Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life. Many factors play into someone wanting or attempting to complete suicide, and no two people will handle the situation the same way. Thoughts of suicide or self-harm can sometimes bring a strange sense of peace for the person dealing with it and terror in those around them.
Often, the basis for wanting to complete suicide is a lack of meaning. If a person has decided their life is not worth living, it can be challenging to find peace and joy in life again. However, people survive thoughts and attempts of suicide every day. There are many resources and care options for anyone going through this.
Why Someone May Attempt or Complete Suicide
While lack of meaning in life is often the core issue leading to suicide attempts, this sense of worthlessness can have many causes. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “Most suicides are related to psychiatric disease, with depression, substance use disorders, and psychosis being the most relevant risk factors. However, anxiety, personality, eating, and trauma-related disorders, as well as organic mental disorders, also contribute.”
Other causes may be:
- Being bullied (in person or on the internet)
- Going through a significant breakup or divorce
- Being a continuous victim of domestic violence
- Sudden job loss
- Loss of a family member, especially if there is little to no support system
- Sudden and massive financial issues
- Long-term illnesses or chronic pain
- Postpartum depression
Smaller events can also lead to thoughts of suicide, such as burnout at work or strain in a marriage. Over time, these stressors can build up and lead to a breaking point. That’s why it’s important to learn the signs and symptoms to look for in yourself and others.
Signs and Symptoms of Suicide Ideation
No two people will handle suicidal thoughts or attempts the same way. The idea of one’s own life ending may be terrifying for some, even if they believe it is the only option. But others may find peace in it, as mentioned above. Either way, suicide is not the solution. If you can relate to any of the symptoms below, seek professional help immediately.
According to the NIH (National Institute of Health), these are some of the most common signs to look out for:
- Talking, even jokingly, about wanting to die or kill yourself
- Feeling empty or struggling with a sense of hopelessness.
- Feeling trapped with no hope of escape.
- Feeling extreme emotional or physical pain with no hope of relief.
- Feeling or talking about being a burden to others or thinking that others only “put up” with you.
- Closing yourself off from friends and family
- Giving away important or valuable possession as if putting your affairs in order, including making a will
- Saying goodbye to loved ones. (Note: Your loved one may not say goodbye in exact words. Be sure to keep an eye out for more subtle body language or remarks.)
- Taking out-of-character risks that may put your life in danger, such as fast/drunk driving or general carelessness
Immediate and Long-Term Help
988 Hotline (Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
For some, suicide may be a real threat for a few days but then subside after the initial crisis passes. For others, suicidal thoughts and tendencies coincide with other mental health issues, making it twice as difficult to fight against. Seeking help in these situations is crucial. For most people, it is not possible to make the changes to feel better, reverse symptoms, and not be in a crisis all by themself.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or self-harm, call or text the suicide hotline at 988 to receive help within minutes. This hotline is available throughout the USA. It is free and entirely confidential. The person assigned to you is a professional trained to handle crises.
Tip: Hotline 988 can be called for any mental health crisis, not just suicide or self-harm.
While the ER is often only sought out when in physical distress, hospitals also handle mental emergencies. If you or your loved one is in immediate danger of taking their life, seeking the emergency room or calling 911 is always a smart option.
Once admitted, doctors will not only provide the care needed upon arrival but will also be able to refer you or your loved one to long-term treatment options such as counseling or psychiatric treatment.
Mental health counseling is one of the best ways to receive long-term treatment for suicidal thoughts–regardless of the underlying cause. Counseling gives you the space to be heard and understood by a professional who will challenge your thought process without judgment while simultaneously validating your feelings.
This approach will help you get to the root of the problem and give you the tools to cope with life’s challenges.
Several different types of therapy have been shown to be helpful, including,
Talk therapy is a way to work out problems through an ongoing dialogue with a professional. It is what most people think of when the term therapy is used.
- DBT (Dialectical behavior therapy)
DBT is a form of talk therapy often used to treat suicide and bipolar disorder. It focuses mainly on teaching the patient skills needed to cope while improving unhealthy behaviors.
- EMDR Therapy (Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy)
EMDR is a technique used in therapy to help the patient deal with painful or traumatic memories. The focus is on coping with the emotions surrounding a specific event rather than the event itself.
EMDR is often used to treat PTSD but can also help those dealing with suicidal thoughts due to a specific traumatic event.
Resources and Other Avenues for Help
If the thought of taking your own life has been bouncing around in your head, it’s time to seek help. Don’t put off getting help just because you don’t think it’s “bad enough” or you don’t want to “bother” anyone. It’s simply not worth the risk.
Aside from the options listed above, there are a few other avenues that may be helpful. Meditation is a great place to start if you aren’t in immediate danger but are dealing with emotional distress. Yoga, mindfulness practices, and exercise are also great things to try.
If loneliness or grief is a factor in your distress, group therapy may be a great option. At times Health for Life Counseling does have group therapy available here. However, there are so many informal (non-therapy) support groups for mental health that can also be effective to help with loneliness and grief.
You can find more resources on Michigan’s Suicide Prevention site. You can contact the therapists and counselors at Health for Life Counseling in Grand Rapids and Ada, MI on our contact page or call us at 616-200-4433 to set up a counseling session.
Written by Kaitlyn Pfiester; edited and reviewed by Paul Krauss MA LPC