I remember it like it was yesterday.
“It would be better if I were dead,” was the text message I sent to a friend. I was rushed to the hospital for attempting to end life and admitted into the psychiatric unit on this day four years ago. Most people were shocked, but it was no surprise to me. I had my first thought of suicide around 11 years old. Did I know it was called suicide? No, but I often thought about ways of ending my life and wanted to die as a child. While my suicidal thoughts don’t come as frequently, I still struggle with them.
I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts (on and off) for the last month as recent events triggered my childhood trauma. It can be frustrating and exhausting to stay alive. I have to fight internally and convince myself why I need to stay alive. Therapy continues to help me reprogram my brain by not allowing it to go to suicide as the first thought, and it is hard. Some days, I feel so powerless.
However, I am proud of my progress, but there are moments when I feel like I’m on edge. What keeps me going? I look at how far I’ve come, I text my therapist or a friend and discuss the thoughts. When my depression tries to trick me into ending my life, my prayer to God is to “keep me even when I don’t want to be kept.”
I don’t share my story because I want a pity party. I share it because it is healing for me, and it helps others along the way.
Here are three quick tips to help a loved one when he/she is experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Keep your loved one safe.
Be direct. Ask your loved one, “Are you having thoughts of suicide? “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” You will not put an idea in someone’s mind. If the person has an organized plan and access to the means (e.g., gun or pills) contact the mobile crisis team in your city. If your city does not have one, call 911.
Ask your loved one, “How can I help you?”
People often go into fix-it mode. Before jumping into action, ask your loved one what he/she needs at the moment. Just because someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it does not mean he/she has intentions to act them. Sometimes having a space to express their thoughts is all one needs.
Remind the person that he/she is loved without using guilt.
Comments such as, “You will go to hell” or “You are selfish” will push the person away and prevent them from reaching out to you in the future. Instead you can say, "I am here for you." Or "I am concerned about you."