When life doesn’t seem worth living anymore or your problems seem insurmountable, you may think that the only way to find relief is through suicide. You might not believe it, but you do have other options — options to stay alive and feel better about your life.
Maybe you think you’ve already tried them all and now you’ve had enough. Or maybe you think your family and friends would be better off without you. It’s OK to feel bad, but try to separate your emotions from your actions for the moment. Realize that depression, other mental disorders, despair and hopelessness can distort your perceptions and impair your ability to make sound decisions. Suicidal feelings are the result of treatable problems. So try to act as if there are other options instead of suicide, even if you may not see them right now.
No, it may not be easy. You might not feel better overnight. Eventually, though, the sense of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide can lift. You can find support, appropriate treatment and reasons for living.
If you’re considering suicide right now and have the means available, talk to someone first. The best choice is to call 911 or your local emergency services number.
If you simply don’t want to do that, for whatever reason, you have other choices for reaching out to someone when you feel suicidal:
- Contact a family member or friend.
- Contact a doctor, mental health provider or other health care provider.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
- Go to your local hospital emergency room.
- Call a crisis center or hot line.
Crisis centers and suicide hot lines are often listed in the front of your phone book or on the Internet. They generally offer trained volunteer counselors who can help you through an immediate crisis. While some crisis centers with an Internet presence offer e-mail contact, remember that responses may not be as prompt as they are with telephone support.
Talking to someone about your suicidal feelings can help relieve the burden of despair and isolation, even if just temporarily. It may help you shift perspective and more clearly see that you have options instead of suicide.
You may struggle with suicidal feelings frequently, perhaps many times a day if you’re in the depths of depression. Develop a strategy to cope with those feelings in a healthy way. Consider asking a doctor, family member or friend to help create a strategy tailored to your specific situation that will help you cope with thoughts of suicide. That strategy may mean doing things you don’t feel like doing, such as making the effort to talk to friends when you’d rather stay in your bedroom all day. Or it may mean going to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. But stick to your strategy, especially when you’re in the grips of despair and hopelessness. And if you’re already in treatment, be certain to go to all of your psychotherapy appointments and take medications as directed.
As part of your strategy, consider these measures:
- Keep a list of contact names and numbers readily available, including doctors, therapists and crisis centers that can help you cope with suicidal thoughts.
- If your suicide plans include taking an overdose, give your medications to someone who can safeguard them for you and help you take them appropriately.
- Rid your home of knives, guns, razors or other weapons you may consider using for self-destructive purposes.
- Schedule daily activities for yourself that have brought you even small pleasure in the past, such as taking a walk, listening to music, watching a funny movie, knitting or visiting a museum. If they no longer bring you at least a modicum of joy, however, try something different.
- Get together with others, even if you don’t feel like it, to prevent isolation.
- Avoid drug and alcohol use. Rather than numb painful feelings, alcohol and drugs can increase suicidal thoughts and the likelihood of harming yourself by making you more impulsive and more likely to act on your self-destructive feelings.
- Write about your thoughts and feelings. Remember to also write about the things in your life that you value and appreciate, no matter how small they may seem at the time.
Some mental health providers and support organizations recommend creating a “plan for life,” “safety contract” or similar plan of action that you can refer to when you’re considering suicide or are in a crisis. Such plans offer a checklist of activities or actions you promise yourself to take in order to keep yourself safe when you have thoughts of suicide.
For instance, your plan may require that you contact certain people when you begin considering suicide. It may also include commitments to take medication as prescribed, to attend treatment sessions or appointments, and to remind yourself that your life is valuable even if you don’t feel it is.
Also, consider creating a list of specific activities to try when negative thoughts start to intrude. The key is to engage in activities you find soothing for your negative feelings. Don’t wait to do these activities until you’ve reached the point of suicidal thoughts. Engage in healthy activities when the first negative thoughts start to creep in. Also, make certain they’re activities that would normally offer enjoyment and that can help comfort you, not cause additional stress.
Then, do each item on your list until you feel like you can go on living. Your list can include such things as:
- Practicing deep-breathing exercises
- Playing a musical instrument
- Taking a hot bath
- Eating your favorite food
- Writing in a journal
- Going for a walk
- Seeing a funny movie
- Contacting family, friends or other trusted confidantes
Even if the immediate crisis passes with your self-care strategies, consult a doctor or mental health provider, or seek help through a hospital emergency room if your community doesn’t offer good access to mental health providers. They can help make certain you’re getting appropriate treatment for suicidal thoughts and feelings so that you don’t have to continually operate in a crisis mode.
The despair and hopelessness you feel as you consider suicide may be the side effects of illnesses that can be treated. These emotions can be so overpowering that they cloud your judgment and lead you to believe that taking your own life is the best, or only, option.
But even people who’ve had suicidal thoughts for months or years can learn to manage them and to develop a more satisfying life through effective coping strategies. Take an active role in saving your own life, just as you would help someone else. Enlisting others for support can help you see that you have other options and give you hope about the future. Remember that suicide isn’t a solution — it’s an ending.