Managing suicidal thoughts

Written by Yomi Olusunle a current NTU Psychology MSc Student

The article below a discussion on suicide. Please take care as  this article may be triggering for you. There’s absolutely no shame in struggling with suicidal ideations. If you are struggling or you know someone who is, I need you to know that you don’t have to suffer in silence. Help and support is never far away;

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Help for suicidal thoughts

‘It’s worse when you wake up with needles pouring fluid into your arms, your loved ones peering over your face, oxygen getting pumped into your lungs, only to cuss yourself, and realise you failed again’.

Writing this article was difficult, more difficult because suicide is not a pretty topic to discuss. Suicide is heavy. Suicide denotes an aching way to leave suffering that has become overwhelming. People are often consumed by hopelessness, bleakness, isolation and self-hate, people cannot see a way out except they kill themselves.

With more people in the public eye, coming forward to speak about their struggles and through modern media, we have seen people who allegedly ‘have it all’ lose their lives to suicide like Anthony Bourdain whose suicide shook the world. We have also seen people like Taraji Henson, Tamar Braxton, Tyson Fury, Robbie Williams, Kerry Washington, Keke Palmer, Walt Disney, Mike Tyson and so many others speak around their struggles with suicidal thoughts. Although there are certain nuances, suicide is not specific to a certain gender, race, age, status, social background or financial status.

When we speak about suicide, there’s the active and passive suicidal ideation. Active suicidal ideation refers to having suicidal thoughts with plans to execute it and carry out on it meanwhile passive suicidal ideation refers to when an individual has thoughts about suicide but no immediate plans to carry out death e.g fantasizing about dying while asleep. There’s an exceptional amount of stigma when it comes to suicide and with every clock tick, it becomes even more important to discuss out struggles. According to the Office for National Statistics, as at 2019, 5,691 suicides were documented in England and Wales, at the age-standardised pace of 11.0 deaths per 100,000 population and accordant with the number in 2018.

SIGNS OF SOMEONE THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE

A few signs that could highlight that someone is contemplating suicide includes;

  • Poor academic performance
  • Self-sabotage and self-destructive behavior
  • Talking about dying or wanting to die
  • An obsession with death
  • Strong feelings of guilt and shame
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones and getting affairs in order
  • Unusual changes in behavior and changes in sleeping patterns
  • Increasing access to lethal means like guns, pills, liquor etc
  • A detachment from life in general

MYTHS SURROUNDING SUICIDE

When the topic of suicide comes up, people scrunch their noses, shuffle their feet, turn their heads, anything, anyway not to address the elephant in the room. Understandably so. The second major cause of death among young people aged 15-24 is suicide. So, unavoidably, we must have these conversations. There are myths surrounding suicide that we need to erase in order to pursue a healthier world;

  • People do not end their life because they want to die, they do so because they’re trying to stop the pain they’re feeling
  • Suicide doesn’t only affect individuals with a mental health condition, other life stressors like death, trauma, illness, trauma, abuse, rejection can lead an individual to feeling suicidal
  • The fact that someone is suicidal does not mean they will stay suicidal forever, peak suicide is short-term and situation specific
  • Suicides don’t happen without signs, only in very few cases do they happen out of the blue. There are usually physical, behavioural, and verbal warning signs.
  • People who die by suicide are not selfish, they have hit rock bottom and have chosen suicide as a means to end that suffering, it’s not about you, it’s about them
  • It’s okay to have conversations around suicide, this reduces the stigma, allows people to get help, evaluate their options, and share their experiences with others
  • There’s absolutely nothing wrong in asking someone if they’re suicidal as those struggling may be relieved to share their struggles, be heard and listened to. This also gives people an opportunity to think out loud and explore their struggles
  • People who are seen to ‘have their lives together’ are also at risk of suicide. You never know what’s really going on within
  • Giving someone a hotline number to call simply isn’t enough, ask how you can help, reach out to a mental health provider on their behalf or take them to the Emergency Room yourself
  • The fact that someone survived a suicide attempt doesn’t mean that they can’t be suicidal again
  • People who talk about suicide aren’t trying to manipulate others, they are in pain, deep, profound pain and need help. We always need to take talks about suicide seriously, always.

MANAGING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

According to a Havard study, approximately 70% of people who attempted suicide did not try again which goes to show that pain doesn’t last forever, there really are better days ahead.

A few ways to manage suicidal thoughts include;

  • Removing yourself from danger
  • Challenging your thinking, talking to someone you trust like a friend, partner, a telephone helpline or your counselor
  • Identify your triggers and avoiding them
  • Avoiding drugs, alcohol and any substances that could push you into addiction
  • Tell yourself this is temporary and it definitely will pass, depression is distorting your thinking and they aren’t facts
  • Try journaling to document your thoughts and process them effectively
  • Reach out to a trusted mental health professional, psychologist and therapist who can support you and equip you with the right tools.

We cannot fully tackle suicide till we fully demystify and eradicate the stigma around mental illness. It’s important to come to a place as a society where we are okay discussing it like we do cancer, miscarriages, malaria, divorce etc. If you are worried someone might be contemplating suicide, please reach out and speak up. We need to get to a place where we can freely say, I’m in a dark place and I feel like killing myself without feeling judged or ostracized. If we can come to this point, we are a step closer to helping people choose to live.

Free online suicide awareness training is available for more information please contact healthyntu@ntu.ac.uk

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are supporting someone struggling with suicidal thoughts you are not alone, please check out the links below for more information and support:

Papyrus: Prevention of Young Suicide

Samaritans – Call 116 123

Shout – crisis Text service. Text SHOUT to 85258

Rethink – Supporting someone with suicidal thoughts

CALM – campaign against living miserably

For help and advice whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.


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