... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published February 18th 2013
The amazing alternatives you haven't considered
Spring always follows winter. Open the gate of your mind to other possibilities.
This article is dedicated to the one million or so people who take their own lives all over the planet; to those who are so weighed down with depression they are considering it now (every 40 seconds someone commits suicide); and to those who will think about it in the future.
It's also dedicated to those I have personally known who have given up on this world – a popular Social Work lecturer, my journalist uncle, and a friend's brother. Might I add another group – those who don't actually jump the gap, as such, but live a half-life or engage in self-destructive behaviours within the bleak walls of depression.
Bizarre as it may seem, what seems natural thinking to people who aren't afflicted with depression, seems out-right strange when one is staring through the lens of depression. The purpose of this article is to bring back to your attention things you may no longer be able to see beneath that cloud. People contemplating suicide, don't want to die. That's a myth that only those who have never travelled that road, subscribe to.
There are many things far and wide that could be said on the subject of this confronting problem, but for this moment, I will explore one facet – some very unexpected and interesting alternatives to killing oneself you may not have considered.
ALTERNATIVE 1. A Happy Life [Your crystal ball isn't working properly]
Anyone contemplating suicide is wrongly convinced they are a seer with the ability to see into the future. That future is plagued with all kinds of trouble, gloom and unhappiness. I hate to say this, but the reality is that you are not a seer and your crystal ball isn't working properly. In fact, it's completely stuffed. Did you predict the Japanese Tsunami? What about the winning lottery ticket last week? What makes you think you're suddenly an expert on the future now, huh?
One of the greatest and most unexpected alternatives to suicide is the possibility of a happy life. Many people have survived hard times and suicide attempts to find themselves in a beautiful life years later.
A little hope and faith will help guide you to that better future. Research shows that belief in a thing inevitably and unconsciously leads to changes in behaviour that make that thing more likely to happen.
Years ago, some tourists who were staying at the hotel my boyfriend worked in, witnessed the suicide of a young male. It turned out the man who took his life had received news of a disappointing worker's compensation payment. If only he'd hung around to retrain into a field he may have liked better and potentially earnt more from. Instead he foresaw only a bleak future for himself.
ALTERNATIVE 2. You Will Get Over It [People's feelings change about things]
It's common for people suffering from suicidal thoughts to express the feeling they will 'never get over it'. WRONG again! Once again, you need to chuck that thought away.
The world is full of proof that people do get over things. People survive divorces and fall in love again. So much for that lame claim they'd never love anyone else? Ha!
Life is full of examples of adaptation. Although things might not change for you, it's more than likely that in time, you won't feel the same level of distress about it. Even people without limbs get used to it. The fact you no longer feel strongly about that past girlfriend or boyfriend in grade six (who?) or that you now laugh about those once insurmountable work problems, is proof that feelings are not set in concrete. They change. Bogged down in grief and loss you just can't remember that right now.
ALTERNATIVE 3. You WILL die and it's coming sooner than you expect. [What's the hurry to meet the Grim Reaper.]
Although, life seems painfully slow when one is depressed and going through hard times, the reality is that your time here is actually very brief. Take a look at the ocean and the stars? How old are they? Compared to them you're just a speck of time on a very old calendar. Before you know it your life will be over anyway, so what's the hurry? Check out the cemetery and the masses of people who've been and gone before you. Why not hang around and make the most of whatever life you have now. You'll be dead a hell of a long time. As far as I know it's irreversible.
ALTERNATIVE 4. Things Are Going to Change [Life never stays the same.]
My mum once told me that life is full of ups and downs. Older people have been round the traps a lot longer and have a way of knowing things we don't, so sometimes it pays to listen. The truth is – nothing ever stays the same in life. There are good times and bad, great years in one's life as well as disasters. All you have to do is sit tight and wait and sure as Vegemite is black, things are going to change for you. Given the rate at which good fortunes can soon turn to bad and vice versa, it pays to find peace and harmony within. Seek out a monk to teach you. They seem good at achieving this.
It could be that only your attitude changes to your suffering. Believe it or not there are wonderful insights that can often only be gained from great suffering. Perhaps those who have it all and appear to live the high life, are deluded about life and its' real meaning. Suffering seems to be an integral part of life. Paul Brunton, the very wise but little known writer of "Meditations for People in Crisis", wrote that "these black moments are intensely precious, for they may set your feet firmly on the higher path. Few realise this whilst all complain."
