If you are feeling suicidal now, please stop long enough to read this. It will only take about five minutes. I do not want to talk you out of your bad feelings. I am not a therapist or other mental health professional – only someone who knows what it is like to be in pain.
I don’t know who you are, or why you are reading this page. I only know that for the moment, you’re reading it, and that is good. I can assume that you are here because you are troubled and considering ending your life. If it were possible, I would prefer to be there with you at this moment, to sit with you and talk, face to face and heart to heart. But since that is not possible, we will have to make do with this.
I have known a lot of people who have wanted to kill themselves, so I have some small idea of what you might be feeling. I know that you might not be up to reading a long book, so I am going to keep this short. While we are together here for the next five minutes, I have five simple, practical things I would like to share with you. I won’t argue with you about whether you should kill yourself. But I assume that if you are thinking about it, you feel pretty bad.
Well, you’re still reading, and that’s very good. I’d like to ask you to stay with me for the rest of this page. I hope it means that you’re at least a tiny bit unsure, somewhere deep inside, about whether or not you really will end your life. Often people feel that, even in the deepest darkness of despair. Being unsure about dying is okay and normal. The fact that you are still alive at this minute means you are still a little bit unsure. It means that even while you want to die, at the same time some part of you still wants to live. So let’s hang on to that, and keep going for a few more minutes.
Start by considering this statement:
Suicide is not chosen; it happens
when pain exceeds
resources for coping with pain.
That’s all it’s about. You are not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed, because you feel suicidal. It doesn’t even mean that you really want to die – it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. If I start piling weights on your shoulders, you will eventually collapse if I add enough weights… no matter how much you want to remain standing. Willpower has nothing to do with it. Of course you would cheer yourself up, if you could.
Don’t accept it if someone tells you, “That’s not enough to be suicidal about.” There are many kinds of pain that may lead to suicide. Whether or not the pain is bearable may differ from person to person. What might be bearable to someone else, may not be bearable to you. The point at which the pain becomes unbearable depends on what kinds of coping resources you have. Individuals vary greatly in their capacity to withstand pain.
When pain exceeds pain-coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result. Suicide is neither wrong nor right; it is not a defect of character; it is morally neutral. It is simply an imbalance of pain versus coping resources.
You can survive suicidal feelings if you do either of two things: (1) find a way to reduce your pain, or (2) find a way to increase your coping resources. Both are possible.
Now I want to share with you five things to think about…
You need to hear that people do get through this — even people who feel as badly as you are feeling now. Statistically, there is a very good chance that you are going to live. I hope that this information gives you some sense of hope.
Give yourself some distance. Say to yourself, “I will wait 24 hours before I do anything.” Or a week. Remember that feelings and actions are two different things – just because you feel like killing yourself, doesn’t mean that you have to actually do it right this minute. Put some distance between your suicidal feelings and suicidal action. Even if it’s just 24 hours. You have already done it for 5 minutes, just by reading this page. You can do it for another 5 minutes by continuing to read this page. Keep going, and realize that while you still feel suicidal, you are not, at this moment, acting on it. That is very encouraging to me, and I hope it is to you.
People often turn to suicide because they are seeking relief from pain. Remember that relief is a feeling. And you have to be alive to feel it. You will not feel the relief you so desperately seek, if you are dead.
Some people will react badly to your suicidal feelings, either because they are frightened, or angry; they may actually increase your pain instead of helping you, despite their intentions, by saying or doing thoughtless things. You have to understand that their bad reactions are about their fears, not about you.
But there are people out there who can be with you in this horrible time, and will not judge you, or argue with you, or send you to a hospital, or try to talk you out of how badly you feel. They will simply care for you. Find one of them. Now. Use your 24 hours, or your week, and tell someone what’s going on with you. It is okay to ask for help. Try:
Send an anonymous e-mail to The Samaritans
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY:1-800-799-4TTY)
(In Australia, call Lifeline Australia at telephone: 13 11 14
Teenagers, call Covenant House NineLine, 1-800-999-9999
Look in the front of your phone book for a crisis line
Call a psychotherapist
Carefully choose a friend or a minister or rabbi, someone who is likely to listen
But don’t give yourself the additional burden of trying to deal with this alone. Just talking about how you got to where you are, releases an awful lot of the pressure, and it might be just the additional coping resource you need to regain your balance.
Suicidal feelings are, in and of themselves, traumatic. After they subside, you need to continue caring for yourself. Therapy is a really good idea. So are the various self-help groups available both in your community and on the Internet.
Well, it’s been a few minutes and you’re still with me. I’m really glad.
Since you have made it this far, you deserve a reward. I think you should reward yourself by giving yourself a gift. The gift you will give yourself is a coping resource. Remember, back up near the top of the page, I said that the idea is to make sure you have more coping resources than you have pain. So let’s give you another coping resource, or two, or ten…! until they outnumber your sources of pain.
Now, while this page may have given you some small relief, the best coping resource we can give you is another human being to talk with. If you find someone who wants to listen, and tell them how you are feeling and how you got to this point, you will have increased your coping resources by one. Hopefully the first person you choose won’t be the last. There are a lot of people out there who really want to hear from you. It’s time to start looking around for one of them.
