What are suicidal thoughts?
Suicidal ideation, also known as suicidal thoughts or suicidal intention, is commonly understood as a preoccupation with deliberately ending one’s own life. It is a repeated thought to kill oneself in order to get respite from the intensely painful feelings or situations.
It is also essential to distinguish suicide from ‘self-mutilation’. Self-mutilation is a deliberate attempt to cause harm without an intent to kill oneself. However, self-mutilation is associated with a high risk of suicide.
Though most of us, at some point in our lives, experience suicidal thoughts it is not necessary that the occurrence of such thoughts will lead us to act upon it. However, falling into a habit of repeated, thinking about suicide could be potentially dangerous. Also, thinking about suicide repeatedly creates a false sense of comforting familiarity which leads to desensitization from danger. So instead of considering suicide as a threat to one’s existence, it becomes a relieving resort for escaping from the extreme pain and distress in life.
Suicides are more common than we imagine. Suicide rates in India seem to increase at an alarming rate. According to WHO data, a suicide is committed every 40 seconds. Suicide is one of the top three causes of deaths and to particularly point out Indian scenario, deaths in India due to suicide is much higher than global deaths happening due to natural disaster and war. During 2004-2014, India witnessed an average of more than one lakh suicides every year.
Even after numerous efforts by various governmental, NGOs and mental health organizations, it is unfortunate that the consequences of stigma, misbeliefs and misinformation attached with suicides continue to rule. Suicide continues to be a taboo subject which causes lots of discomfort and hence discussions pertaining to it are often avoided. Such intense kind of stigma prevents people from telling others about their suicidal thoughts and seeking help.
Who are at a high risk of suicide?
Generally speaking, people who have suffered major losses like the death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job, are forced to migrate to another place and/or those who have faced sexual abuse, physical abuse and bullying are at a high risk of attempting suicide. Feelings of grief, alienation, hopelessness and helplessness may also increase the suicidal thoughts. Also, people with mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are prone to suicidal ideation.
Apart from the above, suicides in India are caused by a variety of issues related to marriage, dowry, bankruptcy, poor academic performance, family problems, poverty, unemployment, failed love affairs etc.
How should I fight with my suicidal thoughts?
Contradictory to the popular belief, suicide should not be considered as a personal choice. It occurs when the distress and pain exceeds one’s coping mechanism and resources to fight with the pain. It occurs when the suffering becomes unbearable or the support systems and coping mechanisms are no more functional enough to combat the intense pain.
Following are some ways to deal with suicidal thoughts -
- Speak your heart out to someone – This is the first step of breaking the barrier by discussing about your suffering. Talking about how you are feeling to someone whom you can trust and depend on will keep you going in this tough phase. It is advisable to not expect a very ‘professional’ response as people may often react to such situations with their own knowledge and beliefs. But remember that if they react to it with anxiety, fear or shock, it is a reflection of their perception and it says nothing about you in particular.
- Avoid all sort of potential risk – Prevent yourself from any event, memory, situation, person etc. that can potentially trigger a suicidal response in you. Also, make sure that you keep ‘things’ that can harm you far away from your reach. This avoids you to act impulsively during weaker moments. Don’t intake alcohol or drugs as they may weaken your capability to reason and judge, and you may act out impulsively under the effect of alcohol or drugs.
- Ensure complete self-care – Try to indulge in a holistic self-care practice. While going for a body spa and head massage could be relaxing for your physical self, following some self relaxation exercises and yoga at home could help you relax your mind and spirit.
- Listen/Read inspiring stories – Knowing that there were people in your position who were thinking about ending their lives but did not do so, is motivational enough to keep up the fight. You will derive a sense of hope from their stories of strong will power to live and determination to build a positive future.
- Minimize isolation – Being in good company will help you alleviate loneliness and depression. While you are trying to socialize, remember that you have to let yourself get completely involved in the talks and discussions. Let your mind think about other things apart from suicidal thoughts.
- Understand your suicidal ideation – It is a good idea to engage with your thoughts and try to decipher what makes you think about ending your life. When you try to indulge with your thoughts, make sure you do it as a third person so your personal biases and prejudices towards your situation doesn’t interfere too much. As a decision like suicide is irreversible, it is quite essential to rationally understand and argue whether suicide is the only and absolute necessity in your situation. Often a debate with your thoughts will lead you to come up with various alternatives to suicide.
- Battling with suicidal thoughts – Though a person doesn’t have much control over the thoughts entering their mind, they certainly can exert a control over the damage done by those thoughts. Try not to use those thoughts as a measuring tool for how bad your situation is or how bad you feel etc. Try to break the pattern of those thoughts by distracting your mind or thinking about other positive things. You can also use techniques like positive imagery to distract yourself or do certain self soothing exercises.