ALTERNATIVE 5. Something Amazing Is Going To Happen [Because, that's life and you've got to be in it to win it!]
Chances are any of the following are around the corner: you'll fall in love with the most amazing person, travel to Hawaii, find an awesome friend or helper, score a better job, win at the Paralympics, achieve a personal dream or heal from all the pain you are feeling. Why? Because miracles are just as real as disasters. Look around you and you'll see plenty of people doing fun, happy things. This could be YOU.
Owen Lowery attempted suicide and not long after ended up fulfilling a dream to make a movie. Read more about him here.
ALTERNATIVE 6. Counselling, Self-Help and/or Support Groups, Self-Help Books, Meditation, Exercise, spirituality, neuro-linguistic programming, etc.
Instead of ending it all, embrace some of the strategies that are statistically known to improve wellbeing. These include all of the above. Spend some time pursuing personal change, engage support through counsellors and meaningful relationships. Self-help books and material found online can be of great assistance. Exercise - it's been proven to be one of the best mood enhancers around, and is free. Above all, nurture yourself. It's time to look after you and heal from whatever afflictions of life are causing you harm and depression. Make changes to your life that will create a positive knock-on effect. Love yourself.
These are not alternatives, these are ill-educated platitudes. "Get over it"?
What about people who are depressed due to a lithium imbalance, crippling disability or the knowledge that they are terminally ill. What about people who have endured torture, or suffer from extreme phobias that exclude them from daily life?
Suicidal thoughts aren't about looking into the future. When my sister was suicidal she loved her life, she felt blessed to have what she had, but she didn't think she deserved it. She hated herself so much she thought the world and everyone she knew would be better off without her. Through a lot of long conversations we worked through that and she's very happy now but that meant me understanding her, not telling her to proverbially chin up.
I don't think you've considered where these people are coming from, they are not little children who are afraid of the dark, they are human beings who are experiencing something darker than you are. Spitting hallmark cards at them isn't going to change anything in their life except alienate them further by proving to them that one more person doesn't understand and isn't trying to.
What about those of us who have had sa lifetime of depression (or seeing the world as it really is)? What about those people who have no money to fix problems? What about those people who make incorrect decisions about most things? Depression is a chemical illness that cannot be cured; it can only be slightly assuaged by medication. This article would perhaps be a good article for someone in the travel business, but not for anyone who is seriously depressed.
This is a risky article... Suicide is by no means something trivial. There is no such thing as 'Get over it' in depression.
Some people cope better than others and some cope worse and this is because people are all individual and their reason for being depressed is always slightly different. There is no one size fits all approach to depression, let alone suicide, that can be covered in '5 Easy Steps' as most of the time even people who aren't depressed struggle to cope when having a bad day or week.
"The suicidal are like little children who are afraid of the dark. All they need is someone to hold their hand and tell them it's okay. With baby steps and kindness they will one day walk out of that dark valley into the sunshine that surely waits."
The last paragraph is extremely patronising. I feel like it undermines the severity of the issue being talked about. Depressed people are not like small children afraid of the dark. I have come across mental illnesses, including manic depression and suicide, within my family and I can tell you from personal experience that if family and friends encouraging someone to stop their destructive behaviour will not help then neither will this.
Depression is an illness not a choice, no one chooses to 'feel blue' therefore no one can miraculously choose to 'feel better'.
Mental illnesses are looked at as some kind of a fake illness by some people because they can't see it. Depression is just as much of an illness as any other, you just don't see the scars and in some ways that makes it worse because people feel they have right to come up with solutions to fix things they were never asked to fix.
If someone has a broken leg ordinary people don't start handing out advice, they call an ambulance so a doctor can deal with it The same goes for depression and suicide, this is something that requires professional help and which should not be dabbled with by anyone wanting to 'help'. Unqualified help with this is harmful as people tend to lose interest in helping after they realise the severity of depression. It is not a short term thing that has an easy fix and giving random advice about it off the cuff part time will achieve nothing in the long run.
Can I please suggest instead a 6th alternative to suicide...
Give Samaritans a call regardless of what you are feeling and what you want to do, suicidal or not. It is a non-judgmental, confidential, emotional support service helpline which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Calling them might make a difference to how you feel about things in your life. They don't give out advice and try to tell you what you 'should' do. They listen to you and ask you how you feel about things, talk you through them. Just an option I feel I had to put out there as an alternative to the above.
Samaritans is a UK charity but there may well be alternatives in other countries that offer similar services.
08457 90 90 90
I apologise if this comes across as harsh, I have just written how I feel. This is not at all meant as a rant but I just think the article is not as responsible or sensitive as it should be and it is a subject too close to me for me to just pass by without commenting.
I am sad I found this, I do not appreciate this analogy, The suicidal are like little children who are afraid of the dark. All they need is someone to hold their hand and tell them it's okay. With baby steps and kindness they will one day walk out of that dark valley into the sunshine that surely waits. Anecdotal evidence aside, I do not enjoy being marginalized.
Joya, I like fallacies also, Are you familiar with the businessmans fallacy?
It deals with investment. When a businessman has put "money" into an "asset" and the "asset" continues to fail, to revive it he continues to put money into it until his funds are exhausted. Now replace "money" with "effort" and "asset" with "happiness."
By generalizing all cases of suicide
So the inductive rationalizing you have been doing concerning suicide is a the very definition of fallacy itself.
Another alternative is leaving your entire life behind (even if you have a family). If you were going to kill yourself anyways, why not go live somewhere new and take on a whole new identity that you can really own and be happy with? Food for thought.
Bullshit! Do better don't waste ppls time with psycho babble and common motivational expressions. Some ppl have been dealing with suicidal thoughts their whole damn lives which alternative #4 is null because their thoughts about living hasn't changed... what a waste of my time.
With all due respect, I LOATHE the "Spring follows Winter"/"this too shall pass" one-liners. To me, they're utterly meaningless...Winter follows Spring, & EVERYTHING passes - the "good" too (except I never hear anyone throw that line around during life's "easy"/"pleasurable" moments).
What if the thing you're tired of/disenchanted with is infinitely larger than details? What if it's the constant, predictable cycle that is human life on Earth? The constant rotation of the Winter (loss) & Spring (gain) of life (money, friends, health, youth etc)...
THEN which cliches are appropriate? :'-(
This is the worst advice for anyone suffering from legitimate depression. Pain shaming. You do not know what depression is. This is like telling a person with multiple sclerosis to will themselves out of it. I came here for ways to support my suiciadal friend...these are triggers for those that are truely afflicted. Empathy helps. These are judgements.
Wow, the author of this needs to take a long hard look at what they wrote and consider why they wrote it. Spewing phrases of optimism and making gereralizations about why people become depressed is NOT an alternative to suicidal thoughts. If anything this article affected me in a horribly negative way. You should really take this crap down before your ineptitude to empathise with a depressed individual pushes them to do the opposite of what your article says its about.
Garbage, nothing serious or helpful here, more depressing seeing how others just think the feelings of hurt, doubt, rage, and drive to see an end to these pains as something top "get over" and that "things will change" . Yes, things will change, but when for 40 years those brief changes of happiness are always followed by extended periods of depression so bad it wrecks the things accomplished during the "good" times... whoever wrote this is rubbish.
I would just like to add some balance to some of the criticism that's been leveled at Linda after reading this piece, and then reading the comments.
I stumbled - as probably many of you did - upon this page in the midst of absolute despair and depression, after googling "alternatives to suicide", so I'm someone who is currently 'there' so to speak.
I think Linda means well, but the problem is that her advice is based on a sort of idealism which - in my case at least - was probably the very thing that LEAD to my depression in the first place. The incongruity of the 'real' world with my ideals is what probably spurred the whole thing in the first place and made me lose hope. So offering ideals as a way back out is - at least in my case - completely unsatisfactory at the very least, and some points I have to admit I was just plain laughing out loud with derision.
Now that's not because I have anything against the advice personally, in fact I WISH I could take it and it was helpful, but reading things such as "you may end up in love" or "you could be in Hawaii" etc are just so far removed from the unlifting blackness of the reality I currently wake up from day to day, that there was really no other suitable response I suppose, than to just laugh.
But I did, at least, catch myself in the middle of my cynical laughing and remind myself "hey...at least you're laughing!" which is at least something, when your days are an endless cavalcade of nothing but disappointment, loneliness, misery, gloom, and unflinchingly bleak projections ahead.