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No one knows what’s in my head, and nobody ever will. Mom and Dad have their own problems. They’ll probably get divorced soon. This family is really screwed up. I hate it.

If I die, they’ll have one less problem. . . . Amazing to blow yourself away and never have to deal with it again. All in two seconds, it’s all over. You never have to wonder what’s wrong with you anymore. I don’t want to hear about my parent’s problems anymore. Why should I? Do they look any happier? That’s what my life will be like. And my sister, always unhappy all the time. They think I don’t notice, but I see it all.”
– The journal entry of a teen who killed himself (in Slaby & Garfinkel, 1994, p. 27)

You’re only interested in my weight. I’m miserable skinny and I’m miserable fat. Why don’t you care that I’m miserable? It’s gone on too long. It can’t get better. I’m worn out, I have no more to say to anyone; I have nothing left to paint because everything comes out black.”
– A teen girl’s suicide note (ibid, p. 33; edited for punctuation)

What teen suicide notes say about why teens kill themselves

The most direct evidence we have as to why teens kill themselves can be found in the messages they leave behind. Therapists who specialize in suicides note that there are several common themes that can be found in teen suicide communications:

  • Self-blame

Suicide notes left by teens typically exhibit a sense of self-blame. They talk about what they didn’t do right, how they’re flawed, and of all the mistakes they made. They may be angry at their inability to handle the criticisms or rejection of others, which only worsens their despair. Suicide tends to represent the culmination of a destructive rage turned inward, and this sentiment is often expressed in their suicide note.

  • Pain

They typically talk about the pain they have been feeling, often for quite some time, and frequently in silence. They tend to make mention of how nobody understands or even knows about the mental anguish they feel on an ongoing basis. They often report feeling mentally exhausted, unable to muster the willpower to continue struggling on.

  • Secrets

Confessions of deeply guarded secrets, often revolving around issues of sexuality or past mistakes are often included. Slaby & Garfinkel write that “young people will frequently reveal some aspect of their personality or private life that was not apparent during their lifetime in their suicide note. Whether it was a love that was not reciprocated, a pregnancy, a homosexual desire, or some wrongdoing (either real or imagined), the overwhelming and consuming nature of the secret should be recognized. Indeed, it is likely that the secret controlled the young person’s mind and burdened him with unimaginable suffering. If the teen had known how to unburden himself, would he be alive? …Surprisingly, in a number of instances survivors have acknowledged that they knew the ‘secret’ for some time and that they were not surprised to read it in the suicide communication. Regrettably, the teenager felt that the survivors were unaware of it and would judge him harshly if they knew.” (1994, p. 159)

  • Repentance

Teens often express regret over their past actions or for pain their suicide might cause. They wish they could have done more, or they lament the ways in which they let their parents down. They are frequently remorseful of the fact that they couldn’t see any other option; no other means to escape from their inner demons.

  • Advice for others

Teens will often give advice to others on how to move on, about how to deal with their death, or about how family members should resolve their own issues.

In all, they spell a picture of a person who is miserable, distraught, regretful, insecure about their place in the world, not necessarily wanting to die but not seeing another viable path forward. Hopefully this information has given you some insight into the psychology of a kid on the edge. This more profound understanding of what a suicidal teen typically feels will help you better help them in fighting their struggles going forward.

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