your empathy might just save a life.

  55. Suzanne Lenz says:

    I go out on a limb here because I feel these things need to be said. I refuse to be embarrassed. Someone needs to hear these words. I speak from personal experience and from the unspeakable pain of trying to prevent my own suicide after my husband’s sudden & horrible death. I have thus far succeeded but not because of anything I was lead to believe would help me. I ended up relying on my own tenacity and loving my family & friends so much that I could not bring this upon them. That has made the pain even worse. There are times when the mental anguish becomes more powerful than love and that is something only a person who has been there can understand – a person who can relate to what a struggle it is to hold on, to try to keep your grip onto something you cannot even imagine let alone see and to do this during a raging, lashing, stinging, unrelenting typhoon of mental pain. Minutes become hours; hours become days. Here is the problem – if you are suicidal, don’t want anyone else to know you are losing your grip on life, and you go onto any of the websites to “help” you, all you find are pictures of teenagers & cheer leading garbage – nothing for the ages most at risk (middle age, elderly, men). And I ask WHY do YOU personally want to stop a person from taking their own life? What is it that makes it so awful to you? Is it so awful that you would be there at all hours of the morning & night? Would you change your work schedule? Would you fly across the country? And I ask, would you try to prevent the death of someone from other fatal diseases or do you just accept their death as a foregone conclusion? If you were to save the life of a suicidal person, what would you do it for? Are you willing to do what it would take to help create a life for them that is worth living? Can you eliminate the disease that haunts them and is so unbearable that all they want to do is end the excruciating pain? Do you care so much that you’d give of yourself, your time, your money at any hour of any day or night to prevent the suicide? Or are you content to throw pills, 800 numbers and websites at the suicidal person and then feel at peace with yourself – you’ve “done all you could.” And I ask this also – have you yourself ever called one of these 800 numbers only to hear a teenage sounding kid who says, “Hello. What would you like to talk about?” And when you say, “Never mind – this was a mistake” not long after, the state police are knocking on your door – just what you need your neighbors to see. This 800 call – made on a lovely summer afternoon
    – after you dialed family member after family member & friend after friend trying to find a life raft & all you get are answering machines & comments like, “that’s between you & your maker” or “that’s up to you.” Now, you will never risk calling this number again and you will surely not talk to anyone else about your suicidal thoughts for fear of being “turned in” or watched like a hawk instead of receiving the care and compassion you so much need. So when pills, therapy, family, friends, doctors, prayers, psychiatrists, websites & 800 numbers let someone down one after the other, why on earth do you become so upset when the poor soul finally resorts to the only option they feel they have left – ending their pain in the only way now possible to them? The same useless editorials & nonsense that passes for “insight” proliferate all forms of media after a celebrity suicide and then it will all die down; and once again, the walls of suicide will welcome so many more new members. Family & friends that DID try to help or had no clue will be left in writhing pain and subjected to the pathetic babbling that people who profess to care spit out. And again I have to ask, 1. why is death by suicide so much more awful to you than any other manner of death?; 2. why do you feel you need to stop it? and 3. if you can give a sincere answer to 1. & 2., what are you willing to do that has any affect or meaning? How will you truly help those who continue to try to find a reason to live?

    • Pattie says:

      Suzanne Lenz,
      Wow, could not have said it better. I sooo agree! Thank you.

    • Joe says:

      Hear, hear! It’s all well and good to talk the talk about encouraging open, constructive dialogue, but in a society that stigmatizes the suicidal and dismisses them as not thinking correctly, a reality check is in order.

      Your experiences serve to highlight the other side of the conversation that gets left out: the judgments, the platitudes, the “get help”s, the police dispatched by the hotline operator, the incarceration followed by the huge medical bill for their “services”. All too often the situation is framed as the suicidal being too embarrassed or too afraid to reach out when the reality is they reach out all the time and are insulted, dismissed, and punished in response. The goal isn’t to help but to stop the offending behavior.

      It’s no coincidence that you see mostly pictures of teenagers on these anti-suicide sites. The example always trotted out in support of anti-suicide policy is the teenager who wants to die because her boyfriend broke up with her. It’s easier to dismiss problems when you can attribute them entirely to irrationality. Disease, chronic pain, chronic loneliness, etc. are not so easily invalidated.

      Like most of what you read in a heavily pro-life society, the conversation is very one-sided; it’s all about how “potential helpers” can breach the guard of the suicidal so they may be made properly receptive to the helpers’ truths. So long as this arrogant posture is maintained there will be no dialogue, just the happy and healthy talking down to the unhappy and unhealthy.

      • David Crichton says:

        quite right.I agree. We chronic suicidal peope have been coping with these bad thoughts for ages without any recognition or acknoweledgement while our lives fall to pieces??

        At least mine has and I do not want to die, but life is becoming really unbearable and shameful

    • Tom H says:


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