On suicide

In a recent discussion on how people might deal with suicidal thoughts, somebody stated that life has its ups and downs and that people with suicidal thoughts may not always feel the way they do now. “Don’t confuse the chapter with the book.”

Now, for some people, it’s not just a phase the are going through; for them it’s not a chapter, but multiple chapters adding up to become the whole book. But more importantly I think that before we give well meant advise, we have to address the reason why someone feels so depressed they don’t want to live anymore. What’s the chapter really about?

I guess there are two paths by which one can come to the point of contemplating suicide. (I know it may not always be this clear cut and there may be countless examples in which the two go together…)

The first is, one has such overwhelming emotions, likely because of (perpetual) negative experiences, that one cannot untangle them anymore. For them, life is not beautiful anymore (no matter how often people say that it is) because their negative emotions have become so big that they have become to make up their whole life. They feel like they are drowning in their emotions.

Now, the second path, in my view, is a more rational process. Thinking about life, asking oneself existential questions and weighing of the pros and cons of one’s life. What if this leads to the point of contemplating suicide? You may say that’s a sign of mental illness, but I don’t agree. It can be, but not necessarily. Of course it will not be purely rational and completely emotionless, but I think one can with common sense weigh one’s life and come to the conclusion that the balance has been knocked to the negative side. And maybe even that this will not change anymore.

I think everybody needs a reason to keep on living (and preferably more than one). Echoing Albert Camus: It’s the most fundamental question in life (and philosophy for that matter). Personally, I don’t shy away from asking myself that question. I’ve noticed myself contemplating the pros and cons of my life from time to time, asking myself what makes my life worth living. And what reasons I might have to end it. (Don’t worry, I haven’t come up with definitive conclusions, yet.)

Well meant encouragements like “life really is worth living, you just have to see it”, “realise you’re special and unique”, “know that you have a place in the universe” and “the world is a beautiful place” make up a great pep talk, but I’m not sure if they will convince someone who has come to a different conclusion. Instead, they might present plausible arguments why they do not agree and see things differently.

Sometimes people argue that “there are loved ones whose hearts would be crushed” when the person involved would end their life. Besides the fact that not everybody has loved ones (or other people who’d care), the fact that loved ones would be crushed is not a reason to keep living. I think one needs to be instrinsically motivated to keep living, not because other people would like you to. (Not even your therapist.)

So what should one do then? Of course, seeking professional help may be a good idea. If you feel like you are drowning and you don’t want to, and you see no way out, seek professional help.

But I think what people need the most is a reason to live. Something (or things) that make it all worthwhile. That make the negative experiences, feelings and thoughts bearable because they don’t make up the whole picture anymore. Things that make the balance knock to the other side.

They need a goal to strive for. They need to have things to do that they enjoy. They need people around them who feel connected with. They need to feel useful. They need to have a sense of purpose and meaning in their life. Only then one will be able to appreciate life again and say with conviction: “Yes, I think my life is worth living!”

Now, whether you are contemplating suicide because of overwhelming emotions or a more rational weighing of your life, in both cases I think this is the way out. This is what you are seeking for. “Become the director & lead actor of your life.” Only you can make you life worth living. It’s hard, I know. But that’s what we humans are condemned to do.