Talking about Suicidal Thoughts: A Survivor’s Perspective
During a recent “GeneSight Cares” webinar, Dr. W. Carson Felkel II, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the system medical director for Behavioral Health at Bon Secours Mercy Health in Greenville, S.C., was asked about talking to children about suicide.
Dr. Felkel notes that providing someone a place to talk about suicide can be a relief for the person who may be having suicidal thoughts.
We asked a young woman to share her thoughts on how to deal with suicidal ideation. We share this information with her permission.
How to Talk About Suicidal Thoughts*
* from someone who’s been there
Suicide is never an easy topic to discuss. If you suffer, or have ever suffered, with suicidal ideation, the idea of discussing these thoughts can be the source of severe anxiety.
Locating a provider and initiating a conversation with a therapist can be a difficult feat of its own. You can always find reasons to avoid scheduling the appointment:
- What will I talk about?
- Can I afford therapy?
- Do I sound crazy?
- Will I be institutionalized?
But simply put: Don’t put this off.
Do I tell my provider I’ve thought about suicide?
To dispel these logical fears, there are two things you need to know.
First, healthcare professionals want to help you. They can’t help you if they don’t know what’s wrong. They will discuss treatment options with you if you share your intrusive thoughts of harming yourself.
Second, once you share that you have these types of thoughts, your provider may help identify trauma and/or triggers. Discovering the underlying cause of these thoughts and passive suicidal ideation is part of the healing journey.
A good provider will want to hear everything and respond with compassion. This may help validate that you’re not alone with your thoughts.
Am I alone in feeling suicidal?
With the world at our fingertips, it is easy to get caught up comparing your own experience to what you see online. Social media is a world of excess, wealth, and happiness. Most people will never show the reality of their situation.
No two people have the same experience. Remember that you will never know what goes on behind the scenes, and sometimes those who appear to be the happiest may be suffering deeply. Don’t compare your situation to others’. Everyone is on their own emotional journey.
Yet, social media may feel like a good place to seek help, or at least to feel not so alone. While there are many resources available online, there are risks that come with seeking help from strangers. The internet can be a great place to validate your experiences, but remember that only a healthcare professional can diagnose and provide appropriate treatment options.
What if I think I won’t kill myself?
Suicidal thoughts don’t always equate to self-harm. Yet, intrusive thoughts or thoughts that feel out of your control, are just as valid as suicidal intent. Despite feeling “in control” of your physical actions, thoughts tend to pop into your head at the most inopportune times.
Have you ever been in the car and thought to yourself “well, I mean, I could run the light. Maybe I’d get hit…”? This scenario can be reimagined a thousand different ways.
You are in enough control that you feel you won’t take action, but are also very aware that you could if you wanted to. The feeling of guilt can be overwhelming.
Discussing your thoughts with a healthcare provider or therapist can reduce the intensity and regularity of intrusive thoughts. By developing coping methods, you can find ways to bring yourself back into the present moment. Do not discount your thoughts.
Just because you think you won’t hurt yourself, doesn’t mean you should keep these thoughts to yourself. It’s very easy to convince yourself that because you aren’t in immediate danger and don’t have suicidal intent, your thoughts aren’t worth mentioning. Indulging these feelings of hopelessness could be self-destructive. Talking about these thoughts and sharing your concerns is the first step to wellness.
Something that’s not often discussed is that even when you start to get better, a part of you might miss being sad. If being sad has become routine, you’ve become comfortable with it. This can make moving forward more difficult. While you heal you need to be aware of this to avoid spiraling. If you find this happening, try a little self-care to influence your mental state. If that does not work, please contact your clinician.
How to manage suicidal thoughts – mental health resources
You are not alone. When you decide you are ready for help, therapy may help you get your thoughts under control and help you make improvements to your mental state.
If you currently have insurance, you can visit your provider’s website to find a doctor who is experienced with your particular needs. Local community centers and hospitals often offer low-cost or free mental health services.
The future is undecided, and you have the power to regain control in your life.
PLEASE NOTE: If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.
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