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Dealing with Suicide

Chapter 13 Dealing with Suicide

As a Control Issue

Tools for Handling Control Issues

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

What is suicide?
Unsuccessful suicidal gestures, thoughts, or threats are often a:
  • Cry for help to get people to attend to the problems which you are currently experiencing.
  • Manipulative action to keep others from changing their styles of interacting with you.
  • Sign of the severe depression and repressed anger that you are experiencing.
  • Habit you developed early on which has had a great deal of success in getting you attention.
  • Mask to hide behind to scare people away from getting too close or attached to you.
  • Desire to have others treating you the way you have been treated in the past with aloofness, distance, and coldness.
  • Way to test other people's loyalty, sincerity, interest, caring, love, and concern for you.
  • Way by which you exercise control over others.

If you are successful in committing suicide, you will have committed a clear act of desperation due to the severe emotional distress you are experiencing in your life, but have you considered that it also is:

  • An act which will hurt and emotionally scar the people you leave behind.
  • An act of despair due to your lack of willingness to accept life the way it really is.
  • An act which will possibly leave the survivors with intense guilt, self-doubt, anger, bitterness, rage, and emotional trauma.
  • An act which terminates your life in that one moment of despair when in fact your future potential holds out hope for years of coping successfully with life as it really is.
  • An act which will keep you from gaining a sense of personal mastery and contentment in your life.
  • An act with no redeeming social merits or benefits.
  • An act which you believe will give you control over your life which really just ends it

What are the negative effects of suicide?

The negative effects of your suicidal attempts, gestures, and thoughts are that you:

  • Initially gain the attention of others and, if that is where it stops, then you are driven to continue seeking their attention in a spiral of increased suicidal type behaviors, feelings, and thoughts.
  • Can become stuck in a rut of threats to control others to be there for you and have this be the only reason they stay.
  • Can get caught up in emotionally blackmailing others in order to keep them loving, caring, and supporting you out of fear that if they stop you will kill yourself.
  • Run the risk that people will no longer allow you to control and keep them in check in this way and they might give you an ultimatum to cease and desist such actions, thoughts, and attempts or else they will have nothing more to do with you.
  • Begin to devalue the meaning of life so much so that you begin to take increasingly more dangerous risks in your actions and accidentally kill yourself.
  • Can get so caught up in the here and now despair and depression that you blind yourself to a rational perspective of hope that you can make it through to the future intact.
  • Could get lazy and resort to this easy answer everytime any problem or inconvenience comes up in your life.
  • Could get stuck in blaming other persons, places, and things for your problems and not accept personal responsibility for your own actions.
  • Could become a coward and eventually give in to your thoughts and gestures and rationalize that a quick solution is better than the long-term work needed to have a fulfilling life.
  • Will experience lowered self-esteem since you will be valuing your life less and less if these behaviors persist.


The negative effects of committing suicide are that you:

  • Have left a disaster for someone else to clean up and take care of.
  • Leave a number of people hating, resentful, and angry at your selfish action.
  • Never get a chance to find out if life could be better for you in the future.
  • May have done so accidentally and this is one act you can't take back to try over.
  • Do not allow people to have memories of you without the overshadowing and painful visions of the way your life ended.
  • Might have thought it took courage to take your life but those you leave behind will know differently in that you were extremely sick, emotionally disturbed, and probably insane to have gone so far.
  • Will have left a mess for others to clean up which is an ultimate get back but also a sick act of revenge.
  • Leave behind survivors who may need years of psychotherapeutic help to regain emotional well-being to overcome the impact of your suicide.
  • Might saddle your survivors with intense guilt, self-doubt, and self-recrimination with the belief that they could have done something to stop you.
  • Might leave survivors who believe that since you committed suicide that they are also destined to do so themselves in the future.
  • Might spark the imagination of a survivor who sees how much attention your suicide is getting and wants similar attention so goes out and commits a copy-cat suicide for the sick need of sharing the spotlight and getting the same quick solution as you did.
  • Might influence others who are sitting on the fence to go ahead with their suicides since someone else has succeeded in ending it all. This is the most perverse form of trend setting you can get involved with.
How is suicide a control issue?
Suicidal attempts and gestures are control issues because they are often:
  • Attempts to put the locus of control of other people into your hands.
  • Efforts to manipulate others to keep them under your control to act, believe, or behave in a way you need or want them to in order to feel good about yourself.
  • Power tactics to intimidate, threaten, or coerce others to fall into line with what you want from them.
  • Intended to make others feel powerless in the face of your apparent courage and strength to risk such a powerful act.
  • A means not to allow others to gain detachment from you.
  • A means not to allow others to let go of you as an uncontrollable or unchangeable in their lives.
  • Hooks by which you draw others into your life to be your rescuer, fixer, or caretaker.
  • Your desperate attempt to demonstrate your helplessness and powerlessness in the face of your problems and troubles.
  • A vehicle of gaining your survival and escape from an emotional or physically life-threatening situation.


