Suicide (and ideation): help and support

When life doesn't seem worth living anymore, it may seem that the only way to find relief is through suicide. When you're feeling this way, it may be hard to believe, but you do have other options.

The hopelessness that you may feel as you consider suicide may be the side effect of a difficult situation or an illness that can be treated. This emotion can be so overpowering that it clouds your judgement and leads you to believe that taking your own life is the best or only option.

It's important to know that managing your suicidal thoughts or behaviour is not something you should do alone and that there is help and support available

Good communication and listening are vital to establishing rapport with a person, to validate their feelings and to discuss difficult issues with them in an empathetic way. Talking about suicide will not encourage a person to take action,  a common misconception; it will actually decrease their risk because it lets them know they are able to talk about it with a counsellor. Ascertaining a person's level of distress and feelings about their life provides a crucial foundation to identify and reinforce any positive thoughts and reasons for living.

There is a lot of judgement surrounding suicide. A therapist would never want one of their clients to express the depths of their distress only to have their own response make them feel judged. A therapist will want their client to know that suicide and/or suicidal ideation isn't something to be ashamed of and that it is ok to talk about these feelings. This approach allows the therapist to hold some of their client's pain so that it can be looked at together, which might ease it enough for the client to feel supported and be able to go on. 

It is likely that clients will express previous suicidal thoughts. Suicidal thoughts or expressions are often 'the language of despair' and therefore suicidal ideation in the counselling room is not uncommon. It is not something to fear, but for the client, it is their way of communicating their distress, and as such, the therapist would need to respond in a way that helps a client feel heard. Panicking would not achieve this, but exploring the underlying feelings is more likely to do so. 

When it comes down to it, the topic of suicide is about pain and suffering. A counsellor's primary role is to be able to stay present with their client's pain and to make space for its fullness. It is simultaneously the most painful and encouraging part of being a therapist and of being a human. It is deeply raw, intimate and vulnerable to witness someone else's pain.

In order to make space for that pain, the therapist may ask hard questions. They may look you in the eye and welcome your pain because the typical impulse is to hide it, avoid it or dismiss it. Sometimes we don't understand our own pain. We become our own pain-police and criticize whether we have valid reasons for our emotions. Counsellors don't need an explanation.

As a counsellor, I've been told on a few occasions, "but I'm sad for no reason." Let's go back to the first half of that sentence, "I'm sad." Let's start there. Perhaps the reasons will unfold.

Working with a counsellor can help you manage thoughts like this and together you can find a way to move forward. Search Counselling Directory for a professional therapist.

If you or someone you know has been experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings there is immediate help and support available via the Samaritans free helpline on 116 123. 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Jerome Johnson- Person Centred Counsellor

I am a person centred counsellor with extensive experience working with adolescents and adults in a wide variety of presenting issues. I am a member of the BACP and adhere to their code of ethical practice to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both myself and my clients. Issues I have worked with prominently include anxiety, depression and suicide.… Read more

Written by Jerome Johnson- Person Centred Counsellor

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