September is National Suicide Prevention month. Preventing suicide does not happen by offering simple platitudes ("You have so much to be grateful for") or by saying comments like: "It's wrong", "It's selfish", etc... Suicide and suicidal thoughts are a response to incredible pain. The pain seems unending to the person experiencing it.
Some people experience recurrent thoughts of suicide. Coming up with a plan to manage these thoughts is essential and takes hard work in order to prevent suicide. The pain must be addressed and a safety net put in place.
Let's work together to increase understanding of suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide), general empathy for each other, and reduce the stigma that can get in the way of people asking for help.
Ever wonder why some people have suicidal thoughts, how to get help for yourself or help for someone else struggling with these thoughts, or what happens when someone tells a doctor they are suicidal? For more information on suicide and suicide prevention read my post: A Psychiatrist’s Take on Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Prevention
Thoughts of suicide
This is guest post written by a brave woman, Charlotte Underwood. Charlotte, who lost her father to suicide, shares her personal experiences with thoughts of suicide and recommendations on how to help manage them. Charlotte is a 22-year-old from Norfolk, UK. She's a growing and passionate mental health advocate and writer. She can be found at charlotteunderwoodauthor.com.
Not long ago, I stood in front of a large audience of maybe 100 people and announced that I was suicidal. It was at a charity ball I had organized in memory of my father to raise awareness of suicide, as this is what took his life in 2014. It seems strange to think that I managed to do this, as not so long ago I attempted to take my own life and I did not ask for help, I didn’t even want people to know. I have been dealing with suicidal thoughts for years. This post is written for those of you out there who also have thoughts of suicide. Suicide thoughts do not have to mean action! Come up with your own suicide prevention plan.
Dealing with suicidal thoughts
Suicide thoughts are tricky, it’s not like you really want to die, you just can’t go on living the life that you have and you don’t see a way out. It can be very hard to see the light when you are too deep in that dark well, even when others extend a rope to save you, there is little energy to make it out.
So yes, I live with thoughts of suicide and I often do think that I would be better off dead, even on my best days. It’s something I live with and it’s a voice that I cannot seem to tune out, yet I am still here. Each day, I seem to make that voice a little bit quieter – maybe one day it will cease.
Thoughts of suicide: Make your own suicide prevention plan
I can’t tell you the exact recipe for making those thoughts of suicide go away, we are all far too individual and unique to respond to the same things. What I can tell you, however, is what has helped me and some things that you can try. Maybe it’ll make things just a little bit easier.
1. Suicide prevention plan: Know your own signs of relapse
A big part of what has helped me prevent a suicide attempt is through learning the signs that are mine, not others. We all deal with emotions differently and so when you can understand that your body is falling into a relapse, you can seek help before it gets too hard to do so. For me, when I feel like I am on that spiral slide; when I become so angry, tired and even a little numb, I can build the courage to just say “yeah I need help”.
2. Suicide prevention plan: Talk about suicide thoughts in a safe space
Another thing is obvious, it’s being able to talk about those feelings in a safe space. Talking is so important and it can do more good for us than maybe we even realize. Having a healthy outlet can remove those negative thoughts and give you a blanket of comfort. Even if you’re not ready to say those words out loud, you can write, I often do.
3. Suicide prevention plan: Prioritize yourself and learn to say no if you need to
Learning your limits and removing crushing yourself in stress has helped me loads. If you need to cancel some plans or have a few days to do nothing on either side of an event, do it. Life is so hard and we do not need to make it harder for ourselves. Your happiness and safety are so important! When you feel overwhelmed, that’s your body giving you warning signs; listen to them. You are not a robot, you have feelings and thoughts and you need rest. Don’t push yourself too hard.
4. Suicide prevention plan: Get outside
Now, something that is a little bit hard, especially when you can be agoraphobic like me, is to get outside. I spent a good three years essentially indoors all the time, I just couldn’t deal with going outdoors. However, since I have been in recovery and have been fighting so hard for my mental health, I have made the step to be outside more. It has done wonders for my mental health. Nature is a great therapy and having a fresh air can really pull back that anxiety and prevent those thoughts of suicide.
5. Suicide prevention plan: Be true to yourself
The main thing overall is just about getting to know yourself. Understand what your body really needs and listen to it when it is giving you feedback. Don’t focus too much on what others are telling you or what you are expected to do. We can get so wrapped up in societal expectations and the desire to please others. At the end of the day, if those suicide thoughts get too much, then all of those things will no longer exist for you. So really, you need to be selfish and put yourself first.
Dealing with suicidal thoughts: My hope for the future
My hope one day is that suicide won’t really be a cause of death. I hope that we could live in a world that never lets people get to that point. A world where there is no stigma and so much support that mental health is accepted and treated like a real illness – because it is.
Thank you so much to the author, Charlotte Underwood, for sharing her experiences with suicidal thoughts and encouraging others to create an individual suicide prevention plan.
Looking for more resources?
Read my post on suicide and prevention: A Psychiatrist’s Take on Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Prevention
I have also written many posts on recovery from depression full of self-help tips that you can get started on today.