Suicidal thoughts is not something we really talk about.
I know that this can be uncomfortable but it is essential that we do talk about it.
9.3 million Americans have had suicidal thoughts in the past year. Having suicidal thoughts is not uncommon and should not be a source of shame, but isn’t something to ignore.
Even if you don’t think you’ll actually go through with killing yourself, it is important to develop a safety plan: a plan on how to help yourself get through the waves of suicidal thoughts.
The idea behind this plan isn’t just to prevent you from killing yourself. The idea is for you to be equipped with practical strategies on how to get through overwhelming and intense times of pain.
Following this plan is a commitment. Your suicidal state will tell you not to do what your safety plan says to do.
But remember, your suicidal state is your mind’s way of communicating “my pain exceeds my ability to cope” while your safety plan represents a tangible way to tell your pain “I know you are real, but before becoming defeated I am going to give this coping plan a try.”
1. See your health professionals
It’s important to keep your appointments to your counselor, prescriber, physician and any other health professional. If you do not see a mental health professional like a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist, I would urge you to seriously consider getting a consultation with one. Having suicidal thoughts should be treated with care and support from a person who is equipped to help. If you do not feel ready to contact a mental health care professional, scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician is a great way to start! They deal with cases of mental health issues every day.
For help finding a therapist in your area and insurance policy, visit therapists.psychologytoday.com
2. Stick to your treatment routines
If you are seeing health professionals, they most likely have you on some sort of treatment regimen. It is essential that you follow these routines. If you have been prescribed medication, take it in its correct dosage in its correct frequency. If you have a counselor that assigns you homework, complete the assignments. Make a commitment to following what your health providers advise. If you feel like the regimens are not right for you, consult with them before discontinuing treatment plans.
3. Stay sober
Illicit drugs and alcohol do not help rid depressive or suicidal thoughts. Using drugs and alcohol during a time of suicidal ideation is a harmful idea. Substance use can fuel suicidal thoughts instead of helping rid them. Committing to not drinking and doing drugs is a healthy decision to make when being in a suicidal episode.
4. Talk to your go-to people
Make a list of at least two people you can call when you are feeling consumed with suicidal thoughts. These should be people you feel comfortable with and don’t feel the need to sugar-coat what you are going through. When you are in a wave of suicidal ideation, check in with these people and let them know what is going on. They may not understand what you are experiencing, but support is essential in the healing process.
5. Report suicidal thoughts to a mental health resource
Before engaging in self harm, reach out to your counselor, doctor or a crisis helpline. It may be helpful to keep a list of their contact information for easy access.
6. Call a crisis line or 911
If your suicidal thoughts become overpowering, call a crisis helpline, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
7. Get rid of any means that could be used to commit suicide
If you have developed a suicide plan, now is the time to get rid of (or have someone else get rid of) the methods you’ve thought about using. This may include removing any firearms in your home, having a spouse or roommate keep prescription drugs locked up, limiting access to driving a car, etc.
8. Talk to yourself
Feeding yourself with graceful messages is essential in anything difficult, especially when enduring a wave of suicidal ideation. Talking to yourself is a great way to focus attention away from hopelessness and onto what is actually real. Some examples of phrases to tell yourself could be:
“I am not my feelings.”
“I am doing the best I can do and that is enough.”
“Just because my situation is a catastrophe doesn’t mean my whole life and future is a catastrophe.”
“I am a person who can cope.”
9. Use distractions
When you are finding yourself being hit hard with dark thoughts, engaging in activity can help keep your mind off suicide. Make a list of simple activities you like to do and do them when you feel suicidal thoughts creeping in.
Some examples are read a book, talk a walk, work on a puzzle, watch a sports game, go to your favorite restaurant, listen to music, take a warm bath or shower, draw a picture, go shopping, or spend time with a good friend.
10. Have daily goals
Living with intention is key when you’re in the middle of a suicidal episode. It may seem impossible to conquer the big issues that lead you to feeling suicidal, but working towards small daily attainable goals is doable. Making and completing these goals not only give you something to do but also provides some degree of accomplishment that helps feed positive emotional health. Goals can be small like going to the grocery store or calling your mother.
I know that sometimes we feel enslaved to our emotions and desires, and that could be scary when those emotions and desires are filled with hopelessness. While it takes hard work, it is possible to get through waves of suicidal thoughts by being intentional. This safety plan will not cure your suicidal thoughts but I hope that each time you commit to following it, the next wave doesn’t seem as powerful.
Always remember, you are not alone and healing is possible.
For more words on mental health, visit Alexis’ website