Bruce Alan Kehr, M.D. is the Founder and President of Potomac Psychiatry, ranked “Best Psychiatry Care Provider in Maryland” in 2020 by Global Health & Pharma. He has been named a Washingtonian Magazine “Top Doctor” for each of the past eight years. Dr. Kehr is a best-selling author whose works have been read by over 800,000 people in 206 countries. In 2020, Dr. Bruce Kehr’s blog was ranked #2 in the nation among mental health-related blogs. Dr. Kehr’s book, Becoming Whole: A Healing Companion to Ease Emotional Pain and Find Self-Love, is an Amazon Best Seller in the self-help categories: Happiness, Counseling, Healing, and Self-Esteem.
Have you ever felt like Hannah in 13 Reasons Why? Do you think no one cares, nobody understands how you feel, or believes what you’re going through? Do you feel all alone?
If so, my heart goes out to you. I want to help ease your pain. Please let me try. I have treated many suicidal teens and young adults, and helped them back away from the abyss. Below are 13 reasons WHY teens have told me they considered suicide (including Hannah’s reasons). Then are 13 reasons WHY NOT to do it — based on what these young people wish they knew when they were in the dark night of their soul — and why they ultimately chose life over death.
1. Why: “My life is ruined.”
“At first he seemed so perfect, and made me feel so happy. Then he became a d**k, a total d*****bag! I can’t believe what he and his friends did to me, posting photos of the two of us going at it, and then lying to the whole school about me supposedly giving it up. They’re all such f**kheads. My life is ruined forever!”
Why Not: Extreme emotional pain will pass. There are better days ahead.
Someone you cared about has treated you with terrible cruelty. Now you feel too much. All alone. Maybe you feel dead inside. It’s okay not to be okay. It will pass. No need to kill yourself. There are always other ways out. Reach out to someone compassionate. They will help you move beyond what feels unbearable. It’s okay if they have a few gray hairs. Once upon a time they were cool, too.
2. Why: “My friends have all betrayed me.”
“I used to hang out with this guy and this girl. We were BFFs. We talked about our FML’s. I thought they really cared about me. What a fool I turned out to be! They turned real cold to me, then I caught them in a lie. I saw them holding hands, then kissing! Those f**kers stabbed me in the back! I confronted her and she b-slapped me.”
Why Not: If people have betrayed you, they are not your friends.
If someone stabs you in the back, slaps you, hits you or is physically violent with you it is not safe to be around them. You are smart to stay away.
3. Why: “I just want to disappear.”
“My closest friend traded up to be with the cooler kids. I feel devastated. Then this d**kwad commented on my ass at a party, right in front of other kids, and one of his new buddies grabbed my ass and squeezed it in front of these jocks, and they all began laughing at me. Then they came over and asked if they could each grab it too. I began to cry, and ran away. For hours I just walked around feeling horrible. Maybe I am a slut.”
Why not: Shame and humiliation are awful, but they don’t have to be fatal.
At one time or another, everyone will feel ashamed. Naked, powerless, and insignificant. It may seem like it is just one thing after another. Or may relate to having been molested or raped. It may even feel like your heart is shattered, or even your soul has been murdered. You can survive and move on. One teen once told me, “Looking back, I realized I didn’t want to disappear, I didn’t want to die, I wanted IT to disappear. I’m so grateful I talked to a teacher who listened to me and helped me realize that, as awful as I felt, I had things to live for, to look forward to.”
4. Why: “I can’t take it anymore.”
“I’m being stalked. I get anonymous calls in the middle of the night. He tells my friends that he loves me. I just can’t take it on top of everything else. My parents fight all the time. I just want my life to be over.”
Why Not: You are stronger than you feel at this moment.
You may feel completely overwhelmed. What is happening seems so unfair, so undeserved. Then one more blow feels fatal. You believe that life is nothing but endless misery. Sorry (this will definitely come across as patronizing), you haven’t lived long enough to reach that conclusion. Instead of becoming consumed by how helpless you feel, can you think of a time you suffered a serious setback and survived it? Or, if this is the first time you’ve experienced something that hurts so much, can you call upon your courage, and choose to focus on hope? You can find answers, support and strength. Overwhelming feelings can also be eased by medication and talk. Just stay alive.
