Living with Suicide Ideation
*** Trigger Warning – the article is about suicide ideation. ***
I’m sitting alone. I can hear the clock ticking. I can hear cars out on the road. I’m physically alone, which usually is ok, but not tonight. Tonight it’s difficult because I’m also emotionally alone. I feel no connection to another person. The aloneness is palpable. How can I feel so utterly alone in a world with billions of people?
My thoughts are with me though. My unwanted, intrusive thoughts about suicide are plentiful in my mind. Where did they come from? How can I get them to go away? It’s when I feel the most alone, those thoughts are the loudest. I don’t like them, but they stick around anyway. I need help to quiet those thoughts of suicide ideation. I need to hear another person’s voice. I could call someone.
But, it’s Friday night and the time feels wrong. My friend is probably just getting home after a long week of work. She is seeing her family, making supper, doing activities, and relaxing. She doesn’t need a call from me. I’d spoil her evening with my ugly thoughts.
I could call my therapist, but it’s the same wrong time. It’s after hours. She’s probably driving home. I can think of many reasons why I can’t call her or anyone else.
I’m still alone with my thoughts. I reason myself out of calling anyone or using the crisis call/text line. I know I’m not doing myself any favors. I try to remember who has told me I could call if I needed someone.
There is someone who said that to me, and I choose to believe they meant it, which gives me permission to call even though I think the time is wrong. I silently thank them for telling me straight out that I could call them if I ever needed anything, and I do reach out.
If you are the person someone has reached out to, there are ways to help make the call successful.
Here are five suggestions on what not to say:
Everything will be ok. No, it’s not ok, nothing is ok. In the moment this feels dismissive and condescending.
You have so much to be thankful for… which may be true, but the suicide ideation remains. It doesn’t go away because there are things to be thankful for any more than a person with a fatal disease can make it go away by being thankful for what they have. For me, suicide ideation is not a feeling or a personal fault. It’s an intrusive thought process of the brain.
You just need to think about good things. That is not going to help. It’s like telling a person who is paralyzed that if they think enough about good things, they will be able to get up and walk.
Have you told anyone? Yes! They are telling you! A person reaching out for help is not a conversation; it’s a call to action.
There’s nothing I can do for you. Don’t say that. Just don’t. They haven’t called to ask you to “do” anything. Hearing there’s nothing that can be done is defeating and hopeless. They most likely don’t want to be alone with their thoughts anymore and are looking for a connection.
And, here are five suggestions for what to say to a person struggling with suicide ideation.
I’m glad you called. After reaching out, it feels comforting to know it was ok to call.
You matter. With all the negative thoughts swirling around in the mind of someone with suicide ideation, hearing that they matter can make a huge difference in the way they view themselves in the moment.
I love and care about you. Oh! A connection to another person has just been made. Telling someone they are loved and cared for is one of the best things to say.
What do you need? This is such a sweet question. It’s a reminder to the person reaching out that they are being thought of as a person who is still strong enough to share what they need in the moment, instead of being thought of as a weak person, incapable of thinking for themselves because their brain is being uncooperative with thoughts of suicide.
You can call/text again if needed. This statement leaves the door open for a person with suicide ideation to know they are not alone and can reach out again if the struggle gets too difficult.
I’m glad I reached out. I’m strong enough now to use my coping skills to make it through the rest of the night managing the suicide ideation that plagues me.
To anyone who is struggling with suicide ideation – what has helped me is reaching out to someone when the thoughts are too strong to manage myself.
To anyone who has told a person struggling with suicide ideation to reach out to you – know that reaching out isn’t a conversation, it’s a call to action for you to help them. It’s giving a connection, helping them know they are not alone, and a blessing to the person reaching out.
If feeling alone or suicidal-
In the US call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Or Text “GO” to 741741 – the 24/7 Suicide Hotline
Outside the US – go to www.suicide.org a website containing hotline call numbers for many countries around the world.