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Speaking Up About Suicide Saves Lives

Tips for managing depression.

Key points

  • No one chooses to feel suicidal. Underlying factors generally lead to despair and hopelessness.
  • Speaking up about feeling suicidal can save lives.
  • It is possible to treat severe depression and suicidality.
Depression hurts
Source: Unsplash/Gabriel-E-B

We have lost too many people to suicide. The world was shattered and shocked by the news of Naomi Judd’s tragic death due to “disease of mental illness,” this past Sunday.

Within seconds of the news breaking, people took to social media to post about mental health awareness, depression, and the cause of Judd’s death. Older news clips were re-released with Judd talking about her battle with depression and suicidal tendencies. In 2016 Judd released her memoir, River of Time: My Descent into Depression and How I Emerged with Hope.

She spoke candidly about suffering from panic attacks, suicidal ideation, and severe depression. Judd said her depression took a turn for the worst after memories of childhood molestation re-surfaced in 2016. In an interview with People Magazine in 2016, Judd said, “Nobody can understand unless you’ve been there.”

Unfortunately, there are many of us out here who do understand what it is like to want to stop living. For years I battled with thoughts of suicidal thoughts and severe depression. Like Judd, my suicidality became much more chronic after breaking the silence about my history of childhood sexual abuse.

I spent over ten years in intensive outpatient trauma therapy uncovering memories of being raped by a family member as a child and teen.

Every time a new memory broke through, I considered ending my life. The pain, grief, and shame associated with these memories overpowered any hope for my future.

Why Does Someone Consider Suicide as an Option

Throughout the past twenty-five years, I have met dozens of clients who reported a history of suicide attempts and severe depression. People often ask me questions like, “How can someone feel so much pain that they would consider ending his/her own life?”

No one chooses to feel suicidal. In most cases, there are underlying factors that lead to despair and hopelessness. Some people are struggling with biochemical mental health illnesses, like bipolar disorder.

The depression that follows the manic periods causes people to feel intolerable amounts of emotional pain. When the low hits, many clients have told me that their connections to others disappear.

One client told me, “I did not even think about my wife during those moments before I attempted suicide.” He went on to tell me, “The anguish I felt was so bad that at that time I just wanted to be dead.”

I have met several other clients who report suicidal tendencies after surviving some type of trauma or loss. In these cases, clients have told me that the feelings of anger, shame, loss, and despair from whatever happened to override any feelings of hope or happiness in their present.

When I first started remembering my abuse and what was done to me, I had things in my life that I loved. I loved my job. I was crazy about my dog. I felt safe. I had a good job. The flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, and feelings of betrayal felt unbearable.

On countless occasions, I threatened to end my life. I told my therapist, “I quit. I am done. I do not want to be alive anymore!”

Unsplash/Emily Underworld
Mental Health Matters
Source: Unsplash/Emily Underworld

How do people survive suicidality and not act on these awful feelings at the moment? Can someone recover from severe depression and move on to living a happier, more fulfilling life?

If you asked me this question thirty years ago, I would have said it is impossible to treat depression and suicidality. I did not believe anyone, or anything could help me feel better.

Within a couple of years of starting therapy, I realized that it is and was possible to manage thoughts of hopelessness. I learned that I could have suicidal thoughts and not act on them. Here are some tips for managing suicidal thoughts.

Tips for People With Suicidal Thoughts or Feelings

Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you are feeling suicidal reach out to your local crisis center or organization that has trained counselors.

Rather than judging yourself for having these feelings, try and write down or talk to someone about what is making you feel hopeless. Ask someone you trust to remind you that you matter. Write down a list of all the people you love and look forward to sharing your life with.

Think about the kind of support you need. If you have intent or have developed a plan to end your life look for an inpatient setting. Find centers that use different techniques, such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to teach you how to cope with these awful feelings.

If you are having passive suicidal ideation, but do not have an intent or plan to act on these feelings go to a therapist. Join a reputable online support group.

Use creative outlets to express the agony you feel. Journal. Sing. Go to yoga. Go for hikes. Spend time with your pets, children, partners, or friends.

Unsplash/Dan Myers
You Can Beat This!
Source: Unsplash/Dan Myers

Recognize that contemplating suicide is a thought and if you speak it to a therapist or someone that is trained in handling these feelings you can make a plan for safety.

Remember that feelings of hopelessness and despair will not last forever. Feelings come and go. If these feelings are over-taking your daily living, go get help.

Do not let your depression or whatever happened to you in the past ruin the life you want to live moving forward.

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7 contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.