News

Entries for August 2015

IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE, READ THIS FIRST

If you are feeling suicidal now, please stop long enough to read this. It will only take about five minutes. I do not want to talk you out of your bad feelings. I am not a therapist or other mental health professional - only someone who knows what it is like to be in pain.

I don't know who you are, or why you are reading this page. I only know that for the moment, you're reading it, and that is good. I can assume that you are here because you are troubled and considering ending your life. If it were possible, I would prefer to be there with you at this moment, to sit with you and talk, face to face and heart to heart. But since that is not possible, we will have to make do with this.

I have known a lot of people who have wanted to kill themselves, so I have some small idea of what you might be feeling. I know that you might not be up to reading a long book, so I am going to keep this short. While we are together here for the next five minutes, I have five simple, practical things I would like to share with you. I won't argue with you about whether you should kill yourself. But I assume that if you are thinking about it, you feel pretty bad.

Well, you're still reading, and that's very good. I'd like to ask you to stay with me for the rest of this page. I hope it means that you're at least a tiny bit unsure, somewhere deep inside, about whether or not you really will end your life. Often people feel that, even in the deepest darkness of despair. Being unsure about dying is okay and normal. The fact that you are still alive at this minute means you are still a little bit unsure. It means that even while you want to die, at the same time some part of you still wants to live. So let's hang on to that, and keep going for a few more minutes.


Start by considering this statement:

Suicide is not chosen; it happens
when pain exceeds
resources for coping with pain.

That's all it's about. You are not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed, because you feel suicidal. It doesn't even mean that you really want to die - it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. If I start piling weights on your shoulders, you will eventually collapse if I add enough weights... no matter how much you want to remain standing. Willpower has nothing to do with it. Of course you would cheer yourself up, if you could.

Don't accept it if someone tells you, "That's not enough to be suicidal about." There are many kinds of pain that may lead to suicide. Whether or not the pain is bearable may differ from person to person. What might be bearable to someone else, may not be bearable to you. The point at which the pain becomes unbearable depends on what kinds of coping resources you have. Individuals vary greatly in their capacity to withstand pain.

When pain exceeds pain-coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result. Suicide is neither wrong nor right; it is not a defect of character; it is morally neutral. It is simply an imbalance of pain versus coping resources.

You can survive suicidal feelings if you do either of two things: (1) find a way to reduce your pain, or (2) find a way to increase your coping resources. Both are possible.


Now I want to tell you five things to think about.

1

You need to hear that people do get through this -- even people who feel as badly as you are feeling now. Statistically, there is a very good chance that you are going to live. I hope that this information gives you some sense of hope.

2

Give yourself some distance. Say to yourself, "I will wait 24 hours before I do anything." Or a week. Remember that feelings and actions are two different things - just because you feel like killing yourself, doesn't mean that you have to actually do it right this minute. Put some distance between your suicidal feelings and suicidal action. Even if it's just 24 hours. You have already done it for 5 minutes, just by reading this page. You can do it for another 5 minutes by continuing to read this page. Keep going, and realize that while you still feel suicidal, you are not, at this moment, acting on it. That is very encouraging to me, and I hope it is to you.

3

People often turn to suicide because they are seeking relief from pain. Remember that relief is a feeling. And you have to be alive to feel it. You will not feel the relief you so desperately seek, if you are dead.

4

Some people will react badly to your suicidal feelings, either because they are frightened, or angry; they may actually increase your pain instead of helping you, despite their intentions, by saying or doing thoughtless things. You have to understand that their bad reactions are about their fears, not about you.

But there are people out there who can be with you in this horrible time, and will not judge you, or argue with you, or send you to a hospital, or try to talk you out of how badly you feel. They will simply care for you. Find one of them. Now. Use your 24 hours, or your week, and tell someone what's going on with you. It is okay to ask for help. Try:

  • Send an anonymous e-mail to The Samaritans
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY:1-800-799-4TTY)
  • (In Australia, call Lifeline Australia at telephone: 13 11 14
  • Teenagers, call Covenant House NineLine, 1-800-999-9999
  • Look in the front of your phone book for a crisis line
  • Call a psychotherapist
  • Carefully choose a friend or a minister or rabbi, someone who is likely to listen

But don't give yourself the additional burden of trying to deal with this alone. Just talking about how you got to where you are, releases an awful lot of the pressure, and it might be just the additional coping resource you need to regain your balance.

