You may be feeling completely helpless, overwhelmed, and like you have no other options which can be a scary place. However, there are ways to get through this difficult time and help make you feel better. Always remember that there are ALWAYS resources available to you. Below, we have listed a few coping strategies to help you manage and cope with suicidal thoughts.
Speak with a Licensed Healthcare Professional: You can get help and referrals from your doctor or from crisis lines listed under Helpful Resources. If you believe you are currently struggling with mental health issues, it important to address those first. Issues such as: Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar disorder, alcohol or drug use, and mood disorders should be treated by a mental health specialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental-health nurse practitioner, and/or counselor. Referrals for these services are easily obtained by your primary care doctor. If you have already initiated mental health treatment, but believe your current treatment plan may not be working, please do not hesitate to speak up about your needs. Keep in mind, if you are not treating the underlying cause, your suicidal thoughts are more likely to return. Please do not feel embarrassed or ashamed to seek treatment for mental health problems. Initiating the right treatment for underlying issues such as depression, substance use or other problems will help keep you safe.
Start Identifying Stressful Triggers or Situations: Are there specific triggers or situations that increase your feelings of hopelessness, despair, doom, and thoughts of suicide? If so, it is important that you begin to recognize what there are and avoid those situations to the best of your ability. For example, going to a bar and drinking with friends may increase feelings of depression. If this is a trigger for you, avoid going to a bar or seeing friends who drink.
Establish a Trusted Network of Friends, Family, or Professionals: It is important to have people in your life whom you trust and are able to speak to openly about your struggles. It may help to speak to someone whom you feel comfortable in sharing these feelings and can help provide support if necessary. If you have a suicide plan, it is important to tell someone what your plan is. People often say they are relieved that they shared how they felt with someone. Talking can help you feel less alone and open to options other than self-harm.
Try to Think of Positive Things in Your Life: Most people who think about suicide want to escape overwhelming feelings of pain, thoughts of despair and never-ending negative thoughts but they do not always want to die. When you are feeling extremely vulnerable, it is easy to focus on things that are upsetting in your life. This results in stronger thoughts of suicide and belief that self-harm is the only option. Start thinking about some reasons you have for living and positive people or things that you have in your life. For example, many people have relationships with loved ones, children, pets they love, religion, goals, or responsibilities to others in their life that give them reasons to live and prevent them from acting on their suicidal thoughts. Think of all of the reasons you have for living. Write them down and keep your list close to you when you need to remind yourself of them when you are feeling down.
Health Lifestyle Choices: One of the best ways to impact mood is through healthy lifestyle choices. For example, eating a healthy diet; daily exercise; getting adequate sleep; decreasing or stopping alcohol or drug use can help boost your mood.
Taking Medications as Prescribed: If you are currently taking prescription medications, it is important to make sure you take them as your doctor directed. If you believe medications are not working, or something just “doesn’t feel right”, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor. If you recently started taking antidepressants, it is important to know the side effects of the medication and the amount of time it may take for the medication to have an effect. For example, oftentimes, physical symptoms such as energy or sleep may improve first, whereas mood changes may take a little bit longer before improvements are recognized.
Establish a Positive Routine: A great way to calm yourself down and to feel in control is through the establishment of a routine. Keeping a regular routine can be achieved by waking up at a regular time, going to sleep within the same range each night, and having planned activities/hobbies that you enjoy doing that brings you pleasure (walking your pet, going to the gym, seeing friends).
Establish Goals: Write down short-term and long-term goals that you have for yourself. Goals can be simple, such as reading a magazine or book, taking a weekend trip someplace; or more long-term, such as earning a degree or saving a certain amount of money. Goals may help keep you focused on achievement and positivity rather than on negative choices or feelings.
Mayo Clinic. (2017). Prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/suicide/basics/prevention/con-20033954
Your Life Counts. (N.D). Retrieved from: https://www.yourlifecounts.org/sites/default/files/coping-with-suicidal-thoughts_2.pdf