Q&A: Questions and Answers

“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Jan. 1990, 15

Questions and Answers

Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

Sometimes I feel so hopeless I want to end my life. What stops me is the fear of hurting my family and being punished in the next life. Shouldn’t there be a better reason to live?

New Era Answer:

Please, before you do anything else, before you even finish reading this answer, TELL SOME TRUSTED ADULT ABOUT YOUR PROBLEM. Tell your parents. Tell your bishop. Tell a counselor at school. Call the suicide hot line. If these people can’t help you themselves, they will put you in touch with someone who can. Please don’t feel that it’s demeaning to ask for help. At some point in our lives almost all of us find that our coping mechanisms are temporarily overwhelmed by circumstance and that we need outside help. A multitude of intelligent, successful, and respected people have sought such help and have benefited from it. If your life were in danger from fire or poison, you would quickly call for assistance. When your life is threatened by suicidal thoughts, you can’t afford to do less.

The problem with answering your question is that while you’re feeling suicidal, the answer may not mean much. Your condition won’t let it. You wouldn’t be thinking this seriously about suicide unless you were temporarily suffering from a serious emotional or chemical imbalance or both. These conditions make it difficult to have a balanced perspective of life. They filter out the bright and hopeful truths and let in only the dark and sad.

Nevertheless, here goes. What is there to live for? Everything! Sunrise and sunset, laughter, music, learning, good friends, good books, good times. There is a mission, courtship, marriage, family. There are growth and achievement. There are service and sharing and all the joy the gospel brings. There is the wonderful adventure of becoming who you are here to become. There is all this and more.

If you just read that list and saw nothing but dust and ashes, don’t lose hope. You are not alone. Many are facing this problem and are overcoming it with the help of those who care about them.

Having said that, here are a couple of practical considerations. As you already seem to realize, suicide is not really an escape at all. The person who ends his life in hopes of oblivion will be astonished to learn that suicide has only made a bad situation that much worse.

Also, many impulsive suicide attempts result not in death but in severe physical and mental handicaps that must be faced throughout a long lifetime of regret.

Please understand that no one is questioning your pain. It is very real. Perhaps you have been abused. Perhaps you have lost a loved one to death. Maybe you feel you’re a failure because you got a low grade or didn’t make an athletic team. Maybe your “one true love” dropped you for somebody else. Perhaps you have a handicap and are excluded by those who should be supporting you. Maybe a hormonal imbalance has cast you into a deep depression. All these things and many others can temporarily make life seem a burden.

But life is constantly changing. Hang on, seek help, and in a few days or weeks or months, you will look around and discover that things are better. If this started with some unhappy event in your life, remember that millions before you have dealt with their grief, have overcome their handicaps, have gone on to find new goals, new friends, new sweethearts, and to live happy, productive lives.

If you are suffering from depression brought about by a chemical imbalance, there are medicines that can end your depression and let the light shine into your life again.

One way or another things will get better. It may take some time and some effort, but whatever the ache, whatever the sorrow, whatever the hurt, whatever the problem—it really can get better. Why should you end your life just when things are about to improve?

Achieving this improvement is definitely not a do-it-yourself project; you will need the help of qualified adults. Still, there are many things you can do to help yourself, and each is a better option than suicide. Here are just a few:

  1. Remember who you are. If someone is putting you down or abusing you or making you feel bad, remember that first, last, and always—and in spite of anybody and anything—you are in fact a child of God.

  2. Pray. And if you feel that things are so bad that not even prayer will help—then “experiment … and exercise a particle of faith … [and] let this desire work in you” (Alma 32:27). Prayer really can help—if you’ll give it a fair try.

  3. Talk to somebody. It helps. When things get bad it helps a lot.

  4. Immerse yourself in the gospel. Taking the sacrament will help. Attending seminary will help. Reading the scriptures will help. (Start with the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5–7.) Repenting of your sins and shortcomings will help. And, having repented, learn to forgive yourself. The Savior atoned for your sins, and it is unwise and unhealthy to condemn yourself for weaknesses you are truly striving to overcome.

  5. Serve others. Volunteer at the hospital. Donate some time at the library. Teach retarded children to swim. Help a struggling young mother clean up her kitchen. As difficult as it will be to get started, service to others will help you feel better about yourself.

  6. Remember that Satan is in a jealous rage because you have a body while he doesn’t. He would love to see you discard your life and your body. When Satan tempts you to end your life, talk to your Father in Heaven about it—right out loud if you want. Plead for his help. Don’t worry too much about the four steps of prayer, just TALK to him. Pray all day long if you need to. He will never grow tired of listening.

