What You Can Do
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts:
Recovery from the negative thoughts and feelings that made you want to end your life is possible. There are things that are in your control that can help your recovery.
- Create a safety plan: This plan should include signs that may indicate suicidal thoughts or feelings returning, when to seek additional help, the contact information for your doctor, a therapist and a trusted friend.
- Build a support system: Support is a key factor in recovering from a suicide attempt and preventing another one in the future.
- Learn to live again: The world can look like a pretty bleak place and might be a little overwhelming right now. Give yourself time to feel comfortable again. One of the best ways to do this is to get into a daily routine.
- Reach out for help if you experience continued thoughts of suicide: You can reach out to multiple sources like your doctor, your mental health professional or a friend. It really doesn't matter who as long as it's someone you trust. If there is no one you can think of, you can always reach out to the national crisis line at 1.800.273.TALK or 1.800.273.8255.
- Listen closely and carefully to the advice you receive from others: It can be hard to have someone tell you how to live your life, but sometimes being under pressure and focusing on getting healthy makes it hard to make good decisions, especially if you are still having thoughts of suicide. These people offering advice might have a more realistic view of the whole situation.
- Remove the means for hurting yourself from your environment: It's better to not have these things around. If you take medication, continue to take the prescribed dose; however, maybe have someone else hold the medication for you or keep a few days worth of medication on hand at a time. Other means of self harm, such as firearms, are best left with a trusted friend or family member for the time being.
- Identify what sets off or starts the suicidal thoughts for you: Make a plan to minimize the effect of these triggers in your life. If you can avoid the triggers it's best to do so, but reality is that is not always possible. Another option is to train yourself to respond differently, or to involve allies and friends in that situation ahead of time.
- Learn about mental illness: Mental illness is common in people who die by suicide or attempt suicide. While it can be scary, the best way to work towards recovery is learning about what causes suicidal thoughts and how to treat the illness.
- Learn about crisis hotlines: Hotlines provide you with a trained person to talk to when you are having suicidal thoughts 24 hours a day.
- Participate in a mutual peer-support group: Learning from others and sharing your experience can make a big difference in the way you think about your life. It may also help save the life of someone else.
- Get involved in life: Find a hobby such as listening to music, watching your favorite movie or collecting things. Hobbies that involve interacting with others is a good idea.
If you suspect a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts:
It can be hard talking about suicidal thoughts but below are some things that may help.
- Learn the warning signs and risk factors of suicide prevention.
- Ask the person directly if they are thinking about suicide. Most people experiencing suicidal thoughts want to talk to someone about their feelings but don't know how to start the conversation.
- Use the word "suicide" when asking the question. Often people who are thinking about suicide don't think of the phrase "hurting yourself" as you asking them if they are planning on dying by suicide. Many people with a suicide plan see death as a way to end their pain and don't think of it as hurting themselves. Thus are likely to respond no to such question.
- Don't leave the person alone until they seek professional help. You may need to enlist several other people in the support network to make this possible. Just being present is helpful, don't feel you need to have the answers to the person's problems.
- Offer to go get help with the person experiencing suicidal thoughts. Just as talking about suicide is scary to you as a helper, it is also scary to the person experiencing these thoughts. Knowing you care enough to go with eases the pain and isolation for both parties.
- Listen. Providing support for the person experiencing suicidal thoughts is important. As hard as it is it's important to listen to the reasons for that person to want to live as well as why they want to die.
- After listening, helping the person experiencing suicidal thoughts expand on the reasons to live can connect them more to finding their want to live. Most people who are suicidal have reasons of wanting to live and die right up to a death.
- Enlist help. Informal help can be family, friends or co-workers. These people can be a great support to the person experiencing suicidal thoughts as well as to you. It is important that a person experiencing suicidal thoughts also seek a source of formal support such as physician, mental health provider or psychiatrist. These people can prescribe medication and use talk therapy to assist someone thinking about suicide.