Admitting you feel like killing yourself is terrifying. And, it can make you feel painfully guilty; “what about all the people who care about you?” your mind might say.
The truth is that suicidal urges are a natural reaction to a very difficult set of circumstances. And, whilst it can help knowing that wanting to kill yourself is natural, it probably isn’t enough to stop you from seeing it through. So, what do you do?
I can’t stop you killing yourself, but I can help you find hope…and that is not nothing…
When I decided to write this post for you, I knew that it would be challenging. “How could I write something to stop you from killing yourself?” I don’t know you. I don’t know your circumstances. At yet, I also think it is important to write about what to do when you feel suicidal.
This article is not about the usual advice. I’m not going to say, go and see your Doctor or go to the hospital. You know this already right?
I’m trying to imagine this happening to me…feeling so terrified that the only option left for me is to kill myself. I’d feel like I was losing control. And then, I imagine going to see a medic where I risk surrendering more control. When I think about that, I get it. I get how scary it can be to reach out to professionals when you feel suicidal.
How I’ve tried to help people when they feel suicidal
When people have told me they feel suicidal, I’ve tried to listen. This is important. The last thing you need when you tell someone this painful truth is for them to overreact. You need calm, patience, understanding and, maybe, some guidance. I think that is what I would need.
When I’ve listened, tried to empathise and when I’ve tried to connect with people, they’ve thanked me. They’ve told me how much they appreciate it.
These experiences have taught me something valuable. No matter how helpless or hopeless a person feels, they still need to have some control. If I take that away from them, then it doesn’t help them to work through what they’re feeling.
Now, I realise whilst you’re reading this, I can’t listen to you. And that limits my ability to help you here and now. But there is something else I can do. I can help you understand your own suicidal thoughts. I can help you validate these urges. And, I can help you connect with some other parts of yourself so you can sow some seeds of hope within yourself. And, that is not nothing.
You may hate hearing it, but feeling suicidal can be a natural reaction
You may hate it, but feeling suicidal is a natural reaction to a difficult set of circumstances. It is your mind’s way of trying to fix a problem. And, suicide offers an escape from your inner turmoil.
People take their own lives for different reasons. And these reasons are complex. You may be feeling lonely, ashamed or chronically stressed. It might look like you can’t cope any more, people don’t care, that you’re on your own or that you can’t imagine living with the shame.
Shit happens. And, a lot of shit can happen. You’ve probably suffered a great deal. Relationships have broken down, jobs have been lost, you’re in debt or people have died. The urge to kill yourself hasn’t come from nowhere.
And, I bet you’ve tried to make the best of the situation. I bet you’ve tried lots of things to help you feel better. If you’re feeling suicidal, it is because none of these solutions have worked.
Nearly 7000 people kill themselves every year in the UK. More men kill themselves than women. And those in poverty with little opportunity to change their situation are more likely to kill themselves. Suicide is a problem of inequality. Society’s social and economic problems are an important factor we shouldn’t ignore.
There is a lot we don’t know about how to stop people from killing themselves, but there are some things we do know. We know how to work out your level of risk. For example, many people think about killing themselves and don’t go through with it. So, if you’re just having suicidal thoughts like “I wish I was dead” or “I can’t go on”, then this is less risky than when you’ve made a plan.
This is how professionals assess risk of suicide. They ask if:
- You’ve made plans
- If you’ve tried before
- If you’ve bought anything to assist you in taking your own life.
The further along your plans, the more danger there is. But apart from working out how close you are to killing yourself, what else is there?
Who is to blame? Feeling suicidal is not your fault
Can I ask you a question?
When I said earlier that society is to blame for feeling suicidal, what did you feel? Did you believe me?
Sometimes it is hard to blame society. You might think “well other people are dealing with it, why can’t I?”. Well, they might be dealing with it fine for now, but we don’t know if that will change. Everyone has a breaking point. That point where you feel you can’t go on.
There are many things about society that are stacked up against you. People who are rich and powerful have more opportunity. They had a well-funded education that meant they could get better paid jobs. They don’t have to struggle with doing more than one job just to make ends meet, and they don’t suffer the effect of low wages or pay-freezes.
Governments that choose to neglect funding public services are leaving you to your own devices. They aren’t taking responsibility for financial crises that led to higher levels of national debt. After all, it was the failure to regulate banking practices that led to people getting into debt. Societies that have bigger gaps between the rich and the poor, are also societies that have bigger public health problems. You’re more likely to suffer emotionally and psychologically when you see that society isn’t fair.
Getting Angry can help…it can really help
Let’s pause for a moment…
What are you noticing? Are you feeling anything? Do you feel angry?
I feel angry. It’s not right and it’s not fair. I don’t want to sound like a child complaining, but it really is a big cause of your suffering.
I’m going to ask you to do something else for yourself. I’m going to ask you to think about what else makes you angry.
I want to ask you to look back at what has happened in your life recently and in the months and years gone by. And, the reason I’m asking you to do this is that I think it can help. You see, although you might not want to feel angry right now, it can help you to feel less suicidal.
So, if you’re willing, please let your mind go back to things that have happened in your life that you feel angry about. Think about what people have said to you. Think about what people have done. Or what people have failed to do. And, think about stuff that just happened that wasn’t anyone’s fault specifically. Will you do this? Will you write it down?
