How to Cope with Suicidal Thoughts
(Note: this is Part 1 of a two-part blog. Part 2, How to Help Others who are Struggling, will be published soon).
September is Suicide Prevention Month. If you are having thoughts of suicide, here are some things you can do to keep yourself safe:
Immediately reach out if you are thinking about following through with suicidal thoughts
If you need immediate help – call 911 or go to your local hospital’s ER.
Crisis Help Lines – Phone and Text:
Distress Line of Southwestern Alberta: (403) 327-7905
Mental Health Help Line: 1-877-303-2642
Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566, or text: 45645
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 686868
Keep Yourself Safe
Whatever you are thinking about using (e.g., knives, pills), remove them as soon as possible or ask someone you trust to help you if you’re afraid that seeing or touching them may increase your risk. Lock up the items, if possible, or ask someone to put them away. For things that cannot be removed (e.g., a bridge) talk with a loved one about ways that you can avoid them.
Avoid alcohol and drugs for the time being, as substances can increase the risk of suicide.
As well, only take prescriptions (e.g., anti-depressants) and over the counter medicine as directed.
Know that you are Not Alone, Weak, or Crazy
Many people have suicidal thoughts and feelings sometimes. You may feel overwhelmed with pain and don’t feel like you can cope with all that’s going on. Whatever is going on, no matter how depressed and hopeless you feel, know that feelings change and our perspectives on problems change. There are people who would grieve deeply for the rest of their lives, if you took your own life. Your life is important and there are many things worth living for.
Talk about your Feelings
Talking about feelings is not a sign of weakness. In fact, talking about hard things is a strength; a skill that, like most things, gets better with practice.
Talk with others about your feelings. This could be your partner, friends, co-workers, parents, siblings, cousins, boss, a therapist, or a crisis helpline worker – anyone who you feel comfortable talking to. If talking about feelings is something new or awkward for you, you don’t have to dive in head first. Try taking small steps. Say things like “I’m not doing good”, or “things have been stressful”, are good ways to start. Usually, a supportive adult would reply with “what’s wrong?” Then, you can talk, sharing as much or as little information as you feel comfortable.
If things don’t go well with one conversation, don’t give up. Try talking with someone else or change how you talk. Typically, we feel a little better when we feel heard, so keep trying.
Ways to Express or Cope with Feelings
There are many ways to cope with difficult emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and betrayal. Some are healthy and others not-so-healthy:
|Healthy Coping||Unhealthy Coping|
|Connecting or spending time with loved ones||Drugs|
|Journaling –writing down your thoughts and emotions||Smoking|
|Seeing a therapist||Fighting, verbally or physically|
|Calling or texting a helpline||Too much caffeine|
|Creating art or enjoying others’ art||Disconnecting from loved ones|
|Listening to music||Promiscuous sex|
|Going outside||Eating not enough or too much|
|Balanced nutrition||Sleeping not enough or too much|
|Progressive muscle relaxation (YouTube it!)|
|Watching TV, movies, Netflix, etc.|
|Things that provide relaxation, joy, and purpose|
|Good sleep hygiene|
|Joining a support group, in person or online|
Connect with Social Supports
Spending quality time with people you love can have huge positive impacts on your mental health and is one of the greatest ways to reduce suicide risk. Visit, call, text, message, Face Time, or connect via social media. Spending time with others is great, but what tends to help the most is sharing with someone your concerns, in whatever way you feel comfortable.
Taking care of yourself and doing things that bring joy, relaxation, and purpose are important for mental health. These include things like: establishing and following through with routines, exercising, connecting, going outside and enjoying nature, looking for the beauty of everyday life, eating a balanced diet, drinking lots of water, getting into a good sleep routine, meditating, deep breathing, spiritual practice, and many others.
Reach out for Help
Suicidal thoughts are hard to live with. Mental health professionals can provide a great deal of support and guidance with coping with suicidal thoughts. There are various mental health professionals within Southern Alberta, and many are providing options for access, including face-to-face and/or telehealth opportunities during the pandemic. At Associates Counselling Services, we are providing both in-person and telehealth options. If you would like to get set up or ask questions, please call (403) 381-6000. https://talkinghelps.ca/
Special Tribute to the artist of the drawing shown in this blog
Valerie Furgason, a professional colleague of mine, has provided her consent for me to share her journey. Ten years ago, her son, Michael, died of suicide at the age of 17. Valerie has found meaning in her loss through artwork. She has made it her life purpose to let people who are thinking about suicide know that they are important and there are many people who care deeply about them.
The drawing shown in this blog, titled “My Gift”, was her first drawing. It represents her gift in creating something beautiful out of the worst pain in the world. This was where her journey into expressing her feelings of sadness, loneliness, and loss started. The sunset represents the warmth and love that friends and family have for each individual thinking about suicide. Through her drawings, Valerie dreams that others can connect with their emotions and feel a sense of hope for the future.
Brad Moser, Registered Psychologist
Brad Moser has almost 13 years of experience providing therapy for children and teens, adults, couples, and families. His areas of practice include anger, anxiety, bereavement, childhood and family of origin concerns, depression, identity concerns, marital/relationship distress, men’s and dad’s issues, parenting, self-esteem, separation/divorce, stress, and suicidal ideation. Brad is now accepting new clients and is providing a sliding scale for those who cannot afford the normal rate.
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