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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.