Here’s a question for you: Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?
I know I haven’t.
I mean I’ve contemplated the idea of death (like any human being conscious of its mortality would do) but never thought about ending my life.
And I want to begin this post by telling you that everything I know about suicide comes from books and the experiences some of my clients have shared.
What I know for sure is that it’s hard to describe what goes on in a person’s head when they’re contemplating suicide. It’s one of those things that you can’t understand fully unless you’ve been down that path yourself.
But perhaps another reason why we find it challenging to wrap our heads around this subject is that we rarely talk about it.
Suicide has always been a sensitive topic. We don’t usually like to bring our ‘darker’ thoughts out into the open. While some might not want to burden others with their struggles, others are afraid to open a conversation that might make them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.
Let’s put shame, guilt, and stigma aside for a moment and look at some ‘hard’ data.
Based on a report released by The World Health Organization:
“Every year, almost 800.000 people die due to suicide.”
As for prevention:
“Out of the 195 countries (give or take, depending on the politics) in the world today, only 60 have good-quality registration data on suicide, and 30 report having a national strategy for suicide prevention.”
It seems that roughly two-thirds of countries are clueless and out of the 60 countries that do hold data about this problem, only 30 have a suicide prevention strategy in place.
Considering these worrying statistics, I believe we DO need to talk about!
Why Do We Sometimes Feel Suicidal?
Suicidal thoughts (or suicidal ideation) are not a disease or condition, but a symptom.
In fact, any situation that we interpret as catastrophic and impossible to overcome has the potential to trigger suicidal thoughts.
It could be anything from losing a loved one to getting fired from your job or struggling with a medical condition.
When life knocks you down repeatedly, and you don’t have the strength to pick yourself up, death suddenly becomes a relief.
During those critical moments, the only thing that matters is putting an end to all the pain and suffering that have tormented us for too long.
Even though you’re fully aware that your death will eliminate any possibility to come up with a ‘real’ solution to your problem and have a profoundly negative impact on your friends and loved ones, you still struggle to find a reason not to do it.
The silver lining to this dark cloud that shadows reason and pushes us toward a mistake that we can never fix is that it’s temporary. In other words, suicidal thoughts are just like any other thoughts – fleeting.
They come and go!
Thinking About Dying is NOT Equal to Being Suicidal
We all go through difficult moments in life.
We’ve all been in that situation where life’s adversities are so burdensome and overwhelming that putting an end to everything might seem like the only solution left.
But if every person who’s been in a tough situation and thought of death were to be labeled as suicidal, then we would have billions of people who are at risk.
Fortunately, that’s not the case.
People can think about death without having the intention to end their lives. Furthermore, not everyone who has suicidal thoughts wants to end their life.
In the U.S. for example, there are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides to one completion. Although we have too little to data to draw a precise comparison between attempted suicides and completed suicides, we could predict that 1 out of 25 people who attempt suicide will die.
And this gives us an interesting clue about suicide.
In other words, in most cases, suicidal thoughts have nothing to do with wanting to die but wanting to get out of an agonizing situation or end the pain.
We’re talking about people who, with the right intervention plan, could find better ways to deal with pain, trauma, guilt, shame, or whatever’s making them think death would be an easy way out.In other words, in most cases, suicidal thoughts have nothing to do with wanting to die but wanting to get out of an agonizing situation or end the pain Click To Tweet
How to Deal With Suicidal Thoughts
Suicide attempts are a drama not only for the ones who are trying to end their life but also for their family and friends.
When it comes to doing something about your suicidal thoughts, there are no quick fixes, no bulletproof strategies, no 10-step programs.
Most experts have focused on building programs that would teach health workers how to provide care for suicidal patients.
And that’s promising news.
But until you reach professional help, there are a few things you can do, if you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts:
#1 DON’T DO ANYTHING right now!
During those critical moments when ending your life seems to be the only option left, it’s crucial to refrain from any action that might cause you harm.
DON’T believe any of the thoughts, ideas, and rationalizations that your mind comes up with during a suicide crisis.
The only action you should be thinking about is picking up the phone and asking for help from a friend, family member, or suicide crisis line.
#2 Remember, it’s just a TEMPORARY phase.
As I said before, despite their overwhelming intensity and negative content, suicidal thoughts are like any other thoughts – temporary and fleeting.
On the other hand, ending your life is a permanent outcome. There’s no coming back from that; no second chance; no restart.
You can always find a better way to cope with your problems, no matter how painful and unresolvable they might seem. You just can’t see it yet.
But with the right approach, you will learn to keep your suicidal thoughts in check and address the core of your problems.
#3 Contact a suicide crisis center, IMMEDIATELY.
Since you cannot trust your judgment during a suicidal crisis, you need to let others help you overcome this problem.
Contact a suicide crisis line and talk to a trained professional who will counsel you out of your crisis.
Once you manage to get a handle on the situation, set up an appointment with a mental health professional to explore the origin of your ‘dark’ thoughts.
To Sum Up
Even though suicide is a delicate topic, and many avoid having an open discussion about it, it’s time to shine a spotlight on it.
There’s always an alternative option; a different way out of a painful situation. You can always search for a bit of positivity and paint life in brighter colors.
If you ever struggle with suicidal thoughts, there are three things you need to remember:
- Refrain from taking any action that might cause you harm.
- Always remind yourself that suicidal thoughts are temporary and fleeting.
- Contact a suicide crisis center.
So, what do you think about our post on suicidal thoughts? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where death seemed like the only way out? Do you have any advice for those who are dealing with a suicide crisis?
Share your story in a comment below!
Clinical Psychologist, Licensed CBT Therapist.I’m a Clinical Psychologist and a licensed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy practitioner. My work focuses mainly on strategies designed to manage and prevent the most common mental issues – anxiety, depression, and stress.
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