By Mark Jacobson, Peer Support Specialist, Winona, MN
What happens when it hurts too much to live? Can it really be too painful to live one more moment with emptiness, depression, and despair? Yes, for some people suicide seems like the only way out.
Not every person who contemplates killing themselves is truly interested in ending their time on earth. For many, suicidal thoughts are about escape — musing about the idea of leaving the bonds that bind them to other people, responsibilities to burdens, and the despair of what they can't change. If they could just escape it, maybe they still could go on somehow. Not right now, but after a while. They just need to get away from it.
Suicidal thoughts and actions are also sometimes paired with strong impulses and low inhibitions. This can happen with drugs and alcohol, bipolar disorder, or any personality style that leans more toward action than consideration. When a depressed or desperate mood gets legs, a person could be in real physical danger. The following are all fictional examples, but you can see how impulse plus mood problems can equal suicide.
- A person in despair over a broken relationship sits on the train tracks and train traffic is normal. They've had several drinks and are feeling everything so strongly.
- A person with rapidly shifting moods has had a lot of problems lately. They are driving in their car and are thinking about what would happen if they slammed into a wall or tree.
- A person who's had trouble in the public eye and a history of depression and drug use. They become sick of the daily emotional rollercoaster, grab their gun, and load up a few bullets.
Many people each day are walking around with enormous amounts of emotional pain. Living is difficult, they've lost loved ones, their future looks bleak, and they feel backed into a corner. But not everyone contemplates suicide. Some hold very strong religious beliefs that prevent them from ever taking action. Others hold an important value on life in general, and can tell themselves that there has to be another way.
Sadly, many people do have very scary thoughts about ending their life. Some come very close to the brink of action before pulling back. Others only have fleeting thoughts. The “invasion” of depression into a person's mind can make difficult things seem much more than just difficult — they become impossible.
They see no reason to live after their spouse died. They see no way out of their financial troubles. They think there is no more purpose for them after their severe injury or illness. This black and white thinking can trap a person into a narrow chute, seeing their demise as the only reasonable choice. And I'm not saying that the pain isn't real or extremely intense. It's the thought process and judgment that balances emotion, and depression thinking just isn't straight.
If you are feeling strongly about suicide and don't feel safe, I urge you to contact your local police or hospital right away. They are trained to help you get through your immediate crisis, and then get you further specialized mental health help that you need. Also, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800273-8255 or The Crisis Response for Southeastern Minnesota at 1-844-CRISIS2 (1-844-274-7472) are available to assist you at any time of day or night. And for those I have known who have taken their own lives, your deaths have made a lifelong impression on me.