Pain is a part of life. What keeps us going is hope that it will get better. Suicidal thoughts occur when you can no longer see the hope ahead. When people are severely depressed, they cannot remember a time they were ever happy. Hope is still there for everyone, but it is hard to see when you feel overcome with grief. Many people experience depression and anxiety, but suicidal thoughts are not a normal part of life. It is a sign of extreme distress and requires immediate help.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Suicide is a major public health concern. Over 41,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States. More than twice as many people die by suicide each year than by homicide”.
Too many people have taken their own lives. As a nurse, I have seen its effects in every age group, every race, religion, gender, and setting. Although there are risk factors that play a role, suicidal thoughts can affect anyone. Feeling suicidal is a tragedy that can make you feel helpless and overwhelmed, but suicide can be prevented with early intervention.
What to do if YOU are considering suicide.
If you are contemplating suicide, talk to someone. Ask someone you can trust to help or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is someone there to help you. There is hope.
What kind of help is available?
911, Emergency Rooms or Urgent Care Centers: Suicidal thoughts are a medical emergency. There are services available at all times. Do not wait for treatment. Ask someone to take you to the ER or call an ambulance.
Doctor’s office: Since suicidal thoughts can have a variety of causes, doctors can help to identify and treat the underlying cause. Clinical depression, thyroid disease, medication side effects, life circumstances, and hormonal imbalances as seen in postpartum depression are examples of medical conditions that all play a role.
Medications: Low Serotonin levels are just as real as low insulin levels. Depression is a chemical imbalance that can be successfully treated with the appropriate medication. Be aware that during the first few weeks of beginning an antidepressant, suicide rates can actually increase in people under age 25. This is because when a person is at their low point, they may develop a plan for suicide but not have the energy to carry it out. As the antidepressant begins to work, they may have increased energy to follow through on the plan prior to the therapeutic effects of improved mood. As the medication continues to take effect, suicidal feelings will fade. To help get through this initial time, stay with others. Sometimes inpatient treatment will be necessary for a couple of weeks to ensure your safety.
Drug treatment program: Many people at risk for suicide also may suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. People often try to numb the pain they are feeling with substances in efforts to “self-medicate” the pain away. Unfortunately, this will worsen the problem. Rehabilitation programs can help give tools to work through depression without the use of addictive substances.
Support groups: You are not alone. There are people with similar circumstances who can share what has helped them. Talking to others can be therapeutic when done in a supportive and understanding environment.
What to do if someone you know is considering suicide
If someone you know is experiencing symptoms of suicidal thoughts, ask direct questions. Many people considering suicide will talk openly about their plan when asked. If they are considering suicide, do not leave them alone for a moment. Get them help immediately. Create a safe environment. Remove firearms, sharp objects, medications, or other potentially life-threatening items.
Suicidal thoughts are not something that should be ignored. It is not someone seeking attention, but a life-threatening emergency. When you or someone you know is facing a hardship, get help early. Talk about what you are feeling. You may save a life, and it may even be your own.