5

Suicidal feelings are, in and of themselves, traumatic. After they subside, you need to continue caring for yourself. Therapy is a really good idea. So are the various self-help groups available both in your community and on the Internet.

 

Well, it's been a few minutes and you're still with me. I'm really glad.

Since you have made it this far, you deserve a reward. I think you should reward yourself by giving yourself a gift. The gift you will give yourself is a coping resource. Remember, back up near the top of the page, I said that the idea is to make sure you have more coping resources than you have pain. So let's give you another coping resource, or two, or ten...! until they outnumber your sources of pain.

Now, while this page may have given you some small relief, the best coping resource we can give you is another human being to talk with. If you find someone who wants to listen, and tell them how you are feeling and how you got to this point, you will have increased your coping resources by one. Hopefully the first person you choose won't be the last. There are a lot of people out there who really want to hear from you. It's time to start looking around for one of them.

Now: I'd like you to call someone.

And while you're at it, you can still stay with me for a bit. Check out these sources of online help.

Additional things to read at this site:

  • How serious is our condition? ..."He only took 15 pills, he wasn't really serious..." if others are making you feel like you're just trying to get attention... read this.

  • Why is it so hard for us to recover from being suicidal? ...while most suicidal people recover and go on, others struggle with suicidal thoughts and feelings for months or even years. Suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • Recovery from grief and loss ...has anyone significant in your life recently died? You would be in good company... many suicidal people have recently suffered a loss.

  • The stigma of suicide that prevents suicidal people from recovering: we are not only fighting our own pain, but the pain that others inflict on us... and that we ourselves add to. Stigma is a huge complicating factor in suicidal feelings.

  • Resources about depression ...if you are suicidal, you are most likely experiencing some form of depression. This is good news, because depression can be treated, helping you feel better.

  • A 4 minute depression quiz ...maybe you have depression and want to find out right now, scientifically, at no cost.

  • Symptoms of depression ...the specific symptoms of a full blown episode of clinical depression

Do you know someone who is suicidal... or would you like to be able to help, if the situation arises? Learn what to do, so that you can make the situation better, not worse.

Other online sources of help:
  • The Samaritans - trained volunteers are available 24 hours a day to listen and provide emotional support. You can call a volunteer on the phone, or e-mail them. Confidential and non-judgmental. Short of writing to a psychotherapist, the best source of online help.

  • Talk to a therapist online - Read this page to find out how.

  • Depression support group online: Psych Central Depression Support Group - Please note: this is a very big group, but amidst all the chatter, it is possible to find someone who will hear you and offer support.

  • Psych Central has a good listing of online resources for suicide - and other mental health needs.

  • Still feel bad? These jokes might relieve the pressure for a minute or two.

  • If you want help finding a human being to talk with in person, who can help you live through this, try reading this article about how to Choose a Competent Counselor.

 

Sometimes people need additional private help before they are ready to talk with someone in person. Here are a few books you could read on your own in private. I know from personal experience that each one has helped someone like you.

  • Suicide: The Forever Decision by Paul G. Quinnett, PhD (Continuum, ISBN 0-8264-0391-3). Frank and helpful conversation with a therapist who cares.

  • Choosing to Live: how to defeat suicide through cognitive therapy by Thomas E. Ellis PsyD and Cory F. Newman PhD (New Harbinger Publications, ISBN 1-57224-056-3). Another conversational book with practical help for suicidal persons.

  • How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person's Guide to Suicide Prevention by Susan Rose Blauner (William Morrow, ISBN 0066211212). A very practical survival guide by an actual survivor.

