Study Uncovers Emotions behind Suicide Attempts

A weeping woman in pajamasSuicide can leave bereaved loved ones agonizing over what they could have done differently and angry that a person they loved didn’t care enough about them to stay alive. Popular websites and common wisdom suggest to suicidal people that suicide is a selfish act because of its consequences to those left behind. New research confirms that people who attempt suicide don’t do so out of selfishness, though. Instead, their actions are spurred partially by their belief that they pose a burden to those around them.

Suicide and Feeling Burdensome

The study, presented by SANE Australia at Australia’s 2014 National Suicide Prevention Conference, evaluated 31 Australians who had attempted suicide. Researchers asked participants what support they received, whether they talked to loved ones about the suicide attempt, and what factors affected their recovery. Many participants reported that they felt they burdened loved ones and believed that their loved ones would be better off without them. It was also common for participants to report that they felt worthless and did not believe there was a way out of their misery.

Eighty-seven percent of participants had been diagnosed with at least one mental health condition. Common triggers for suicide included drug and alcohol abuse, symptoms of a mental health condition, and inadequate access to appropriate professional help. Participants reported that they frequently felt stigmatized and that such stigma added to their desire to commit suicide. Many believed that by ending their own lives they could put an end to the stress and suffering their symptoms imposed on those around them.

The study’s authors emphasize that people who have attempted suicide may feel judged and isolated. By avoiding judgmental and critical attitudes, though, bystanders and loved ones can become better equipped to help those considering suicide.

If you are feeling suicidal or are worried about someone you love, you can get help 24 hours a day by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


‘Suicide is not a selfish act’ say survivors who have attempted to take their own life – new research. (2014, July 24). Medical News Today. Retrieved from

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  • Maddy

    July 30th, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    This is all the more reason why we must stress to those loved ones who we may see who are in real trouble that nothing that they are going through is a burden to us. Thye may think that all of our lives would be better off without them in them so it is necessary to stress to them that this is not true, that if they leave this earth then we will be even more troubled and burdened. If you say and show that message loud and clear it would then be my hope that that would then get through to them, and that they would see that suicide is not the answer that they are seeking.

  • TY

    July 30th, 2014 at 3:04 PM

    I don’t think that those considering suicide have the feelings of others on their mind. It becomes a very personl thing where they are unable to see the hurt that they will cause the people around them because they become hyper focused on the pain that they are feeling themselves.
    I get it, I do, everybody hurts, but if there was some way to also open their eyes to the crisis that they will leave behind if they succeed with this plan then it will be then that I think that we can make some huge gains in stopping the growth of suicide and those numbers.

  • Townes

    July 31st, 2014 at 4:20 AM

    All of this sounds critical in understanding the thought processes in someone who is willing to commit suicide.

    I do still wonder though if most of us really have our eyes open to seeing exactly the pain that another is experiencing. There are so many times that I know that I get wrapped up in my own life that I fail to see when others aorund me are also experiencing something in their own lives. I do not ignore it intentionally, it is just that we become so focused on our own problems that we stop seeing those of others too.

  • corbin

    July 31st, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    When my brother took his own life six months ago it left us with even more questions and problems with the behavior. He never once sounded like he was even depressed or having problems or he never even asked us for any help with what could have been troubling.
    We feel like there must have been some kind of secret life there that he was not sharing with anyone because we were all stunned when it happened. If he would have at least shared with us some of the things that he had to have been feeling them maybe we could have gotten him some help. Now all we are left with are more questions and feelings like we let him down in his life in some way that is too late to go back and fix now.

  • Bart

    August 4th, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    Do you know how difficult it would be to learn that someone you love and care about decided to take their own life because of the burden that they felt like they had placed on you?

    This is a terrible reality that many families must deal with everyday. The person who commits suicide is not being selfish, they have reached a point where they think that your life would be better and more fulfilling without them in it. How sad to have to live thinking like that and then think about the family left behind who know that this was part of the reasoning for their actions.

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