Franklin James Cook

Please Stop Saying, “Suicide is a permanent solution …”

In Opinion, Prevention on March 5, 2010 at 10:11 am


By Franklin Cook, SPNAC Editor

I have worked in suicide prevention and suicide grief support for a little more than a decade, and for the past year and a half (since the SPNAC blog was launched), I’ve scanned hundreds of articles on this tragic subject. In the course of my encounters with what is said and written in communities across the country and on the Internet, I have been subjected about a thousand times to the declaration “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” and I cannot hear it one more time without crying out: Please stop saying that!

I know that it must seem like a clever and even a helpful thing to say (or else why would people have kept saying it, right up to the point where it has become nothing less than a cliche but with the power, I’m afraid, of an axiom). The declaration seems clever, I suppose, because it has the pleasant sing-song rhythm of an advertising jingle, like “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ’cause a Band-Aid’s stuck on me.” And it seems helpful because, of course, it is true: Indeed, suicide is a permanent solution.

But here’s why I argue that we should stop saying it:

The statement violates the age-old principle that what we communicate ought to be designed specifically with a focus on the audience for whom the particular communication is intended. “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” might strike someone who is not suicidal as a clever statement, and it might be a helpful thing to hear from the point of view of someone who already believes (or is likely to be convinced) that his or her problem is temporary. But the audience for this anti-suicide ditty is, of course, people who are suicidal.

As Edwin Shneidman points out in his Ten Commonalities of Suicide, “The common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution.” So emphasizing to a suicidal person that suicide is a permananet solution is as likely to be unhelpful — or even harmful or dangerous — as it is to be helpful.

The problem a suicidal person is trying to solve, according to Shneidman, is how to escape from psychache, which Shneidman defines as “intolerable emotion, unbearable pain, unacceptable anguish … [that] cannot be abated by means that were previously successful” (emphasis added). In other words, from the point of view of someone who is earnestly considering killing himself or herself, the pain from which suicide would provide escape is not temporary.

Even though the perception that the pain is permanent is not accurate, the strategy of trying to convince a suicidal person that his or her pain is temporary is as likely to be counter-productive as it is to be productive.

Read more here …

For one thing, a suicidal person might be irrational regarding the subject of whether his or her pain is permanent or temporary. Irrational might not be the right word for it, but what lies at the core of many suicidal people’s dilemma is that the usual cognitive tools we rely on — such as reason or logic — are not available to them in their battle with their dark, self-destructive thoughts. So relying on a logical explanation of the nature of their pain to “convince” them of something could be ill-advised both because it might be fruitless and it might be seen as argumentative (“Your pain is temporary.” “No it’s not.” “Yes it is.”)

In addition, saying, “Look, your pain is only temporary,” might minimize or negate the importance or validity of the person’s feelings, sending the message that he or she is wrong about the nature or value of the pain. It also might be taken as judgmental or condescending (the speaker knows what pain is really like, but the suicidal person is mistaken about it). Finally, it might oversimplify the ultimate solutions to the underlying problems that are causing the person’s pain, for the jingle suggests, in part, that if a person would merely believe that his or her problem is temporary, then all would be well.

Perhaps I think too much about this sort of thing, for in fact, I could write an entire post, as well, on the use of the phrase completed suicide. The field “invented” the phrase, so the story goes, to replace successful suicide because successful is a positive term describing a negative event (we don’t want to characterize a suicide attempt as being “successful” when someone dies and as “failed” when someone lives). But if the word successful has positive connotations, isn’t it starkly obvious that the word completed has them, too, just as much or even more so? We don’t say “completed heart attack” or “completed automobile accident,” we say “fatal,” and that’s what we ought to say with suicide, as in suicide fatality or either fatal or non-fatal sucide attempt.

It is true generally of all communication, but it is absolutely vital when it comes to messages about suicide that we think before we speak.

[May 1, 2014 addendum: A friend and colleague, Barb Hildebrand, who maintains “Suicide Shatters” on Facebook, recently posted an item there about “Please Stop Saying …” which also generated dozens of comments and replies. FJC]

[The abridged URL for this post is .]

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  1. Hello, I too deal with suicide through outreach, and I have to agree that this comment does more harm than good.

    Suicide has deep seeded problems and as much as people want to help and are trying to do their part, the one thing that needs to be addressed is that suicide attacks the mind as well as the heart and one has to step into their realm and quit trying to ask the hurt person to step out of theirs. They simply can’t.

    Suicide effects the rational thinking, and as much as a statement like that makes sense to us, to the hurting, it has no effect, it just perhaps proves to them that no one understands and that they are beyond help and hope.

    I believe there is a cure to suicide but those involved have to be willing to allow themselves to work hard at it, and sometimes the person who is able to help has to do more than just talk.

  2. I appreciate your comments Frank, and I think you’re absolutely right in terms of talking with someone who is suicidally depressed. Do you think it’s naive to want to convince somebody who is feeling suicidal now that it seems as if their problems will never go away or get better, but they can, just slowly and with a lot of help and ongoing work? I think one reason why the comment hasn’t bothered me as much in the past (though I’ll never hear it the same way again) is because I can understand saying it retrospectively, after the fatal suicide, as a way of saying it seemed like a good thing for the person to do, and it’s tragic for the people who have been impacted by their permanent loss–in other words, I guess the comment bothers me less if you’re talking to the people who have been left, but you’re certainly right that it’s absolutely the wrong thing to say to the person who is contemplating suicide. But how do you convince them that their problems can get better–not tomorrow but sometime in the future?

  3. Thanks, Jenny. You make a very good point about how “suicide is a permanent solution …” has utility in some instances, including when one speaks retrospectively about it as you suggest.

    I also wanted to share something I posted to one of the suicide prevention listservs frequented by professionals, which refers to some other excellent points people there were making that add to the discussion:

    I appreciate [the] observation about being sensitive to the subtleties
    of what we say about suicide, for it is important to remember that different
    messages about suicide have different strengths with different audiences (or
    individuals) in different situations. If, for instance, there was a good
    reason to believe that saying “Suicide is a permanent solution to a
    temporary problem” would be helpful to a particular suicidal person to whom
    I was speaking, then that would be the right thing for me to say …

    I also agree with [the] observations (a) that it is good to be comfortable speaking and hearing about suicide in a variety of ways; (b)
    that people in the field should not use “insider’s” vocabulary to exclude
    others who might be interested in suicide prevention; and (c) that it’s
    certainly not OK to chastise people because they use common expressions.

    Language evolves primarily in response to natural, “internal” forces that
    act upon it, and it is not much influenced by campaigns for or against this
    phrase or that. So I would note that my “indignation” about people saying
    “Suicide is a permanent solution …” or “completed suicide” was more for
    effect than it is a practical proposal that something global be done about
    the matter.

    In any event, it is important to consider in our communication (both with
    individuals and in public) what the words we use actually mean as well as
    how what we say might affect people who are struggling with suicide.

    Another comment on that listserv by a leader in the field also struck me as very accurate and powerful:
    the amount of energy that the field of suicide prevention spends on language issues is disproportionate to their importance. There are so many other terms than, say, ‘commit’ and ‘complete’ that we could focus on: Bridge barriers. Policy change. Improved access to care. Restricted access to lethal means. Funding for treatment. And so on.

    The individual who wrote that was expressing a personal opinion, and I must say (my exclamations on the topic notwithstanding) that I agree with her. The emphatic nature of my little essay on the matter I think stems from the fact, as I said, that I scan “hundreds of articles on this tragic subject,” and I run into so much that people say about suicide without having given it really any thought, and ” “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” is a prime example.

  4. Thank you for this very useful essay.

  5. I agree with Jenny — this is an expression that I will not hear the same way again. It never really bothered me before, but does tend to sound somewhat flippant. Working in postvention, I’m constantly surprised by the number of professionals that continue to say “commit” and “compleated” rather than “died by” or “died of” or, as you suggested “suicide fatality.”
    Although too much attention may be focused on the vernacular, it is important because the words used shape the message.

  6. It also doesn’t address those who live with a lot of body pain. I have a fairly high tolerance for pain. I had a compound femur fracture at 12. At 17 I hit the road, I lived on a bicycle all over the west for 5 years, sustaining more injuries, including a broken clavicle, that I set myself in the woods. I became a treeplanter (if you want a downright painful job, try that one), and climber. On more than one occasion I’ve seen the white of my bones. My aches and pains are not imaginary, nor temporary.
    I do hard work for a living, and am a debt free landowner, but uninsured. The last 2 years have been very hard, and at 44, with friends who’ve lived similar lives that are into their 60s, I have a good idea of what to expect, even they acknowledge that I’m a fair bit more beat up than most.
    Short of narcotics, the only solution to such pain is humor, not quips such as that.
    Never judge a man till you’ve walked a mile in his shoes…
    Because then you will have his shoes, and you will be a mile away!

  7. I’ve been reading a lot of suicide pages, and note that few people address what I was talking about. It so corresponds with the high risk groups, especially men in high stress or physically demanding lines of work. I would say that statement about a temporary problem may well apply to teens, but not so much to the people in my group. Is it silently acknowledged that for us, it can be an accepted course of action?

  8. First off I want to say that I am comforted to learn of this web site- )I found the link from the Facebook entry Franklin recently posted). I have been affected by suicide several times throughout my life, but my most recent and to me most tragic – was the death of my 16 year old son almost 5 years ago. Although, I have since attended many support group sessions as well as counseling sessions, and walked in several community afsp walks and the NY 2007 walk, the sadness and devestation, becomes less sharp but always reamins with us. With regard to the permanent solution to a temporary problem statement, my mind is almost flooded with response. It is interesting, because I guess I never stopped to think about why the statement never sat well with me, but rather just preferred not to give it much mind. However, reading the above posts, I totally support the position that temporary problem could indeed minimize or negate the feelings of the person in pain. That being said, I’m sure we honestly can’t expect entire communities to change their vocabularies on the subject. I believe it is forums like this – where people such as ourselves who have been affected – may actually have some of the best tools and sensitivities to help someone in pain. They need solutions, not minimization.

    Regarding solutions, and also regarding previous posts, as solution also usually has a postive connotation, I believe this is the true “aggravator” for me in this saying. Is the suicidal person now given the message that ok, a solution for you might be, support groups, and/or antidepressants, counseling, postive thinking and self worth thoughts..etc…. or as a permanent solution; suicide. Being that suicide is permanent and these other avenues may not be, it could almost make it sound more inviting. “At least it will all be done with”. I am sure whoever came up with this statement originally was trying to make sense of something none of us will ever be able to make sense of. It may have worked for them – it probably does work for other surviviors, at least for some time. For those of us who are deep thinkers, like myself, it raises questions. After being affected as we were/are we look for any and all courses of action to prevent it. I guess sometimes its discussions like these that give us pause….

  9. Excellent points! I am presently completing an undergraduate independent study on suicide and terminological issues have been particularly challenging. The permanent solution cliche is strikingly rationalistic considering the typically highly emotive mental state of a suicidal individual, as if someone convinced that suicide is a reasonable solution can be easily persuaded through argument that it is not.
    I like what you have to say about the term ‘completed’. It does seem significantly similar to ‘successful’. Throughout my research, I have found ‘death by suicide’ and ‘die by suicide’ to be the most neutral terms, but I also like your fatal and non-fatal attempt distinction. Dr. Morton Silverman makes use of ‘attempt’ in a similar fashion. His presentation on nomenclature of suicidology is available at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center website:
    In the presentation, he suggests doing away with several problematic terms including completed suicide, but in the end has no alternative recommendations to offer. I think your suggestions would be very useful for that cause.

  10. If you look at the unemployment statistics, perhaps some problems are not temporary.

  11. Suicide should never be an answer to a problem. This phrase “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” is one I’ve hears several times, and I can’t help but wonder why someone would say it and why it’s such a widely known phrase.

  12. ““Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” might strike someone who is not suicidal as a clever statement, and it might be a helpful thing to hear from the point of view of someone who already believes (or is likely to be convinced) that his or her problem is temporary. But the audience for this anti-suicide ditty is, of course, people who are suicidal.”

    In my beliefs it’s just a frase, used by people aiming for social status. Nothing more. They just like the sound of it and how people around them agrees that it’s a true statement (when you first hear it).

    That’s what most youngster’s want. Fancy stuff to say so that they’ll seem to be smarter than they actully are.

    And I just realised that what I just wrote have already been written. But I totally agree with you, nice insight.

  13. I am a 30 year old woman from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and that is the “slogan” that is used for the suicide prevention organization on the reservation. I feel it is very inappropriate because I feel that suicide is NEVER a solution. We all have bad days and even bad weeks but eventually with help of loved ones and in some cases professionals our problems can be solved with positive solutions. I think that it should be rephrased or not used because I find it offensive… I feel so strongly about this as my life was recently effected by suicide. My best friend found her brother after he commited the horrible act and her life and the lives of other family members and community members that knew him were deeply impacted. This is a very sensitive subject that I would like to bring light to in hopes that awarness is raised and prevention takes place.

  14. In three weeks I turn 50. I’m bipolar, severe I’m told. Disabled. I’ve always listened to the rhetoric “reach out, help is available”… well, I reached out, help was there, but innefective. The one you state, a “permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Well my problem is permanent, resistant to treatment progressive in nature, hardly temporary. It’s a fatal disease with a self exit a very real outcome, just as if I had terminal cancer with excruciating pain. More stigma for mental illness, from those supposed to help us. I’ve tried for years, I’m giving up on my 50th in a little over a month. Life has never been good for me, and with no hope for the future, time to take my exit bag out.

  15. I agree that sometimes people who are suicidal suffer from issues that are rectifiable with help and effort. However, as LOGDORK already addressed, this may not include people who live in bodily pain.

    My wish is that people would stop saying that suicide is a solution for temporary problems, because some people can legitimately expect to be dogged by the same problems for the rest of there lives. It might not be humane to expect people to continue on in some circumstances and saying this simply degrades the amount of compassion given toward those are suffering.

  16. Someone used this phrase in a discussion thread and I thought it was a great way of reframing a bleak outlook. In my attempt to find out who invented it, I came across this article which has drained my initial enthusiasm. By focussing in on the problem of what not to say, without providing the solution of what to say instead, I’m left feeling a tad helpless.

  17. As someone with a history of attempts, I can’t even tell you how much I hate that phrase. I also cannot tell you how many times i’ve been in the hospital, or being transfered via cop, and staff or police go on and on about how dare I attempt to kill myself, for my problems are nothing compared to others… ‘How can a 16 year old healthy girl try to kill herself? Do you know how many little girls are in this hospital right now who wish they had your life?!’ Yeah, if only they knew what that life really was. Thank you for stating the stupidity of that comment.

  18. I seldom use the term “committed suicide”, rather “died by suicide” following the idea of “died by homicide”

  19. I have just read your article and I read the posts that follow and now I feel compelled to give you another look at what you say “shouldn’t be said”.
    As a mother who buried her son 219 days ago from Suicide, I believe in his case and a lot of others I have dealt with since then, that is a very powerful, inspirational quote for those of us trying to stop the next one. There will be a next one! You see I was raised with a father who suffered from Depression, Schizophrenia and paranoia so bad that we were not allowed to leave the house or have friends in at times.
    I watched my son struggle for years with panic attacks and Depression and saw the lack of concern for these things in this society. People tend to say, “think happy thoughts”, “think positive”, “you are just having a bad day”, etc,.. At NO TIME in his pain did ANYONE ever use such powerful tools of words like the very one you want stopped. At no time did a doctor or counselor ever say to him, DON’T THINK ABOUT SUICIDE or that we can work on getting you better. Like most of us who suffer from depression and I do, the first things all types of doctors want to do is cram pills down your throat, which if you study that, can lead to SUICIDE as they twist the mind into what we call “normal”. The day my son left I have done nothing but research the sadness of his life and others and I know now, the hard way, that the ONLY ONES TALKING ABOUT IT are the ones directly affected. How many billboards, tv ads, news reports or radio talk shows are talking about the awareness and help that can and SHOULD be available to all of us when we break? How many other tools are out there to educate our children that SUICIDE is a PERMANENT SOLUTION? How many schools actually implement bullying programs before they lose a child to Suicide?
    I know and I say with fact that ANY information we can get out to all the suffering out there is a lot more than is being done now. This is your opinion and I will respect that, but walk in my shoes or walk in the 9 year old mothers shoes whose son was bullied to death. If we don’t use “slogans” or phrases that catch the eye and mind, no matter who agrees, then we become the complacent people who choose to ignore that 36,000 people each year die by Suicide and the numbers are 3 years old. Not every Depressed or Suicidal person can be saved, but I say with fact, that ANYONE who reaches out, even with a phrase is doing more than the pencil pushers doing NOTHING! Please don’t judge us for spreading the word. Please don’t judge anyone for spreading the word or raising awareness. You do not have to agree with how people try to educate, but you have to admit that ANY awareness we all bring can only help spread the message that there is possibly a solution to their problem.Suicide is not a treatable Medical condition, Depression is!

    Mother of Korey
    Pamela Riley

  20. TY! Great post. The cliche that irks me is, “God never gives you more that you can bare”. Really? Whoever wrote that apparently never heard of suicide.

  21. This essay and the comments are all very helpful in helping clarify some of my thoughts about terms, as well as language that I hadn’t really thought that much about. When talking about my 21 year old son who died by suicide 4 and 1/2 years ago, I say that he died by suicide; he had terminal depression. I look forward to the day that depression has no more stigma than cancer or seizure disorder, with resulting improved treatment and survival rates.

  22. As someone who came to this site because I searched how suicide was the solution to a permenant problem, I can tell you that your article is spot on. To a person considering suicide, the problem is not temporary. The suicidal mind sees the problem as inescapable, and terminal. In fact, the logic of the phrase could lead a suicidal person to finish the act. The suicidal mind hears, “Suicide is a permenant solution to a permenant problem.”

    Fortunately, (or unfortunately) I have childre, friends and family who would hurt too much. So as much as the idea sounds like a personally excellent decision, I don’t have that liberty. so please don’t think I need help. I just wanted to validate the author’s point.

  23. I heard this phrase from a close friend who cared allot about me and it echos in my head today 9 years later. I disagree with allot of the comments on this page. When I was suicidal on a daily basis for years I never considered any solutions, only not.feeling pain anymore. When I heard the phrase it allowed me to begin down a path of perspective that included looking at other ways to fix myself other than suicide. Today I nolonger feel this way and am a very accomplished and healthy person with a Passion for life. Thanks.

  24. I read this with great interest as someone who has used the term on several occasions and I myself will use it again, but all in context.
    I understand all of your points of view and have extremely strong views on the subject myself. Suicide is a permanent solution to a TEMPORARY problem, the problem is that in all the situations I’ve dealt with and all the people that are left behind that I speak with they will understand this phrase in it’s entirety. if you want to address suicide honestly and openly you have to start addressing the true cause, people who have lost hope amongst a world that has created a stifling way for people to live and express their true emotions, one that feeds happiness to us saying that it is the paramount way of being without also letting us know that if you are not always happy that is ok and you know if you don’t want to be feeling a certain way that is ok too, having faith and trust in one another and accepting each other just the way we are, the medical and psychiatric industry has a lot to answer for along with stupid idealisation of the media of those who are perceived to be successful.
    If the powers that be really wanted to address the growing epidemic that would start speaking to the people left behind by suicide however it would mean that they would have to take a pretty big hard honest look at themselves.
    It’s all about empowering the people to stand up against everything that they have been conditioned to believe.

    A little about me, I’ve been twice bereaved through suicide having lost my father 11 years ago and my only brother 8 years ago, I have at so many times wished for my pain to end and this cruel life of mine to be over, I have on numerous occasions been let down by systems that are meant to be in place to help those who are seeking help but have left so disillusioned and dissempowered,

  25. i have been suicidal a few times in my life. when i was way down in the dark i would always remind myself that ‘there’s always tomorrow…. maybe i will feel a little better tomorrow’ and eventually, i would come out of it and feel better. seven weeks ago my best friend took her life…..i am devastated. my emotions have been very-very intense. i read this quote, “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” for the first time ever about a week ago and it helped me. i found my way out. i wish i could’ve shared it with my friend.

    just sharing my own personal experience.

  26. Thank you for your perspective. It is one I had not considered. My suicide attempt was December 7, 2008. To me, after the fact, this phrase was comforting. It reminded me that the one guarantee in life is change. I now see it in a different light and feel bad that I used it on the back cover of my recently published book. To me it made such a difference. It did not occur to me that it may be harmful or belittle the problems of others. The one thing that was said to me (as a not-so-funny joke) after my attempt was “at least we found one thing you’re not good at. Wow! To me, it was almost like a challenge. Thankfully, I was stable by then. The only reason I lived that day is because my mother had a “premonition” from 30 miles away and called my next-door neighbors who had a key to my home. I woke up the next day on a ventilator in the ICU. It was horrifying! I now know that I was shown that “dark place” and lived to talk about it because it is my mission here to help others out of that darkness. I will take your words to heart and, from now on will only use them when I feel they are right for the specific person I am addressing. Thank you for sharing this view. Much Love, Julie-Anne

  27. I disagree with the claim that (1) all suicidal people are irrational in thought; and (2) that there is no such thing as a permanent problem facing a suicidal person. If you’re experiencing a lifelong mental illness that has been resistant to treatment for your entire life across decades or a terminal illness, that IS a permanent problem. To suggest that there’s no such thing as a permanent problem facing suicidal people flies in the face of some people’s reality, and may thus do more harm than good. A different approach is needed.

  28. I have long found this cliched and thoughtless statement to be incredibly insulting and offensive. The sufferer knows, far better than anyone else, what level of inner and outer pain they must deal with as well as the problems and circumstances that are contributing toward their feelings. They are more aware than anyone else just how temporary or not temporary these feelings and circumstances are.

    This may be poking the sacred cow for some, but sometimes suicide is the only merciful option left to some individuals, and so far as I’m concerned it is their right. No one lives their life for them, and if they are the ones who must take up their life, then they have the right to lay it down. And even if the sufferer is shortsighted and foolishly impulsive (which, most assuredly, not all of them are), this phrase is dismissive, patronizing, and marginalizes a complex emotional, spiritual, and psychological struggle and burden. For such individuals, this trite cliche might be enough to spur them from their spiral downward…or it might just be the trigger they need to make the jump. For those who are not, however, such a statement is only another dagger digging and twisting into wounds.

    There are no easy answers or solutions when dealing with suicide. The reasons people consider suicide are as varied as there are unique individuals and for people to use this phrase when trying to “help” is the height of dangerous and insensitive ignorance.

    So I thank you, deeply, for writing this article, because this needed to be said.

  29. I first heard this quote in 1998 and I thought it was a very true and encouraging statement to hear, because I was not suicidal. I felt true sympathy for suicidal people and thought, with no disrespect, that they must actually be crazy to attempt suicide. Now, for the last 8 years I have been an emotional wreck via experiencing my worst fears coming true of being self employed, plus experiencing a long stretch of unemployment, and finally I have lost about 90% of my net worth,leaving me with about 50K in the bank and living with my parents now. For the past 3 years of this 8-year stretch, I think about suicide every day. I cannot even remember that 30 year old man from ’98 who thought suicide was always out of the question. Let’s define “temporary problem” now, 14 years later.

    First of all temporary simply means that which is not permanent, right? So doesn’t that mean that a married couple who take out a 30 yr mortgage, and pays it to the end are only “temporarily indebted” to that loan? Does anyone remember 1982? Do those 30 years since ’82 seem like a brief “temporary” time frame? I don’t think it does. If we knew when the “temporary” period ends, fine, many people would be willing to fight the good fight. For example, this 70 mile drive each way to work that Mr Smith just loathes….”do it for 6 more months Mr Smith, and at that time you will have found a higher paying job that’s only 20 miles away”. But of course, we cannot predict the future.

    Prior to 2004, I had a humiliating and anxiety-filled 3.5 year period as an employee at a company in the mid ’90’s. I had an equivalently trying time in my 4 years of high school. IMO, those 2 phases of my life were indescribably difficult, but at least I can say that, in both cases, maybe a total of 25% of the time was tolerable, or decent. But in these last 8+ years, there has been maybe 10% of tolerable days. It is only because my mom is still alive and well that I do not commit suicide.

    Trust me, when you are an adult in your mid-40’s and are suicidal, you know if it’s the right solution. Unlike a teenager or even a very young adult, there is no desire to “get back” at those who hurt you or to make others feel sorry for you. No, the suicide answer is clear, and it is strictly desired for solution – not for drama. Yes, I have been in therapy most of this 8 year period, the last 3 uninterrupted.

    Remember that for every happy ending, there are probably 8 more where the person never improves, yet really tried. Think of an alcoholic who has turned their life around….that’s great. Imagine how difficult that must have been for that person. That’s a wonderful change of life, but it’s not that common….same with crippling depression, anxiety, paranoia etc. The sucess stories are always great to hear about. In fact, go ahead and make a 2 hour documentary featuring 10 such stories, just remember that behind the scenes they probably had to sift through about 80 suicidal patients to find those 10.

  30. This article was so helpful to me….I lost my precious 51 year old younger brother to suicide on 12/1/2012….I will never again use that statement!! Because I never had to deal with suicide so closely and personally I never thought about it in depth like I need to now. My brothers problems….whatever they may have been to him at the time were far from TEMPORARY in his mind. Thank you so very much!
    Lisa Peter Clevenger….to my brother Jeff…Loving you always….missing you still<3

  31. @ Steven A, I am TRULY sorry to hear what you’ve been going through, and for so long. I just wanted to address your sentence: “Trust me, when you are an adult in your mid-40′s and are suicidal, you know if it’s the right solution.”

    I had always been extremely intolerant and had little compassion for those who attempted suicide. In my mind, I could not comprehend how anyone could do something so “stupid.” That lasted until mid 2008, when depression struck me hard and fast. Over a four month period, I went from thinking suicide was irrational to thinking it made perfect sense. It absolutely seemed logical and right for me. I “knew.”

    When I woke up in the ICU on a ventilator, my first thought was “son of a B—-! I’m still here!” Then, I looked around the room to see my family and friends broken and in pieces. I could not believe that I had thought this decision would be the best thing for all of them. After my stay in the hospital, where they determined which chemical and hormones were “out of balance,” and corrected them, suicide no longer seemed rational to me. I could not explain to people what had made me do it. There was no one event, situation or person that “pushed me over the edge.” It was more like a combination of little things.

    People often ask “what could be so bad that someone would think that taking their life was a rational solution?” My answer is this: “When you’re living in a state of chronic depression, EVERYTHING is that bad!” I had trouble just pushing myself to the kitchen and deciding what to eat.

    My point is, right now you may think “you know if it’s the right solution,” but that’s not your TRUE brain talking. That’s the chemicals causing you to BELIEVE it’s the right solution. Once I saw how a chemical imbalance could completely change my thinking to the point where what had once seemed “completely irrational,” now seemed perfectly logical, I finally “got it.” I never want to return to what I refer to as “That Dark Place” again! I am constantly aware of my thoughts and frame of mind so that I don’t slip away again.

    I hope that one day you too will reach this place. I hope that you are able to work with great doctors to find out exactly which chemicals will best help you out of “That Dark Place.” Just because I have come out the other side, does not mean I don’t understand where you are and hope that you too can join me in stepping out of the darkness and into your own light. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. I’m reaching my hand back into the darkness to help people into the light every day, and am grateful that I’m able to do so! My website is below. I hope that you’ll stop in and check out my “Suicide Analogy.” It was my way of trying to help those who have never been there understand depression and suicide.

    Wishing you happiness, healing, and unconditional love!

  32. Thank you Julie-Anne for your kind reply. I went to your website and I can appreciate your crusade. I am very happy for you, not to mention impressed (and surprised), that you are actually GLAD to be alive and moving forward. I wish you the best with your health issues.
    My mind is obviously in a different place than yours. Understand that I am past a certain point and I have found that it’s not possible to go back to “before” that point ever again. It’s like trying to put more water into a one-gallon container. As long as that container STAYS full, it is not possible to squeze any more into it. It is used up.

    June 2002, I finally (5th different one) experienced a medication (effexor) that made me feel better. It stopped me from getting so enraged, panicked, sad, it mercifully dulled my emotions. I paid the price by going from 200 lbs to 223 pounds in 6 months, December 2002. So all the trauma, sadness, etc from April 2004 to the present has occurred despite me using the medication. Due to the true suicide vision I began forming in June 2009, I eventually spent 72 hours in a psych ward in November 2009 resulting from an intervention that 6 people conducted on me. Very tough place to be despite the nice staff, and I saw how great it is just to be free. I felt so caged in, because I didn’t know I would be freed after 72 hours, my discharge was announced w/o warning.

    Yes, I admit I would prefer to WANT to live than to have to resort to suicide. But my next statement is the most disturbing of all, in my opinion: From the day I left that hospital, to this present day ….there are ZERO feelings/reasons as to why I’m glad to still be alive. None. In fact, since then I have truly had lower points than being in that hospital, and my emotional/mental reaction to each incident was no easier to handle now than before I became suicidal. In fact, it just reaffirms my need to leave here. But my mom is the reason I can’t do it, so I am without goals…other than to NOT commit suicide.

    The humiliation/cruelty I have endured in my jobs, plus the rejection (living w/ parents at 40+) from women, it’s been very hard to handle this regardless of still being in therapy….it’s much harder now than when I still had some spare “strength” to fill up that one-gallon container. I recently switched from Effexor to Cymbalta to reduce the weight gain but no difference. Although I’m born and raised Catholic, I have become Atheist (Sept ’09 and haven’t prayed since), but not because I am against God – it’s because I am as certain as can be that he/she does not exist. Once somebody educates themselves via readings, videos, statistics, psychology, and science and sees there is no God, I think you would be surprised how many depressed/traumitized people (myself for sure) realize that they only were staying alive because of something better after death. But without that hope, and without life on earth being bearable, you really have nothing.

  33. @Steven A. I just read your comment and my heart hurts for you. Knowing what it felt like to be in what I call “That Dark Place,” I cannot even imagine how it must feel to have been there for so long!

    NOTE that I am NOT a professional counselor of ANY kind, and can only speak from my own experience. With that being said, your doctors do not seem to have your depression managed even a little! If Effexor was working for you, I would add that it was one of TWO antidepressants that helped me climb out of the darkness. I took it in conjunction with Wellbutrin. The Wellbutrin actually helped me lose weight! Of course all of that changed when I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Not only did my medications add weight, but I became almost completely home-bound. I put on 100lbs in the first year! So far I’ve lost about 50 of them but I confess that I am still self-conscious about my weight. But when I catch myself feeling that way, I remind myself that the physical body is just the shell that carries around my soul, and I KNOW that my soul is good and beautiful.

    I too was raised Catholic and turned away from God for a very long time. It was my journey into “metaphysics” that finally had me understanding that the God I have come to know is not the vengeful and judgmental God I was taught about in school. I believe that we are all connected as One Being and that we each carry a small part of God within us. I know that sounds “far fetched” and a bit much for someone who is in the place you are in right now. It took me a LONG time to get here. It came from reading books on metaphysics and “near death experiences,” knowing that my own survival was a true miracle, and having always had this inexplicable “inner knowing” that God, as I understood Him to be, was not the kind of God I was always taught about. My parents are devout Catholics and know that I will attend church with them only twice a year (for special occasions). When I DO attend with them, there are certain parts of the mass that I will absolutely not say. One of them is “Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” One day my mom asked my why I wouldn’t say that phrase and my answer was this: “You’re my mother. You now know that I’ve done some pretty awful things. Despite ALL of that, was there ever a moment when you stopped loving me, or WANTED me to feel unworthy?” It was a “light bulb moment” for her. She finally understood my view.

    As for being treated poorly at work and/or rejected by women, that all has to start with you. YOU have to like, and then love yourself before others will do the same. Taking it back o metaphysics, what is known as the “Law of Attraction” says that every thought, gesture, word or action that you put into this world is energy. The basic concept that all energy vibrates at a certain frequency. Happier thoughts are at a higher frequency than sad ones. If you are vibrating at a lower frequency, you will only attract to you those people and things at that same low frequency. (I know, a bit much and “far fetched” to some, but I’ve tried it both ways and it works every time.)

    Can you remember a time that you weren’t depressed? What made you happy, laugh, or feel joy. If you can find a way to “plug back into that,” you’re already on your way. For me, it was healing people. I used to do it with my hands. When I lost the PHYSICAL ability to do that, I thought I’d lost it forever. However, I’ve since seen that the true purpose behind my illnesses was to help me heal even MORE people. That’s what keeps me going and feeling joy.

    I have two good friends who call themselves “realists.” They say that I just “pretend” the world is sunshine and rainbows. What they don’t understand is that, from the moment I DECIDED my world was sunshine and rainbows, it became so. From the moment I forgave myself for all of the pent up frustration, what I thought were “sins,” and for my “shortcomings,” I began to love myself. More importantly, I began to RESPECT myself enough to not tolerate those who don’t.

    I truly hope you find happiness and peace very soon. If what they have you on and the counselor are not working, please don’t be afraid to seek additional doctors, medications, or therapists.

    Since you’ve seen my website, you know you can “contact me” through it. If you ever need a hand to reach in the darkness, please use that button. I want nothing but peace and happiness returned to your life.

    With UNCONDITIONAL Love and Gratitude!

  34. Thank you for this very valuable blog. I have been battling with suicidal thoughts for well over a year now, and the worst thing that anybody’s told me was “Suicide is a temporary solution for a permanent problem”.

    Before hearing this ‘statement’ I used to think that suicide is wrong regardless of the problem. But when I was told it is a solution, I started to look at suicide from a completely different angel, a solution!

    Even worse, the statement implies if you can prove to yourself that your problem is permanent (surprisingly easy to do when you’re considering taking your life), it is okay to commit suicide.

    I hate that I heard this statement in the first place because it made things much worse for me.

  35. I know this is very lengthy; but, if anyone else can identify with my situation I hope it will be helpful. Many details have already been condensed for the sake of length. I just found this link through “Parents of Suicide”, (POS). It is the most valuable piece of information I have ever seen. My son died by hanging – while on “suicide watch” in Chino Institute for men. He was 37 hears old had a long history of mental illness issues. He was charming, witty, intelligent and caring. But, from adolescence on he had diagnoses of Severely Emotionally Disturbed, Bil-Polar, Schizo affective, and Depression. The “professionals” in the psychiatric business were of no help. Despite is inborn positive characteristics those other demons haunted him hourly. I suffered along with him not knowing how to help anymore than I was. I felt his pain and, as the years and problems escalated I have to admit that I somehow sensed that I would outlive him. During manic phases he would do stupid things that landed him in juvenile hall, then county jail and finally a seven year stretch at Vacaville Medical Facility prison. When he came home in July of 2007 he was immediately assigned a Parole Officer who had a reputation of being “a real asshole”, (quote from other professionals). However, he had never tried harder in his life to make good. He enrolled in community college and was doing excellent despite having to walk to and from a city bus in the rain with 30 pounds of welding equipment. He successfully found self-employment as a handyman and did major renovations on houses. He returned to his church, (LDS), and loved singing in the choir. An old friend of his had a successful welding business in Utah and had all the paperwork ready for Scott to join the business as an apprentice and he could live the friend and his wife till he got on his feet. Both of us felt this was the best thing that could happen. However the Parole officer refused.The group home he was living in was was chosen by the parole officer who was a friend of the owner and not appropriate for Scott, (and alcohol and drug base-absolutely no experience or credentials regarding mental illness), and the owner was genuinely a crook. Three other mothers and myself were summoned to testify against him at the CIM facility. Why was he there? Because the owner had come at Scott with a stick. My son called me and I told him to just leave and not escalate the situation. It was 9 pm and I had to be at work at 9:30. Still I made the decision to stop by the house. When I got there the owner refused me access even though I had been there often. I told him I just wanted to talk to my son and I knew how to calm him down but he still refused. By the time I got to work there was a message on my cell phone from my son in which he was tearfully saying, “they won, the whole world has won, I love you but this is good bye. I immediately called the local sheriff for a welfare/safety check and shortly after they called me and told me my son had been taken to our local county hospital mental health ward. However, because of funding issues, when they learned he was on parole they immediately transferred him to the Chino prison. When I last saw my on at the testimony hearing on a Thursday afternoon, and as I was starting to leave, my son with tears streaming down very quietly and politely asked a guard, “can I please tell my mom I love here?”. The guard yelled loudly “NO!”. The following Monday afternoon a Deputy Jones called me from the prison and informed me my son was dead; that, he had hung himself the day before. Many calls to the prison everyday for a month brought no responses for information. It is still questionable where he truly died of “passive hanging” or if some foul play on the part of the staff was responsible, (more details left out for brevity). The bottom line is my son bravely attempted to fight his own civil war with his “demons” in a very large, dark hole for years. Sometimes he would win a battle, but ultimately lost the war. My loving husband who had been ill for years died a month later. I am a survivor but now completely alone. The stigma of suicide left me friendless, jobless and I have no other family. I have contemplated suicide myself many times now. I’m 64 years old, and physically disabled. Have my own Dx of Depression and PTSD. I’ve accomplished a lot in my life and have done many good deeds that I know have planted seeds of hope in others, (was a social worker, clinical therapist and college instructor – psychology!). None of it came easy. I sweat blood to persevere against a lot of obstacles as a single parent, working, putting myself through school and caring for aging parents until their deaths. But, I’m not 23 or 26 or 35 or even 40 even more. I feel like I have done all I can and at my age, with my medical problems, I too feel there is really no reason for me to be here. I’m isolated except for my dogs and that is all I really care for. Suicide for my son was NOT a permanent solution to temporary problems.His problems were were permanent and as he aged that realization finally hit him. Many people have told me than my son is is in hell because of suicide. I, too, have lost faith in God because for my son, and now me, this world is hell. Besides the “permanent solution….” cliche, I have also come to hate the “snap out of it” phrase. No one who has gone through what we have will ever really understand.

  36. […] know, and we will never know, if that was the reason. The objective observers see her act as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But the problem, whatever it is, is not temporary to the subject. It was not temporary to me. It […]

  37. It’s always amusing to see people, whom are not suicidal, struggling to understand suicide. All relevant problems are permanant; our lives are temporary. We will always be hungry for food, we will always need oxygen to breathe, and we must always maintain a core temperature of 98.6 Farenheit. Those are the ONLY problems that are relevant to us; everything else is superficial. Healthcare could be considered as a 4th need, but it is not necessary as long as the 3 main needs are sufficiently met. If one can not continuously meet those needs, and proper healthcare is not attainable, then suicide is a logical alternative to suffering a slow, painful death.

  38. I would also like to point out that the “jingle” completely ignores problems that ARE permanent, For instances many people who have incurable physical ailments (some of these ailments may be literally painful, beyond simply emotional) consider or even carry out suicide, as well as other individuals who are in other literal circumstances that may never change. Of course I not recommending suicide for these individuals, but it requires a deeper level reaching out then simply telling them that their problem is temporary, which in some case may seem or very well be completely false.

  39. I think that the “jingle” does apply in certain circumstances. Recently, a friend experienced a severe case of debilitating vertigo and comtemplated suicide, not realizing the BPPV (vertigo) is an easily treatable symptom. In this case, I would say my friend would have made a decision to use a permanent solution to a temporary problem. By the way, if you know of someone with vertigo, let them know they so not have to suffer the anquish. Most ENT physicians and audiologists treat it and usually, it only requires one treatment. Amazing, nothing short of miraculous!!!

  40. People who commit suicide are depressed….they do it to end their personal suffering …many reasons ….one result….it’s not like they think things might improve…..they are clinically depressed…if they won the lottery it would be short lived…I have known 2 ppl in my life very close friends that have killed themselves…one had five children ..a single parent that took a overdose…..and one jumped off a high building knowing one son had shot the other son dead…these things are impossible to fathom …if you just have a overdue water bil…but it’s psychological ….no one can understand the mental pain …and suffering these ppl go through…it could happen to any of us…..just love and try to understand …you big up today …life’s a bitch 2mro…, peace and happiness….you never know when it will make the difference between life or death….love up ….BIG TIME….

  41. Reblogged this on Nightsong's Nebulous Narrative and commented:
    Very interesting and relevant points on this post…

  42. My brother killed himself 10 years ago. I’ve heard “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” more than a few times. Mainly from people I think, that just didn’t know what to say to me, so they went for the only suicide saying they knew.

  43. One of the best commentaries on suicide preventative strategies I’ve ever read…thank you.

    When people say “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” it literally makes me want to kill myself. It just comes off as so condescending. Am I suppose to think, “oh I never thought of it like that! Wow I feel great now!” Or something?. Rather I feel like my daily struggle is invalid and I’m a big stupid baby who can’t handle it while everyone else can.

    The word temporary REALLY makes me feel wrong too. I mean I’ve been suicidal for years and years, and in spite of what people may say in passing about how it will get better, for reasons I won’t state here, there’s next to a zero percent chance it will. So I have been unhappy for a long time, I have analyzed it, identified its root cause, and in so much as I can, attempted to change it over the years and it hasn’t (and I don’t expect it to) gotten better. I’m not going to kill myself (that’s my weekly goal: just to live) but I can assure you my pain is far from “temporary” and to hear it described as such just makes me feel like a pathetic bickering baby – thus only fueling my suicidal feelings.

    In short: listen to the post above.

    Or at least limit use of this cliche to people who suffer “temporarily” because it has a fatal affect on us that have suffered from suicidal thoughts our whole lives.

  44. I agree lew, I have had bpd most of my life, I want to get better but it doesn’t happen, People who say that line are ignorant and actually don’t care that your suffering. In other words what they are actually saying is “go away there are no problems that can’t be solved” but that’s why we were suicidal in the first place. Some people have mental cognition problems, It’s not the driver (ego) that’s the problem, it’s the car (brain). 🙂 If they would only could understand that.

  45. Like someone who has never touched a drug trying to help a drug addict, a person who drops the “suicide is a permanent solution…” cliche will immediately lose my attention and confidence in their ability to help. From my experience, during a “blue October” or “silent year” as I like to call my bouts of depression, I am not thinking about how to come up with solutions to problems. I am thinking about problems for which one person has absolutely no control over- examples like all human beings’ propensity for greed, an inability to make meaningful connections with 99.99999% of all the people you come into contact with, rendering them but a faceless, emotionless blob, or the fact that, for me, thinking back to my most happiest moments will always make me sad because they are done and gone, and I inevitably feel that I squandered them; didn’t savour them like I should have. These are problems that just dig and dig at me during the bad times. So the thought of a “permanent solution” by semantic logic encourages, nay, requires that I stop all my bitching and moaning and put that solution into play. 6,000,000,000 + people on this planet really waters down the idea of “unique and special” To me this is a problem in and of itself, and the most humane thing I can do is give up my plush seat for someone else. Words, stories, pills, fear of pain, fear of posthumous ridicule… none of that will stop me from taking my life. The ONLY thing I live for some days is to avoid breaking my parents hearts.
    Sorry to be such a downer, haha, but it’s kind of the nature of this beast.

  46. I agree with what many other posters have said. The biggest problem with the cliche is that it is simply NOT accurate IMO. Would you say to someone with breast cancer, “Breast cancer is just a temporary problem”??? For some, it may be; for others, it may not be. As much as we might like it to be true, not all illnesses are curable. Thankfully, many are. But to say that every single person who is contemplating suicide has only a temporary problem is ridiculous IMO. It’s pretending to know the unknowable. Of course, I’m not advocating suicide, but to spout this shallow platitude is to rub salt in people’s wounds.

  47. Oh, I wanted to add this. I saw a bit of well-meaning lecturing in the posts above. However, lecturing is NOT what helps someone who is suicidal. If you really want to help save a life, then stop talking and listen. Show some real love and concern. I read the following on another Web site, which is so true:

    “People who feel suicidal don’t want answers or solutions. They want a safe place to express their fears and anxieties, to be themselves.

    “They want someone to LISTEN. Someone who will take time to really listen to them. Someone who won’t judge, or give advice or opinions, but will give their undivided attention.”

  48. I think it’s interesting how there are many terms out there for different types of abuse, such as “verbal abuse,” “physical abuse,” “child abuse,” “elder abuse,” and “spiritual abuse.” But it seems to me that we need one more category as well: “Abuse of the suicidal.”

    I was reading an article on the Web about spiritual abuse (called “Spiritual Abuse” by Scott Nicloy), and there seem to be a lot of similarities between spiritual abuse and abuse of the suicidal. One of them is the use of cliches and pat answers to try to help someone who is hurting, but which usually ends up doing a lot of harm. Here are some interesting quotes from the article. I am including these here because I think they parallel exactly what many well-meaning people do to try to help the suicidal:

    “The hurt and harm of spiritual abuse is rarely inflicted upon people with the intention to wound anyone. Most spiritual abuse is inflicted by Christians who are very sincere.

    “Do the abusers intend to inflict hurt? In most cases, probably not. They usually are unaware of what they are doing to people in the name of God.

    “Empathy is the ability to perceive, to understand, to sense, to feel what another person is experiencing.It is impossible to truly talk with anyone about Jesus, or anything else for that matter, without knowing the other person. Authentic ministry is based upon knowing a person. There is no point in claiming that Jesus is the answer, when you have not heard the question. A physician who prescribes medicine without knowing the patient is likely to injure the patient. In like manner, evangelicals who try to minister without knowing the sheep in an empathic manner will most likely injure it.

    “The great challenge for Christians is to observe that ancient dictum: “In doing good, do no harm.”

    Anyway, I definitely think we need a new category called “abuse of the suicidal,” because it unfortunately seems to be a very common occurrence. In helping a suicidal person, it’s extremely important that at the very least you do no harm.

  49. Oh I can’t tell you how much wisdom I think is in this post. I am so glad someone has finally posted something like this. I wish I had thought of it. I have hated that phrase you quoted ever since the first time I heard it and I keep on hearing it. It makes one think that their problem is fleeting and not very serious and it is in fact, insulting.

    My 23 year old daughter took her own life 4-11-13. She never showed signs of depression, never sought help, never told anyone, was brilliant, highly achieving and grew up in a happy home but she said in her suicide note that she had been depressed all her life and hid it from us to protect us from it. She went on to say she could not explain why she did not seek help. I would like to see someone try to convince me that someone that struggled with depression all their life that her depression was temporary. I strongly believe had she sought and received help she may still be here, but to say a suicidal person’s problems are temporary is not taking this seriously enough. Thank you for this post.

  50. I so agree; and I also think people need stop saying that people who kill themselves are selfish. That’s an ignorant and cliched thing to say, and all it does is hurt those who are already suffering the death of the one who chose suicide. I wrote my last three posts about suicide. I tried to kill myself when I was 21, and I know how I was suffering. Sometimes it really does feel like the only solution; sometimes I understand how much my death will affect those who know and love me. I don’t think people who commit suicide know the devastation they leave behind. They’re in too much pain and want it to stop.

    Thank you for the resource you are.

  51. What a fantastic post. I hate pithy sayings in general, especially about mental health, but there is one that seems true to me: “Suicide happens when our pain exceeds our ability to cope.” When I think of that I realize it’s not my fault, there’s nothing so wrong with me; I just haven’t found the healthy way to cope yet, but I can learn. Thank you for sharing this.

  52. No one wants to talk about suicide, sometimes it takes saying something that is shocking to many to make the discussion happen, because it is a permanent solution to the pain that rips your mind and body apart. I have to deal with being suicidal and I don’t have a huge issue with the statement, as bad as my son’s death was I’m glad I made it through the temporary to be able now to talk about what happened to him, they are just words, not rude judgements

  53. Im really angry at suicidal people, because with suicide they destroy the lifes of their loved ones forever! Thank you. your unbearable horrible “permanent” pain may be over now, but you have made us feel that pain for the rest of our lives. And Im not going to kill myself just because I feel unbearable permanent pain!
    I know its a biochemical disease of the brain which makes people think that suicide is a good option when in reality its just plain stupid. So its not their fault at all, its just biology. But Im just so angry at it.

  54. A friend and colleague, Barb Hildebrand, who maintains “Suicide Shatters” on Facebook, posted an item there about “Please Stop Saying …” which also generated dozens of comments and replies. Please see

  55. FINALLY, someone gets it. I’ve been depressed for over 25 years and hearing that phrase my eyes roll back into my noggin’ every time. Good insight.

  56. Maybe people should stop arguing about what to say and start (or continue) publicly, loudly shouting for help for us suicidal people.

    The mental health system, as it now stands, can help suicidal people who have sunk to this depth but do have a support system. I’ve never known a person who recovered without loved ones stepping up. I’m sure it could happen, but I’ve never heard of it.

    Sometimes that isn’t the case though. Some families are ashamed by the suicidal person, and while they may help financially (if at all), you’ll never see them set foot in a family session, because it’s not their problem. They don’t have problems, so they don’t need to deal with it, and the suicidal person is just being a selfish, attention seeking, drama king/queen.