A successful suicide is a control issue because it often:

  • Puts the locus of control for other people into the hands of the suicidal victim.
  • Hooks others from your grave to feel guilt or remorse for not doing enough for you to fix, care for, or cure you.
  • Is an indication of the extent to which you would fall into the trap of your helplessness.
  • Is a result of your inability to let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life.
  • Is the ultimate failure for fixers or caretakers to have happen to a person they were helping.
  • Is a result of the inability to accept life as being less than ideal and less than perfect.
  • Is the ultimate and last lack of self-control in your life.

What is some of the irrational or unhealthy thinking that leads you to consider or to commit suicide?
  • There is too much for me to change in my life for me to become happy.
  • I am too overwhelmed by all of my problems and I can see no way out.
  • No one really cares about me anyway so no one will miss me when I'm gone.
  • I'll show them for rejecting, ignoring, and not wanting me.
  • No matter how hard I try, I never seem to succeed.
  • Everybody hates me, nobody likes me so I'm going to end it all.
  • I can't face this mess I've made.
  • I could never face others if they ever found out the truth about me.
  • My whole life has been full of pain and hurt and I'm tired of hurting so much.
  • People won't blame me for solving their problem which seems to be me.
  • My life has no meaning, no value, no purpose, no direction, and no sense, so why go on?
  • Everyone has abandoned me, including God.
  • I'm so unhappy, what's the use?
  • I am so angry and upset that I'd rather die than go on to work it out.
  • I'll teach them for treating me this way.
  • No one has ever loved me, approved of me, or accepted me so why go on?
  • I'm only a shell of a person with nothing left to give others.
  • I'm in too much pain and agony to go on.
  • I'd rather die than face the future.
  • I'd rather quit than go on.
  • Every attempt I make to get out of this hole ends in failure for me so why continue trying?
  • There's no way I'll ever be happy in this lifetime.
  • Suicide is an act of courage and it takes great strength to do it.
  • I see no reason for continuing to live.
  • They'll be sorry when I'm gone.
  • I hate all of them so much that this will show them and put them in their place.
  • The rejection I feel right now is so painful that unless that person comes back into my life I am going to end it.
  • I feel so hopeless and see no way out of it.
How can you overcome the hopelessness which leads to suicidal thoughts, threats, gestures, and attempts?
In order to overcome a sense of hopelessness you need to:
Step 1: Reach out to others for support to help you follow through on the rest of these steps.
Step 2: Identify what you feel hopeless about.
Step 3: You then need to identify what distorted, irrational, or unhealthy thinking is at the root of what is making you feel hopeless.
Step 4: Then you need to develop new healthier, more rational ways of thinking about these things.
Step 5: You then need to identify what distorted, irrational, or unhealthy feelings are blocking your acceptance of these new healthier, more rational beliefs and keeping you from being more hopeful.
Step 6: You need to emotionally release all of your blocking feelings through anger work-out, despair, and letting go exercises and inner child healing work.

Step 7: Once you have vented anger, cried out your despair, and opened your inner self to experience feelings more freely, you then need to make a place in your life for a Higher Power. This is the God of your belief system. You need to turn to your Higher Power and seek strength, wisdom, and light from your belief. This is the power greater than you to whom you can turn over your unchangeables and uncontrollables. This Higher Power can give you the patience, calmness, and strength to accept reality as it is today for you. As the words in this poem imply, you won't be able to experience the role of your Higher Power in your life unless you allow it to happen.