  • Out of the Nightmare: Recovery From Depression And Suicidal Pain, by David L. Conroy, PhD (Authors Choice Press, ISBN 0595414974). As if suicidal persons weren't feeling bad enough already, our thoughtless attitudes can cause them to feel guilt and shame, and keep them from getting help in time. Dr. Conroy blasts apart the myths of suicide, and looks at suicidal feelings from the inside, in a down to earth, non-judgmental way. This is a book that will save lives by washing away the stigma of suicide and opening the door to a real way out of the nightmare.

 

Suicide: The Forever Decision, Paul G. Quinnett, PhD Choosing to Live, Thomas E. Ellis PsyD How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me Out of the Nightmare, David L. Conroy, PhD

 

 

  • I make no money whatsoever on recommending these books... they are simply recommendations.

 

 

Want to share your suicide story?
Please visit the Suicide Project and leave your story


SUICIDE HELP

Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings

Suicide Help In This Article

You're not alone; many of us have had suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives. Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesn't mean that you are crazy, or weak, or flawed. It only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. This pain seems overwhelming and permanent at the moment. But with time and support, you can overcome your problems and the pain and suicidal feelings will pass.

Coping with suicidal thoughts: the first steps

Step #1: Promise not to do anything right now

Even though you’re in a lot of pain right now, give yourself some distance between thoughts and action. Make a promise to yourself: "I will wait 24 hours and won't do anything drastic during that time." Or, wait a week.

Thoughts and actions are two different things—your suicidal thoughts do not have to become a reality. There’s is no deadline, no one pushing you to act on these thoughts immediately. Wait. Wait and put some distance between your suicidal thoughts and suicidal action.

Step #2: Avoid drugs and alcohol

Suicidal thoughts can become even stronger if you have taken drugs or alcohol. It is important to not use nonprescription drugs or alcohol when you feel hopeless or are thinking about suicide.

Step #3: Make your home safe

Remove things you could use to hurt yourself, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If you are unable to do so, go to a place where you can feel safe. If you are thinking of taking an overdose, give your medicines to someone who can return them to you one day at a time as you need them.

Step #4: Take hope—people DO get through this

Even people who feel as badly as you are feeling now manage to survive these feelings. Take hope in this. There is a very good chance that you are going to live through these feelings, no matter how much self-loathing, hopelessness, or isolation you are currently experiencing. Just give yourself the time needed and don’t try to go it alone.

Step #5: Don’t keep these suicidal feelings to yourself

Many of us have found that the first step to coping with suicidal thoughts and feelings is to share them with someone we trust. It may be a friend, a therapist, a member of the clergy, a teacher, a family doctor, a coach, or an experienced counselor at the end of a helpline. Find someone you trust and let them know how bad things are. Don’t let fear, shame, or embarrassment prevent you from seeking help. Just talking about how you got to this point in your life can release a lot of the pressure that’s building up and help you find a way to cope.

If you’re feeling suicidal right now, please call for help! Call 1-800-273-TALK in the U.S. or visit IASP to find a helpline in your country. Or talk to someone you trust and let them know how bad things are.

Why do I feel this way?

Many kinds of emotional pain can lead to thoughts of suicide. The reasons for this pain are unique to each one of us, and our ability to cope with the pain differs from person to person. Don't listen to anyone who tells you, "That's not enough to be suicidal about." We are all different. What might be bearable to one person may not be bearable to you. There are, however, some common factors that may lead us to experience suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Feeling suicidal is often associated with problems that can be treated

Loss, depression, anxiety disorders, medical conditions, drug and alcohol dependency, financial, legal or school problems, and other life difficulties can all create profound emotional distress. They also interfere with our ability to problem solve. Even if you can’t see it now, there are nearly always other solutions for these problems.

Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are all treatable with changes in lifestyle, therapy, and medication. Most people who seek help for their problems and make constructive changes in their lives improve their situation and recover. Even if you have received treatment for a disorder before, or if you’ve already made attempts to solve your problems, you should know that it’s often necessary to try several different solutions before the right solution or combination of solutions can be found. Almost all problems can be treated or resolved.

Why suicide can seem like the only option

If you are unable to think of solutions other than suicide, it is not that other solutions don’t exist, but rather that you are currently unable to see them. The intense emotional pain that you’re experiencing right now can distort your thinking so it becomes harder to see possible solutions to problems, or to connect with those who can offer support. Therapists, counselors, or friends or loved ones, can help you to see solutions that otherwise may not be apparent to you. Give them a chance to help.

A suicidal crisis is almost always temporary

Although it might seem as if your pain and unhappiness will never end, it is important to realize that crises are usually temporary. Solutions are often found, feelings change, unexpected positive events occur. Remember: suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Give yourself the time necessary for things to change and the pain to subside.

Reaching out for help

Even if it doesn't feel like it right now, there are many people who want to support you during this difficult time. They won't try to argue with you about how miserable you feel or tell you to just "snap out of it." They will not judge you. They will simply listen to you and be there for you.

Reach out to someone. Do it now. If you promised yourself 24-hours or a week in step #1, use that time to tell someone what's going on with you. You can call a trusted friend, family member, minister, rabbi, doctor, or therapist. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as it’s someone you trust and who is likely to listen with compassion and acceptance.

If you don’t know who to turn to:

In the U.S. – Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). These toll-free crisis hotlines offer 24-hour suicide prevention and support. Your call is free and confidential.

Outside the U.S. – Visit IASP or Suicide.org to find a helpline in your country.

How to talk to someone about your suicidal thoughts

Even when you’ve decided who you can trust to talk to, admitting your suicidal thoughts to another person can be difficult.

  • Tell the person exactly what you are telling yourself. If you have a suicide plan, explain it to them.
  • Phrases such as, ‘I can't take it anymore’ or ‘I’m done’ are vague and do not illustrate how serious things really are. Tell the person you trust that you are thinking about suicide.
  • If it is too difficult for you to talk about, try writing it down and handing a note to the person you trust. Or send them an email or text and sit with them while they read it.

What if you don't feel understood?

If you do not feel the person you have chosen to talk to has understood, tell someone else, or call a suicide crisis helpline. There are plenty of people out there who will understand. Don’t let one bad experience stop you from finding someone who can help.

Ways to cope with suicidal thoughts and feelings

Remember that while it may seem as if these suicidal thoughts and feelings will never end, this is never a permanent condition. You WILL feel better again. In the meantime, there are some ways to help cope with your suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Things to do

  • Talk with someone every day, preferably face to face. Though you feel like withdrawing, ask trusted friends and acquaintances to spend time with you. Or continue to call a crisis helpline and talk about your feelings.
  • Make a safety plan. Develop a set of steps that you can follow during a suicidal crisis. It should include contact numbers for your doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
  • Make a written schedule for yourself every day and stick to it, no matter what. Keep a regular routine as much as possible, even when your feelings seem out of control.
  • Get out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Exercise as vigorously as is safe for you . To get the most benefit, aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day. But you can start small. Three 10-minute bursts of activity can have a positive effect on mood.
  • Make time for things that bring you joy. Even if very few things bring you pleasure at the moment, force yourself to do the things you used to enjoy.
  • Remember your personal goals. You may have always wanted to travel to a particular place, read a specific book, own a pet, move to another place, learn a new hobby, volunteer, go back to school, or start a family. Write your personal goals down.

Things to avoid:

  • Being alone. Solitude can make suicidal thoughts even worse. Visit a friend, or family member, or pick up the phone and call a crisis helpline.
  • Alcohol and drugs. Drugs and alcohol can increase depression, hamper your problem-solving ability, and can make you act impulsively.
  • Doing things that make you feel worse. Listening to sad music, looking at certain photographs, reading old letters, or visiting a loved one’s grave can all increase negative feelings.
  • Thinking about suicide and other negative thoughts. Try not to become preoccupied with suicidal thoughts as this can make them even stronger. Don’t think and rethink negative thoughts. Find a distraction. Giving yourself a break from suicidal thoughts can help, even if it’s for a short time.

Recovering from suicidal feelings

Even if your suicidal thoughts and feelings have subsided, get help for yourself. Experiencing that sort of emotional pain is itself a traumatizing experience. Finding a support group or therapist can be very helpful in decreasing the chances that you will feel suicidal again in the future. You can get help and referrals from your doctor or from the organizations listed in our Related Links section.

5 steps to recovering from suicidal thoughts and feelings

  • Identify triggers or situations that lead to feelings of despair or generate suicidal thoughts, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Find ways to avoid these places, people, or situations.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat right, don’t skip meals, and get plenty of sleep. Exercise is also key: it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
  • Build your support network. Surround yourself with positive influences and people who make you feel good about yourself. The more you’re invested in other people and your community, the more you have to lose—which will help you stay positive and on the recovery track.
  • Develop new activities and interests. Find new hobbies, volunteer activities, or work that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. When you’re doing things you find fulfilling, you’ll feel better about yourself and feelings of despair are less likely to return.
  • Learn to deal with stress in a healthy way. Find healthy ways to keep your stress levels in check, including exercising, meditating, using sensory strategies to relax, practicing simple breathing exercises, and challenging self-defeating thoughts.

More help for dealing with suicidal thoughts and feelings

Resources and references

Suicide crisis lines and help for suicidal thoughts

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Suicide prevention telephone hotline funded by the U.S. government. Provides free, 24-hour assistance. 1-800-273-TALK (8255). (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)

National Hopeline Network – Toll-free telephone number offering 24-hour suicide crisis support. 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). (National Hopeline Network)

The Trevor Project – Crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Includes a 24/7 hotline: 1-866-488-7386.

State Prevention Programs – Browse through a database of suicide prevention programs, organized by state. (National Strategy for Suicide Prevention)

Crisis Centers in Canada – Locate suicide crisis centers in Canada by province. (Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention)

Befrienders Worldwide – International suicide prevention organization connects people to crisis hotlines in their country.

txt4life – Suicide prevention resource for residents of Minnesota. Text the word "LIFE" to 61222 to be connected to a trained counselor. (txt4life.org)

IASP – Find crisis centers and helplines around the world. (International Association for Suicide Prevention).

International Suicide Hotlines – Find a helpline in different countries around the world. (Suicide.org)

Samaritans UK – 24-hour suicide support for people in the UK (call 08457 90 90 90) and Ireland (call 1850 60 90 90). (Samaritans)

Lifeline Australia – 24-hour suicide crisis support service at 13 11 14. (Lifeline Australia)

If you are feeling suicidal

If you are thinking about suicide, read this first – Tips for getting you through when you’re feeling suicidal, as well as information about maintaining recovery and healing. (Metanoia)

About Suicide – UK National Health Service site offering information for those considering suicide or have attempted suicide in the past. (Moodjuice)

Coping with suicidal thoughts – PDF download with information on how to understand your suicidal feelings and how to develop a safety plan. (Consortium for Organizational Mental Health)

What other readers are saying

“I just want to express my gratitude for the helpful and balanced and hopeful articles that you have on Helpguide.org, particularly on suicide, depression, abuse, all of which I have been struggling with. Today felt like the end, but your words have helped give me hope.” ~ Vermont

“This has helped me so much. Yes, I'm depressed and wish I could die, but now I understand there is a way out, and I can get through this. People can help me, adults or friends, and I can get through this! Thank you for the advice.” ~ United Kingdom

“I [have] had multiple episodes of suicidality, several of them landing me in the psychiatric ward . . . Before the last episode, I had shared your article with my wife and kids, and they actively used the tools from your page to keep me safe and get me the help I needed. The tools in your article have literally been life-saving.” ~ North Carolina

“Thanks for providing the truth in a trusted source. I know it’s not very profitable but you saved my life and I am forever grateful.” ~ New York

“I just want to thank you for being there when I needed you. I was sitting here hopeless and wanting to end things only because I saw no way out…I feel like you may have just saved me. Thank you so unbelievably much. I'm still sitting here with tears but it's tears of relief.” ~ Canada

Authors: Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: June 2015.


Top