Youth in focus:

I get hurt easily by criticism and don’t deal with problems well. I sometimes have suicidal thoughts.  What can I do? 

-Zangpo, PhuentsholingSad boy, Thimphu

With regard to painful experiences, it is important to understand that everything is impermanent. Think of your own childhood and you will remember moments of deep pain and sadness. At those times, you probably thought that the pain would never end, but it did, right? Today’s problems are the same. Although they seem endless, they will definitely pass. The girlfriend who just abandoned you will soon become like a past dream. Your family issues will fade. In a few years, these sad experiences will be no more real than the painful moments you encountered as a child.

When you experience suffering, think of this Sufi maxim: “This, too, shall pass.”

Also, it is helpful to recognise that suffering is as much part of life as happiness. Like mountains and valleys, one cannot exist without the other. Basically, from birth until death, there is no-one who does not experience problems with family, relationships or their career. Even the Buddha encountered opposition and difficulties, and so how can we expect to pass through life without a single problem. A trouble-free life is impossible (and not even desirable as it is the tough times that help us to develop wisdom, patience and perseverance).

Therefore, instead of trying to escape problems, accept them as an unavoidable part of life. Know that they are temporary and face them directly. Basically, resist the urge to run away from difficulties, and instead turn directly and face them. You may need support to do this, and so discuss your issues with a trusted and wise friend. If a situation is really too tough to face at the moment, then at least choose healthy means of escape, such as cycling, taking a long walk, watching a movie etc. Finally, though, you should learn to face situations and not avoid them.

Also, have compassion for yourself. When we fear a situation it is usually because we don’t want to hear criticism. We just cannot accept that we have defects and make mistakes. In such a case, think why the words disturb you. If the criticism is valid, then admit it and apologize for any trouble you have caused. All of us have flaws. It is part of being human. If the accusations are wrong, then just think that they are based on someone’s mistaken opinion. In reality, does it really matter what others think?

Furthermore, if we investigate the subject that is being attacked, we will discover that it only a concept and is not real. As an example, we may think of ourselves us smart, and then we get hurt if someone says we are dumb. In reality, the idea of being smart is just a creation of our minds. We are all smart compared to some people but dull compared to others. Instead of clinging to a self-created label, just do your best in every situation and don’t worry about other’s opinions.  Basically, be yourself, complete with acne, smelly socks and hair that didn’t gel well.

There are many ways to respond to life’s difficulties. Among these, suicide is the worst option with drug-use next. Totally delete them from your mind.  Please trust me on this.

In addition, if the situation persists, consider visiting a psychiatric to assess your situation. You could be suffering with bipolar or other mental disorders. These are not triggered by emotions, but have psychological causes that require medication.

Finally, I suggest that you familiarize yourself with these preventative measures and implement them if you have serious suicidal thoughts:

Promise yourself not to do anything for at least 48 hours

Avoid taking drugs or alcohol

Remove things that you could use to harm yourself.

Take hope – even if the pain is unbearable know that it will pass

Immediately contact someone you trust.

Seek professional help if the thoughts persist.

Resource website:

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

Email to for any queries


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