Psychological Self-Help

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(and/or against being mentally ill). In many cultures suicide is
considered such a dark, aberrant, or unnatural act that religions may
actually consider it a sin and, not too long ago, there were laws
against suicide and attempted suicide. Even today laws harshly punish
helping a loved one to die voluntarily, no matter how understandable it
might be. Dr. Kevorkian still serves his 25 year sentence for helping a
very sick patient who wanted to die. Our country until very recently
would not honor our soldiers by putting their names on the Vietnam
Memorial if they had killed themselves months or years later, even
when they fought and were awarded for bravery in Vietnam, had been
captured and tortured for several years, and then were shipped home
still traumatized and without treatment. It is as if, for the military,
suicide wipes out all of the good you have ever done. If the pain one
feels is emotional or psychological, then society seems to feel it's your
fault. (There may still be several Vietnam veterans deprived of the
recognition of having their name put on the wall.) 
It is this strong cultural disapproval and negative attitude about
suicide (blame-the-victim-ideas?) that result in people feeling too
ashamed to admit their psychological pain and ask for psychological
help. People with breast, colon, or prostate cancer might prefer to not
tell a lot of people about their health problem but it wouldn’t be
because they feel personally responsible for the condition and
personally shamed by it. Ironically, the wide-spread negative
emotional reactions to the idea of suicide may contribute to more
deaths by suicide, because fewer people seek treatment. Our cultural
attitudes need to be changed, not to the point that suicide is accepted
but to the point that treatment is accepted. Suicide involves intense
unhappiness and distress, feelings that deserve our sympathy.
Hopeless and self-destructive thoughts are not shameful but conditions
to be gently challenged and corrected, while we keep the person safe.
Every one of us, including people as young as junior high, must learn
to hear “cries (or hints) for help” and respond to them by, first,
recognizing there are intense emotional troubles in the person’s life
and, then, helping them find help. 
If you are feeling very down on yourself and thinking it might be
better if you just didn’t exist at all, your self-destructive thoughts need
to be expressed clearly to anyone who will listen. Don’t just hint that
you are sort of depressed or “feeling a little down.” Many people, even
though they are listening, will deny or distort those hints. Or they may
immediately try to reassure you that “you will feel better tomorrow,” “I
felt that way last year,” “as soon as you make up with her/him, it will
be all right again,” which you know isn’t true. Such comments are
trying to help, but they cut off further discussion of your painful
distress. You need to be very blunt; keep saying “I am terribly
depressed, things seem awful,” “I feel like ending it all,” “I really need
help,” and “Please help me keep from killing myself, I don’t want to
die,” until a parent, a doctor, a counselor, a friend, or someone hears
you clearly and will boldly help you. Your next step should be to seek a
“professional friend,” perhaps at school or through your health
insurance or your family doctor or a therapist at the local Community
Mental Health Center. Remember that over 50% of young people who
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