Sometimes, life can take an unexpected turn and leave you feeling completely helpless, scared, alone, and even suicidal. Acknowledging the negative feelings can play a crucial role in preventing suicide. Additionally, knowing how to filter out suicidal thoughts is also one of the most effective ways of suicide prevention. Suicide oftentimes originates from a feeling of extreme hopelessness, the thought that there is no other way to get emotional or physical relief than to end one’s life. The thoughts “I want to die” and “I am depressed” repeat themselves. This feeling alone is desperate enough, not to mention the stigma and hurtful beliefs around those who show signs of suicide. Where do you go from there and what can you do to get the help you need?
While all other leading causes of death in the United States have decreased in numbers, suicide is the only one that has been steadily increasing. This statistic awoke a passion in me for preventing suicide and ensuring everyone has a safe space to bring attention to their pain. Suicide and its prevention are near and dear to my heart. The grandmother I never met ended her life, a cousin battling substance abuse ended his life. I do not want any hurting person to think that ending their life was the only way out, therefore, I hold space as a therapist for those hurting to this degree nearly daily.
What Causes Suicide
Thoughts of suicide can be experienced by anyone, however, there are specific populations that experience higher rates of suicide. A common misconception is that suicidal thoughts are only observed in people battling depression. In fact, many conditions and circumstances can prompt this feeling of hopelessness. Chronic illnesses, response to trauma, and symptoms of different mental health issues can all invoke suicidal thoughts.
Can Therapy Prevent Suicide
One thing that brings me peace and hope is knowing that suicide is 100% preventable. Suicide prevention is multifaceted and involves many systems. On a macro level, a key component is ensuring that everyone has access to the care they need. This includes providing equal access to therapy, insurance coverage for quality physical and mental health care, and fair housing. Our society is sorely lacking in public servants, such as teachers and police, that are trained in basic mental health. While solving the aforementioned issues is indeed a massive obstacle, there are plenty of ways we can contribute on an individual level. This may include conversations with our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances with the hopes of decreasing stigma and normalizing these tough conversations. Suicide prevention is the responsibility of all, not just those that work in mental health.
Seek Professional Therapy and Medication
One of the most important ways to prevent suicide is through seeking and maintaining care from a therapist and psychiatric provider. Mental health therapy and exploring medications can help manage the symptoms of mental illness that can lead one to experiencing thoughts of suicide. Through individual therapy, one can learn how to better cope and manage symptoms of their mental illness. Certain medications can also help alleviate suicidal thoughts, and this isn’t limited simply to antidepressants. For instance, if an individual is experiencing extreme discomfort due to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, an antipsychotic or a mood stabilizer can help them manage their symptoms. Don’t be afraid! Reaching out for help is the best gift you can give yourself.
8 Signs of Suicide
- Talking about death, dying, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live
- Feelings of loneliness and hopelessness
- Saying that they feel like a burden
- Withdrawing from friends and family or saying goodbye to family and friends
- Losing interest in activities, decrease in motivation
- Extreme mood swings, irritability
- Giving away possessions
- A sudden improvement or quick positive shift in mood
4 Important Resources Available to Anyone Feeling Suicidal
- Groups with suicide prevention as part of their mission: Suicide Prevention Lifeline, To Write Love on Her Arms, Hope for the Day, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Jed Foundation, The Trevor Project
- Local mental health practices (private practices/groups)
- Hospital groups
- Community resources- public health offices, community coalitions
If you are feeling motivated to make a change toward a kinder world, with less stigma and fewer suicides, here are some ideas.
- Educate yourself on the signs of suicide. Knowing the signs of suicidal thoughts can not only allow you to help those in your life feel less alone, but also get the help they need.
- Don’t be scared to ask about someone’s suicidal thoughts. In fact, they may be relieved that you asked!
- Listen without moving into problem-solving for them.
- Remind them they are never alone.
- Don’t be afraid to call 911 if you feel their safety is threatened.
- Offer to go with them to their first appointment, even just for the car ride.
Again, suicide is a public health crisis but is entirely preventable. Suicide does not have to happen. We can keep our loved ones here by taking action toward its prevention. Suicide does not have to be scary, embarrassing, or taboo. Rather, feeling suicidal is completely normal. If we embrace that suicidal thoughts are a real concern that originates from deep pain and despair, We can remove its existence from our world if we engage in positive discourse regarding the pain and despair that causes these feelings. Take steps toward educating yourself, having conversations, and normalizing humanity and kindness. The effort will pay off.
Written by Caitlin Garstkiewicz, LCSW