Updated: Jan 12, 2022
In light of September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, I want to take some time to reach those who may be struggling with severe depression, hopelessness, and/or suicidal thoughts or ideation.
If you're experiencing suicidal ideation, the first thing you need to know is no matter how alone you feel, you are never alone. The truth is, there are many people who have experienced suicidal thoughts at some point in their life. Battling depression and experiencing suicidal ideation does not make you weak, insane, or selfish. It means you are in pain- a lot of pain, and you’re not sure how else to handle it. And that’s okay. With time and support, you can overcome feeling like there’s no other way out.
Feeling like the only way to stop your pain by ending your life is absolutely terrifying. So let’s start there. Ending your life may seem like the only option right now, but it’s not. Experiencing such immense pain can distort your thinking into feeling like there are no other options and you’re a burden to everyone. Reaching out for help is never a bad thing. Before moving on any further, I want you to repeat out loud several times:
“I am not a burden.”
Reaching out for help can be so difficult when we’re experiencing such pain it often feels like you’re burdening everyone with your problems. I get that. Here’s the truth: your loved ones love you back. They want you to reach out and ask for help when you’re struggling. Talking with family, friends, other loved ones, or mental health professionals could also offer you other solutions that you haven’t thought of before. Accepting help could be the most difficult part of your journey, but it will make all the difference in the world. There is never shame in accepting help.
If you’ve gone as far as thinking about how you might kill yourself, get rid of any access you have to lethal methods. This includes firearms, knives, or alcohol and dangerous medications and drugs.
It can be so tempting to turn to drugs and/or alcohol when you’re in pain. Do. Not. Do. This. Doing so will only make your suicidal ideations worse.
If you’ve just started an anti-depressant and you believe this is causing your symptoms, do not stop taking it. Continue taking the medication as directed. Stopping antidepressants without the help of a doctor can enhance your suicidal ideation. Call your psychiatrist or physician (whoever prescribed this to you) immediately to discuss your options.
It’s also important to remember that situations, thoughts, and emotions change all the time. Whatever you’re experiencing right now, even if it seems like you’ve been feeling it forever, is always temporary. Personally, I’ve been in some pretty dark places in different points of my life and I look back and am so grateful to have made it out. I’m thankful to have come as far as I have. This will be you, too. Just hang on! Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
When in crisis mode, a great way to avoid any harmful behaviors is to distract yourself. The internet is a great place to start. Try watching funny or cute videos until your urges subside. The internet is a great place to go when you feel like you have no one else. Seek out blog posts, forums, videos, and/or podcasts.
One intervention I’ve used with clients suffering from severe depression is called "acting as if", which is an Adlerian technique.
Start off by asking yourself:
What would my day look like if I wasn't depressed?
Typical responses are:
"I'd get out of bed."
"I'd walk with my chin held high and a smile on my face”
"I'd smile at people when making eye contact"
"I'd say hi to someone in passing"
"I'd raise my hand in class"
"I'd speak up in a work meeting"
Now we challenge ourselves:
“Tomorrow morning when I wake up, I'm going to pretend I am not depressed. I'm going to get out of bed, keep my chin held high, smile and say hi to at least one person I encounter during the day. I will participate in class or I will speak out in a work meeting.”
The catch is- you actually have to DO these things when you wake up the next morning!
This is simply a way to link how your behaviors affect your mood. I’ve used this technique myself when I’ve been in dark times, deep in my head, or struggling with a negative mindset. This "acting as if" technique is always really helpful in getting me up and going again.
Note: I don’t recommend using avoidance tactics as a way to treat depressive symptoms or to treat urges to self harm or end your life. They are just temporary solutions for crisis situations. If your urges are simply too high to be distracted, call someone- anyone: a friend, family member, mental health professional, or the suicide hotline (resources are listed at the end of this post).
I hope some of these tactics will help you through your mental health journey. If you’re struggling with depression, hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts or ideation, please reach out to a mental health professional. Although these issues seem impossible to deal with, they are very treatable. Allow yourself help. You deserve help. You deserve a happy and meaningful life.
Disclaimer: This is not to be interpreted as specific advice in a specific situation. Every situation is unique and requires advice to be tailored and adapted to that situation. If you are looking for advice, guidance, support, or treatment, please speak with a mental health professional.
Here are some resources to help get you connected:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (available 24/7): 800-273-8255
Online chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ (24/7)
The Crisis Text Line (available 24/7): Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor
US and Canada: text 741741
UK: text 85258 | Ireland: text 50808
The Trevor Project: Offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention to LGBTQ youth through its hotline, chat feature, text feature, and online support center.
Text START to 678678 (Monday-Friday 3-10pm EST / 12-7pm PST)
TrevorCHAT (instant messaging, available seven days a week 3-10pm EST / 12-7pm PST)
The Veterans Crisis Line: A free, confidential resource staffed by qualified responders from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Anyone can call, chat, or text — even those not registered or enrolled with the VA.
800-273-8255 and press 1 (24/7)
Text 838255 (24/7)
Online chat: www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat (24/7)
Support for those who are deaf or hard of hearing: 800-799-4889
Psychology Today: A magazine published in the United States every two months. The focus is on behavior and discusses topics including psychology, neuroscience, relationships, sexuality, parenting, and health. The website has a blog with these topics and has a directory of mental health professionals. The site allows you to search for mental health professionals in your area via zip code or city and state. You can also find what issues these professionals treat, how much they charge per session, and which insurances they accept, if any.
I hope this was a helpful read. As always, if you have any questions or would like to connect, please feel free to reach out!