Finding Strength to Keep Going: Overcoming Suicidal Thoughts
If you are having a suicidal crisis, which means you feel like you can't keep from hurting yourself, stop reading now and call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line. Consider saving these numbers in your phone.
Some people who have thoughts of suicide don't want to die. They want relief from intense emotional pain and distress. Thoughts of suicide are serious. But thoughts don't have to become actions. Here are some things that can help you get past those thoughts and find hope and meaning in your life.
- Talk to a mental health professional about your feelings.
This could be a doctor, a counselor, or a social worker. They can help you understand why you feel the way you do. And they can help you work through problems that may be causing thoughts of suicide. For some people, talking to a spiritual advisor may also help.
- Know that the pain you're feeling right now won't last forever.
Emotions are powerful. When you're having emotional pain, it can be really hard to see around it. But some days will be better than others. Take the time to remind yourself of that. It's hard to imagine in the moment, but you may not feel the same tomorrow as you do today.
- Focus on reasons to keep going.
This might be hard to do. You might think, "If I could focus on reasons to keep going, I wouldn't have thoughts about suicide." But you're here, reading this right now, because you want to overcome those thoughts. So take your time, and try to write down some things that are important or valuable to you. They don't have to be huge or profound. Everyday things count too.
If at any point this exercise makes you feel uncomfortable or worse, stop and come back to it when you feel ready.
Here are some ideas to help you get started.
- Write about people who mean something to you. What do you like about them? Write down some positive things you've done together, or why they make a difference in your life. Examples: A parent, a teacher, a friend, a coworker, the convenience store clerk who tells good jokes.
- List some goals or dreams you have for the future. Examples: Swimming in the ocean, taking a road trip, getting a dog.
- List some of your favorite activities and the reasons you enjoy them. Example: "Riding my bike, because I can see and hear things I can't when I'm in a car or on a bus."
- Write about some things that bring joy to your life. Examples: Hot showers, a pet, watching movies on the weekend, peanut butter and jelly sold in the same jar.
- Write about some things that give you hope. Examples: A good TV show getting renewed for another season, ocean plastic being turned into clothing, children playing.
Hopefully this exercise was helpful. But if it was hard to come up with any examples, you may need some more help to deal with the pain you're feeling right now. Call your counselor right away. If you don't have a counselor, make an appointment to see one. And remember, the national suicide hotline is always available to help you. Call 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.
- Read recovery stories.
There may be times when you just don't feel like others can understand. But remember, many people do understand. A lot of people have been where you are right now, or have experienced something like it. Those people can give you hope. They can also share things that helped them overcome thoughts of suicide that might help you too. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/stories is a good place to start.
- Connect with others for support.
Talking with others who are going through similar things can help. Your area may have mental health support groups. You can find local groups by asking your doctor, searching online, or calling your local suicide prevention hotline and asking them for more info. If there are no groups near you, check out online options. For example, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America offers an online peer support group. Go to adaa.org/find-help/support/support-groups to learn more.
Everyone's experience with suicidal thoughts is different. The tips above will be helpful for some people, while others might find them harder to connect with. If these tips aren't helpful to you, it doesn't mean you can't be helped. You just might need an approach that's more tailored to you. Contact a counselor or other mental health professional. They can help you.
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Andrew Littlefield PhD - Psychology, Behavioral Health
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine