How “Catch-22” Shows How to Deal with Suicide and Depression

If you’ve ever felt depressed or suicidal, chances are good you believe your life consists of nothing but equally unappealing choices. When confronted by nothing but lousy choices, it’s easy to get depressed or feel like suicide is the only option.

However, the real problem with depression or suicidal tendencies isn’t that there are no good options available to you. There are, but you just may not see them. As long as you believe no good choices exist, you won’t bother looking for them, which makes them as good as not existing in the first place. People get depressed not because their lives have no good options, but because they don’t know where to look and find better options for their lives.

When faced with a dilemma that forces you to choose between equally unappealing options, you can learn from “Catch-22,” a novel by Joseph Heller, which was also made into a movie. Given a choice, read the book because it’s far superior to the movie although the movie does visually show the insanity of war as you can see in the clip below where a commanding officer cares more about making money than the lives of his own troops.

Basically the idea behind “Catch-22” is that a bombardier during World War Two is told that he must fly a certain number of missions before he’s allowed to go home. Unfortunately every time he survives to meet the required number of missions, his commander raises the number to force him to keep flying.

As a result, he must keep flying until he eventually gets shot down and dies. As he watches his friends get shot down and die, he knows it’s only a matter of time before he’s next. That means his only choice is to keep flying until he eventually dies.

However, he does find a way out. If he can prove that he’s crazy, he can be released from flying. Of course the only way he can prove he’s crazy is to keep flying because only a crazy person would keep flying missions, knowing that he’ll eventually be shot down and die.

The moment he wants to stop flying because he’s afraid of dying, he’s obviously sane and must keep flying more missions. Because he can only get out of flying if he’s crazy but he can only prove he’s crazy by continuing to fly, he’s stuck in a dilemma known as a Catch-22.

Such a Catch-22 dilemma is what many depressed and suicidal people feel. They feel like no matter what they choose, they’re doomed to a horrible choice so the only way out is through addiction of some kind such as alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or the ultimate escape which is suicide.

What “Catch-22” teaches is that whenever you’re confronted by a dilemma, you can always create your own, far better alternative, but you have to first believe such an alternative exists and you must then take action to pursue that better alternative.

“Catch-22” is about realizing you are always in control of your life in some form and by believing you have better options, you’ll look and find or make that better option. Then you can embrace that better option rather than feel trapped in a Catch-22 dilemma stuck between multiple unappealing choices.

So if you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, take a moment to read “Catch-22.” Not only will it help you see war from a humorous point of view and the insanity behind it, but it will also show you how to escape a dilemma by making your own option, however crazy it might be.

Read “Catch-22” and skip the movie. “Catch-22” just might help you find a way to overcome depression and suicidal tendencies just by thinking about your life from another point of view.