Suicide

5 Ways to Cope With Suicidal Thoughts During the Pandemic

A new CDC report shows that many people are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Posted Aug 14, 2020

Abigail Keenan/Unsplash
Source: Abigail Keenan/Unsplash

A lot of people are hurting right now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared a recent study suggesting that 11 percent of U.S. adults seriously considered suicide at some point during the 30 days prior to June 24-30, 2020. Certain groups in the survey reported disproportionately high rates of suicidal thoughts: 31 percent of unpaid caregivers for adults, 26 percent of respondents ages 18-24, 22 percent of essential workers, 19 percent of Hispanic respondents, and 15 percent of non-Hispanic Black respondents.

These data reflect how the pandemic has upended many people's lives. Its impact on jobs, childcare, schools, health, and day-to-day routines has been especially difficult for people with fewer resources. Physical distancing has led to more isolation at the very time people would most benefit from increases in support. People who struggle with greater stress levels and fewer social interactions may view suicide as a way to seek relief from the pain they're experiencing.

Interventions that effectively reduce the spread of the coronavirus, provide equitable access to quality healthcare (including mental health services), and financial assistance to those in need would all be powerful ways to reduce the prevalence of suicidal thoughts. These types of initiatives should be prioritized. People with suicidal thoughts who have access to mental health services should try to connect with a therapist who can help. In addition, below are five strategies that can help you to cope with suicidal thoughts.

1. Soothe emotional pain with self-compassion and uplifting activities.

Remind yourself that it is not your fault that you are in this situation. You are not a failure for finding life hard right now. Try to focus on what you can control and let go of any guilt for what you can't control. Whether you're feeling stressed, anxious, or sad, know that you are not alone in this.

Try to treat yourself with kindness as you navigate pandemic-related challenges. Taking time for fun activities can help to soothe pain as well. Try stepping outside, going for a walk, watching a funny TV show, playing a game, creating art, listening to music, or any other kind of activity that feels good to you. When you're in pain, it can be hard to push yourself to do fun activities. It's worth trying, because it often provides moments of relief.

2. Look for hope.

The human mind naturally pays more attention to dangerous signs than positive signs during times like these. With effort, you can increase attention toward realistic sources of hope. If you look out into the world, you can find people acting with kindness and helping others. People are working on solutions to support communities and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Finding hope in those stories can give you reasons to hold on for a better future.

3. Connect with people. 

Prioritize video chats, phone calls, or physically-distanced activities with friends, family, or co-workers. If you live with other people, spend time together that’s focused on talking and interacting rather than just sharing space (though having your own space at times can be important, too). Ask people you trust to check in on you and let them know that you need emotional support. Tell them what would be most helpful to you. Feeling heard, sharing stories, and receiving words of encouragement can boost your mood.

4. Contribute and find meaning. 

Think about how you're helping others right now. Have you reached out to a friend to see how they're doing? Are you taking care of yourself, your family, or others? Give yourself credit without comparing yourself to other people. Try to find some points of meaning in this stressful situation. Have any of your relationships strengthened? Have you learned anything new about yourself? Are you more grateful for what you have? Finding meaning in suffering can be quite challenging, but it's worth trying. A sense of purpose can carry you through hard times.

5. Increase your physical safety. 

If you can easily access lethal suicide methods (e.g., pills, razor blades), find ways to store them safely. That means putting distance between yourself and methods of suicide. If you have a gun, consider putting it in a safe, storing it outside of your home, or taking other safety measures while you are at high risk for suicide. Program numbers such as the National Suicide Prevention Life (1-800-273-TALK) into your phone, so that you can reach out for guidance when you're in danger of harming yourself.

Your life and well-being are important. Try to approach yourself with kindness and care as you face the mental health challenges of the pandemic. 

For immediate help, 24/7: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, or Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

To find therapists near you, see the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

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