5. Why: “Killing myself will end the pain.”
“Boys are a-holes. Girls are evil. Nothing is stable. It gets good for a while and then I get left behind, or stabbed in the back. This supposed girlfriend is spreading rumors that I gave this boy a b***job behind the school. It went viral. Everybody is mocking me, except one nerdy kid who is kind. Ending it feels easier than going on living.”
Why Not: Killing yourself causes pain, it doesn’t end it.
You may be furious at the people who have hurt you. You may want to hurt them back. You may think, “I’ll show you. I’ll make you sorry. I’ll make you regret what you did to me.” It won’t. Suicide doesn’t hurt the people who don’t care about you, it permanently harms the people who do care about you. It would murder a part of them, create a deep and lasting trauma in their hearts. Picture someone you care about. Is it your little sister or brother? A grandparent who believes in you? They are the ones who will suffer. They care for you, count on you, want you to be around. Think of the good times you’ve had with that person, what they mean to you. And suicide is contagious. They (and other teens you may know) will have a higher likelihood of killing themselves. Do you want to do that to them? Stay alive because you want to be there for them, and help them stay alive, too.
6. Why: “I feel trapped and alone.”
“Everyone thinks I’m easy, that I’m DTF. When I walk down the hall they smirk. I’m not a slut! I may not be a virgin, but I don’t go down on lots of boys like they posted on Facebook. I know I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.”
Why Not: You can find a place where you belong, where people care.
You feel locked into what’s happening at school and at home, like there’s no escape or safe place. It may feel like everyone knows your business, and there’s nowhere to hide. If you can just hang in there, you will outgrow this phase of life. Picture in your mind a place where you’ve been happy. Whether it’s chilling and listening to music, a place where you’ve been on vacation, a walk in the woods, a gym or sports field … remind yourself there ARE places you can go to where you have felt good before and can feel good again. Count the days to graduation. Check off each day that passes. It’s one day closer to freedom, to starting over, to reinventing yourself. Bullies are unhappy people. Happy people are not cruel, they are loving. They don’t follow the “bro code.” Bullies are often the victims of emotional neglect, and physical and/or sexual abuse. They tear down sensitive people to keep themselves afloat. Try not to give their words and deeds power over you. Don’t let them steal your humanity.
7. Why: “I feel hopeless.”
“I feel like slitting my wrists. There is this guy I like a lot. He came on nice and sweet, but I freaked out and dissed him. I felt so bad I wrote an apology note, explaining how lonely I feel. He read it, then trashed it. Everything is so hard. All I do anymore is cry.”
Why Not: Depression is a medical condition – like asthma or acne – and is highly treatable.
Your suicidal thoughts may be caused by depression. Depression tricks you into thinking that the world would be better off without you. It hijacks your brain and paints your world black. The good news is that depression is a medical condition that is highly treatable and you can recover. Seek out antidepressant medication and talk-therapy. They are lifesaving.
8. Why: “Nothing makes sense anymore. I have no reason to live.”
“I have no direction. No identity. Nobody I can trust. My tears stain the pages of my diary. Writing in it just makes me feel worse. None of my dreams will ever come true.”
Why Not: With enough emotional support, and time, you will figure it out.
We have all felt lost at one time or another, and hopelessly confused, and made really bad decisions. These “existential crises” can be solved. Begin to think more about what makes you happy, and less about living to please those around you. It is your life to live, based upon what is true to your core, to your true self. In the midst of great despair, you may feel clueless about where your happiness lies. That’s okay. Find someone older and wiser who you respect (like a grandparent or teacher or family friend), or a talk-therapist, and they can help you make sense of your life.
9. Why: “Nobody listens.”
“I’m crying out for help, but nobody’s listening. My parents and friends are a lost cause. Isn’t there anyone I can turn to?”
Why Not: Did you know a dog or cat can literally save your life?
A patient told me that at one point in his life, his dog was the only one who seemed to care. He said, “I would wrap my arms around my dog, pour out my soul, and he never once told me I was blowing things out of proportion or that I should GET OVER IT.” Even if you don’t have a dog or a cat, a local animal shelter will welcome you as a volunteer. There you can turn toward a dog or cat for comfort, talk to them and pour your heart out. They would never betray you and will fill you with unconditional love. I don’t think I would have survived my own childhood without my dog to talk to.
10. Why: “All my friends are toxic.”
Why Not: Winners quit poisonous people.
