I had an interesting thought, one that I've been mulling over for a few weeks consciously, and have probably had echoing around in my skull for a few years (or more) now subconsciously.
Despair is a toxic substance. Like any other toxic substance, it generally doesn't kill by massive trauma, but by slow degradation. Like any other toxic substance, removing the source can prevent further accumulation. Even without further accumulation, unless the individual has a way to metabolize and expel the toxin the damage will continue. Finally, even once the toxin is removed from the individual, the damage may be permanent.
Now, those gloomy thoughts aren't all that I've been thinking about. There are quite a few toxic substances that can be tolerated. This doesn't mean that an individual can consume them without harm. It means an individual can continue functioning and even learn to thrive even while imparied by the substance. It's even possible for individuals to learn to tolerate toxicity levels that would kill unacclimated individuals outright. Despair, I've found, really is one of those.
There are desperate situations where observers are convinced that no one can survive. However, for individuals acclimated to immersion in despair, those situations are survivable simply because the pain of despair has become a background noise. Once that happens, it loses a great deal of its power. At that point, and likely only at that point, progress can be made toward removing the causes of despair.
I suppose this has all just been a longwinded way of saying that there is nothing more powerful than someone with nothing left to lose. Of course, in thinking about it, what might be even more powerful is someone who has become inured to loss itself. Someone with nothing left to lose can still be stymied by being given something to lose. Someone who has accepted that loss happens and moved past that realization is even more powerful; when they're given something, instead of fearing having it taken away, they enjoy it or use it to the fullest.
No real conclusion here, just thinking about situations I've experienced and seen.
Mars Base Camp concept art by Lockheed Martin
14 hours ago