Dealing with Thoughts of Suicide

It takes a lot to drive a person to the edge of suicide, but you are not alone. In times of great distress, after periods of suffering, or as a result of unaddressed illnesses, suicide becomes a viable option in the eyes of many. But it’s never necessary. And it’s never inevitable. Suicidal thoughts can come, but they always go – and many others have been in a similar position as yours and have found their way out.

But they often do not find that way alone. There is no single key to dealing with suicide, but an important tip is to not be alone. Whether it’s through friends, loved ones, relatives, counselors, or therapists, having someone to talk to in the moment can help you see that there is a way out.


This Too Shall Pass

Suicidal thoughts are often strongest in the moment, but they do fade away. While it might sound like terrible advice to just ‘wait it out’, sometimes the best thing to do is call someone to talk to and just talk until you don’t feel like ending it all anymore. Suicidal ideation can follow a particularly severe loss or painful experience, but oftentimes, it can come out of nowhere through a depressive episode. And just as it comes, it also eventually goes.


Is It Depression?

Suicidal ideation – the thought of committing suicide, not just passingly, but as a serious idea – is often a symptom of severe depression, or major depressive disorder. Very powerful depressive episodes can lead individuals to begin believing that they are worthless or useless, causing them to lose hope in themselves and worry about their purpose in the world. Their mind is filled with negative thoughts and self-deprecation, and in the worst of times, they contemplate ending their lives. But depressive episodes can be treated, and depression as a whole is a condition many have and continue to adapt to, living successful, fulfilling, and happy lives despite their diagnosis. Among many psychiatric illnesses, depression is one of the most treatable.

It’s not always depression, of course. While over half of the people who die by suicide suffer from major depression, there are many Americans who contemplate and even attempt suicide without a diagnosis of mental illness. That does not make your suicidal thoughts any more or less valid – all suicides are in response to extreme emotional and psychological distress, either caused by a series of events or mental health issue. Yet suicide does not make things better, and only brings more pain into this world. There is always a better way forward.


More Than A Hotline

When thoughts of suicide crop up in a friend’s or loved one’s life, the first instinct is to worry, and panic. Many don’t know how to deal with the idea that someone they love may have been thinking or is thinking about harming, or even killing themselves. But it’s important to encourage speaking out about one’s suicidal thoughts, because the only way to know if someone is planning to commit suicide is when they admit that they are.

There are many ways to help someone contemplating suicide, without simply referring them to the suicide hotline. While the suicide hotline saves lives and is integral in helping many dissuade themselves in the heat of the moment, many feel that more needs to be done. If you know that your friend or loved one is suicidal, help them get help. Help them remove all weapons and objects of self-harm from their immediate vicinity. Help them move in with someone else, so they are never alone. Help them clear out their home from any mind-altering substances. Help convince them to meet up with a mental health professional, a doctor, a therapist, or a spiritual advisor.

If you are suicidal, then talking is important. Whatever you do, make sure to talk to someone – whether it’s a friend, a family member, a member of your local religion, or a medical professional.


Dissociating from Distress

Learning to practice mindfulness can help you during milder times of suicidal ideation. Especially in cases of depression, it is not completely uncommon for an individual to ‘casually’ think of suicide, without any prompt or reason. Depressive disorders can cause patients to suddenly drop in mood, out of nowhere. Learning to dissociate from the sudden changes in mood and thought through mindfulness therapy can help a person learn to observe their thought process and recognize it as dangerous or illogical.

Not everyone responds well to mindfulness techniques, but for some, realizing that their negative thoughts have no real basis in reality was an important first step to slowly overcoming the emotional impact that their thoughts have on them, and slowly drowning them out through affirmations and clear positive messages.


Find Ways to Distract Yourself

Have a plan to set in motion when things get really bad, and you just need a mental break. It can be a show you like to binge on, a game you play, a place you go to, a playlist you listen to, a sport you follow, a creative endeavor, or anything else. As long as it is something you can do to temporarily drown out any ‘noise’ or thoughts, keep it on the list and keep it close. While distractions are not good ways to cope with mental health issues in the long-term, they can help you shift focus from a dangerous line of thought in the heat of the moment.


Avoid Mind-Altering Substances

Some people turn to drugs like alcohol, tobacco, or stronger drugs as a way to cope with the pain that often comes before suicidal thoughts. However, these drugs only serve to heighten the pain and magnify the issue. Mind-altering substances are not typically a good way to deal with suicidal thoughts, as the effect can go either way.

This is one of the reasons anti-depressive drugs carry a black box label – oftentimes, in cases where patients taking antidepressants did commit suicide, their suicidal ideation had been a part of pre-treatment symptoms and had grown to a level where pharmacological help simply was not enough. Worse yet, non-medical use of drugs or other substances is more likely to cause heightened feelings of anxiety and depression than help you relax or cope.


Healing Takes Time

It takes time to recover from a suicidal attempt, or from suicidal ideation. Life doesn’t quite get back to ‘normal’ anytime soon, and it’s important to consider keeping in touch with key resources and professionals even after you feel the worst is over. Take time off from work or school if you need to and prioritize your mental health. Things can only get better if you let them get better.

Sadly, there is no cure for the kinds of things that drive people to suicide. You cannot forget what happened, just as you cannot make depressive symptoms disappear forever. But you can adapt, you can seek ways to diminish and manage your symptoms, you can find friends who support you on the bad days, you can find outlets for stress and distress, and you can find ways to help amplify your healing. It always gets better, especially when it’s at its worst.


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