By REBECCA SCHWARTZBERG, PhD
Every day of every year , there are people waking up wishing they did not have yet another day. They describe this feeling as if a thick black cloud surrounds them, sticks to them, and they cannot get out. They imagine themselves in a dark room with the only light, the only door, is the one marked suicide.
If you are someone who struggles with these thoughts, therapists AND those men and women who have attempted suicide want you to know that you are NOT alone AND there is another way! You do matter and life can get better. Please use the suggestions given below from both therapists and survivors to help control or manage suicidal thoughts.
- Remember Suicidal Thoughts are Temporary: Our thoughts and emotions can change, but remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Positive changes may be right around the corner that will forever surprise you. Yes, the depression and thoughts may come back but they will also leave again. Allow the other emotions to come in and have their chance. Try to remember that you control your thoughts; they do not control you.
- Resist Impulsive Action: Remove access to all weapons, dangerous substances, or other means of hurting yourself. Just because you have suicidal thoughts does not mean you have to act on them, and having these methods of harm readily available may cloud your judgment.
- Recognize and Avoid Your Triggers: Don’t use alcohol or drugs, as these substances can impact your judgment and decision-making. Stay away from people, places or things that are triggers for you. Seek out the positive parts of life and stay away from negative. If you do not know what these are, have someone help you identify them.
- Increase Positive Connections: Connect with someone and let them know how they can be with you. Allow them to be a part of your life. Find one or two people you feel safe with and spend time with them. Enjoy the positive feelings of being with them. Being around people who care about you and sharing positive exchanges with them has been proven to increase levels of oxytocin, one of the naturally occurring substances our bodies make to regulate moods. If you can, ask them to help you.
- Have Self-Compassion: The biggest thing that you can start right now is to show yourself compassion. Being kind to yourself in both action and thoughts is one of the biggest changes that you can make that will make the biggest difference! This also means stop being critical and stop comparing yourself to others and setting unrealistic expectations for yourself.
- Slow Your Breathing: Take slow and deliberate breaths and get more oxygen to your brain. This also helps to slow your heartbeat, so you can think more clearly.
- Refocus Your Mind: Use your senses to help you detach from your negative thoughts. Use your eyes to sweep the room, slowly describing what you see. Use strong scent to grab your sense of smell, use a strong taste to focus your mind, use a sound that grabs you and won’t let you get away from it, and lastly, use temperature changes to focus your mind. Good examples of this would be to use cold water on your hands or a hot shower to soothe you. Focus only your senses and nothing else.
- Visualization: Close your eyes and picture a safe, relaxing, vibrant place where you can stay in your mind. This creation is a safe and wondrous world that is all yours.
- Get Professional Help: You may have made up many reasons, or fears in your head, to not ask for professional help. However, asking for help may literally change your life. You can reach our Behavioral Health providers at 863.687.1222.
If you know someone who has suicidal thoughts, help them with these steps if you can. If you are someone with suicidal thoughts, use these steps to slowly start to find your way out of the darkness. Use them to find another way without resorting to something you can never come back from. Use them to look forward to another day.
If you are someone who has suicidal thoughts or know someone with suicidal thoughts, you also can call:
- National Suicide Hotline: 800.273.TALK
- Suicide Text Line: Text “Brave” to 741741
- Polk County: 800.627.5906
About the Author
Rebecca Schwartzberg, PhD, is a Psychologist with Lakeland Regional Health. She can be reached at 863.687.1222.