Like mental health conditions, suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition, or it can be a multifaceted decision with no clear rhyme or reason. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and discuss this highly stigmatized topic. It’s important to change public perception and provide vital information and hope to people affected by suicide. Individuals, friends and families should have access to resources to discuss suicide prevention and seek help when they need it.
In addition to suicide prevention being a year-round issue, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month gives us a dedicated opportunity to address this difficult issue together. Having honest conversations about mental health conditions and suicide is beneficial to all of us because even one conversation can change a life.
According to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Line, “Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.”
Don’t be afraid to talk to your friend or family member about what they’re going through if they have suicidal ideation day-to-day. Keep an open mind and be compassionate when they speak to you. Try active listening techniques, such as reflecting on their feelings and summarizing their thoughts, instead of “arguing” or disproving any negative statements they make. You can help your loved one feel heard and validated by doing this.
Inform them that mental health professionals are trained to help people understand their feelings and improve their mental wellness. It is possible for an individual with suicidal thoughts to benefit from psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy, which can help them identify ineffective patterns of thinking and behavior, validate their feelings, and learn effective coping strategies. Just like any other symptom, suicidal thoughts can be treated and improved over time.
Having suicidal thoughts can be a frightening experience. However, we can avoid devastating outcomes by reaching out for help or checking in with family and friends.
According to the CDC and NIMH, nearly 46,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2020 alone. Comments or thoughts about suicide, also called suicidal ideation, can start small, such as “I wish I wasn’t here” or “Nothing matters.” As time passes, they may become more explicit and dangerous.
According to the CDC and NIMH, here are a few warning signs to look for:
Increased alcohol and drug use
Withdrawal from friends, family and community
Dramatic mood swings
Impulsive or reckless behavior
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call or text 988 immediately.
If you are uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988lifeline.org.
You can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the crisis text line.
Suicide is not the answer. There is hope.