The subject of this blog was inspired by a number of conversations I have had with patients over the years. It’s a difficult topic and not often discussed which is precisely why I feel that we need to talk about this. Experiencing thoughts of wanting to die can feel very shameful and frightening and people can often feel very confused and alone. It’s actually a very common phenomenon.
Statistics from the Young Minds website www.youngminds.org.uk suggest that 1 in 4 young people (26%) experience suicidal thoughts. The Mind website http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/suicidal-feelings/#.WHyhWoHfWaM suggests that many people think about suicide at some point in their lifetime. So you are not alone. I’d recommend having a look at these two websites as they offer a wealth of information and supportive advice.
What helps? In the last 10 years, I have spoken to many patients and clients who are experiencing or have experienced suicidal thoughts. Many eventually find relief from these thoughts and I like to ask them afterwards what helped them to cope? What actually worked for them and helped them to feel better? Here are their thoughts and ideas paraphrased with personal details removed to preserve anonymity.
Plan in advance “I find it helpful to plan in advance how I will cope. I do this when I am feeling well. I have a list of useful numbers in my phone, such as the numbers for the Samaritans and our mental health crisis team. I also have an agreement with some of my close friends and if I am feeling suicidal I will ring them and let them know. Often just talking to someone will be enough to help me to feel better. My friends don’t try to fix me or talk me out of it (this very often doesn’t work!) They just listen and I know they care and this helps. I’m lucky in that I have good friends. I would always suggest that if talking to friends doesn’t help, then speak ASAP to a qualified professional such as your GP or mental health worker”
Ask for help “Please don’t suffer on your own. I often feel very stuck in my head when I experience suicidal thoughts. I feel very ashamed and also very angry with myself – I’m a bad person and I deserve to die etc. It’s taken me a while to realise that the thoughts going through my head are not a true reflection of me but they FEEL true. It can feel very scary to talk to a professional about suicidal thoughts but they will have heard it all before and can offer helpful advice and support.”
Exercise and distract yourself “It’s helpful to get out of my current environment and go for a walk or a run and this helps to clear my head. The thing with mental states is that they never stay exactly the same. When I feel stuck in suicidal thoughts, it can feel like it will last for ever. This is not the case. I find that if I distract myself for long enough, the thoughts will pass. I have found myself on YouTube and I basically distract myself by looking up every single video on a particular topic. Last week it was funny cat videos! I do this and it keeps me out of my head until the thoughts pass.”
Connect with good friends “Being in the presence of people who care is really important. There are certain people I feel safe with and often they don’t have to say anything. They may sit with me or make me a cup of tea. I don’t have to talk but if I want to I can.” (EC note, this is a really important point for friends/relatives supporting others. Sometimes in these states, it can be difficult to even talk and if this is the case, just practice being with the person and allowing your presence to calm them)
Look after yourself “It’s really important to sleep well, drink plenty of water and eat a good balanced healthy diet. Schedule in time to relax and exercise. I also find it helpful to write down one thing per day that I am grateful for and this helps me to focus on the good things in life.”
Useful resources and phone numbers
The Samaritans – freephone 116 123
A 24 hour phone line for those experiencing emotional distress. You will talk to a trained volunteer who will listen and offer support
Forward Thinking Birmingham
This is the citywide mental health service for those aged 0-25
In a crisis you can phone 0300 300 0099 and speak to a trained worker in their access centre. They are open 24/7
If you are concerned that your friend or relative may be at imminent risk of harming themselves or they have absconded or are extremely distressed you can contact the police or the emergency services on 999.
You can also contact your GP or outside surgery hours, local A and E departments have access to trained psychiatric professionals who can provide emergency assessment for those experiencing suicidal thoughts
Websites and books
Very helpful website which is geared towards raising awareness of male suicide and reducing the rate of completed suicides
The mind website (above)
How I stayed alive when my brain was trying to kill me: One person’s guide to suicide prevention
Susan Rose Blauner
The blog is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional, personalised advice from your doctor. Please, if you feel ill and are unsure or concerned, seek advice from a qualified health professional which could be your GP or Accident or Emergency if you have a life threatening medical problem. If you unsure, NHS 111 –
January 16, 2017Leave a comment