May 22


What Leads to Suicidal Thinking?

By Lauren Napolitano


by Lauren Napolitano

To most of us, suicide seems like a terrible solution to one’s problems.  We cannot understand why anyone would want to end their life on purpose, especially someone who is beautiful, talented, and successful.

The fashion world was shocked as beautiful and talented designer L’Wren Scott died of an apparent suicide. From a distance, she appeared to have it all. Success, talent, good looks and a long-term romantic relationship with Mick Jagger.

Yet, we surmise now, that Ms. Scott was deeply troubled. How is it that someone can become so depressed that they want to die?

Here is the thought process of someone who is suicidal:

• ‘My entire life is on fire. My job is a mess. My personal life is horrible. I’ve let everyone down. Things will never be good again. Every area of my life is up in flames.’

• ‘It is entirely my fault that I am in this bind. All of the problems in my life are the direct result of my incompetent decision-making. I have no one to blame but myself. And, to make matters worse, my wonderful friends and family actually tried to stop me from making these bad decisions. They pulled me aside, asked me if I was ok, warned me that these decisions might turn out badly and I pushed them away. So I can’t actually call these people and tell them how overwhelmed I’m feeling because I pushed their help away when it was offered. Therefore, I am entirely alone in this mess.’

• ‘If I look at my life from birth until now I see that my failures are a pattern. I had problems ten years ago, five years ago, and six months ago. I’ve never been competent and I’ve never been able to deal with life. I’m always the one who needs to be bailed out or glued back together like Humpty Dumpty and it’s not fair to my friends and family. These people have their own lives and problems and they shouldn’t have to clean me up every few months. Clearly I’m defective and broken.’
• ‘Rather than burdening these people for the one hundredth time, I’ll just call a spade a spade and say “Screw it. I’m out.”’
It’s at this point that the depressed individual decides that it’s a ‘good’ idea to evaporate or disappear by taking an overdose of pills, hanging him or herself or cutting their skin.

The scary thing about suicidal thinking is that, for the person experiencing the ideation, the thought process feels logical and rational. There are links (albeit irrational) between the assumptions and therefore the depressed person has the perception that he/she is thinking clearly. For example, a woman will say ‘my husband cheated therefore I’m un-loveable’ or ‘I lost my job therefore I’ll never have enough money to pay my bills.’ In the moment, the suicidal person truly believes that ‘evaporating’ will solve his/her problems and also provide profound relief to the friends and family members who the person believes to be burdened by his/her problems.

It is quite likely that L’Wren Scott experienced this very same pattern of suicidal thinking before hanging herself with a scarf. Had she reached out for help, she would likely still be alive today.

Editor’s Note:  In 2010 and 2011, suicide was ranked as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.  If you believe that someone you know is contemplating suicide, please do not ignore it.  Ask questions, listen, and get them help.

About the author

Lauren Napolitano is a licensed psychologist practicing at Bryn Mawr Hospital, as well as operating her own private practice. She received a Psy. D. in Clinical Psychology in 2005 from Widener University, and has been practicing for 11 years. Her specialties include relationships, sexuality, and mental health. She has been featured in articles in many popular publications, including Glamour Magazine, iVillage, and Yahoo! Health.

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