Now: I’d like you to call someone.
And while you’re at it, you can still stay with me for a bit. Check out these sources of online help.
Additional things to read:
How serious is our condition? …”He only took 15 pills, he wasn’t really serious…” if others are making you feel like you’re just trying to get attention… read this.
Why is it so hard for us to recover from being suicidal? …while most suicidal people recover and go on, others struggle with suicidal thoughts and feelings for months or even years. Suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Recovery from grief and loss …has anyone significant in your life recently died? You would be in good company… many suicidal people have recently suffered a loss.
The stigma of suicide that prevents suicidal people from recovering: we are not only fighting our own pain, but the pain that others inflict on us… and that we ourselves add to. Stigma is a huge complicating factor in suicidal feelings.
Resources about depression …if you are suicidal, you are most likely experiencing some form of depression. This is good news, because depression can be treated, helping you feel better.
A 4 minute depression quiz …maybe you have depression and want to find out right now, scientifically, at no cost.
Depression symptoms …the specific symptoms of a full blown episode of clinical depression
Bipolar symptoms …the specific symptoms of a full blown episode of bipolar disorder, which includes mania (highs) and the lows of depression
Do you know someone who is suicidal… or would you like to be able to help, if the situation arises? Learn what to do, so that you can make the situation better, not worse.
Handling a call from a suicidal person …a very helpful ten-point list that you can print out and keep near your phone or computer.
What can I do to help someone who may be suicidal? …a helpful guide, includes Suicide Warning Signs.
Other online sources of help:
The Samaritans – trained volunteers are available 24 hours a day to listen and provide emotional support. You can call a volunteer on the phone, or e-mail them. Confidential and non-judgmental. Short of writing to a psychotherapist, the best source of online help.
Talk to a therapist online – Read this page to find out how.
Depression support group online: Psych Central Depression Support Group – Please note: this is a very big group, but amidst all the chatter, it is possible to find someone who will hear you and offer support.
Psych Central has a good listing of online resources for suicide – and other mental health needs.
Still feel bad? These jokes might relieve the pressure for a minute or two.
If you want help finding a human being to talk with in person, who can help you live through this, try reading this article about how to Choose a Competent Counselor.
Sometimes people need additional private help before they are ready to talk with someone in person. Here are a few books you could read on your own in private. I know from personal experience that each one has helped someone like you.
Suicide: The Forever Decision by Paul G. Quinnett, PhD (Continuum, ISBN 0-8264-0391-3). Frank and helpful conversation with a therapist who cares.
Choosing to Live: how to defeat suicide through cognitive therapy by Thomas E. Ellis PsyD and Cory F. Newman PhD (New Harbinger Publications, ISBN 1-57224-056-3). Another conversational book with practical help for suicidal persons.
How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person’s Guide to Suicide Prevention by Susan Rose Blauner (William Morrow, ISBN 0066211212). A very practical survival guide by an actual survivor.
Out of the Nightmare: Recovery From Depression And Suicidal Pain, by David L. Conroy, PhD (Authors Choice Press, ISBN 0595414974). As if suicidal persons weren’t feeling bad enough already, our thoughtless attitudes can cause them to feel guilt and shame, and keep them from getting help in time. Dr. Conroy blasts apart the myths of suicide, and looks at suicidal feelings from the inside, in a down to earth, non-judgmental way. This is a book that will save lives by washing away the stigma of suicide and opening the door to a real way out of the nightmare.
Suicide: The Forever Decision, Paul G. Quinnett, PhD Choosing to Live, Thomas E. Ellis PsyD How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me Out of the Nightmare, David L. Conroy, PhD
I make no money whatsoever on recommending these books… they are simply recommendations.
Want to share your suicide story?
Please visit the Suicide Project and leave your story
Have feedback? Please write us
This page is provided as a public service by Metanoia, and is dedicated with gratitude to David Conroy, Ph.D. whose work inspired it. Metanoia cannot provide counseling to suicidal persons. If you need help please use the resources outlined above.
© Copyright 1995-2002 Martha Ainsworth. All rights reserved. Reprints: Please feel free to link to this page. Please do not reproduce this page on the Internet; you may link to it instead. You may reproduce this page in print media for non-commercial, non-profit use only, if you meet the following three conditions: (1) you must use the full text without alteration up to and including the words “Now: I’d like you to call someone.”; (2) please consider making a donation to The Samaritans (see above); and (3) you must print the following notice verbatim: “Reprinted with permission. Suicide: Read This First (http://www.metanoia.org/suicide) was written by Martha Ainsworth based on work by David Conroy, Ph.D. To talk with a caring listener about your suicidal feelings, in the U.S. call 1-800-SUICIDE any time, day or night. Online, send an anonymous e-mail to email@example.com for confidential and non-judgmental help, or visit www.samaritans.org.”
The original white on black suicide – read this first page is here.
Return to Suicide: Read This First
How serious is our condition?
Why is it so hard for us to recover from being suicidal?
Recovery from grief and loss for suicidal persons
The stigma of suicide that keeps us from getting help
Online depression resources for suicidal persons
Handling a call from a suicidal person
Nine ways to help a suicidal person; and Suicide Warning Signs
This resource is hosted by mental health information at Psych Central.