Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The L Train Suicides

Residents of the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn depend on the L train as the primary mode of transportation between our little nook and Manhattan.  We are often frustrated and flummoxed by the quantity of delays and disruptions in service on this subway line.  But in recent months, we have been increasingly perplexed by the disturbing amount of suicides that are have taken place on this line.  At 11:30am today, there was the third of at least three incidents in the past three months in which a commuter took his or her life on the L train tracks.  What is happening here?

I am not privy to the identities of the victims, nor the reasoning for using the L train (seeming more so than any other subway line) to end one's life.  What I do know is that the act of suicide is an expression of extreme suffering that comes from distorted thought and belief patterns.  These ideas may include: "There is something wrong with me," "I should be normal," "Nothing will ever be better," "It is up to other people to make me happy," "I am unlovable," "I have nothing to contribute to this world," "I will always feel as bad as I do today."  

In my therapy practice, I encourage individuals and couples to question and challenge irrational and destructive thought patterns that can lead to violence, anger, and/or suicide.  Such alternatives may include, "There is nothing wrong with me even if I don't fit in," "There is no such thing as 'should'", "My life will get better if I do the work of taking care of myself," "I am 100% responsible for making me happy," "I am truly lovable for who I am," "I have something of value to give to others in this world," "My feelings are not facts - just because I feel like I will never feel better, that is not rationally true. 

As subway commuters who can't commute, it is easy to become angered and enraged by the fact that thousands of lives are disturbed and disrupted by one tragic act.  We tend to focus on the loss of income generated, the missed meetings, and general frustration with not being able to control our day.  But the truth is, suicide is more than just an inconvenience.  The repeated pattern demonstrates that there is something very problematic and toxic in our neighborhood that is leading people to believe suicide is the only way to get relief.  When each of us change our thinking, we experience a different kind of relief that creates possibility for others to do the same.  I know I am going to be a lot more aware of this on the L train from now on.  How about you?

Please press here to see my "40 Lessons of 40" series, which includes tips for managing suicidal thoughts, depression, stress management, and anger management.  If you are thinking about committing suicide PLEASE talk to someone first.  Call 1-800-273-8255.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, body image, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at

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