I’ve been unfortunate enough to need to know what to do when I’m suicidal. I know I’m not alone. I know there are many people out there thinking about the same thing. Because, let’s face it, while there’s lots of advice out there on what to do when you’re “down” or anxious or hypo/manic, there’s very little advice on what to do when you’re suicidal. I think this is because people don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to think about it, either. But, unfortunately, life insists that I do. So, here are some thoughts on what to do when you’re feeling suicidal.
Feeling Suicidal? Do This First
Okay, I have to start this article on being suicidal by saying this: you need to reach out for help. Suicidality is not something to be taken lightly, nor is it something you should deal with alone. You absolutely need to reach out. If you’re suicidal, reach out to:
- A friend
- A family member
- A helpline
- Your doctor
- Your therapist
- A crisis center
- An emergency room doctor
- 9 – 1 – 1
Of course, some of the above options are better than others, but the point is the same: reach out. No one wants you to end your life today. (Also see: what to do when considering suicide or how to help someone who is suicidal. You can also search this site for “suicide” in the upper-right search box. There are many, many related articles.)
Remember These Things If You’re Suicidal
From this point forward, I’m going to assume you have reached out and are getting help. I emphasize; that is incredibly important.
As I said, I have been unfortunate enough to have to concern myself with suicidality. Over the course of my life, I have spent hour after hour feeling suicidal and yet not killing myself. It’s almost a magic trick.
The first thing to know is that you cannot end your life. Of all the things you can do while feeling suicidal, actually dying is not one (see here for why you should continue to fight).
To that end, try to add some logic to your thoughts. In my experience, suicidality is not logical in the least. The idea that your life is worth ending isn’t rational. This is because tomorrow is another day. Trite, I know, but also true. Tomorrow is a day that is not today. Tomorrow is a day when you might fall in love. Tomorrow is a day when you might make a friend. Tomorrow is a day when you might find the smell of roses beguiling. Tomorrow is a clean slate and an opportunity for a day that is different than today. That is always worth living for. That is a truism. Remind your suicidal self of that.
And remember that the only constant in life is change. Again, this is a truism. While it may seem like things will never change, that just isn’t true. That’s a lie your suicidal brain is telling you. Your life has changed, and your life will change. Your relationships will change. Your illness (if you have one) will change. Don’t give up yet. You need to live to see that change.
What to Do When You’re Suicidal After Remembering the Above
Once you’ve read the above — again and again if you need to. Once you’ve had the logical arguments with yourself, you may have time on your hands. You may have time when you’re suicidal that you have to pass without killing yourself.
I highly recommend distracting yourself. This means focusing on anything that will hold your attention that isn’t about suicide. I like to do mindless things. Some that work for me include:
- Watching unemotional TV or movies (I often watch shows I have seen before; I find it soothing)
- Listening to music loudly.
- Reciting poetry or other things that you have memorized (singing to yourself counts)
- Working on a hobby
- Writing or creating other art
- Talking to a friend online or on the phone
- Spending time with animals
- Taking as-needed (PRN) medication to calm you
- Working on a puzzle (yes, I’m that old)
There are, of course, other options for what to do when you’re suicidal that just don’t work for me personally. These include:
- Going for a walk
- Throwing rocks into the ocean
- Breathing or stretching exercises
I’m sure there are so many more options that I just haven’t thought of, too. I recommend you brainstorm your own list (when you’re not suicidal is likely best).
Two Very Dangerous Options When You’re Suicidal — Self-Harming, Using Drugs
There are two things that people often do when they’re suicidal that I haven’t mentioned: using drugs (including alcohol) or self-harming. These are very dangerous ways to spend your time when you’re suicidal, and while I have done them both, I absolutely can’t recommend them.
I know that some people think self-harming is the most ridiculous thing to do when you’re suicidal. Well, for people who regularly self-harm as a coping technique, it actually isn’t. It’s actually the first thing someone in that situation might think of. I appreciate that because I have been there. But please don’t do it. Know that when you’re suicidal, it’s the most dangerous time to self-harm because you simply might not stop. While you might normally self-harm to a certain degree, your suicidal self might be unable to hold to that. While I never want a person to self-harm, of all the times not to engage in this behavior, when you’re suicidal is it.
Then there’s using drugs. Drugs (including alcohol) have similar problems to self-harm. First off, you may not be able to control your drug use in your standard way when you’re feeling suicidal. When you don’t want to live, it seems like there is simply no reason to moderate this behavior. Also, when you use drugs, your inhibitions are lowered. This means the reserves you have that are keeping you alive might dissipate. You’re more likely to self-harm or kill yourself when you’re using drugs. Please don’t use drugs as a coping strategy; it’s just too dangerous.
My Life Matters; Your Life Matters
I have really done the above things when I needed to. I know they can save your life. Don’t think they are a replacement for help or treatment — they are not — but they can help you live through times you think you cannot survive. This matters. Your life matters. Every single minute of it
What Else Can You Do When You’re Suicidal?
I know that my readers know many more options. Please leave them in the comments. You never know who you might help.
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