Understanding Suicidal Thoughts | How To Cope


Suicide has been in the news and media frequently of the past few months.  Whilst it can only be a good thing that it raises awareness of an important and potentially life threatening issue, it’s important to clearly understand the facts and the fictions about suicide in order to avoid common misconceptions.

Suicidal thoughts | how to cope

Suicide can be a subject that many people shy away from talking about, or are scared to talk or ask about for fear of others not understanding them, overreacting or a fear of ‘pushing someone over the edge.’  If you are feeling suicidal or know someone that is struggling with suicidal thoughts, this article could help you.

What Does It Mean To ‘Be Suicidal’?

In reality when we talk about suicide we’re actually talking about many different things, including experiencing suicidal thoughts in which people may be thinking about ending their life right through to active plans and actions that people might be considering doing to end their lives.

A key area to understand is that thoughts and actions are different. One of the common misconceptions about suicide is that just because someone experiences thoughts about ending their life, that they will act upon them or that in some way it is a ‘cry for help.’  In times of high stress, or when people are experiencing other psychological problems it is not uncommon to have these types of thoughts. Whilst they should always be taken seriously, often they are nothing to worry about and some simple actions can help resolve or manage any underlying problems that are leading to suicidal thoughts or plans.

What Isn’t Suicide?

Many people link suicidality and self-harming behaviours together. Whilst both should be taken seriously, often they are very different things. When we consider suicide, our key focus is on understanding someone ending their own life and why this is an issue for them.  When we consider self harm the key focus is not about ending life, but often about someone trying to cope with life as it is, and in a way that makes sense to them in that moment – even if the way they are coping has risks.  One thing that suicide and self-harm do often share in common is the reality that someone is experiencing significant distress that they are trying to find a solution to.

Who Can Suicide Affect?

Anyone. At its most basic level, thoughts of suicide can affect anybody, regardless of whether they have a psychological disorder or not. Suicide can also strongly affect people that are left behind when someone close to them ends their life.  The reality is that suicide is something that has profound affects on many people, but something that few people talk about.  This creates the illusion that is is somehow rare or unusual, which is certainly not the case.

What Can I Do If I’m Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts?

Here are some quick steps you can take if you are feeling suicidal or thinking about ending your life:

1) Take time.  This is a big decision to think about and one that is very final.  Therefore give yourself as much time and information to make you help the best decision for the longer term.

2) Stay Safe Long Enough To Talk To Someone You Trust.  What have you got to lose by speaking with someone?  Perhaps a friend, family member, doctor or therapist.  By speaking to a professional they will certainly not try to ‘brainwash’ you, but will give you the time and space to consider things and make the best decision you can.

3) Surround yourself with good information.  If you are taking space to evaluate your options, do this in a balanced way.  Searching for ways to end your life on the internet (for example) won’t give you a broader picture – but rather will focus you on only one option.

4) Get all the options.  True problem solving involves seeking all possible solutions.  Whilst ending your life might be one option, there are almost certainly other options that are equally worth considering.

Finding hope from suicide

What if Someone Else Is Having Suicidal Thoughts?

The best thing you can do is talk and give them space to tell you why they are thinking about ending their life. This can be a hard thing to do without automatically jumping in with the urge to tell them ‘it’s not that bad’ or something similar.  As best you can try to hear them out, and talk about their concerns. It’s still ok to tell them what your opinion is and that you think ending their life might not be the answer the are hoping for.

In a recent study
of people who made serious attempts to end their lives, (but against the odds were unsuccessful) an overwhelming majority advised that they would have been much less likely to take action to end their life if someone had been there to talk with them in an open and unbiased way.

Keep the conversation going long enough to think of the bigger picture and encourage them to think of anything, no matter how small, that might provide a sense of hope for the future.  Research consistently shows a link between suicidal thinking and the amount of hope someone can see in their future.  if you are able to locate even one thing that gives them a reason to carry on focus on it and explore it together in detail.  Common areas in which there are some hope could be family, career, possibility of feeling different in time.

How To Look After Yourself If Someone Close To You Is Having Suicidal Thoughts?

If someone you care about is experiencing suicidal thoughts it can be a strain on them and you.  Take time to remember that you can only do your best and that you are not responsible for the other person, but can try to help them make changes to their own life.

Why not take a look at our article on the Top 5 Tips For Emotional Health?

Whilst this list isn’t intended to be a full guide to all of the things you can do to manage suicidal thoughts or actions, it hopefully gives you some ideas to consider.  In many cases, if you or someone you care about is troubled by difficult thoughts over a period of time it is a good idea to seek professional help.  Therapists, Psychologists and Doctors are not there to judge – but rather to do a good job at helping things change for the better.

If you would like to arrange a session with one of our therapists, why not contact us to find out more about our psychotherapy.