Broken Dreams
As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my friend.
But instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried,
How can You be so slow?
My child, He said, What could I do?
You never let them go.


Step 8: Once you begin to allow yourself to rely on your Higher Power for the strength to let go of your pain, hurt, depression, anger, despair, sense of abandonment, sense of being overwhelmed and alone, then you need to begin to take control of your actions and behaviors and start all over again to attempt to find a sense and order in your life which gives you meaning and a hope to continue on in life.


Step 9: You then need as you go on to focus efforts on breaking down your current problems into smaller workable components which have a greater probability of immediate success. Some examples of success breeders are:
  • Live one day at a time without focusing on the overwhelming prospects of the future.
  • Enjoy your gift of life each day and without taking it for granted, since you don't know the day or time when indeed you will die.
  • Use self-affirmations of your value and worth and work at falling in love with yourself on a daily basis.
  • Re-focus on yourself as the major source of help to get you out of your current pain rather than looking for others' help to rescue or to fix you.
  • Empower yourself with the belief that there is nothing you can't overcome here on earth without the help and assistance of your Higher Power.
  • Recognize that, no matter how great the physical, emotional or psychic pain you are going through right now, there is an end to it down the road as long as you continue to work at honestly accepting the reality of life as it really is rather than how you want it to be.
  • Recognize that rather than solving all of your problems at once you can make greater progress by solving each problem one at a time at a slow and steady pace. Since it took a lifetime to get you here, it will take the rest of your life to get you out.
  • Allow yourself to be human and open yourself to accept any further failures, mistakes, or slow progress in your efforts to solve your problems.
  • Accept that relapse is a fact of life in recovery and do not get down on yourself if you should experience any reversal or set back.
  • Commit yourself not to quit as you proceed in your efforts to turn your life around. Use the words of this poem to motivate your efforts to go on.
Don't Quit
When things go wrong
as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging
seems all up hill,
When the funds are low,
and the debts are high,
and you want to smile,
but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit
rest if you must--but don't you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out,
the silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
it may be near when it seems far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit;
it's when things go wrong,
that you mustn't quit.

Step 10: As you become more hopeful about yourself and your prospects of going on, reward yourself for your progress and recognize the success you have achieved to that point. It is important for you to recognize your growth and to enjoy the benefits that come with it. Remember success breeds success so reinforce yourself for each incremental step to overcoming hopelessness and in so doing you will become more hopeful on a daily basis.
Step 11: Recognize as you increase in hopefulness that control for your life rests in you and your relationship with your Higher Power so don't neglect yourself or your Higher Power and take time to relax and have fun as well as give time to your Higher Power through prayer and meditation.

Step 12: If you should fall prey to a period of hopelessness again, return to Step 1 and begin again.

What are the steps to handling suicidal thoughts, gestures, and attempts?

In order to handle suicidal thoughts, gestures, or attempts, you need to take the following steps.


Step 1: In order to take care of any current or future suicidal thoughts, gestures, or attempts, you first must become reconciled about any past such actions in your life. In your journal answer the following questions:


Have you ever considered any suicidal thoughts or gestures, or have you ever attempted suicide? If yes, then list each time in your past you:

  • Considered or thought about suicide.
  • Made a gesture of a suicidal nature.
  • Attempted suicide.

For each time listed identify the following:

  • What was going on in your life?
  • What problems were you dealing with?
  • Why did you feel hopeless or overwhelmed by these problems?
  • What irrational or unhealthy beliefs were behind your suicidal thoughts?
  • Who were you trying to control at that time?
  • How successful were you in controlling them by your suicidal thoughts, gestures, or attempts?
  • How did these problems resolve themselves?
  • Were you fixed or rescued or did you help yourself to get out of this suicidal moment?
  • What did you learn from this experience?
  • How helpful was this experience to your personal growth?
  • After taking each suicidal event separately, can you see how you used suicide in your past? How big of a control issue was suicide for you in the past? How did other self-destructive behaviors fit into your suicidal way of thinking, feeling, or acting in the past?

