Our Silent Epidemic of Ambivalence About Living
By Michael A. Church Ph.D. and Charles I. Brooks, Ph.D.
Subtle Suicide: A Silent Epidemic
Michael Church, Ph.D., Licensed Pennsylvania Psychologist and member of the Council of National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, has developed the clinical concept of Subtle Suicide from thousands of hours of psychotherapy with psychiatric clients.
Millions of people suffer from subtle suicide.
Subtle Suicide is a condition of epidemic proportions. Unfortunately, because the condition is often misdiagnosed, subtle suicide remains a silent epidemic.
Subtle Suicide is:
A pattern of self-destructive feelings, thoughts and behaviors that take place over a substantial period of time, and significantly reduce the quality and possibly length of one's life.
Subtle suicide sufferers are often misdiagnosed, and treated for addictive gambling, alcohol/drug abuse, or a standard psychological disorder like anxiety, depression, bipolar, etc. The fact is, in the case of the subtle suicide victim, these addictions and conditions are symptoms and not the core problem. Treatments targeted at such addictions and conditions are likely to fail. For example, is an addiction the fundamental problem causing the subtle suicide profile, or is the addiction the result of ambivalence about living (subtle suicide) that occurred because of the individuals life experiences and deeper core conflicts? Helpers must realize this very important distinction, or they may be lulled into believing that the subtle suicide sufferer simply needs to stop drinking, gambling, or take medicine for a bipolar or social anxiety condition, whatever the diagnosis may be.
Subtle suicide victims say things like:
- "Don't worry that I'll try and commit suicide. After all, I don't want to be committed to the psych ward. But almost every night I feel that if I don't wake up tomorrow, then that's okay."
- "I'm not going to deliberately try to kill myself, but if I stepped off a curb and a bus ran over me, that would be okay."
- "I don't want to hurt myself and others by committing suicide, but I plan to continue smoking heavily so I can die sooner of lung cancer or other problems."
The book helps readers identify behavioral signs of subtle suicide and how to get formal help. There is also a chapter on helping strategies for family and friends.
Some Comments from Readers of Subtle Suicide:
- “My husband suffered in silence for years. I did not understand until I read your book Subtle Suicide. I didn’t understand his quiet sadness. I didn’t understand why he didn’t respond well to stress. I didn’t understand his anger and frustration. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t just "be happy". "I was angry [but the book] saved his life."
- “Thanks so much for your work on the concept of subtle suicide…it describes me perfectly. I was depressed as a teen, then again in junior year of college and again very recently at age 41. I recently ended therapy, and ironically I never brought up the subtle suicide issue with my therapist because I myself thought that I was not serious enough about it to warrant attention. But yes, as I left the office, I always hoped I'd get hit by a bus or in a serious car accident. When I return to therapy, I will certainly bring up these feelings to my therapist. I not only identified with the descriptions in your book, but also with the origin of the problem. Thanks for making this important discovery. I hope you will continue to speak out to therapists and the general public to help people like me recover.”
- “Reading about subtle suicide was as if I were reading about my own life. I'm really tired of this suffering. Since this is a newly-defined concept, I'm sure there are very few doctors who have accepted it. I'm really, really tired. So, please is there someone you could recommend? Life is just so difficult. At times, I feel as though I'm living dead. I want to live life as it should be."
- “I had never seen the subtle suicide term before, but what the book described made some sense out of what I have battled for years in my depression. In trying to understand, treat and manage my depression, this was a fresher concept I can accept. Not only is it like a mental fog with a panicky kind of desperation to keep functioning, this depression feels like it is suffocating me slowly. I appreciate you putting a name to what I believe I have."
- “I wanted to thank you SO MUCH for your book, Subtle Suicide. I read the book and am relieved that there was finally a diagnosis that fit ME, and I hope you're able to push this through for an official DSM diagnosis, and a broader awareness among treatment providers as well as people who battle these ongoing bouts of depression for which nothing seems to work.”