"I Want You to Want to Live": Jody Betty's Viral Love Letter to People Contemplating Suicide

By Pauline Campos 04/23/19

"I know the things I want to hear when I am suicidal and I think that if my words can reach even one person in their moment of crisis, then sharing my pain was worth it.”

Image: 
Young man in a field, appears full of emotion, reflecting on suicide prevention
“The hardest thing to do is reach out your hand and ask for help but once you do, you would be shocked at the number of people who reach back." Photo by J'Waye Covington on Unsplash

Trigger Warning: The following story discusses attempted suicide and links to potentially triggering articles. Proceed with caution. If you feel you are at risk and need help, skip the story and get help now.

Options include: Calling the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255), calling 911, and calling a friend or family member to stay with you until emergency medical personnel arrive to help you.

“Dear You,
If you are reading this there is a small piece of you that wants to hold on…”

Jody Betty wants you to live. Even more, Betty wants you to want to live. But perhaps most importantly, she wants you to know that every day she fights to live herself. 

Betty is the author of “I Want You to Want to Live,” an essay with over 15,000 likes on The Mighty. The piece, she says, is one of the most referenced links in online searches that connect people who are contemplating suicide to her. No matter how depressed someone may be when they reach out to her, she says, the very act of reaching out tells her that at least a small part of them is still fighting to hold on. Betty describes the response to her essay over the past few years as “astounding.” She is grateful to serve as a resource when needed. 

The Toronto-based 47-year-old writer, who is currently on disability due to mental health issues, first attempted suicide at the tender age of eight, and shares that she has lived with suicidal ideation for most of her life. Today, Betty is a source of hope and inspiration for those trying to fight their way out of the dark. She’s a mental health and suicide awareness and prevention advocate who wears her heart on her sleeve, putting both the good and the bad days out there in her writing on her Twitter feed, because she knows that it’s the shared experience and empathy that helps people find meaning and connection, and possibly the sustenance or hope they need to make it through another day.

“I will remind you that although I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I will be by your side to find out…”

"Living with suicidal ideation most of my life has been incredibly hard. It is a constant battle in your mind to find reasons and hope to keep going, to keep fighting when you have a brain that is literally attacking you, convincing you that there is no more hope. It becomes emotionally and physically exhausting,” Betty says. “I wanted people to hear from someone actually suicidal, not someone who has been trained to deal with suicidal people. I have people who just need to be truly listened to in a safe environment, so that is why I leave my Twitter DM open for anyone in need.” 

Being open and honest about the state of her mental health sometimes includes sharing the very suicidal ideations that have plagued her since she was a child with her social media followers. The motivation for this is twofold: letting people know that they are not alone in what may be their darkest hour and battling the stigma still so heavily associated with mental illness. 

“You are incredibly strong. I won’t ever tell you that you are being dramatic and don’t really want to die…”

“I firmly believe that talking about it lets other people know they are not alone in their feelings and that their feelings are valid, and in moments of crisis, knowing we are not alone is crucial,” Betty explains, adding that the stigma surrounding mental health is “real, hurtful, and harmful.” “It’s an illness. The brain, just like any other organ, can get sick.”

We tend to judge what we don’t understand, which is exactly why it’s so difficult to shatter the prejudice and stigma surrounding mental health and the topic of suicide, says Betty, 

“People generally do not seek out information on something they are not personally touched by in some way. You likely would not read up on cancer if it in no way touched your life, and the same applies for mental health,” she says.

According to the most recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates are still on the rise, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2016, the CDC’s Vital Signs reports, nearly 45,000 Americans ages 10 and older died by suicide. 

“Suicide is a leading cause of death for Americans – and it’s a tragedy for families and communities across the country,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, M.D. in the release. “From individuals and communities to employers and healthcare professionals, everyone can play a role in efforts to help save lives and reverse this troubling rise in suicide.”

Betty is doing her part, she says, by sharing her story of hope and healing. 

The CDC and Association for Suicide Prevention advise that anyone can help prevent suicide by taking such steps as learning how to identify the warning signs, how to appropriately respond to those at risk, and contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Betty acknowledges that these steps are not to be ignored. Sometimes, though, the key to getting through to someone contemplating suicide is being able to practice empathy instead of sympathy. 

“I don’t know you, but I do care because I can empathize with your pain; I feel it myself.”

“I find sometimes the crisis lines seem very scripted, and often don’t say the right things simply because they have never been there,” Betty says. “They can sympathize but not empathize… and there is a big difference. I wrote [I Want You to Want to Live] from the heart. I know the things I want to hear when I am suicidal and I think that if my words can reach even one person in their moment of crisis, then sharing my pain was worth it.”

Betty’s grateful when her words reach people in need at the right time.

“The hardest thing to do is reach out your hand and ask for help but once you do, you would be shocked at the number of people who reach back."

Read "I Want You to Want to Live" by Jody Betty and follow her on Twitter.


If you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, immediately seek help. You are not alone.

Options include:

  • Calling the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Calling 911
  • Calling a friend or family member to stay with you until emergency medical personnel arrive to help you.
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Pauline Campos is an artist, Aspie-Mom, and author of Be Your Own F*cking Sunshine: An Inspirational Journal for People Who Like to Swear. ADHD is her superpower. Pauline Lives in Minnesota, but will always be from Detroit. Find her at aspiringmama.com. Twitter: @pauline_campos.

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