Step 2: Once you have analyzed your past use of suicidal thoughts, gestures, and attempts, you are now ready to analyze any present use of suicidal thoughts, gestures, or attempts. To do so, answer the following questions in your journal:


Are you currently considering any suicidal thoughts, gestures, or attempts? If yes, then proceed to answer the following questions. If no, then keep these questions ready in case you should ever become suicidal in the future.


What suicidal thoughts, gestures, or actions are you currently engaging in?

How lethal are these suicidal thoughts, gestures, or actions? To figure out how lethal, answer the following:

  1. Do you have a means of suicide in mind?
  2. Is this means of suicide readily available to you at this time?
  3. Is this an effective way to kill yourself?
  4. Have you ever used this means before to attempt suicide in the past?
  5. Are you ready to use this means of suicide at this time?
  6. Is nobody living with you at this time who can take control of this means of killing yourself?

If you answered yes to all six items then you are very lethal and need immediate help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255 or your local community's  suicide and crisis hotline or call your therapist or better yet ask the police or emergency medical squad to take you to a hospital where you can get immediate medical assistance.

If you have answered yes to items (1), (2), (3), (4), and no to (5) and yes or no to (6), then you need to contact your therapist and continue to work on the following issues with the therapist.


If you have answered yes to (1) and yes or no to (2), and (3), and no to (4) and (5), and yes or no to (6), then you can continue to Step 3 to answer the following questions on your own in your journal.

Step 3:

  • What is currently going wrong in your life that makes you suicidal?
  • What are the specific problems involved? Are these problems (a) individual or relationship oriented? (b) at work, home or in the community? (c) financial, emotional, physical health, sexual, criminal, legal, marital, moral or age related?
  • Are these problems old chronic problems or newly arisen situational problems?
  • Why do you feel hopeless and/or overwhelmed by these problems?
  • Attempts have you taken to overcome or rectify these problems?
  • What irrational or unhealthy beliefs or thinking lead to your sense of being overwhelmed or hopeless as you deal with these problems?
  • Whom do you blame for these problems?
  • Whom do you want to control in order to get them to help you out, to rescue you and to fix these problems for you?
  • How will suicide correct these problems?
  • How will your suicide control the people you blame and the people whom you want to fix these problems for you?
  • How will your suicide affect the people you love?
  • What can you do today to take the first step at correcting these problems?
  • What can you do today to increase your sense of being hopeful to change and grow in order to handle your problems?
  • Who can you call upon to help support you in your efforts to change and cope with these problems?
  • What do you need to do to begin to correct or resolve these problems?
  • What do you need to do for yourself?
  • What do you need to do with others?
  • What things do you need to change?
  • What places do you need to go to in order to handle and correct these problems?

Step 4: As you begin to cope with problems in your life which have made you feel suicidal, remember to call upon your Higher Power to help you to grow more hopeful so as to be successful in the process.


Step 5: If you should slip back into feeling suicidal, then return to Step 1 and begin again.

Suicide Prevention Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:


CDC’s Suicide Prevention:


Surgeon General’s Suicide Prevention Strategy 2012:


American Society of Suicidology:


SAMSHA Suicide Prevention:


Veterans Crisis Line:


VA Suicide Prevention:



DoD/VA Suicide Outreach:


SPRC-Suicide Prevention Resource Center:


National Alliance for Suicide Prevention:


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:


YSPP-Youth Suicide Prevention Program:


SAVE-Suicide Awareness Voices of Education:


Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Programs:

Suicide Prevention Apps
Ask and Prevent Suicide App an app which helps clients to recognize when they need to reach out and ask for help to prevent suicide. At
Guard your Buddy App an app developed by the National Guard to help friends help other friends from attempting suicide. At:
Wingman Project App an app developed by the Air National Guard to help friends help their own friends from attempting suicide. At:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Approach to Suicide Intervention and Prevention

Brief Mood Check

Agenda Setting

Narrative Timelines of a Sucidal Crisis

Means Restriction Counseling

Identifying Core Beliefs and Intermediate Beliefs

Modifying Core Beliefs