Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time.

Viktor E. Frankl

 To actually throw this life away?


Suicide prevention among adolescents

Dr. Heidi Vonwald and

MSc Gerhard Froehlich



Suicide! But what is a suicide?
A “no” in response to a question about meaning.
(Viktor E. Frankl)


Unbearable meaninglessness and emptiness of life can give rise to life-denying thoughts in minds of young people going through hard times and make them plan suicide to radically put an end to all their worries and eventually find serenity and safety. Among social and sociocultural factors, a family pattern has a strong triggering power, since the idea of suicide is often passed on from one generation to another as a “problem solution”. From the viewpoint of logotherapy and existential analysis, finding a way out of despair requires awareness of our unique mission in this world, recognition of our inherent GIFT-edness and CALL-ing and bringing them in a self-transcendent way into our world. It also needs a paradigm change – to see a challenge, a commitment in every stroke of fate that could provoke suicide, to search for a deeper meaning of the situation, to take responsibility for one's own life, to regain reasons to live, to feel again the “why” for one's existence. Because


A streaming life never runs dry. (Elisabeth Lukas)


Frankl illustrated with his vivid metaphors that the ebb (a crisis situation), though exposes a reef, is not a cause for the reef itself. Crisis situations can be interpreted as “salutary lessons” urging us to increasingly develop our potential.

Sick and tired of life? Crises are often brought about by typical life situations.
The overall development of a person from the very beginning flows unevenly, at a different pace. A young person can experience long-term changes at a new development stage; these challenges are of importance during the whole development history of a person, since the next development stage can be achieved only through these often complex and critical phases. As a rule, these difficult periods are not yet crisis situations, however, while progressing, they can sharpen and turn into psychosocial crises. Probably, the most important development stage of a person is puberty; in view of this fact, it is worthwhile to take a closer look at puberty and adolescence crises.

At this time, the central topic is dealing with pubescence, sexuality and opposite sex. The disillusionment (dis-illusion-ment – unveiling of truth?) and grievances related to it as well as increased self-doubts and mood swings may follow quickly. For other people, it may appear to be a mere “moodiness”. Laymen are not at all conscious of the underlying causes. Also, “more of the same” is often done, which is typical of the situation when “a solution becomes a problem” (Paul Watzlawick).

The young person is in search for suitable values and ideologies, but he or she cannot avoid existing ideologies. Meeting them, this person experiences the entire range of manifestations between complete merging in the system and breaking out. The question of meaning in life is urgently posed, at the latest, during this phase of ambivalence.
As Frankl already demonstrated, when a person is explicitly asked about the meaning of his existence, it means that he doubted it once. And these doubts about meaningfulness of human existence easily lead to despair and develop into an idea of suicide. Close reference persons too often react with helplessness, misunderstand the symptoms.

The more you try to be persuasive,
the more implausible you are.
(Humberto Maturana)

Even if, during this development stage, it comes to dramatic escalations, most young people cope with them without significant risks for further development.