You can learn to keep a distance from those who tear you down and tear you apart. And if you no longer respect them, why care so much about what they (or their so-called friends) think of you? Would you keep swimming with a shark that tears away a piece of your heart… or flee to safety? Just because someone is kind or seems genuine, don’t trust them right away. Have them earn your trust. Don’t listen to their words, watch their behavior over time. Don’t reveal your inner self out of loneliness or desperation until you are sure that they are trustworthy. A reliable friend will have your back, help you figure things out, and won’t be afraid to stand up for you. And through helping you, they will feel better about their own life.
11. Why: “I’m damaged goods. No one will ever love me.”
“There’s someone I really like. Not just some horndog. We began to make out. I wanted to have sex. We began, but I freaked out. Memories of my abuse had come back. Who would ever want me (this s**tstain) anyway?”
Why Not: Many successful adults (including well-known celebrities) survived rape or child abuse, and went on to find happiness.
No matter what you have done, or others believe you have done, you can survive and find love. You will find someone special to love you no matter what. Survivors of rape, incest, sleeping around, cheating, and other emotional devastations go on to find love and happiness. But first they decided to stay alive.
12. Why: “I already feel dead inside. Why go on living?”
“I had already died many times from the prior humiliations. And then I was raped. I feel a deep, endless, nothing.”
Why Not: Find a compassionate adult who “gets you.”
Some problems are just too big to solve on your own. Find an adult – a therapist, relative, coach, teacher, minister – who is caring, empathetic, and non-judgmental. If your therapist doesn’t “get you,” find a different one. In the telling of your story you will have a life-sustaining experience with another human being that is irreplaceable. Your overwhelming pain will first become bearable, then manageable, then an afterthought, if you just stick with it.
13. Why: “My life is nothing but endless pain and destruction.”
“My reputation is destroyed. My heart is devastated. My soul is damned. I don’t feel anything anymore. The counselor is clueless. Nobody will ever be punished for what they did. Nothing will ever change. Some of you may have cared, but not enough.”
Why Not: You are not a hopeless case, you just need to find a way to keep your hope alive.
Experiencing terrible emotions inside oneself is universal, particularly when one has been repeatedly wounded, heartbroken, and betrayed. Recurrent bullying can create feelings so horrifying that you may not recognize yourself, like you’re an alien to your own self. That can feel really scary. When filled with violence, hatred, and murderous feelings, you may feel that you are broken beyond repair. You may feel ugly, evil, irredeemable, horrible, even monstrous. I guarantee that if you are just willing to survive, there will be someone out there who will love you just for being you. Keep searching for a special someone. You will find them. Think of the lyrics from that U2 song, Beautiful Place:
Take me to that other place
I know I’m not a hopeless case
And while you are searching, who can you help? Who could you make a difference for? Part of depression is feeling you don’t matter. But you DO matter. There are people who need your help, who deserve your help. Whether it’s volunteering at your local animal shelter, tutoring a student on a subject you’re good at, or collecting food for needy people in your area, you can find something that gives your life meaning and purpose, and that makes you feel proud of yourself and that you’re making a difference. It will make you feel alive in a good way.
Is suicide your only way out? No, it’s not. You are not a hopeless case, you just need a hopeful cause. That cause is you.
I understand you want the pain to end and I want to assure you, there are better days ahead – years ahead – where you will find love, where you will find what you’re good at. And you will find people who listen to you, care about you, and treat you with the respect you want, need and deserve.
You need to STAY ALIVE to experience all the many good things that will come your way – the places you’ll go, the people you’ll meet, the joy (yes, JOY and happiness) you’ll experience.
Please, please trust me on this. I have observed it many times in young people who, on the brink of killing themselves, chose to stay alive, and went on to find real happiness.
Session Five in my book – “Heal an Existential Crisis in a Young Adult” – provides even deeper insights as well as workbooks for parents and young people, to help them make sense of this phase of life, work through the relevant emotional issues, and survive!
To learn more about how to prevent a suicide, recover from bullying, deal with PTSD or depression, please visit https://drbrucekehr.com/?s=cyberbully
For other articles on how to deal with emotional pain, aloneness and dark thoughts, please visit https://drbrucekehr.com/blog/, and feel free to sign up for our weekly e-mails that share insights and success stories of people who have overcome challenging times in their lives.
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Learn more about suicide prevention
Cyberbullying, PTSD and Depression (Part 1)
Cyberbullying, PTSD and Depression (Part 2)
Cyberbullying, PTSD and Depression (Part 3)
Existential Crisis in Young Adults
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