The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is all about suicide prevention. Today I’m answering some of the questions I most frequently get asked on this topic, including how you can prevent your own suicide and loved ones who are at/approaching this crisis point.
How can I avoid getting to the point of feeling suicidal?
My own experience of this, and from working with clients for a very long time, is that people feel suicidal when they don’t see any other options; when they don’t see any other way out and they get to a place where they think that change just isn’t possible.
Find some faith in recovery or that things can change no matter where you are on that journey. Our perception of our lives and our belief systems are literally the most powerful tool that we have.
There is a real misconception that we need to be in front of somebody – somebody like me – who can “fix” you. Really the truth is that we need to fix ourselves and we need to become empowered to recognise and remove the obstacles that are between us and the goals that we want to achieve. In doing that, we can move forward. So if you are in a dark place, two things to say to you is that first of all, you are not alone as so many of us have been there and have come through the other side, and the other is to not give up because things can always get better and often do. Just because it hasn’t happened yet, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to.
Some of those darkest moments in my life have been where I have learned the most about myself and grown the most. It’s put me in a position where I can more deeply empathise with other people who are suffering. As much as it doesn’t feel like that right now, then maybe at some point in the future that you look back on this time and realise that you have learned something from it.
How do we identify the other choices available to us rather than committing suicide?
If you are unclear about what the way is right now, it doesn’t mean the way won’t be shown to you at some point. The biggest thing that I struggled with, particularly in early recovery, was that if I couldn’t see a solution or if I didn’t know right then how something was going to change and help me, then I didn’t think it could happen.
What I have learned is that actually, I just need to have faith that the way – whatever that might be – will be shown to me and that the universe – something bigger than myself – has a better idea about what’s meant for me than I do. Whenever I am wrestling with life and trying to control my experience and all the events that are happening to me, that’s when I really need to stop, let go and allow myself to get back into a place of “go with the flow”. Even if I can’t see exactly how the solutions are going to be shown to me, I just trust that they will.
I don’t want to tell my loved ones that I am feeling suicidal because I am worried about upsetting them.
As soon as you say that sentence out loud, just give yourself a moment to imagine that one of the people who you love and care about most is thinking the same thing and how you might feel about that. As soon as we put ourselves in the other position, we can recognise how flawed that thinking often is and actually we should be worried and concerned about the people who we love and care about – that’s part of what it is to be in human connection with others. Connecting with somebody else when they are in pain is an opportunity for us to demonstrate real love, real care, real empathy, and it’s not something to be ashamed of.
Sometimes we have learned, through whatever our experiences have been, to be deeply ashamed of our own vulnerabilities and frailties and that includes being in a really dark place; feeling somehow that we have got this shameful secret that we need to keep secret, otherwise it is going to hurt and affect everybody else. As soon as we open up and make a connection with other people, that’s when a bit of light comes in.
How can I help someone that I think may be suicidal?
The most important thing about suicide is for us to not be frightened of it and not to ignore it. When people are feeling unsafe, having really dark thoughts or considering taking their lives, we should take it seriously as they are not in a position to action help so they seek help from other people.
Sometimes we can worry about breaking confidentiality of friends disclosing it to us and I think under those circumstances, it can be a positive thing letting your friend know you are really concerned and that you decided collectively they need help to deal with this situation.
So often when people feel suicidal, it’s because they feel like there is no way out; that they don’t have choices and actually we always have choices. We sometimes lose sight of what those might be and getting somebody involved who can help that person suffering to identify what their choices can be the turning point.
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