So your friend just confessed to you that she is considering or even planning on killing herself. A lot of thoughts are rushing through your head. You want to say something, anything to persuade her against it, if only for the moment. Your mind is conjuring up some arguments to use, but which ones are appropriate and which ones aren’t?
Well, that’s why I’m here. I’m here to point out all the arguments you’ll want to say that are total bullshit. Don’t say these things to a suicidal person, regardless of how true or valid you think they are.
My life sucks too, but you don’t see me killing myself.
Yeah, and I’m sure you’re also suffering from a mental illness?
A lot of people think about suicide at one point or another, but if someone is actually, seriously planning on killing himself then he likely is suffering from extreme depression. If you’re not experiencing the same illness, comparing your situation to his is pointless. If you had a sore throat and somebody else was telling you to speak louder, you’d probably be understandably annoyed if he started comparing his voice to yours.
In fact, cut out the comparisons in general. I’ve learned through experience that comparing yourself to others is a dangerously unhealthy practice. Life isn’t about being better than everyone else. Life is about bettering yourself and doing what works for you.
Suicide is selfish because you’re leaving a mess for your family and friends.
It is true that suicide causes complications for those close to the victim. Serious complications, in fact. But however true that may be, saying that suicide is selfish belittles the struggle that comes with depression, and it’s outright insulting to people who are considering doing it.
People who are considering suicide wouldn’t do so for personal gain. You know that. They generally feel like their lives are too much for them to handle, and giving them a guilt trip is not going to help lessen the burden. If anything, you’re just going to make them feel worse about themselves. They already feel bad enough as is, wouldn’t you agree?
I don’t think you’re actually going to do it. You’re too smart to commit suicide.
I feel it’s appropriate to direct you to this very insightful webpage about suicide. One important excerpt from it is, and I quote:
“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.”
This is something more people really need to know. Those who consider suicide aren’t stupid for doing so. It’s a natural response to being overburdened. As such, trying to tell them that it’s illogical is not going to help. Logic has nothing to do with this.
Worse yet, when you say “You’re too smart to commit suicide,” when the person inevitably continues to contemplate suicide afterward, he’s going to think he’s stupid because of it. That will only lower his opinion of himself even further.
Okay then, Mr. Smarty Pants. What SHOULD I say then?
I don’t think there is one clear, inherent answer. The correct answer probably varies from person to person, because situations like these are very complex and tricky. I’m just tired of hearing and seeing all these usual responses, because people spout them out all the time, and they really only make things worse.
But as that article I linked to states, the ultimate problem is that they don’t have proper coping mechanisms to counterbalance the pain they’re experiencing in their lives, be it physical, mental or emotional. So if she says she’s going to kill herself, I think the best response is to comfort her. Listen to her, and let her know that you care about her life. Be there for her. I think I’d- I mean, she would really appreciate that.