Suicide and the Courage to Live Your Life

Sliding Otter News

May 19, 2012

Suicide and the Courage to Live Your Life


Sometimes even to live is an act of courage


 Recently I attended a performance of ‘night Mother. I knew it was a dark subject and would not be an evening of light entertainment. A young woman bent on suicide went about arranging minute details of everyday life for her mother, at first avoiding the deeper issues. She was able to reminisce with her mother about the good times and rage about the bad ones. In the end, mother and daughter failed to find a bridge leading to a life together.

During my years as a psychologist, I sometimes found myself in the emergency room trying to help people find a reason to go on with their lives after a suicide attempt. Sometimes their gestures scared them into getting help, sometimes they needed someone to listen and take them seriously and sometimes nothing seemed to help. With enough help, most of them found a way to choose life. Some dropped into the depths of despair again.

We choose every day whether to live the life in which we find ourselves. Some of us choose not to bother and do nothing with the day’s challenge. Some feel that life is too hard or painful and seek a way out. Most of us make the best of whatever faces us.

I have heard the term “rational suicide” but wonder whether there is any such thing. It is hard to imagine sitting down to consider the pros and cons of ending your life in a dispassionate manner. If you don’t have any feelings about it one way or another, that in itself suggests there is something amiss.

Most suicidal people are distraught in one way or another. Whether suffering from depression or other mental illness, sensing that life is out of control, feeling hopeless or helpless, emotions usually overwhelm them, leaving little room for rational thought. They feel alone with their troubles, unable to handle them and don’t see any help on the horizon. People who have learned to handle extreme difficulty or who have supportive family and friends seldom reach the extreme of considering suicide.

Most of us will either have occasion to at least ponder suicide or have someone close to them consider or attempt it at some time in our lives. Although considering or attempting suicide does not necessarily mean that someone will die, it is always a definite possibility. If you know what to do when someone you care about becomes suicidal, don’t just stand by. Take action. If you don’t know what to do, there are resources you can call on. Locally you can call the Mental Health Association or Mental Health Services or RAP. If you don’t know who to call where you live, consider the National Mental Health Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, visit or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

 Life Lab Lessons

  • Have you felt suicidal?
  • What did you do about it?
  • Have you known someone struggling with suicide?
  • What did you do in response?
  • Do what you would like someone to do for you.