Talking about suicide is never easy, but it’s imperative to start the conversation.
I’ve been thinking about something a former therapist once told me that I now find wholly inappropriate and even dangerous, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
When an elementary school classmate died by suicide last year I wrote a bit about my experience with suicide in my own family as well as my feelings regarding having confrontations or disagreements with friends or strangers who have opinions that are the antithesis to my own beliefs. Some feel suicide is a sin. Others see it as a coward’s way out.
Since you never know who has a personal experience with suicide or if someone has lost a family member or friend to mental illness, it's important to always start the conversation from a place of kindness and empathy when speaking of suicide.
My other related posts:
I hope to write more about this, but in the meantime, here are some other resources.
10 Things Not to Say to a Suicidal Person
“I do know people, especially teens, for whom this statement was tremendously helpful. It spoke to them. But it also communicates that the person’s problems are temporary, when they might be anything but. In such a situation, a realistic goal for the person might be to learn to cope with problems and to live a meaningful life in spite of them. The other problem with this statement is it conveys that suicide is a solution – permanent, yes, and a solution. At a minimum, I recommend changing the word “solution” to “act” or “action,” simply to avoid reinforcing that suicide does indeed solve problems.”
Please Stop Saying, “Suicide is a permanent solution …”
“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.”
DON’T SAY “SUICIDE IS A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO A TEMPORARY PROBLEM”
by Nancy Virden
Suicide is never a solution. Period.
Not all problems are temporary
‘Not temporary’ does not mean hopeless
Why you shouldn’t say “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”
by Hollis Easter
It’s not effective
It sounds judgmental
“I liked something Joanna wrote: that it can be helpful to ask people ‘not to take irreversible action when they’re at their lowest.’”
The Problem with Saying Suicide is a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem
by David Telisman
“In the mental health vernacular, a popular expression that I don’t like is, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” I’m not a licensed anything when it comes to the treatment of mental illness, but I live with it everyday, and I can tell you that this expression is a misnomer. Suicide is as tragic as it gets, and many people have an awful penchant of demonizing those who’ve taken their own lives as “cowards” rather than showing compassion and learning why--and there’s an abundance of reasons why--people carry out this act.”