Many people struggle with suicidal thoughts from time to time, some more than others. At times, it can seem like the thoughts will never pass. Nothing will change. However, most of the time, our suicidal thoughts ease, and we do feel better again. In the meantime, here are some suggestions to help you handle your suicidal thoughts.
When You Have Suicidal Thoughts
Things to do
Talk with someone every day.
When we feel very depressed, it’s tempting to withdraw and avoid everyone. But that only makes things worse. Try to speak with someone at least once every day. You could call someone, or ask friends, acquaintances or family members to contact you. If possible, meet up and talk face-to-face; otherwise, a phone call or video meeting will suffice. You could also call the Samaritans (116 123) or a similar crisis support line.
Make a safety plan
Make a list of people you can reach out to and steps you can follow when you’re in crisis. Include the names and numbers of trusted friends, your GP, therapist and any helplines you use. That way, when you are in a crisis and not thinking straight, all the numbers are to hand.
Your list can also include safe activities that help you ground and relax. These might include things such as breathing exercises, mindfulness activities, or grounding strategies. It could also include practical things like “have a cup of cocoa”, “stroke my dog” or even “cuddle teddy”.
Have a routine
Have a daily routine, and stick to it. Write it down, so you don’t forget. Keeping a regular routine can help maintain a sense of normality and give order to your day. It helps keep a sense of calmness and control in your life. This is particularly helpful at the present when COVIS-19 has caused so much disruption to our normal routine.
Spend time in nature
Getting out in the open air and connecting with the natural world has proven mental health benefits. It’s effective in lifting our mood while reducing the severity of anxiety, depression and other mental health difficulties. Sunshine also helps our bodies produce more vitamin-D, lifting mood and boosting the immune system.
Regular exercise has also been shown to significantly improve both mental and physical health, lift depression and reduce anxiety. The NHS recommends around 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week, in 30-minute blocks.
Make time for simple pleasures
Make time to do the things you enjoy or which make you smile. Even if there is nothing you can say gives you real pleasure any more, make time for any of the small things that feel even slightly positive.
Set personal goals
Setting realistic goals helps build a sense of achievement as you complete them. They should be small enough to be achievable, even if slightly challenging. For example, “going to the shop for a pint of milk” might be an appropriate goal if you find it hard to get out of the house. “Complete a marathon” probably wouldn’t be (unless you were thinking of a chocolate bar).
Keep a gratitude diary
Keep a written record of things that make you smile or can be grateful for. They don’t need to be big things: my list included “seeing daisies in the park,” “the sound of children playing,” and “fresh crusty bread.” Include anything that makes you smile or gives you a positive feeling. Make sure you write them down though and aim for three things a day (they don’t have to be different every day).
Things to avoid
Solitude and loneliness can make depression and suicidal ideations worse. Visit a friend or family member, phone, Zoom or Skype someone, or call a crisis helpline. Many services operate a drop-in where you can meet with someone for a chat. Check out services near you.
Drugs and alcohol
It’s all too easy to be tempted to “drown our sorrows” or go for a “pick-up” when we are depressed. However, alcohol and many drugs can increase anxiety, depression and paranoia while reducing your ability to rationally. As a result, you’re much more likely to act impulsively and in ways that are unlikely to help your mood.
Things that make you feel worse
It’s generally better to avoid listening to sad or depressive music, looking at certain photographs, social media pages or other reminders of difficult times, when you are feeling low and vulnerable. Similarly, visiting old haunts or special places, or the grave of a loved one, can all increase negative feelings, so might be best left for another, brighter, day.
Dwelling on negative thoughts
Try not to dwell on thoughts of suicide or other negative thoughts. You cannot stop the thoughts coming, but you can stop them roosting. When you catch yourself ruminating on a negative, thinking and rethinking the same negative thought, find a distraction. Sometimes it can be hard to snap yourself out of it. If that happens, flicking an elastic band on your wrist can provide a short-sharp-shock to help distract your thoughts. Giving yourself a break from constant negative thoughts does help.
Overcoming Suicidal Thoughts
While the above suggestions can help you manage suicidal thoughts, they are not enough, in themselves, to help you fully recover. If you are having regular, persistent or intense suicidal thoughts or have got as far as formulating a plan, it’s vitally important that you seek professional help.
Your GP can refer you for counselling on the NHS, and many private therapy services such as ours are available. If you would like to know more about the services we offer, please call 0151 329 3637 or complete our online referral form and we will contact you.
In the meantime, here our 5-top tips to aid your recovery:
- Identify your triggers. Make a note of the things that prompt your suicidal thoughts or feelings of despair. Find ways to avoid these, as far as possible.
- Practice Self-care. Eat regular, healthy meals; take regular exercise and get adequate sleep.
- Maintain social contact. Connect with friends, acquaintances and family. Surround yourself with people who are a positive influence on you and make you feel better about yourself. Try to speak with at least one person each day.
- Expand your interests. Try new activities, hobbies or pastimes; consider volunteering or other forms of work that you find fulfilling.
- Manage your stress. Mindfulness, relaxations and grounding exercises can all help reduce stress. As can a long soak in a warm bath. Use whatever works for you to help you keep your stress levels under control