Suicide is a sensitive subject regardless of what you know, think you know, or don’t know about it. Those who have been taken by it are always taken from us too soon. And the people it leaves behind, the family, friends, and cherished loved ones, are always left with immeasurable pain, heartache, and confusion. It is always a tragedy. It is always unfair. And my belief is that it is always preventable.
Which is we need to change the way we think and talk about suicide. Right now, even the mere mention of the word in social situations can be uncomfortable. It’s largely because suicide is so heavily stigmatized, which by definition means “disgraced.” To be perfectly clear, there is nothing disgraceful about feeling so low and defeated that you are suicidal. Suicidal thoughts are nothing to be ashamed of, but they are something to be taken very seriously.
Yes. It is a difficult topic for us to talk about. But we have to talk about it.
If you’re feeling suicidal, please please please consider these ten ways to get yourself out of that dark place and step back into the light.
1. Reach out to a friend or family member
Even if you aren’t ready to be upfront about how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking, reaching out to someone you care about is such a great way to begin the process of getting unstuck from those feelings and thoughts. It’s been absolutely crucial for me in times of crisis, and it remains to be one of the best tools in my arsenal. Whether you ask for some generic support without being too specific or simply take comfort in a normal conversation, it’s so important to lean on the people that are around you. It can be a text exchange, an old-school phone call, or an in-person meetup (if you’re feeling up to it), but reminding yourself that you are loved is immeasurably helpful.
2. Hug an animal
Sometimes being around other people can feel like too much work during times of suicidal thoughts. Depression is exhausting. It is mentally and physically draining, and summoning the energy to be social may seem like it would exacerbate the gloom and darkness you feel surrounded by. But physical connection really does have phenomenal benefits. Hugging and cuddling and the like release a hormone in our brains called oxytocin, which has been known as the love hormone. The result of this release is a lowered heart rate and lower stress levels, and can’t we all use that at our lowest points? Even if you don’t have an animal, you might be able to go to a local shelter. And if that isn’t a possibility, at the very least you can look up adorable animals posted on the internet!
3. Go to a public place
Being in public is a helpful tool to use against the scary and dangerous suicidal thoughts that seem so pervasive in your mind. It allows you to be around other people even if you don’t communicate directly with any of them. It’s kind of like having company without the pressure of needing to “perform” and pretend you aren’t upset. This option might not work for everyone because being alone in a crowded place can potentially make us feel more alone, so remember to do what’s best for you. But when you think you’re going to act on your thoughts, being in public is safer than being alone.
4. Distract yourself
One way to fight off the demons is to not think about them. To not acknowledge them. To not give them the power. So learning to distract yourself is absolutely necessary. You can listen to upbeat music or find new artists to download. You can read a book, especially an old favorite that only requires the right amount of concentration. You can make some art, do some writing, or be creative in whatever way you like. You can learn a new hobby by watching YouTube videos, you can find a deck of cards and play solitaire, you can break out your old legos and build something. Cleaning sometimes helps calm me down because it can be mindless but still allow me to feel productive, so if you can be up and moving, that’s a great option. And if your bed feels too safe to leave, you can always scroll through your favorite websites. It might be a good idea to stay away from social media, where people tend to only post the good things (unless looking at people’s exclusively good things makes you happy!). But if you’re laying in bed distracting yourself, don’t forget to try and get up and shower. Taking a really hot or really cold shower is a helpful distraction because your body can’t process dramatic changes in temperature while also panicking.
5. Get your thoughts out on paper
I know this also falls under the “distract yourself” category, but it also warrants its own bullet point. Journaling can help you get in touch with why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling, which can potentially help you overcome it all. In general, journaling helps us get around the emotional barriers we are faced with and helps us straighten out our minds, which can be very messy and confusing places. If you don’t have a journal or if writing isn’t for you, you can still find any random piece of paper and scribble down a few thoughts. It might be cathartic to rip the paper to shreds when you’re done in a symbolic sort of purification, too. It’s important to be careful, though. If your thoughts are morbid, ruminating on them could be even more dangerous than trying to let them go. You know yourself best, so do what’s right for you.
6. Do some form of physical activity
Getting up and moving might not be what you want to do. It might even seem unattainable. But I definitely suggest at least trying. Working out gets your blood flowing and can serve to remind us that we’re alive and breathing. And sometimes that reminder is vital to winning the battle of making it another day. Not to mention the added benefit of endorphins, another chemical in our bodies that reduces stress and makes us feel good. If you can get up and walk around, do it. Punching a punching bag (or your pillow, which is definitely more accessible!) gets your anger and emotional pain out in a healthy way. If that isn’t something you can do, try stretching.
7. Absorb the good
I know it doesn’t feel like it, but the world is still full of good. There are positive things worth living for. It’s hard to find them in your current state. I know. And if you feel hopeless and helpless, that’s valid because your feelings are your feelings and they’re always valid. But finding the positives is what you need to do, now more than ever. I can imagine you’re finding it hard to think of such things yourself, so I suggest googling some pre-written lists. Or you can do what usually makes you happy (or what used to make you happy if it’s been a while since you’ve felt genuinely happy. Do those things, even if you cry while doing them. Then, plan to make a list of life’s positives and fun things once you’re feeling better. That might seem like it’ll be lightyears away, but maybe having something to look forward to can be your motivation.
8. Utilize your phone/technology
There are lots of apps for Android and iPhone that were designed to help people through crisis moments. Some that I like to use are Calm Harm, Clear Fear, Rootd, and What’s Up. These are great because you can use them wherever you are, whenever negativity strikes and the world starts to feel like too much. We always have our phones on us (or most of us do!), so why not turn them into tools we can use to ward off the darkness? Gaming apps are also great. Puzzle games, online games, or any game, really. I’ve even downloaded silly kid’s games in the past, just so I could use them to get through the bad times.
9. Call a suicide hotline
If you need help urgently, there are suicide hotlines you can call. There are people specifically trained to help those in your situation, people who understand and care and can provide you with the support you need and deserve. Suicide hotlines take action to get you out of crisis mode, and most even follow up with you afterward. Here’s a comprehensive list of numbers in case you need them.
10. Go to the emergency room
When nothing else seems to be working, and you don’t know what else to do or how else to keep yourself safe, you need to go to the nearest hospital immediately. If that’s what it takes to keep yourself safe then you have to do it. The idea of being hospitalized is probably scary for anyone, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. And taking the necessary steps to do what you have to do is brave and admirable.
Suicide leaves its sinister mark on all who have been affected by it and is therefore a topic that must be taken seriously and dealt with carefully. The stigma attached to suicidal feelings must be driven away, and soon, because of the devastating loss it brings. We have to start paying attention to those we think might be feeling suicidal because if we don’t, it leads to unthinkable sorrow. We have to fight society’s plague of suicidality bit by bit in order to make the world a safer place for those with depression and other mental illnesses. We owe this to all those who have unfortunately been claimed by suicide.
Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. It doesn’t make it so things can’t get worse, but it does make it so they can’t ever get better. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, the most important thing to remember is that there is always help, there is always hope, you are NEVER as alone as you think you are. Let me repeat that: you are not alone. And as generic as that may sound, if you really let yourself sit with those words, say them aloud if you have to, maybe you’ll feel better. I hope you’ll feel better.
If nothing else, please please know that I want you to stay.