Life is not worth living


Life is not worth living


your avatar   Sarah (16 year-old girl)

16 years old, live at home with parents, rest of family have moved out. Been going out with a boy I am madly in love with for the last 15 months, had two abortions in the last year. Been cutting and burning myself for years and I no longer feel like I have anything to live for. I want to die and I have no confidence. How can I stop feeling like this?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Sarah,

You are not alone. You are suffering in very much the same way as MILLIONS of other young people are suffering. In all the Western countries, youth suicide, self-mutilation and other self-harming activities like drug abuse are terrible epidemics.

You hurt. If your pain, and the way to react to your pain, were rare things, we might ask 'What's wrong with her?'

But if your pain, the way to react to it are shared with many others, then it CAN'T BE BECAUSE YOU ARE CRAZY.


It's not your fault. You haven't done anything to deserve all this punishment you are giving yourself.

You feel, at 16, that life is not worth living. For years, you have been physically hurting yourself.

You don't write why, what self-harm is doing for you. You wouldn't be doing it unless there was some pay-off. Is it that you feel the need to punish yourself for supposed misdeeds? Or is it so you can feel SOMETHING, because without a little pain you'd be feeling nothing? Whatever the reason was, I now hear that the habit is distressing you. You want to stop it.

You're actively thinking about suicide, don't know what to live for. But if you really wanted to die, you wouldn't have posted this cry for help. You would have done it. I hear that you desperately want to live, but you feel so miserable that it often seems that even being dead would be better than this.

Sarah, remember what I started with: you are not alone. Because it is such a common problem, it can't be your fault. It just has to be the fault of society.

Right. Are you willing to let society kill you, throw you on the garbage heap? How much longer will you let society make you miserable, spoil your enjoyment of life, hurt you and abuse you?

It's time to start fighting back.

My dear, I respectfully suggest a two-stage approach:

  • First you need first aid. You need to protect yourself from further harm.
  • Then you need to find something worthwhile to live for.

First Aid

Sarah, at 16 you are terribly young to be having sex. In some countries, it is actually against the law for a person to have sex with someone under 16. I know it is a common thing, but I suggest, this is one way society is attacking you. You don't have to do what everyone else is doing (or what you believe everyone else is doing). If you choose to, you can stop.

If you and your boyfriend choose to continue, then you MUST use effective birth control. Tell him to invest in a box of condoms. No condom, no fun. Does he want to wreck your health with repeated abortions? Or worse, does he want to be responsible for raising children? If not, he can do the right thing for you and use condoms.

Work out what the payoff to you is in cutting and burning yourself. When the urge comes, stop for a moment and think. Write down:

  • setting(time, place, company etc.)
  • trigger(what set you off)
  • thought
  • action(did you hurt yourself or not)

These thoughts that come to you are part of your problem. YOU AREN'T FORCED TO OBEY THEM. You can argue with thoughts.

Go to my site and look around, particularly at the pages 'how to break a habit' and 'how to solve a problem'.

You will find that doing the simple things I recommend, particularly the diary of problem-causing thoughts, work like magic.

Long term

Why are you and millions of other young people feeling so miserable that they want to die, hurt themselves, have nothing to care for?

You were taught to be that way.

The media, advertisers, the whole of society keeps hammering a few messages at us. These messages are in fact FALSE. I don't have the space to go into it here, but please read my essay on the topic. This may be a little complex for you (I don't know you and your interests), but it's worth working your way through it and trying to understand it.

Finally, here is a strange thing. The way to stop feeling miserable is to stop worrying about your own happiness. The worst message that society is sending us is to 'look after number 1', 'you have a right to be happy'. Look around you. There will be other people nearby who are worse off than you. Go and do something for them.

You will NEVER find happiness by seeking it. You can find it by giving to others, and forgetting about your own happiness or discomfort or misery.

Have a good life. I know this is possible, and you can achieve it.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


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