Surviving Suicidal Thoughts
A risky habit
Suicidal intentions are prompted by a desperate need for relief from intensely painful feelings. Surviving suicidal thoughts is about learning how to find relief without resorting to suicide.
Simply having suicidal thoughts does not mean you will act on them. However, the habit of repeatedly thinking about suicide is a risky one. Repetition brings a sense of falsely comforting familiarity. It dulls the instinctive recoil from danger. Though it may be difficult, hold on to the belief that there ARE ways to resist depression and find relief.
Making a safety plan
A personalised Safety Plan helps you plan ahead for the times when you may feel particularly low and at risk of acting on your suicidal thoughts. It is a way to personalise and summarise the possible strategies for taking care of yourself.
Make a commitment to yourself
When you notice thoughts of suicide, challenge the self-bullying habit and make a commitment to taking care of yourself as best you possibly can for the moment. Remind yourself to follow your Safety Plan if you have made one, or you can use the general safety plan set out on the ‘Feeling like you want to die?’ page.
Attend to your self care needs
Suicidal thoughts arise as a result of deeply painful feelings of despair and hopelessness. Recognise the pain you are feeling as something which needs a compassionate and caring response. Practise constructive ways to take care of yourself when you are feeling this way (see ‘Taking care of yourself’ for ideas about self care and self soothing).
Tell someone how you’re feeling
Tell someone else how you are feeling or get someone to be with you. Be prepared for non-professionals to be shocked by what you tell them, and don’t expect a ‘perfect’ response – it is always better to make human contact than to stay isolated and alone with your thoughts.
Reduce the risks
Protect yourself from impulsively acting on your thoughts by putting dangerous objects out of immediate reach. Preferably give pills, weapons etc to someone else for safe-keeping, but even putting them in a locked or inaccessible place makes it a little harder to act impulsively.
Plan to get professional help
It is unreasonable to see suicide as the only solution if you haven’t sought any professional help for your depression and suicidal thinking. Doctors and counsellors help many people move on from depression. and get appropriate help. You may need to challenge yourself about what’s stopping you getting help.
Check medication side effects
Be aware that some anti-depressant medication can increase the risk of suicidal thinking, especially when you first start taking them. Also, when the medication first starts taking effect it can increase your energy and motivation before improving your mood, increasing the risk of acting on suicidal thoughts. Talk to your doctor about the risks and be extra vigilant with other strategies for keeping yourself safe.
Check alchohol and drugs
Both alcohol and drugs tend to reduce your inhibitions and make it more likely you could do something you will regret the next day. Check your alcohol/drug consumption and try to cut down. Try not to drink alone or to end up alone after drinking.
Minimise time spent alone
Depression and suicidal thinking thrive in isolation. Try to minimise time spent alone in your room – take work to the library, ask friends to be with you at vulnerable times, make plans ahead for weekends and other lonelier times, generally work on building your support networks.
Start breaking the suicidal thinking habit
We can’t stop thoughts from entering our heads, but we can stop actively inviting them in. Try to stop using thoughts of suicide as a barometer for how bad you are feeling. Use self soothing or distraction techniques (see ‘Focusing outward’) when you notice thoughts about suicide bothering you, or practise other techniques for challenging depressed thinking.