    The system also helps survivors. It doesn’t do jack for people with no support system. People who know that when they walk out of that office, they will have no one to turn to for the next week. No one who cares.

    Often, the way their family treats them, like a problem and a burden, contributes to the suicide–yup, I’m stating something taboo here, but it NEEDS to be said. Many (maybe even most) survivors DID try to be supportive and participate in the recovery of the suicidal person, but the hard truth is, many didn’t.

    Many couldn’t be bothered. Many were and are hiding abuse (not always physical or sexual, but still abuse) that contributed to the depression. Many made it all about them, and how the suicidal person is/was hurting their family by being suicidal. Many treat the SICK (as in ill, as in suffering) person as if this is their fault, their problem, and then after their family member is actually dead, they rewrite history to make themselves feel better.

    And they get all kinds of help and support through their grief, help that they neglected to give the person who just killed themselves. There are more resources for survivors of fatal suicide attempts than there are for people who are actually suicidal. More support groups, more forums, more SUPPORT. That is just flat out freaking wrong, and tells people like me that we aren’t valued, and that it’s only our families who matter.

    We are made the villains while alive, so how can we be helped when we’re only considered victims AFTER the fact? When it’s too late? It’s the survivors who are deserving of compassion, not us.

    The reality is that it’s both. When a family member is suicidal, it is the whole family system that needs help, and the whole family system that should be the focus of interventions, because it’s the whole family system that is ill. Period.

    Families are systems, and when one component of a system is so demonstrably damaged that it is literally trying to self destruct, then the whole system can be said to be damaged and in need of immediate and intensive help. The entire family is in an acute crisis, whether they want to accept that or not, the suicidal person is often simply the most obvious symptom of a problem within the system. We are the canaries in the mine shaft. We are the red flag that something is amiss. We are the messengers who sometimes need to be shot before anyone bothers to listen to the message.

    We should not first focus only on the suicidal person, then after the death, focus only on the survivors. Suicidal depression doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It may be genetic, but a predisposition needs to be triggered by something. As my psych instructor in college vehemently pointed out “the genome is not the phenome!” In other words, having a genetic predisposition, by itself, does NOT cause mental illness. That predisposition needs to be triggered by environmental factors.

    This support for survivors and lack of support for, and placement of all blame on, suicidal people only reinforces our view that we are problems. We are burdens. That everyone really would be better off without us.

    I mean good grief, for many of us, families do seem to only give a damn once we’re dead, and then suddenly they have everyone’s compassion, and how dare anyone suggest that they could have picked up the phone and reached out to someone they knew was seriously depressed.

    So, for these families (NOT ALL–I’m speaking about a specific group here, families who DON’T try to participate in the recovery process, but DO expect–and get–all kinds of emotional support themselves after the fact–and it’s a much bigger group than most would believe), they have seen themselves as the victims since it all began, and they expect all the support they never gave. They, in short, delude themselves to feel better, when the fact is they were part of the problem.

    Oh wait, I forgot, we’re not allowed to criticise the survivors, that would be cruel and unfair. How non-PC of me. All survivors, by virtue of being survivors, are inherently above reproach. It’s only the suicidal person towards whom it is acceptable to sling criticism and blame. To call selfish and self centered. After all, there wouldn’t even BE suicide survivors if we weren’t so damn selfish.

    And yes, I dearly hope that my message stings some of those who are living with a suicidal family member. Why? Because maybe they’ll feel stung because deep down they know that what I’ve written is true, even if they loudly attack me for saying so.

    Then maybe they’ll act to prove me wrong. And maybe their actions will be simple things like picking up the phone, dropping by just because, or bringing the depressed person a cassarole or their favorite treat. Why? Because those simple acts tell the depressed person that they matter. That they are valued. That yes, someone actually does give a damn. It doesn’t take grand gestures. It takes little acts of humanity. Small gestures of care and concern. A shoulder to cry on without judgement or exasperation.

    It may not be enough, as evidenced by the fact that sometimes people do kill themselves anyway when their families do “circle the wagons,” but without these small proofs that someone actually cares, someone who isn’t paid to care, the chances of recovery are slim to none.

  57. One of the things that I wish psychiatrists would stop saying is “It’s your choice and your decision” to attempt suicide (if they deem that you have mental capacity). This comment fails to understand how a person’s thought processes can be profoundly altered, in the days or hours leading up to a suicide attempt. Even if you are deemed to have the ‘mental capacity’ to make that ‘decision’. When you are in unbearable emotional pain, you think very differently – it does not feel like a ‘choice’ at the time, necessarily. It is rarely a reasoned decision that is calmly thought out. The psychiatrists’ comments make it sound as if it is. I was told many times that it was my decision / my choice to end my life. After a while, these comments validated it, in my mind. I went on to attempt suicide. I now work with people at risk of suicide. There was very little clarity of thought when I attempted suicide. I used a method that I always said I wouldn’t use. So something had profoundly changed in my mind. And I could not think of the consequences of my actions, or the effect on others. It makes me very angry that psychiatrists say this. I cannot believe that they truly understand what it is like to be at the point of suicide.

  58. “Even though the perception that the pain is permanent is not accurate”

    How would you know what the lifespan of another person’s pain is? Forty years or more of continuous, unrelenting pain isn’t temporary.

    You may mean well but you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  59. Indeed, there must be exceptions, so my making a purely absolute statement is mistaken. Certainly, I in no way mean to minimize anyone’s experience of pain, whether it endures for 40 years or 40 seconds. FJC

  60. For those of you arguing continued use of this slogan please tell me (a 25+ yr sufferer of bipolar depression predominant depressive) how anyone can possibly use the word “solution” and “suicide” together in any way to make a positive point? “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem!?!?” Really!?!? Yes suicide is permanent, a solution? A huge NO!!! Tempory problem!?!? For people like me, with bipolar depression it is a daily battle!! It is not temporary!! And depression alone for some is not a temporary thing! Some people struggle for years, maybe all their lives. So it’s not always temporary!! But this phrase is not correct in any way or form!!!

  61. Reblogged this on Vert-i-GO Cycle Couriers and commented:
    “I assure you, no one considering suicide sees their problems as temporary. To insinuate such is insulting”

  62. You’re just mad because you didn’t come up with it first. Seriously. Logic is the best cure for anything. Stop trying to prevent something that might actually save a life.

  63. Logic just wasn’t in my head when I attempted suicide, Samuel. I think many people, perhaps most people, who attempt suicide are highly distressed in the moments before an attempt ,or clinically depressed – both of which profoundly change your thought processes and your view of the world and your view of yourself. Your ability to think logically, at that point, may be severely impaired. You may make decisions, that you would not make if you were well or if you were not highly distressed.
    The phrase (that we are all commenting on) was meaningless to me, since I could see no possibility of my life changing or improving. Again, this is likely to have been part of depression, where your thought processes and views are so different from when you are well.

  64. […] I have worked in suicide prevention and suicide grief support for a little more than a decade, and f… […]

  65. Exactly! In my situation, 22+years of under treated chronic pain, it is a solution. And always among the 1st solutions that comes up with setbacks. An ethical vet would have put me down a decade ago. Wish I could find an ethical doctor, but they all checked their practice at the DEA, along with their cojones.
    A permanent out from pain is what I’ve planned when my brain gets too shrivelled from the pain, & the medicines I take as substitutes for effective ones, to remember why, a walk into the cold off our acreage. Until then, too cheap a purchase of peace. I have other plans to make my point when it goes too far. None active at present, but never forgotten. Once suicide becomes an acceptable avenue, it never leaves the decision tree in my experience.
    Acting on it… When that fuse is lit, it’s a neurochemical cascade that is undeniable, ending the pain becomes the ONLY sensible conclusion in your mind.
    I spent a decade plus doing long term neuro/psych care, TBI w/problematic behaviours, then Neuro/Psych lockups & rehabs, then home care/hospice, too keep my own problems in perspective, miss it mightily. I wish they treated chronic pain as a Palliative Care situation, as it is. No cure/No ethical care, it has already killed 23% of my heart via one cox2 inhibitor, no pulse 3x in the process, all my physiological overhead for dealing with the pain is gone, & my new pain management dr. tells me none of the meds I’m taking are “Pain” medicines, but still waffles about prescribing any. What’s a pain puppet to do?
    Never try to “Tell” someone suicidal how to be, unless you have/can truly empathize with the pain they feel. Offer hope, or at least endurance, & recognize that both are likely burnt to a cinder already.