Once you’ve done that, please read on.
Anger tells you what is important
There is a purpose to your anger. Anger tells you what is important. You feel it when your expectations are not met. For example, when:
- People don’t do what you think they should do
- You don’t get what you feel you deserve
- You don’t get what you need from people or the world
- When people cross a line
And, just because you didn’t shout or fight back, doesn’t mean you weren’t or aren’t angry.
Anger is a feeling, not an action. Acting aggressively or standing up for yourself is not anger. That is what you can do when you feel angry. Other ways of dealing anger might be to keep it inside. You might freeze, because you’re also scared.
Well done for getting this far
I’d like to compliment you on reading this far. You’re doing really well. Getting into your feelings of anger and wanting to kill yourself is frightening. And, yet here you are…acting bravely by opening yourself up to these painful memories. Well done!
You felt pride once
OK…I don’t know that. But, I’m hoping you felt proud once. Even if it was just for a moment. Probably, at least once, you felt some pride for a moment. When was that? Where were you? What happened?
Again, if you’re willing, will you think about that here and now?
You were willing to think about what has made you angry. Are you now willing to remind yourself of when you felt proud?
You may have some hesitation. This is natural, because reminding yourself of when you’ve felt proud is also scary. Because, when you do this, you also open yourself up to remembering what you’ve lost. You open-up to feeling sad or feelings of hurt. And these can be painful.
Just like anger, sadness and hurt also have a purpose. You feel sadness when you connect with what you’ve lost or never had. You feel hurt when you look underneath your anger. Hurt reminds you of your humanity and your vulnerability. Often, you try to hide this from people in case they hurt you again. Its protective.
But, something negative happens when you bury these feelings. You get numb. This is what depression is all about…numbing out from your pain. And depression is what usually shows up before you feel suicidal.
Burying your sadness and your hurt is natural. It hurts right. And, it means you don’t have to feel it so closely. But, what if I told you that your sadness and your hurt is something to be proud of? What would you think?
What you find most painful is just one side of the coin. On the other side is what you care about most deeply. When I think about when I’ve felt deeply sad and hurt, it has been when I’ve been rejected by people I loved and I admired. I wanted so much to be close to them and they rejected me.
It hurts to think about it. And, yet it also tells me what is deeply important to me. It tells me that having a companion is what I want in my life. I want to be connected and to have someone I can share everything with. My painful memories are a clue to what I want and what I need to focus on to make my life better.
So, where is your pain located? What memories show up for you when you think about your sadness and your hurt?
And, what do these memories tell you about what is most important to you?
I’ll be honest with you again. Just because you value something or want to be close to someone, doesn’t mean you can. You can’t go back in time and do something different. You may have to let go of what has been and gone. And, yes, that is incredibly painful.
And, yet, that isn’t hopeless. Because, you can do something else. You can start to move in the direction of what you want. One small step is all you need to take. One small step today. And then one small step tomorrow.
What do you care about the most in life?
I don’t know what you identified as being important. It might be something like family, caring, love, ambition, success, achievement or trust. Whatever it is, try to step over your fears about doing something in this part of your life. Try to step over what scares you and do one small thing in that direction.
Depending on what you value, you might do the following:
- Family – Phone up someone you’ve not spoken to in a while
- Caring – Do something small for someone like make them a meal. Think about what they might appreciate and do that for them
- Love – Give someone you care about a hug or tell them you love them
- Ambition – Do something outside your comfort zone at work or learn something you’ve been too afraid to do before
- Achievement – Write a plan to get something done. Write down what you’ll do and when you’ll do it
- Trust – Share something with someone, something you’ve kept to yourself.
Try to be brave by doing one small thing today. And, try to be brave by doing something small tomorrow. Keep going. Keep putting one foot in front of the other in the direction of what you care about.
Six Steps that may make you want to stay alive
This won’t make the urge to kill yourself go away. But what you’ll do is focus your attention on what you care about. So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember the following steps:
- Tell yourself that feeling like you want to kill yourself is natural. Say it gently and say it kindly like you would to a friend.
- Remind yourself that a lot has happened in your life that was not your fault. Life isn’t fair and neither is the world around you. Society lets people down.
- Seek out your anger by remembering things that have happened. Write down what people have said or done that has made you angry. Write down things that just happened that were no one’s fault and made you angry.
- Remember when you felt proud about something you did. It can be anything. Maybe it was something you did for someone you care about or barely know. Maybe it was something you did at work or at school. Remember feeling proud.
- Remember what has made you sad and has hurt you. Make some space for these painful memories instead of burying them. And, use those feelings to clarify what you care about most. These feelings tell you what kind of life you want to have.
- Do one small thing today that moves your feet in the direction of what you care about. Be brave and step over your fears. Do one small thing today and do something else tomorrow.
I really hope you’ve found this article of help. Please do leave your comments below and share with anyone you think would benefit.
If you want someone to talk to, I highly recommend Samaritans. In my opinion, they are one of the most important organisations on the planet. If you need to talk, give them a call. And, to work with a therapist you can get in touch with us. We’ll see you in-person here in Birmingham or online using a secure and simple video-hook-up.