February 21, 2007


Use the part that wants to live to better understand the part that wants to die.

I believe in the sanctity and dignity of human life! Most people have the same belief, and so society holds respect-for-human-life in high regard. There are always exceptions to the rule. On a political level, for example, leaders of the Democratic party are against the death penalty, but support abortion. Leaders of the Republican party are against abortion, but support the death penalty. I don't see a consistent life ethic with either major party. If we want to hear consistency on multiple levels, a stand that encourages a culture of life, we need to listen to Pope John Paul II's message: "Never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ is with you: Be not afraid!" (Address to Visiting Bishops, February 3, 2001).

This article is neither political nor religious. The political and religious analogies stop here. I believe our society has a lot to learn to become more consistent on the issue of "LIFE." This is okay because like each of us who is working to grow on intellectual, emotional and behavioral levels, so it is with our society: perpetually growing and evolving to become better than before. This leads me to the focus of this article. Despite the numerous reasons why a person could choose to hurt themself, I am here to say, "DO NOT DO IT!"

It has been my experience as a Licensed Professional Counselor to listen to people talk about their mental and emotional pain. I have been blessed to learn how to be empathic, yet keep an emotional distance. This has allowed me to continue to work and not burn out. I have heard many reasons why someone would want to hurt themself.

Here is a list of just a few of them:

Feeling no pain is better than feeling pain.
Command voices (auditory hallucinations).
Hopeless and helpless feelings about self and the future.
Relationship conflicts.
Self-perception leading to feelings of shame and doubt.
Major Depression or Bi-Polar disorder.
Being maliciously bullied leading to low self-worth.
Family or personal crisis.
Dysfunctional guilt.
Impending legal action.
Loss of a loved one and a desire to be with them.

The one commonality with every person who wants to hurt themself is that the person is emotionally torn about doing it. This means that despite the pain, it is part of our human nature to live. Call it survival of the species. Given the ambivalence, it is crucial to tap into the part of the person that wants to live to better understand the part that wants to die.

Use empathy when listening to somebody who is expressing suicidal ideation. Help the person find purpose, or meaning with life. Help the person find opportunities to foster a sense of purpose. Help the person find a mentor, someone who can offer trusted guidance. Encourage the person to believe that they matter. In other words, tell the person that their existence is important.

Emotional pain is a message telling us that something is wrong. Pay attention to it and seek help. If there is a plan or intent to do self-harm, immediately call 911 on the phone or go to the nearest Emergency Room of a hospital. Develop a support network who is available to listen. Verbally contract for safety with people you can trust. Avoid alcohol or illicit drugs because substance use or abuse can either complicate things or become a separate problem later. Seek professional help to explore and understand the underlying reasons for wanting to do self-harm.

Emotional pain needs to be acknowledged and validated, and so does the part of you that wants to LIVE.

There are countless stories of people who've learned how to renew a sense of HOPE. Hollywood did a good job showing us one example in 1946 with the movie, "It's A Wonderful Life," starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The plot line: An angel shows a compassionate but frustrated man what life would had been like if he wasn't born. The man did make a difference in the lives of others, despite how he felt. I recommend watching the movie to reawaken a sense of HOPE!

Additional information and support can be gathered by going to a Website called, SUPPORT FROM BEFRIENDERS INTERNATIONAL. Click http://www.befrienders.org/ to go to their HOME page.

Pay attention to the pain, listen to the part of you that wants to live, seek professional help and know that choosing LIFE is a viable option!

Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor

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