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Suicidal Ideation

There is a lot of suffering in living, and being vegan in a non-vegan world makes the suffering greater.

Vegans are surrounded by reminders of the exploitation of and violence toward individuals who are not human (and those who are).  Vegans are also surrounded by friends, relatives, co-workers, acquaintances and the general public who participate in and turn a blind eye to this violence.

Most of the vegan clients I have seen and many of my vegan friends who I’m close enough to have a conversation with about suicidal thoughts have shared with me that they have thoughts of suicide due to living in this dystopia.

If you have these thoughts, you are not alone.

I believe the parts of us that are so full of anguish and despair from living in a non-vegan world will always be there – until we are not living in a non-vegan world. We can learn distress tolerance skills[1] to help us deal with overwhelming feelings in the moment, but distress tolerance skills, though important and helpful, are not a cure for the pain of living vegan in a non-vegan world.

As the term indicates, distress tolerance skills help people deal with extremely painful feelings.  Distress tolerance skills include:

  • Listening to soothing music
  • Looking at soothing pictures
  • Getting distracted with cleaning or other tasks
  • Watching a funny movie
  • Spending time with friends
  • Exercising

Even though I don’t believe there is a cure for the pain of being vegan in a non-vegan world, I do think there are things we can do to help this part of our experience and alleviate thoughts of suicide.  This approach comes from Internal Family Systems[2].

Here is an exercise to help with the anguish of being vegan in the current world:

  1. Start by getting into a calm, open, non-judgmental state. If, during this exercise, some judgmental thoughts or feelings come up, see if you can let them go.  If not, try acknowledging the judgmental thoughts or feelings and ask them to step aside.  It’s important to get back to being open-hearted and curious before moving on.
  2. See what kind of image forms for the part of you that holds the pain and anguish of being vegan in a non-vegan world – does it show up as an animal? a character? a color? some form of energy?  For me, it has helped to see these different parts of myself as different animals.  I have gotten in touch with an old shelter dog who has lived his life in his cage being passed over by everyone who comes in looking for a companion animal and an ox who suffers from being trapped in the drudgery of life.
  3. Next, have a conversation with this part of you. You can do this in your imagination or by journaling.  Ask this part what it wants you to know about it:  its feelings, its life, how long it’s been there, how it came into being.  Ask this part if there is more that it wants you to know about it. Make sure you’ve heard everything this part wants you to know about it.  Then ask this part what it needs from you.  See how you can help this part.  Notice if there are some burdens – or cognitive distortions – this part carries, like – “I ruin everything”.  Ask this part where it learned any cognitive distortions it carries.  Ask this part whether it would like to let go of these burdens and if so, how (i.e., by fire, by water, by wind).  Help this part let go of these burdens.  Ask the part how it feels now and if there is someplace in particular it wants to go now that it is not carrying these burdens.  Check-in with the part regularly.

If you have trouble helping this part that is in so much pain, please see a therapist.  Life can be hard. And being vegan in a non-vegan world comes with a particular pain. I believe you have what it takes to help this part of you.

[1] For more information about distress tolerance skills, please see The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills Workbook.

[2] For more information on Internal Family Systems, please see

Suicidal Ideation

Beth Levine, LCSW-C

Beth Levine, LCSW-C, has a private practice based in Rockville, Maryland. She is Certified as a Therapist and Therapist Supervisor in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy by The Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. She also has earned a Level I Certification in Internal Family Systems. Beth works with adults in individual and couple settings. She works with people struggling with anxiety, depression and relationship issues. She is honored to be part of her clients’ journey toward better health, happiness, and relationships. She is driven to make the world a better place on an individual, as well as a systemic level. Beth can be reached at and at her website.

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APA Reference
Levine, B. (2020). Suicidal Ideation. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Mar 2020
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