  7. Don’t allow yourself to be alone and depressed. Call an adult you respect on the telephone. Listen to uplifting music. Start a hobby or collection. Make a new friend. Take your little brother to the gym and shoot some baskets.

  8. Work on physical fitness. Go jogging. Go swimming. Go swat some tennis balls. Go for a hike. When you are physically fit, all the rest of you—your mind and spirit and emotions—will feel better, too. (Some medical research even suggests that aerobic exercise stimulates release of a natural antidepressant.)

  9. If all else fails, postpone it. Don’t do it now. Wait until tomorrow, or next week. Chances are very good that when you get to tomorrow or next week, things will have changed enough that you won’t want to do it.

And if things still look bad, then postpone it again. It’s wrong. You know it’s wrong. You know it would only make matters worse. Postpone it some more. Take positive steps to make things better. Postpone it until things really do start getting better. Then forget it.

Someday you’ll look back and think about this difficult time and be really grateful that the Younger You stuck it out so that the Older You could lead a happy, satisfying life. You’ll be glad you took positive steps to make things better.

And things will get better. That’s a promise.

Youth Answers:

I think I know how you feel. I have many times felt like killing myself and even tried once, which I regret to this day. It was miserable physically as well as emotionally, and I found out that dying wasn’t at all what I was looking for. I just wanted the pain to stop. Even though I still feel like killing myself at times, I have found that receiving professional help and meeting with a member of the bishopric (or even a close friend as long as he or she doesn’t join in feeling sorry for me) make things easier. You also need to start looking at your good qualities. Whenever you feel like killing yourself, take out a piece of paper and write down ten of your good qualities.

As for a reason for continuing to live, I have found that it helps to think that if you died that you would be letting yourself down—you would never know who you would marry, who your future friends would be, or if you could have licked your problems.

To keep your mind off feeling depressed, get involved in a fun activity.

Most of all, you have to remind yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to. This may seem like a bunch of wishful thinking, but I know from experience that it works—believe me, if it didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this letter right now.

Name withheld

Remember that your Heavenly Father loves you and wants you to return to him. He wants to help you. He’s there for you if you’ll just ask. You were sent to earth with a divine mission. You promised that you would fulfill that mission and return to your father’s open arms. Always remember that life is only a second compared to eternity.

Lori Thomas, 15
El Paso, Texas

There are many reasons to live. I, too, at one point in my life felt much like you do and could find no reason to go on. Most people didn’t seem to understand the depth of the pain and hopelessness that I was feeling. Some told me to forget myself and my problems and try to serve others. Others simply told me to smile and try to have a positive attitude. While this can be very beneficial at some point, it couldn’t help me when I was hopeless and hurting enough to end my own life.

I have a few suggestions that helped me and might help you.

First, it’s important to look at yourself, your thoughts, and your feelings. Why are you hurting so much? What’s happening in your life that is causing these destructive thoughts? What can you do about it? It’s important to take a serious look at yourself and what has gone wrong, then answer these questions honestly.

Second, it would be ideal if you have access to a counselor, psychologist, or social worker who could work with you. Many schools provide these services.

Also, find a responsible and trustworthy adult to talk to. It needs to be somebody you feel comfortable talking to openly and who will be understanding. It may be a teacher, a parent, an older brother or sister, a grandparent, a Young Women or Young Men adviser, or your bishop. They really care about you and want to help.

Third, ask somebody close to you for a priesthood blessing. Don’t feel like you don’t deserve the blessing. This is a very appropriate reason to have one.

Fourth, sit down and make a list of everything you’re good at, as well as everything that’s important to you. Keep in mind that being a good listener or being able to love and accept people are talents that are just as noble (perhaps even more so) as being able to play the piano or run in track.

Fifth, don’t feel that you’re going crazy, that you’re all alone, or that you’re bad. I felt that way, but I shouldn’t have. Being sad or hurt and having everything “fall apart” doesn’t make you an awful or “sick” person. It simply means that you’re human, you’re having problems, and you need a boost. Many people feel a lot like you do, although the circumstances are different.

Finally, and most importantly, remember that you are a literal child of God. He’s your Father and he created you—in his own image. He loves you far more than you can presently understand. He sees all the infinite beauty in you that nobody else can see. It’s there. He hurts when you hurt, and he wants to help you succeed. Go to him in prayer and ask for strength and the ability to see your worth. Gain a testimony of his love for you. I promise you that as you do these things, your eyes will be opened to the millions of beautiful reasons to go on living. I know because I found them not too long ago.

Name withheld

I felt the same way for six years and even now the feeling sometimes comes back vaguely. It’s a lonely and self-centered feeling, and service seems to be the only key, but it isn’t always the first key. I suffer from a chemical imbalance, and service was an impossible task before I became aware of my illness. So for six years I struggled to live day by day before receiving proper medical treatment.