  66. If you take it out of context of course it sounds wrong… the whole purpose of the phrase is to emphasize that the problems people are facing today WILL be better tomorrow! It is a temporary problem. So dont just take the first part without the second part. And if you have ever been suicidal you would see how important it its to remember tonorrow will be a better day. I keep a thought in my head regarding suicide that if it’s a good idea today, it will be a good idea tomorrow. Inevitably things are better and I cannot believe how bad I thought it was when it really wasnt. So yes, tomorrow will be better,. I can only assume the author to this article has a degree in psych or whatever and has no clue what a suicidal person goes through.

  67. Diane … Thank you for your comment. Indeed, as I have learned from many of the comments to this post over the years, some people do find the saying “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” to be helpful; so your point is well taken. Even so, other people (including those with lived experience of being suicidal) have confirmed in the comments that thinking of suicide as a solution can be dangerous. So I believe a person ought to consider that saying “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” to a person who is having thoughts of suicide is, at best, unpredictable (and perhaps problematic if it is presented as a general truth or aphorism, which is how it is often used). Your comment highlights the fact that each person is unique — and certainly that is the most important thing to take into account when trying to help someone who is in distress FJC

  68. Yes, I agree that Diane’s response emphasises that people may have a very different response to this phrase. Although Diane has found it helpful, it has never been helpful to me to hear it. I have attempted suicide, so I am speaking from a perspective of having lived experience, as Diane does. It felt to me that the phrase minimised my pain, which did not feel temporary for me. My ‘temporary problem’ has gone on for three years, since it related to an extremely traumatic incident that happened three years ago, which caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and dissociation. As well as living with these mental health challenges, the psychological damage from that event remains with me. I work all the time so I do not have to think. If I allow myself to think, everything comes back – the event, the implications, the emotional pain. It has changed my life, and profoundly changed me. I do not believe that I will ever know contentment again. I do not know how to recover. I have survived up until now – often against huge odds, it feels. So, telling me that this is a temporary problem is a message that I cannot hear.

    At various points, in the last three years, I have attempted suicide. It was for the same reason.

    I am not at risk now, but just wanted to explain how the phrase “temporary problem” can feel as if the depth of your pain, and the complexity of your situation, and its potential duration, is not being validated or understood.

    I’m a tenacious survivor now, because I have developed a strategy that keeps me alive – work all the time and, when not working, write.

    I agree with the author. It may be a very unhelpful phrase, for some people.

  69. I agree partly with this article. Surely those who are suicidal would love a permanent solution, as I think most of us might at least consider if we were truly depressed to that point. The solution, as is almost always the case, is human intervention, and I am not talking about psychiatry (although I don’t discount its usefulness) but instead of befriending those who are suidisical, or seem so. What most of us want, as do most suidcidal folks, is someone to love us REALLY and HONESTLY, and to feel as if we matter in the scheme of life, which only connections with other humans can accomplish. The old Simon & Garfunkel lyrics come to me: “He was a most peculiar man….he turned on the gas, and went to sleep, with the windows closed, so he’d never wake up, TO HIS SILENT WORLD, AND HIS TINY ROOM, and Mrs. Reardon says he has a brother somewhere…..”

  70. I agree that is what is needed, but having dealt with depression for many years i have learned that when I feel good all my friends love being around me, and when i go through spells of depression we seem to “lose touch” until i come back out of it. I used to kinda judge them and determine they really werent my friends, but now i see that they just dont know how to deal with the awkwardness. The older i get the more i understand that its not personal. Accepting that has helped me deal with the loneliness a bit better. Hope this helps a little.

  71. I am suicidal and have been for a long time and my pain sure doesn’t feel temporary especially sick I have had it since I was a child and am 24 now, but I agree stop saying it

  72. […] “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” might strike someone who is not suicidal as a clever statement, and it might be a helpful thing to hear from the point of view of someone who already believes (or is likely to be convinced) that his or her problem is temporary. But the audience for this anti-suicide ditty is, of course, people who are suicidal (read more). […]

  73. This really sums up why I internalize my feelings. You share with someone a description of how you feel, and they know less than 1% about your life and what you’ve tried, but they have all these suggestions as if it is all your fault. They over simplify your problems. I stopped going to a therapist after a few months because in the one session I talked about my mothers death she had a sudden epiphony that I must have abandonment syndrome. Really? So if someone’s mom died at any point in the past, that automatically means that’s the cause of all their problems? It wasn’t any of the other things I’ve talked about in the dozen other sessions? Just this? Not the 12 years of bullying that made me feel so worthless I was completely surprised and confused the first time someone told me they liked me, or the 10 more years after that without any meaningful relationships, and facing every tragedy, including my mom’s death, without any emotional support? That couldn’t be it at all.

    I think this might be why suicides rarely leave a note. If they felt for a moment that they could somehow convey how they felt, that they could imagine that the intended reader would comprehend their suffering, they would probably go and tell that person themselves. We are at the point where we have said it everyway we can, and every attempt has been met with our feelings and experiences being marginalized, pigeon holed into a syndrome, oversimplified into a catch phrase, or implied that it is all our fault because we didn’t try hard enough to make it better. Why write a note, when you could only imagine the dialog that would take place around it would be more of the same?

    I’m at the point now wherever I think about talking or writing to someone, and ultimately it seems pointless or even self destructive.

  74. Beep beep beeep News flash. It’s NOT a permanent solution. There’s always going to be further experiences, no matter how improbable after your friends see you kill yourself. After death, there is just continued death, so there would be no point of encoding it as sensory input. What actually happened is that you killed yourself into a universe that supports a survival scenario. Like the mobius strip, you slash it with a razor blade only to find out you still have exactly 1 mobius strip. You only cut it into one 1 sided surface all over again.

    Every father buries his son, every son buries his father. The solution is to become more religious and have deity friends so that once everybody in your universe has all died you are not completely alone.

    Why we are on the subject on mental illness, what would you think if I told you that the Solar system was riding on a giant turtle? But then you would ask, what is the turtle riding on? The answer is that it’s turtles all the way down.

    Well actually science tells us that there ISN’T a giant turtle, but it’s life all the way from that point on you will live to see every human after the time you were born be born, grow old, then die. When you go to shoot yourself you will find that the gun will jam, when you go to drive your car off a cliff you will find the car won’t start, that rope you used to hang yourself either breaks or the ceiling rafters fail, when you are convicted of a capital offense there will be an appeal/stay of your execution until the end of human laws.

    Therfore we can find that suicide is just a temporary solution to a permanent problem. There is still a lot of Side B to get though, month left at the end of your money, and book to get through. Suicide is also bad because the people in your original life now have to continue on without a place to dispose of their torment.

    Solution. Just wait for better weather and enjoy the ride.

  75. I can say as someone who was once uicidal. It was that line that helped me through. It was playing over and over. I kept imagining life being good. I told myself if it ends now, I won’t be able to make the good a reality. It really was my motivation to get out of that point in my life.

  76. Thank you for writing this. This phrase make me so angry! Many people who are suicidal have been constantly dogged by depression and have contemplated suicide for many, many years. It’s been part of my life for over 20 years. It is a trite statement and shows ignorance.

  77. Wrong priorities at this time; what matters is we are talking at all about suicide. For that, thank you.

  78. I hate to tell you this but you are dead wrong! This statement saved my life as a teenager. I had 3 attempts and was hospitalized. I was a very depressed teen from 15-19. It was because this statement resonated so deeply with me that I never tried again. And anytime I have revisited that dark place, this statement has served as a reminder that this dark place won’t last forever if I can stick it out. So please, don’t use a blanket statement for what may or may not have helped you. Thanks for your opinion but hopefully it doesn’t cause harm to someone which whom the statement could have helped.

  79. My high school Home EC teacher said that to us in class one day. It stuck with me and less than ten years later, I sunk into a depression but remembered those words and they saved me. 30 years later, I share those SAME WORDS OF WISDOM!!I I know what it’s like to be at that end of the dark tunnel, where you see no way out and just want to end it all. BUT it DOES get better! You have to just give it time. SAD that someone like you and your experience ? would take a stance like that on such a serious issue. Maybe switch careers?

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