PREVENTING SUICIDE

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Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon when you are feeling very badly, especially if the suffering has gone on for a long time, or sometimes if something very upsetting has happened. Understandably, a person wants to no longer suffer, and may see suicide as the only option. Many, many people have had the thought cross their mind and never did anything to harm themselves. Therefore, having such thoughts is

1) understandable and nothing to be ashamed of and

2)in and of itself is not a cause for alarm, but rather a sign that there is serious suffering going on that is necessary to address.

When a person is having suicidal thoughts, it is because of feeling hopeless and desperate. One of the usual symptoms of a significant depression is a feelings of hopelessness and that one will never feel better. Of course, this is just one of the many untrustworthy thoughts and feelings that come along with depression. The truth is that things are never hopeless, and people get better. Depression is a treatable illness, with the commonest forms of treatment being medication and therapy, among other things. Sometimes, it is simple and quick e.g. with the first medication used at the initial dose. Other times, unfortunately, one has to be patient as various agents and dosages and longer therapy is needed. But one way or another we can treat it, and people do get better.

You may recall other times when you have felt hopeless. Every time, the feeling passed and things got better, right? And this time is no different. For that matter, think of how all your intensely positive feelings of elation, excitement, and intense love, as well as those of anger or whatever, also passed. That’s what feelings do: they come and go; they always pass. Feelings of hope and hopelessness can bounce around like a yoyo, whereas the actual amount of hope there is doesn’t change: you will feel better. You cannot always trust all your feelings, and you want to base your decisions and actions on fact and reality, not on a fluctuating untrustworthy feeling that will pass. For example, if you own a business and you feel discouraged and hopeless because business is really down lately and the numbers are really bad, it is not wise to sell your business based on those feelings, when taking some corrective action and giving it some time can greatly improve the situation. Suicide is a drastic and irreversible action that you don’t want to take when things will get better if you give them a chance. I have frequently had people tell me how good they feel and how much they are enjoying life as they recall having felt so bad and really didn’t believe they were ever going to feel better and thus had not wanted to continue living. Just because a feeling is very strong and real does not mean that it is trustworthy, and when they’re better, people feel entirely different.

Other than the fact that you will feel better, and you don’t want to miss out on enjoyable and meaningful experiences that are waiting for you, such as time spent with family and friends connecting and laughing, hugs, sunsets to watch, adventures, things to accomplish, etc., there are other reasons why you don’t want to kill yourself. You may have people who need you. You may have people who you want to see grow up, get married, and have kids. You definitely have people who would be devastated if you did that, and you definitely don’t want to devastate them. I have worked with people who were devastated years after a loved one`s suicide. Think about all the reasons that YOU don`t want to kill yourself-not everybody`s list is exactly the same. Make a list of the reasons, including the ones above. Include that things WILL get better, even if doesn’t feel that way at all. This list can be pulled out to read in order to remind you whenever you need reminding.

When you`re feeling this way, you are ungrounded and need help to feel better. This would be a good time to use tools that you have learned in order to feel better. People tend to feel very alone at these times. Another helpful thing to do is to talk to someone.

With depression, there is often a desire and tendency to isolate oneself. It is important to do your best to fight this, going against what you feel like doing, as isolation makes the depression and hopelessness worse. We have a natural need to connect. Feeling connected has a grounding effect.

So, make a promise to yourself, to your doctor, your therapist, your family or a close friend, that if you should ever feel very tempted to act on the thought, that you would contact someone INSTEAD OF doing anything to harm yourself. List who you would contact, together with the phone numbers, in the order that you would like. Your local distress line is another option. Going to an emergency room is also an option. Add the promise and the list of people and phone numbers to your paper with the list of reasons why you don’t want to kill yourself. If you are unsuccessful in trying to reach someone, you are NOT off the hook for your promise. You must continue to go down your list until you successfully reach someone.

If you have made the promise and know that you will keep it (because otherwise you shouldn’t make it), you should be able to feel a sense of safety or relief-from knowing that you will never attempt suicide, even though the thought may come.

Some people develop the habit of thinking about suicide very often over a long period of time. This is likely a coping mechanism to make one feel that they are not trapped, but have a way out. However, it is a very bad habit, and a hrmful coping mechanism: it creates distress, is not adaptive or constructive, and is potentially dangerous. So if you have made the right decision that you will not ruminate about suicide, then it’s time to break that habit. Make a decision that you will stop that thought pattern, and kick those thoughts out of your head if you notice them rather than entertaining them. People have reported to me that just making this one change helped them feel much better. Replace the thoughts with helpful adaptive thoughts such as “I wonder what’s the best way to handle this situation”, “How can I help myself feel better?”,”What can I do?”; talk to someone, or distract yourself with an activity.

If you follow the above advice, and prevent yourself from doing anything to hurt yourself, you will be grateful later when you are feeling better.

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