With the recent death of Robin Williams, suicide has become a hot topic of discussion. As I read the many thoughts shared on the matter, I’m actually frightened by a popular message being sent out to those with suicidal ideation. While many are proclaiming suicide is an unpreventable disease, I feel it is extremely important to clarify this misconception. Suicide is a choice.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that this is not an attempt to condemn anyone who has had thoughts of suicide. The intent is to give them hope and care, where I see so many posts, articles, and thoughts shared on social media that are doing just the opposite. Stripping a person with suicidal thoughts of any hope is a deadly mistake.

Depression is a clinical disease. Suicidal ideation is a possible symptom of this disease, but it is not an unavoidable consequence of the disease. To say the act of suicide itself is a disease negates the fact that it can be prevented.

A depressed person with thoughts of suicide does not just stop breathing one day. In order for suicide to be ‘successful’ (for lack of a better word), decisions and actions must be made and taken. With suicide recognized as a choice, we are able to also recognize that there are other options.

As a Chaplain with an extensive background in spiritual and mental health, I was dismayed to see so many proclaiming that suicide was not a choice and was virtually unavoidable. If at any time I would have expressed such sentiment to a suicidal patient, I would have been fired and rightfully so. Our goal needs to be to offer hope, help, and options. Suicide is a choice and there are other options.
Admittedly, recognizing and confronting suicide as a choice must be done delicately. It should not include blaming, guilt provoking, or condemning because while the act of suicide is a choice, thoughts of suicide are not. While it is a choice whether to act on thoughts of suicide, it is not a selfish choice in the mind of the suicidal individual.

How do I know? As I have said, I have worked with suicidal patients in an inpatient and outpatient settings, but I have also had these thoughts myself. A trend in thoughts of suicide is that you think you would be doing others a favor.

This brings me to my next point. Not only does the suicidal individual have choices, but those interacting with them do too. Often, those closest to an individual contemplating suicide are angered, hurt, and frightened to know their loved one is having these thoughts. Feeling like you have failed in some way when someone you care about tells you that they think they want to die is common and natural.

The emotions of anger, hurt, and fear are fueled by love. It is that love that needs tapped into when expressing your feelings to the suicidal loved one.

In the words of a wise friend, “Suicide does not end your pain. It simply passes it on to those you leave behind.” I do not share this to make anyone contemplating suicide feel guilty, but to share a truth that may cause them to reconsider. I don’t believe it is ever the intention of the suicidal person to inflict pain on others. While they are already burdened with their thoughts of self-harm, it may seem insensitive to lay the responsibility of their contemplated actions on their shoulders, but I think it is necessary. Because suicide is a choice, the consequences of this option should be honestly presented.

Thoughts of suicide must be met with honesty on both the part of the suicidal person and those around them. With honesty and compassion, the thoughts of suicide can be met with viable options to help save a life. Life can be a choice over suicide.

Remember, suicide is a choice and you can make a different decision. If you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide, please seek help. Make a decision to choose to live another day.

There are many resources at your fingertips. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at any time: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You may also seek immediate assistance at your local emergency room. There are also countless resources available by searching the Internet for ‘suicide help.’ Whatever you decide, I hope you choose something other than suicide.

"... the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." (Genesis 2:7)
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3 Responses Aug 16, 2014

I found this interesting, as I had not heard that there were people presenting suicide as virtually an unavoidable illness. Two members of my household suffer from severe depression, and suicide ideation has been with us for a long time. But they always seek help as they know that to take one's own life is against the law of God. Sometimes it is only the love and fear of God that stops them from committing suicide. But there is no doubt that ultimately it is a choice, even for someone who is very mentally ill.


Thank you for this wisdom and encouragement. My sister in law has suicidal thoughts from all the stress and dissapointment in her life...I think she might be depressed. And recently I had a thought of suicide because things have not been working out for me lately, but I know I won't do it. I don't really know why those thoughts entered into my head. The enemy is powerful but God is stronger.