Why Do People Commit Suicide?

Why Do People Commit Suicide?
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Question:  My teenage cousin was a bright and beautiful young woman with a great future ahead of her, yet she decided to take her own life.  I just don't understand it.  Why do people commit suicide?  What causes someone to feel like taking their own life is the only answer to their problems?

Answer:  While there are many factors which can influence a person's decision to commit suicide, the most common one is that they are suffering from severe depression.

  They are feeling great emotional pain, but aren't able to see any way to relieve that pain other than ending their own life.  When their pain gets to be too much to bear, they may commit suicide in order to make the pain come to an end.

Other mental illnesses besides depression can also play a role in suicide.  For example, a person with schizophrenia might be hearing voices which command her to kill herself.  Bipolar disorder, an illness in which a person experiences alternating periods of high and low moods, can also increase a person's risk for commiting suicide.

Drugs and alcohol can also influence a person who is feeling suicidal, making her more impulsive and likely to act upon her urges than she would be while sober.

Sometimes people attempt suicide not so much because they really want to die, but because they simply don't know how to get help.  Suicide attempts then become a way of crying out and demonstrating to the world just how much the person is hurting.

  Unfortunately, these cries for help may sometimes prove to be fatal if the person misjudges the lethality of her chosen suicide method.

Chronic pain and illness can also be a motivating factor in a person's choice to die.  If a person does not have any hope of a cure or a reprieve from her suffering, suicide may seem like a way to regain dignity and control of her life.

Finally, there are some situations where what appears to be a suicide is actually an accidental death, such as a dangerous trend among teens called "the choking game," where teens attempt to aspyxiate themselves in order to feel a high.

While I can't comment on what in particular might have caused your cousin to commit suicide, I can say that outside appearances can be deceiving.  While it might have appeared that she had everything to live for, it probably didn't feel that way to her.  There might have been events and circumstances in her life that you weren't aware of or it might simply have been that her depression was clouding her judgment, making her unable to see anything but the negative side of her life.  When a person feels that she has lost all hope and she doesn't feel able to change that, it can overshadow all of the good things in her life, making suicide seem like a viable option.  While it might seem obvious to an outside observer that things will get better, a person with depression may not be able to see this due to the pessimism and despair that go along with this illness.


Lickerman, Alex, MD.  "The Six Reasons People Attempt Suicide."  Psychology Today.  Sussex Publishers, LLC.  Published:  April 29, 2010.  Accessed:  September 24, 2015.

Jacobson, Roni.  "Robin Williams:  Depression Alone Rarely Causes Suicide."  Scientific American.  Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.  Published:  August 13, 2014.  Accessed:  September 24, 2015.

"Recognize the Warning Signs of Suicide."  WebMD.  WebMD, LLC.  Accessed:  September 24, 2015.

"Understanding Suicide:  Key Research Findings."  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Accessed:  September 24, 2015.

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