Cling to the gospel principles. Study and pray continually. Know that Christ died for you and that he loves you infinitely. These things never took away the terror or loneliness I experienced, but they carried me through those horrible times, so that now I can look back and say, “I’m alive, and although those times were horrible, I did all I could.” My character has grown because of those experiences, because I lived to feel the joy of life.

Through all the pain, be positive and love others, for love is our purpose. Life is a joy to me now and suicide would’ve only taken that joy away.

Name withheld

When I begin thinking about how awful life is or how awful I think I am, I try to think instead of others and what I can do to make their lives a little better. When I do this, I can see the growth in myself and know that I have improved. That, for me, is a great reason to live.

Camille Price, 16
Shelley, Idaho

Last February my cousin, who was a very bright, intelligent, and fun high school junior, committed suicide. I was so terrified, confused, upset, and sorrowful that for weeks I walked around idly not knowing what to do with myself.

My cousin dwelt on her problems and didn’t communicate to anyone what was really disturbing her. As a result, those terrible thoughts and emotions could not be cleansed from her system. She didn’t give anyone the chance to hear, care, or help. I miss her now, and what hurts the most is that I couldn’t do anything to help her or save her.

If my cousin had taken her confusion and pain to someone that loved, understood, and cared about her, maybe she would be here today.

Do anything and everything you can to feel the Lord’s presence and love. I’m sure that when you feel that presence, you will be determined to fulfill your mission here on earth rather than end your potential quest which God has planned for you.

Nigelle Halloway, 16
Vienna, Virginia

We all feel depressed at times because life isn’t always easy, but God has given us the power to rise above our problems. You must not end your life prematurely, because Heavenly Father has so much in store for you. Satan doesn’t want you to have these things so he tries to make you so miserable that death seems to be the only way out, but he is wrong! Don’t let him win!

Try talking to someone you trust about your feelings and they won’t seem quite so overwhelming. Heavenly Father will help, too. Always remember that he loves you immeasurably and unconditionally and wants nothing more than to see you succeed. Your family, friends, and loved ones are cheering for you, too!

Shelli Kesler, 17
Rifle, Colorado

There are many beautiful reasons to live. I’ll just mention one—the love that our Savior, Jesus Christ, has for you. Christ suffered for each soul, individually. If Christ, a perfect man, a God, with power over death, would give his life for you and your individual happiness, you have reason to live. Look deep enough and pray, and you’ll feel this love.

There is always a way to find happiness, even when life seems to be at its darkest. To me personally, happiness comes through love. To receive love, you give love—unselfishly.

Don’t give up. You can overcome. Live life to its fullest. Look at the positive things instead of seeing the negative. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, all you’ll find is positive.

Christine Valberg, 19
Brigham City, Utah

Please don’t consider suicide. Two months ago, my best friend killed herself. I cannot even begin to tell you the pain this has caused her family and her friends. My life will never be the same. I loved her with all my heart. Until you find out your own true worth, you might have to live for your family. There is a reason for you to be here, and someday God will prove that to you.

Name withheld

Your question brought tears to my eyes because I am in the same situation. Before, it was hard to believe that others feel the way I do about committing suicide.

I’m so depressed, but I’m trying to control it day by day. Some of the things I’m doing may help you.

First of all, try not to be so hard on yourself. Think of positive things about yourself.

Second, pray to your Father in Heaven so that he might help you to see the good in yourself.

Finally, find something you especially enjoy doing. It helps to build your self-esteem. A few examples are exercising, reading, drawing, or anything! It depends on you. I hope these ideas will help.

Name withheld

Yes, there is a reason for living. Just think what is ahead of you—a family and hopefully someday becoming like your Heavenly Father. Realize that today is a trial you have to overcome to grow. God loves you and wants only what is best for you.

Suzana Jones, 15
St. George, Utah

Everyone has bad days, but since you are having a real problem in your life, talk to your parents, your bishop, or a doctor. There may be something you need to change, or you may have a chemical imbalance that would cause you to feel unhappy, even when you can’t see any reason.

Sometimes depression is psychological, but many times it is a physical deficiency of certain chemicals in your brain; new prescription drugs can help this. Try to figure out what’s causing you to feel this way. In my case, I was stressed out and I needed to cut some things out of my life.

Build your relationships with your parents, your brothers and sisters, your friends, but, most importantly, with your Heavenly Father and Christ. Just remember, “I am of infinite worth. My Savior loves me.”

Roni Connell, 15
Omaha, Nebraska