Did you know?
It’s normal to have thoughts about suicide but not be depressed or suicidal.
For example, when you’re standing on a bridge overlooking a beautiful sunset and have a passing thought about jumping off, that doesn’t necessarily indicate you’re suicidal and need to panic about having the thought. It might just mean your brain is preparing you to stay safe by being concerned about potential catastrophes. What would warrant concern and perhaps a need to reach out to a professional would be if you experience these thoughts in high volume or experience an urge or desire to follow through on the thought.
Many of our immediate coping strategies do not resolve the deep pain underneath these thoughts, but our coping strategies can help us to lift just enough to see hope on the horizon and ask for further care.
Our therapists have put together a list of options for how to cope when these thoughts come up.
When the suicidal thoughts point to a desire to relieve pain or feels like the only way to escape the pain:
-You can find ways to alleviate pain in the moment, such as by: wrapping up in a blanket, drinking warm tea, phoning a friend, watching your favorite comedy, listening to soothing, pleasant music, going on a walk, taking deep meditative breaths, and getting sensory relief through a weighted blanket, skin brushing, or a hot/cold shower.
-Check out a support group, counseling, or other means of healing
-Many people say “you’re not alone” but you can’t know that or feel that unless you open up and share with a trusted person. If you’re having thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life, please reach out and talk to someone. If you don’t have anyone you feel comfortable talking with, you can always call the hotline: 800-273-8255
-Take a deep breath, and notice the nature around you. Sometimes we can feel so disconnected, and that can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. Taking a deep breath and connecting with nature can help us feel more connected to ourselves, and our beautiful (albeit messy) world.
-You can do the 5 senses exercise, just noticing what you are seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling physiologically (perhaps the clothes against your skin or the way gravity feels rooting your feet down), and what you can hear.
-Try some tactile experiences, for example, holding pebbles in your hands, or applying lotion, smelling something pleasant, noticing sounds, sights, and things they can touch or taste.
-Set a timer for 10 minutes, and commit to bodily movement for those 10 minutes, it could be stretching, yoga, a walk, or dancing to music. If you want to keep going after the timer goes off, that’s okay too.
-It’s always a good idea to revisit your safety plan (if you don’t have a safety plan, and you’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts, please ask for help! Your therapist can help you put a plan in place to help you when you’re struggling)
-You can turn to someone who will validate your struggle and pain. (People who don’t make insensitive statements like – “other people have it worse…” “think about how so and so will feel”, etc. You know the people who will validate your experience and sit with you in the midst of it)
When things feel urgent and scary:
-Utilize your safety plan if things escalate, including calling a friend or family member and reaching out to local crisis support if needed such as a mobile crisis service that can come to you.
-Remove any harmful objects etc.
-Call the hotline: 800-273-8255
-Remind yourself why you are here and present. It could be a pet, a family member, a personal belief, whatever your “why” is, it is valid.
When things calm down, but it feels like these thoughts are connected to a lack of purpose:
-It can be helpful to cope by finding a way to give back to others, or exploring sources of deep fulfillment.
-It might be helpful to list out the ways you’ve contributed to the wellbeing of others, or to task yourself with the simplest of gestures such as holding a door, offering a smile, or voicing gratitude.
If you have a friend or loved one who struggles with suicidal thoughts you can:
-Offer to sit in the pain with them, even if you don’t know what to say. “I know things are hard. I know you are fighting a battle to just be here. I’m proud of you.”
-Try to avoid the comparison game of statements listed above. Just focus on them.
-If you need help and don’t know what to do, you can also call the hotline listed above. They can walk you through some additional ideas and can consult with you on what you’re dealing with specifically.
-We also love this quote by Robin Williams, perhaps it can guide you as well: Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.
-Robin Williams (1951-2014)
If you are struggling with these thoughts, have lost someone to suicide, or are in the trenches with a loved one, we know the battle is not easy. Thank you for fighting it and for reading. We care about you. Please reach out if there’s anything we can do to help you on your journey.
~The Phoenix Counseling Collective