The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year, approximately a million people die from suicide. This represents a global mortality rate of 16 per 100,000 people, or one death every 40 seconds. Alarmingly, It is predicted that by 2020, the rate of deaths by suicide will increase to one every 20 seconds.
This statistic shows that there are plenty of people suffering and in need of additional help in overcoming their suicidal thoughts and feelings. Suicide happens when one’s pain exceeds their resources for coping with the pain. By becoming equipped with the right resources, people can become empowered to create a different outcome for themselves.
Nobody in a healthy place in life would choose to commit suicide, but feeling suicidal does not make you weird, weak, crazy or flawed—it is a sign that your instinct to survive has become weakened and that you need help to strengthen it.
Suicidal thoughts can be exacerbated in times of extreme stress or depression, clouding a person’s thinking and vision of hope. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. it is possible that a difficulty in your life has fuelled such feelings of hopelessness. For example, you may have experienced a separation from your partner, a fallout with a family member, workplace bullying or other forms of abuse, loss or trauma.
If you have ever had suicidal feelings, you may find it helpful to consider:
1. Keeping yourself safe
When you are feeling suicidal, your ability to think of ways to self-inflict harm is heightened, making it easier to find yourself in a dangerous situation. It is important to create a Suicide Safety Plan to rely upon in times like these, to help break down the feelings of passivity and isolation. A Suicide Safety Plan enables you to restore a sense of control, with the support of helpful practices. There are planning apps available that may be of assistance such as the BeyondNow suicide safety planning app.
To create your own Suicide Safety Plan, you need to list answers to the following:
- Warning signs such as changes in thoughts, mood, behaviours and situations; anything that may indicate to you that a crisis may be developing.
- Internal coping strategies. These are things to do that do not involve contacting another person. For example, meditation and other relaxation techniques, physical activity and journaling.
- People and social settings that provide distraction. Include names, phone numbers and addresses.
- People to ask for help.
- Professionals or agencies to contact during a crisis.
- Ways to make the environment safe. For example, removing potentially lethal items including drugs.
Talking to Someone
Although you might not feel like it, talking to someone you trust can help you regain balance and perspective around the way you feel. Intense emotions have the ability to distort your thinking, making it harder to envision solutions to problems. Friends, counsellors and therapists can help you find solutions that may not be obvious to you and this support can be helpful in providing you with clarity. Talking about how you got to the point of contemplating suicide can also help to relieve internal pressure, giving you the ability to tap into your reasoning centres and inner wisdom to find a way to cope.
Maybe you have been told to suck it up or to snap out of it, that your problems aren’t that bad or that you are being overly dramatic, which has made you feel nervous, ashamed or guilty and afraid to open up again. Remember, people’s reactions are about their fears, not about you. They may not be able to offer constructive advice despite good intentions and are reacting in fear or in anger.
If you feel like someone has undermined or disregarded you, try someone else who won’t judge you and who you feel comfortable with. There are plenty of people who care, are empathetic, and will simply listen and be there for you.
The most important thing is not to keep your suicidal feelings to yourself. If you feel alone, as though no one in the vicinity is there for support, remember that there is always support by way of a helpline or online chat. Some helpful organisations include:
Europe: Europe Alliance Against Depression or International Association for Suicide Prevention. The ‘International Association for Suicide Prevention’ also provides a list of countries across Europe and their associated hotlines.
3. Focusing on Your Reasons for Staying Alive
The fact that you are still alive shows that there is something and/or someone in your life that are worth living for. Write a list of all the things you appreciate, even if you feel the appreciation is not reciprocated. Actively naming reasons to stay alive helps you to visualise yourself in a more positive frame. Think of yourself hugging your parents, patting your dog, hiking in nature. Even if you struggle to find reasons for living—could you in the future?
4. Setting Small Goals and Rewarding Yourself for Achieving Them
Setting small hourly, daily, weekly and monthly goals, can make what seems impossible suddenly achievable. You may be feeling overwhelmed by the problems you are facing. However, taking small steps and managing them in a way that will not put you under increased stress and pressure, will allow you to see the big picture and realise you are capable of achieving so much in life. Often, those experiencing suicidal thoughts are self-critical and believe they can’t achieve at the level others can. Try to treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion you would treat a friend by encouraging and praising yourself regularly.
5. Reading Uplifting Biographies, Articles and Forums from People Who Have Overcome Suicidal Thoughts
You may feel as if nobody can understand or relate to you—that they haven’t experienced the struggles you are going through and therefore, couldn’t possibly understand your mindset. In this case, it is helpful to turn to those who have thought about committing suicide but have decided to live instead and the positive outcomes that came from that decision. While their situation may differ to yours, they, at one point, thought there was no other solution than suicide and are now living proof that positive change can occur. They model how it is possible to turn your life around. Victor Frankl is an example of someone who survived three years in a concentration camp. During that time, he focussed on his reasons to continue living, despite the harshest of conditions.
6. Realising Your Thoughts and Feelings Are Not Who You Really Are
Your real self is wise, strong and stable, while thoughts and feelings are impermanent—they come and go. To assist the realisation process, validate your feelings WITHOUT ACTING OUT ON THEM. For example, if you are angry or sad, validate and acknowledge those feelings—accept them as they are. Recognise that you feel hopeless if that’s how you feel. Comfort yourself as a loving parent would comfort a child. This acknowledgement and love will help the feelings to pass and you will feel stronger, more stable and connected to your true self. You may be having a suicidal feeling, but that does not make you a suicidal person.
Even though you may be experiencing a tremendous amount of pain, it is important not to act on the thoughts that drive your suicidal feelings—remember, feelings come and go—they will pass. The feelings of grief and anguish your loved ones would experience in your absence, in contrast, would take decades, if not a lifetime, to overcome.
Life is unpredictable and can be extremely challenging, with inevitable highs and lows. These may be daunting, but anything could change for the better at any moment. Stick with it and find solace in knowing there is still so much time to accomplish great things in life and so many great people out there that you are yet to meet.