10 Reasons People Attempt Suicide Even If They Seem 'OK'

Shot of a young woman looking depressed at home

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It's a common question that people ask when they hear about someone who has attempted or died by suicide. "Why would they do that? They seemed to be doing so well." The truth is, we don't always know why.

However, there is often a period of time between the initial crisis and the act of suicide itself. During this time, the individual may appear to be feeling better. At first glance, it may not make sense. Why would someone who is feeling better attempt suicide? However, for people struggling with depression or other mental health disorders, this is a very real phenomenon.

It's a common misconception that suicide is motivated solely by negative feelings. In reality, many people who attempt suicide do so when they appear to be feeling relief from pain, not when they're feeling pain itself. So why do people attempt suicide even when they appear to feel better? Let's take a look.

Crisis Support

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

They may not actually be feeling better.

Just because someone appears to be doing well on the outside doesn't mean that they're really feeling better on the inside. Often, people who are considering suicide will put on a brave face in order to hide their true feelings from the world. Even though they may have found a way to hide their pain, they may still feel the same on the inside.

For some people, the thought of living with that pain for the rest of their lives is too much to bear and they see suicide as the only way out. So, even if someone seems like they're doing better, it's important to check in with them and make sure that they're really OK. 

They may believe that their problems are insurmountable.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 4.9% of people aged 18 and older experienced suicidal thoughts in 2020. The rates increases if someone is of two or more races.People who experience suicidal ideation often feel of hopeless and helpless as a result of believing that nothing will get better.

Their attempt may actually be a cry for help.

The answer may lie in what's known as the "suicide gesture." A suicide gesture is an act that is intended to get attention but not necessarily causes death. It's a way of crying out for help.

Sometimes, people who make suicide gestures are actually hoping to be stopped. They may not be ready to die, but they feel like they can't go on living and don't know what else to do to find relief. At times they may not have been taken seriously when they talked about how they felt or asked for help.

If you're feeling like this, it's important to reach out for help directly. Talking to a therapist or counselor can be a great way to get the help that you need without resorting to desperate measures. 

They may be afraid of what might happen if they don't make an attempt.

They may be afraid of what other people will think or say if they don't go through with it, or they may be afraid that they'll never have the courage to try again. Sometimes, people see attempting suicide as a way of showing others how serious they were about dying. 

They may have unresolved trauma or dangling loose ends in their life.

Even if they're no longer in pain, they may still feel like they have no purpose or direction in life. In a national U.S. survey conducted in 2021 and published in JAMA Psychiatry, it was shown that lower educational attainment and a recent financial crisis were risk factors for suicide attempts. For some people, suicide may seem like the only way to escape their current situation. 

They may have an undiagnosed mental illness.

Mental illness can cause mood swings and periods of highs and lows. Just because someone appears to be doing well doesn't mean that they're not struggling with mental health issues. A diagnosis of depression in particular, has been shown to be a risk factor for suicide attempts in both men and women.

They may feel like others will be better off without them.

Even though things may have seemed better for a while, they feel like there's no point in trying anymore because nothing will ever change. They may believe that everyone would be better off without them and that death is the only way to end their pain and suffering. 

They may not have a support system in place to help them through difficult times. 

When people are feeling suicidal, they often feel like they're all alone in the world and that no one cares about them. This can be especially true for those who have previously attempted suicide. If you don't have anyone to turn to when you're feeling down, it's important to reach out to a suicide hotline or other helpful resources.

They may have been holding it together for others. 

In addition, they may finally have the strength to attempt suicide after years of holding it together for the sake of others.

They have already decided that they will commit suicide.

Someone may have already decided to carry through with suicide but want to make sure they leave things in order before they do. They seem OK because they know relief is coming.

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone you know appears to be feeling better after a period of stress, it's important to be aware that this doesn't mean that they're no longer at risk for suicide. In fact, this may actually be a warning sign. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please reach out for help.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."