There are times when you might feel totally helpless and overwhelmed with life’s challenges. You may feel as if the pain you are experiencing will not end and the only way to overcome it is to engage suicide.
Having thoughts of killing yourself can be scary and confusing.
Many people feel suicidal at some point in their lives. When you start having suicidal thoughts, it usually indicates that you are experiencing more pain or sadness than you can cope with. Many survivors of suicide attempts are ultimately relieved that they did not end their lives realizing the importance of the gift called life.
At the time of attempting suicide, they experienced intense feelings of despair and hopelessness. They felt as if they had lost control over their lives and the only thing they could control was whether they lived or died. Committing suicide was the only thing that seemed right to them then. (1)
Feelings are transient; they will pass. Suicide is a double disaster, not only does it prematurely end your life, but it will also cause despair for your loved ones left behind.
If you, a friend or a family member is suicidal, seek immediate help from a mental health professional.
In addition, here are some coping mechanisms to help you overcome suicidal thoughts:
- Promise yourself not to do anything right now. Make a promise to yourself to wait a day or a week before converting your suicidal thoughts into action. There is no deadline; nobody is pushing you to act on your thoughts. They can wait.
- Focus your attention on your senses. When you start feeling suicidal, divert your attention to your five senses. Look at something peaceful or relaxing. It can be a photograph or a spot in your garden you love to sit at, your favorite TV series or a film. Smell your favorite perfume or soap. Eat your favorite dish and savor the taste. Rub your hand against your silky pillow or stroke your pet. Give yourself a head massage. Focusing your mind on your body will help you calm down.
- Focus on your breathing. Keep reminding yourself that staying alive for this moment is what you are supposed to do right now. Your only responsibility is to keep breathing. Take one long breath after another. You will eventually notice that the painful thoughts start to diminish.
- Distract yourself. Concentrate on the present moment. When you are engulfed with suicidal thoughts, shift your focus to something else and only concentrate on what you are doing. Get out and take a walk in a park, go for a jog or swim, watch a movie, take a shower, listen to music, read inspiring books, or go shopping.
- This too shall pass. Tell yourself, "I can get through this," or "I have coped with such situations in the past. This will also pass, and I will survive."
- Ask questions. Ask yourself whether your thoughts are facts or just your assumptions. What is it that can make you feel better? What has helped to make you feel better during painful times in the past? What are your dreams and goals? What made you hold on to working towards things that made you happy for so long? Just think and try to overcome your difficult situation.
- Reach out for help. Every person who is even remotely feeling suicidal should find someone in their life to reach out to. It could be a friend, a therapist, a mentor, a family doctor, or a coach. Talk with someone you trust before taking any destructive step. Develop a plan and share it with the ones you would call for help when in need. Make sure your plan covers all possible adverse scenarios and solutions to them. At times, you may just need to call them to hear their voice to get over the feeling of loneliness. Don’t let fear, shame or embarrassment stop you from getting help.
- Connect with people. When you are feeling suicidal, don’t stay isolated. Call someone to stay over at your place. Visit friends and family. Be around people who are positive and active. Find support groups where you can meet people who are in the same boat as you. Share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. Talking can help release a lot of pressure that has been building up inside. If you feel you do not have anyone to talk to, call a suicide helpline.
- Keep yourself safe. Make sure you do not have access to any means to commit suicide. Give sharp objects or weapons like knives, razors, scissors, guns or any poisonous substances to someone for safekeeping. Throw away all medicines that you are no longer taking. Keep only small quantities of those you take regularly.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. Most of the times, suicides are the result of uncontrolled impulses. Drugs and alcohol make you more impulsive, so steer clear of them when you are experiencing pain and suicidal thoughts.
- Create a list of positive things. Every day, take time to write down positive things about yourself. Also, make a list of things that you are grateful for such as your family, your friends, your children, your job, the activities you enjoy, etc. Write about your hopes for the future. Read it when you start getting suicidal thoughts. This will help you remind yourself why your life is important.
- Make a list of things that are important to you. Make a list of things that are important to you to have when you need it. The idea is to have this list in the event of suicidal thoughts. Looking at the list can deter you from taking any disastrous step. Write down things like: "My kids need me," or "My parents need me to survive." Keep this list handy and refer to it when you feel suicidal.
- Practice self-care. Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat properly, get a good night’s sleep (sleep deprivation alters your perspective on everything), get some fresh air and sunlight, and avoid situations or people who stress you out.
- Include positive activities in your life. Join a hobby class, learn a new skill or language, get a library membership, attend music concerts, or involve yourself in a theater. Try to include activities that make you happy. It will also help keep you busy, leaving you less to ponder about suicidal thoughts.
- Give your time to the needy and less fortunate. When you help others, it helps you cope with thoughts of suicide or self-harm. This is because it lets you focus on something beyond your troubles. And in the process, you end up feeling better.
- Believe in a better future. Countless people who have experienced what you are going through have gotten past their suicidal feelings. Give yourself the time needed, and you will live through these feelings, no matter how hopeless they might seem.
- Realize that suicide will not solve your problems. Many times, people feel suicide is the only way out of their problems. You may feel that the pain in life will never go away. What you need to realize is that the problems and pain are temporary. Life will always present challenges. You just need to ask for help to find healthy ways to deal with them.
- Keep a tab on warning signs. Pay attention to warning signs of your suicidal thoughts. This will help you recognize the triggers early on and can help you take action ahead of time. Inform your family and friends regarding the warning signs, so they can also help you.
Note: The content has been edited and reviewed by Angela Webb, Licensed Psychologist.
1. Nock, K. M, Borges, et al. Suicide and Suicidal Behavior. OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/epirev/article/30/1/133/621357. Published July 24, 2008.