Suicide – stripping the stigma of suicidal thoughts and feelings
Having suicidal thoughts and feelings can be very scary. You get to a place where you feel very lonely, hopeless and helpless. You hit a dead end. And you feel that the only way out is to take your own life. At the end of the day, everyone around you will be better off without you, right? Have you ever had such thoughts?
If you answered yes, I want to reinsure you that you are not alone. I hear this a lot in my counselling room. Clients come to me when they don’t know what else to do, who else to turn to. Because talking to friends or family doesn’t seem like an option. They feel shame. They feel like a failure. They feel like they are letting everyone else down.
Suicidal thoughts don’t just appear out of nowhere. Many people experience suicidal thoughts and feelings while battling other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD. Not just those with mental health conditions experience feelings of suicide. Suicidal feelings can also be triggered by losing a loved one, experiencing loss of employment, bullying, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, retirement, deep trauma, physical pain, sexual abuse in the past or still current or life-threatening illness.
I once read somewhere that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And sadly, this is very true. Many people who feel suicidal, don’t want to necessarily die, they just want to end their suffering. They don’t want to live their current life as it is. The keyword here is current. Whatever is happening in your life now, doesn’t mean it will stay that way.
What can you do if you're feeling suicidal?
- Talk: however hard that might feel, make that first step and contact someone. If talking to a friend or relative feels too much, go and see your GP. GP practices are still open even during lockdown. Your doctor will talk to you over the phone and together, you’ll come up with the best solution for you. Your doctor might offer you medication or refer you to a counselling service.
- Samaritans: 116 123. Their service is free and you will talk to a trained volunteer, who will not judge you, who will not push you to do something you might feel uncomfortable doing. They will just listen and support you.
- Grassroots: an organisation supporting prevention of suicide. Consider downloading their app onto your phone - Stay Alive app. You will find loads of useful links on this app.
- Text: did you know that there is a texting service now to help with your mental health? You don’t need to talk, you can just type. Text SHOUT to 85258.
- Counselling: consider talking to a professional. The above-mentioned services are for crises times only. And they are great for the services they offer. You can contact them, however, they do not offer regular contact that you will have when going to therapy. I worked with many clients over the years who felt suicidal. It might feel scary to go and talk to a counsellor at first, but once you get to know your counsellor and feel comfortable with her/him and start talking deeper about the issues that brought you to therapy, you’ll start feeling better.
What can you do if you know someone who feels suicidal?
- Listen and listen some more. If someone started talking to you about their suicidal thoughts, it means they trust you. It is a real privilege to support someone who feels that their life is not worth living. It can also feel scary. I know. Please, don’t panic. Don’t act shocked. These are unhelpful responses. Stay calm. You know now from reading this article that there are organisations who support the prevention of suicide. Signpost! Tell them the names, numbers, etc. Tell them that taking their own life is not the only option – even if it feels like that right now.
- Ask helpful, open questions. Encourage them to talk. Never ask 'why' – it can feel too intrusive, instead say – “tell me a bit more about that”. Don’t say – “I know exactly how you feel!”, because you don’t! Only the person who is feeling those feelings knows how they feel. Instead, ask; “How does it feel?” Try to be empathic, not sympathetic.
- Confidentiality: whoever confided in you might ask you to keep it a secret. I know this might be a tempting offer, but I urge you not to promise confidentiality. Not if someone’s life is in danger. And please, be open and honest about this with them. Saying something simple such as: “I am not quite sure if I’ll be able to keep confidentiality after what you’ve just told me". And you can explain your reasons for saying this. Your reason might be that you worry about their safety. You don’t want them to hurt themselves, etc.
As you'll see from reading this article, there are so many avenues for support available. Whatever you do, seek help.
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