Reasons Not to Make an Attempt

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

Marcus Aurelius

We know that identifying your reasons to keep on living can reduce your risk of dying by suicide. However, during my suicidal episode, I was so depressed and hopeless that I could not think of a single positive reason to stay alive.

Fortunately, something else kept me alive. I was able to find reasons not to kill myself.  Some of these reasons were:

  • I was afraid of death and the unknown.
  • I did not want to hurt the people who cared about me.
  • I was afraid that a failed attempt would leave me mentally or physically injured or deformed, making me a burden on others and worse off than I was before.
  • I believed that any pain I tried to escape would have to be faced in the next life. (I believed in reincarnation.)

Therefore, in addition to thinking about positive reasons to stay alive, I would like you to look for any negative consequences if you make a suicide attempt. To help you formulate your list of “deterrents to suicide” ask yourself these questions:

  • “What is preventing me from harming myself?”
  • “What is preventing me from making an attempt on my life?”
  • “If I did end my life, what would be the negative consequences of that act?”

The reasons below are what my peer support group members, friends, and my YouTube viewers have given for not wanting to make an attempt. The list also includes answers from the “Reasons for Living Scale” developed by Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and other researchers at the University of Washington

As you read through their answers, note which ones resonate with you, even if only a little. Each time you identify a reason for not dying, I would like you to write it down in a journal or on a form you can link to at the end of this page. The act of creating this list, which you can refer to whenever you want, will strengthen your “psychological immune system” and help you to stay alive.

Keep your list of reasons for not dying in a place where you can find it easily, and consider it an open-ended document that you add to as you are reminded of reasons to avoid/prevent harming yourself.

Reasons People Have Given for Not Making an Attempt

“I am Afraid of Death.”

For example:

  • “I am afraid of the experience of dying.”
  • “I am afraid of the nonexistence that death brings.”
  • “I don’t know what happens after death.” 
  • “I am afraid of the unknown.”
  • “What if it doesn’t happen as fast as I thought and I linger in pain or suffering? I don’t want to suffer.” 
  • Your own: _______________

This fear of death is part of nature’s survival instinct. Many of us also have a fear of the unknown. We would rather endure the pain that we know than experience uncharted territory that we don’t know.

For example, a person I know decided that he would end his life by jumping off a six-story parking structure. He reported, “As I got closer to the edge, I became nauseous and afraid of dying. Then I thought, ‘Maybe if I wait a little longer things will begin to turn around.’” And so he took the elevator to the ground floor.

Later he told me, “I didn’t have the guts to do it.”

“Good,” I replied “This shows that your fear response is still working. It probably saved your life.”

A year later John is still alive and doing well.

 

“I Have Religious or Spiritual Beliefs that Deter me from Suicide.”

For example: 

  • “Life is precious and a gift from God. It would be wrong to throw it away.”
  • “Only God has the right to end a life.”
  • “I believe in reincarnation. Anything I  avoid in this life I will have to face in the next.” 
  • “Suicide is against my morals.”
  • “Dying by suicide is like taking a life.” 
  •  Your own: _______________

Studies show that participation in religious or spiritual activities decreases the probability that individuals will engage in a suicidal act. Thus, if you have strong religious, moral, or spiritual beliefs, they can be very powerful in keeping you alive. 

“I Don’t Want to Hurt the People I Love”

  • “My cousins, nieces, and nephews look up to me and it would be hard for them to lose me.”
  • “If I die by suicide, my family might think I don’t care about them.”
  • “I don’t want to put my parents through the experience of losing their child.”
  • “My partner would be faced with the difficult path of going on without me.”
  • “Suicide does not ‘end’ pain; it simply passes it on to the ones you love.” 
  • “I realize my child/spouse will be left wondering, ‘Wasn’t I enough to keep them around?’”
  • “I don’t want to bring shame to my family.”
  • “The physical results could be very messy to clean up and forever traumatize my family/friends or the First Responders who find me.”
  • “It might result in family/friends moving away from their home, neighborhood or city because of the effects of visual/physical/emotional trauma.”
  • “What if I accidentally hurt or kill someone else in my attempt?” 
  • Your own: _______________

When I was suicidal, the second reason I held off on harming myself was my concern about the people I would leave behind. I knew that if I killed myself, my friends and family would not only be grief-stricken but would feel angry and guilty as well. “Why should I drag all of these people into my nightmare?” I thought. I have heard it said that the person who dies by suicide dies a single death, while those left behind die a thousand deaths.

“I Might Not Succeed and Instead Permanently Injure Myself.”

  • “I don’t want to end up as a cripple and force other people to take care of me.”
  • “I’m afraid I’ll end up with debilitating brain damage.”
  • “There’s a good chance I won’t die, but only give myself a spinal injury.”
  • “I fear not succeeding, and spending many years immobile or confined to a bed or wheelchair.”
  • Your own: _______________

If you attempt suicide and don’t die, there is a chance that you may permanently injure yourself instead. For example, there are reports of people who jump from bridges who break their backs and are paralyzed. In one instance I know, a man shot himself in the head, but he survived and continued to live, albeit in a vegetative state. The latter case is a good example of why you should fully explore the consequences of ending your life.

“I don’t want to be remembered in a negative light.”

  • “I’ll be judged by my friends and family who believe that suicide is wrong.”
  • “I don’t want people to think I took the coward’s way out.”
  • “I don’t want my family to think that I have abandoned them.”
  • “I feel like I’ve screwed up my life…what if I screw this up too?”
  • Your own: _______________

We all want to be remembered in a positive way. The thought that our legacy might be seen in a negative light can be a reason to rethink suicide.

 

Summary

The fear of dying is a powerful deterrent to suicide. So is having negative beliefs about suicide. These and other deterrents can keep you alive when reasons for living cannot. Focusing on whatever motivates you to stick around, whether it is fear of death or attachment to life, is a good thing. As the Roman philosopher Cicero said more than 2,000 years ago, “Where there is life, there is hope.”

Journal Reflection:
My Reasons Not to Make an Attempt

After reading through these reasons not to attempt, I hope you have identified with some of them and/or have thought of a few of your own. Using your own journal or the My Reasons Not to Make an Attempt form, reflect on your reasons for not wanting to die.