- Keep yourself busy – Try to keep yourself preoccupied and busy with other constructive work. You may not feel like going to work but try to push yourself to do some constructive work which will serve as a distractor as well as give you some happiness. It could be something recreational, professional or even volunteering. Getting involved in some work will offer you food for thought as well which will help reduce the occurrence of suicidal thoughts.
- Plan to visit a therapist – Prepare yourself to visit a mental health expert. They are professionally trained to help and guide you to overcome the intense pain and suffering you are experiencing. They can systematically guide and initiate you on the road to recovery.
- Make an emergency POA- Create your personalized plan of action for surviving suicidal thoughts. You can discuss it with your loved ones, friends, family or therapist (if you already visit one) and do the following:
- Prepare a list of emergency contact numbers to call in acute distress – Please refer to the bottom of this article for some helpline numbers.
- Concrete plan for getting professional help – It is essential to decide beforehand about whom you will contact and how to make emergency appointments with the concerned person. You can also request someone to do it on your behalf.
- Resource reservoir – Create or collect some personal materials like pictures of loved ones, letters, notes to self, inspiring quotations etc. which can urge you to survive in the most distressing times. You could also think of writing or requesting others to write notes about how strong willed and determined you are, which may encourage you to hold on to life for some more time.
- Distractors – While the help is on the way, you should also keep doing something to distract yourself from acting out on your thoughts. You could watch a movie, listen to soft music, read a book etc.
- Make a promise of survival to yourself – Commit to yourself that you will not give up till the end. Promise yourself the best facilities, care, love and positivity to overcome the suicidal thoughts. Remind yourself of all the hardships that you have survived and came out strong. For the moment, consider this as just another one. Promise yourself that you will remain resilient to the best of your abilities and if you come across any weak moments you will immediately fall upon your POA.
ESSENTIAL NOTE: It is crucial to understand that you may feel constrained to carry out these ways to combat with suicidal thoughts. However, you have to stay strong and determined. Challenge yourself to know what stops you from helping yourself and getting help from other sources. Stay motivated to seek out for alternatives.
Surviving Suicidal Thoughts – Some Immediate Strategies
- Enter into a Time Out mode – Give yourself at least a 24 hour to preferably a week’s time out period. Remember that just because you feel like killing yourself right now doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to act upon it instantly. Create some time distance between your suicidal thoughts and suicidal action. Realize that you can hold on to this feeling for some more time without actually acting upon it.
- Follow the POA immediately – Resort to your plan of action immediately. Call to those people who were in your list to immediately seek help. In the meanwhile, distract yourself from those thoughts and just hold on while the help arrives. Remind yourself that ‘this too shall pass’.
- Reach Out for help at the earliest – Even though you may feel that nobody can really help you but the fact is that there is always ‘effective’ help out there. All you have to do is give yourself a chance to seek that help. Reach out to a mental health expert (preferably the one you finalized in your POA) and discuss your thoughts and concerns. Remember that it is just a ‘feeling’ and it is transitory in nature. With change in time and situation you will feel like staying alive again.
Process of Recovery
To say the least, battling with suicidal ideation is mentally draining and traumatic. The process of recovery takes time. Seeking help from a therapist where your thoughts and concerns are addressed in a constructive way will enhance your psychological health and wellbeing.
How can I help prevent a potential suicide attempt?
If you spot the following signs in someone you care, please don't ignore. Suicide prevention starts by recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously.
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Poor eating and sleeping patterns
- Substance Abuse
- Getting affairs in order
- Saying goodbyes
- Self loathing
- Seeking out lethal means
- Preoccupation with death
- Hopelessness about future
Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can't see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply confused about whether to end their own lives.
They wish there was an alternative to committing suicide, but they just can't see one. In such times, a nonjudgmental and empathic listening ear, an assurance of a brighter future and a little hope towards life can save a beautiful life from coming to a tragic end.
Remember they may not ask for help but that doesn't mean that help is not wanted. Most people who commit suicide don't want to die, they just want to get rid of the pain.
DON'T IGNORE SUICIDAL TALKS OR BEHAVIOR, IT IS A CRY FOR HELP.
Help is available: Family, friends and even at a professional level. If you're looking for a sign to not end your life, THIS IS IT!
Please contact us if you are feeling low, sad, disappointed, frustated, we are here to help you out.
- 1 860 266 2345 (24x7), +91 22 2754 6669 (24x7)
USA- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 or 911
UK - Samaritans UK at +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90
Australia - Suicide callback service at 1300 659 467
Canada - Distress Centre Niagara Ontario +1 (905) 688 3711
Singapore - Samaritans of Singapore 1800-221 4444
We are not associated with any of the Suicide Prevention helpline mentioned above. The contact details mentioned can be outdated sometime, so please make sure to get their latest contact details from internet. This could be a good reference to find a helpline.