Sometimes, it can be a challenge to maintain hope for someone who feels utterly hopeless. Their situation might seem so bleak, their pain so intense, their stress or trauma so unbearable, their desire to die so strong, that you begin to think your efforts are futile.

Sadly, hopelessness is often contagious, and the hopelessness of someone who wants to die can infect you. And your own sense of hopelessness likewise can infect (or re-infect) the suicidal person.

The good news is, hope is contagious, too. Not always, but often. So if you feel hopeless about your client’s ability to survive suicidal urges, actively try to reconnect with hope. Get consultation. Talk to a therapist, colleague, or friend. Remind yourself that nobody’s suicide is inevitable.

As I say in my book Helping the Suicidal Person: Tips and Techniques for Professionals:

“No matter how challenging and painful a suicidal person’s situation is, as long as the person is alive, change is possible. Even if the person’s mental illness, physical pain, or other circumstances cannot change, their experience of it can change. People can learn new coping skills, improve their quality of life, find meaning in their experiences, work toward goals, and develop a sense of acceptance about what they cannot change.”

And if you need a reminder that a person’s suffering can transform dramatically, check out this video called “What If?” by Craig Miller. As he explains in his memoir This Is How It Feels, Craig endured horrific abuse as a child and repeated psychiatric hospitalizations as an adolescent. He attempted suicide. And he lived to tell about it – beautifully and eloquently. His story is a reminder that the future, as they say, is unwritten.

“Hopeless” graphic by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

Updated Sept. 29, 2021