Lets talk about suicidal thoughts
The conversation about mental health issues is louder and more widespread than ever before. People are using social media to share their mental health journeys and spread awareness, celebrities are weighing in and lending support for more mental health awareness and the media is continually calling for more robust mental health support. It feels like people are more inclined to share their experiences of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety and this is fantastic, but we need more of this, as whilst the stigma has lessened somewhat, the conversations still need to be had so we can continue to reach out to the people most vulnerable.
Stop the stigma of suicidal thoughts
One area that does not seem to get the attention it needs, is in regards to suicidal thoughts. These thoughts usually represent a person's darkest moments, and so it is understandable that it is hard for us to speak about and is something we struggle to admit to experiencing. Coping with suicidal feelings can be lonely and isolating though, and it is for this reason that we need to talk about it more so that if we're experiencing these thoughts we do not feel so alone.
What are suicidal thoughts?
Suicidal thoughts involve thinking about ending your life. You may think that you want to stop the pain you're feeling, or that your friends and family will be better off without you. The thoughts you have may be fleeting, to begin with, but over time pre-occupy you more. You may also have an immediate and strong desire to complete suicide due to events that happen in your life.
The feelings associated with suicidal thoughts are wide-ranging: feeling overwhelmed, useless, unwanted, hopeless, desperate, or even numb. Everyone's experience will be unique to them and based upon their own difficulties and experiences.
What to do when you have suicidal thoughts
- Remember that you're not alone. Whilst it may feel that nobody will understand what you're going through, more people than you think have been where you are now. All your suicidal thoughts mean is that right now you cannot cope with how you're feeling; they don't mean that there is something wrong with you.
- Safety-proof your house so that there isn't easy access to a way to take action on your thoughts. You may need help doing this, so ask someone to take any dangerous objects away.
- Distract yourself from your thoughts in ways that will work for you, for instance going for a walk, doing exercise, listening to music, practice breathing techniques or mindfulness.
- Change your narrative by challenging your thoughts. Focus on positivity and reminding yourself of the things you're good at, or the things you enjoy in life.
- Self-care can be useful in changing your mindset. By purposefully doing something that you enjoy and relaxes you, you can change your thought processes and the stress, depression or anxiety that you're experiencing.
- Reach out for help. Family and friends will want to know that you're struggling. You need to be safe, which is hard when you're feeling vulnerable and alone. Reaching out to friends and family will help us reconnect with our lives and make us feel more secure.
- Phone a helpline. There are several helplines available to you if you can't speak to family or friends. The Samaritans are one of the most accessible, country-wide services, and the person on the phone will lend an ear to your struggles for however long you need them for.
- Speak to your GP. The NHS have support services in place to help you. They can put you in contact with your local mental health team as well as give you access to talking therapies.
- Find a therapist that can help you navigate through these periods. A counsellor or psychotherapist will help you understand what is behind these suicidal thoughts and help you develop coping mechanisms to protect yourself.
Protect yourself from it happening again
- Develop a plan to help you step away from suicidal thoughts. Your plan should focus on the following things:
- What are the warning signs that you're beginning to struggle? Include thoughts and behaviours.
- What can you do by yourself to take your mind off the problem? What will I do to calm and soothe myself? What can I tell myself as alternatives to dark thoughts?
- Social support details. Write down a list of people you can contact if you can't calm and soothe yourself.
- Professional support details. Write a list of the places you can contact if your problem continues; GP surgery, counselling services, helplines and A&E.
Finally, remember that talking helps! If you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, reaching out to others will make you feel less alone, vulnerable and isolated. Speak to someone, whether it's family, friends or professionals, and let them know what is happening for you at the moment!