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If you have had thoughts of ending your own life, you might be hesitant to tell anyone for fear of judgment and think that no one could understand what you are going through anyway.  

Sometimes these thoughts fade along with the stressors that may have led to them and you begin engaging in life again.  

Sometimes though, these thoughts don’t leave you and increase in frequency and intensity.  

This can be a very dark and dangerous place for you, because you may come to believe that there is no way out and you have no other options but to end your life. Whether you have had suicidal thoughts, intentions, or actual attempts, you should know that you are not alone or crazy, though it certainly may not feel like that to you when you are in such pain.

Passive versus active suicidal thoughts 

While every thought of suicide should be attended to, it is important to be able to distinguish between more passive thoughts and immediate danger. Getting an idea of this for yourself can be very useful, not only in calming yourself down but also in communicating it to others, including trusted loved ones, a doctor, or a therapist. If you are having passive suicidal thoughts, it means that at this moment even though you are feeling a desire to die, that you have no developed plan or intent to act. This may look something like: “I wish I wouldn’t wake up tomorrow” or “People would be better off without me.” These thoughts don’t spell out immediate danger, that’s why they are labeled as “passive,” but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t exceedingly painful. Over time, you might even start thinking about possible ways to hurt yourself. Sometimes these ongoing passive thoughts can escalate into plans and action. That’s when the danger becomes immediate.

If you find that you have a suicide plan and intent to carry it out, that is when the situation becomes immediately dangerous and you are in crisis. This means that intervention is needed to keep you from harming yourself. You might be set in your decision, seeing no way out; you might not be thinking clearly, and you may even have taken some drugs or alcohol to help you along with the process. If this resonates with what you are feeling right now, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you’ve been at this dark place and are looking back, it can be terrifying. There are things you can do though to help prevent yourself from getting into crisis again.

Why Do I Feel This Way? 

Suicidal thoughts and actions can happen for a lot of reasons. Teasing apart what might be contributing to them for you can help you work through what is causing you this immense pain and find some peace. Sometimes it is hard to articulate what might be behind suicidal thoughts other than knowing that you sometimes just don’t want to be here anymore. Here are some common contributors to suicidal thoughts and actions that might ring true for you.

Contributing factors to Suicidal thoughts 

  • Untreated trauma
  • Intense/chronic anxiety and depression
  • Feeling unable to accept yourself/unlovable
  • Losing a loved one/grief
  • Addiction
  • Chaotic living situation
  • Abusive relationships, romantic or otherwise
  • Financial stress
  • Feeling humiliated
  • Chronic pain/illness or physical limitations
  • Feeling rejected, abandoned, or isolated
  • Receiving hate for your sexuality, gender expression, religion, race, etc.

It is important to remember that this list is not exhaustive, but if you can figure out specifically what all is contributing to your current pain, you then can identify what you may be able to do  to work toward healing.  

Know Your Danger Signs 

If suicidal thoughts have been coming up for you or if you’ve had attempts in the past, it’s absolutely worth digging deeper to know what danger signs look like for YouObviously, having suicidal thoughts at all are danger signs that something needs to be processed and worked through, but knowing your danger signs in terms of what might be indicating that a crisis could be around the corner if something doesn’t change is so important.

Danger Signs for Suicidal Thinking: 

  • Sleeping all the time
  • Distancing yourself from people
  • Stopping activities you used to like
  • Being easily stressed/irritable
  • Finding little joy throughout the day
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Excessive spending
  • Feeling like no one understands you
  • Feeling rage or hatred that is new for you
  • Thinking more about practical ways you could end your life
  • Having a plan for it
  • Drafting a note  

How to create your safety plan 

If you have suicidal thoughts or if you have pondered ways in which you might carry things out and gotten specific about what that would look like, it is essential to have a safety plan. Ideally, this would be co-created with your therapist and involve other people. Here are some suggestions to include:  

  • A list of positive coping strategies and outlets that help you feel calm that you can do on your own.
    • Relaxation techniques
    • Meditation
    • Physical activities, etc
  • Places or social situations that may be a positive distraction and support for you.
  • Phone numbers of friends or family that you can reach out to when feeling this way.
    • Have them preprogrammed in your phone and don’t be afraid to ask them to come sit with you if needed.
  • Phone numbers for your therapist, psychiatrist, medical doctor or emergency room.
  • The phone number for a local Crisis line and resources that you can reach out to in moments of danger
    • Lawrence County Crisis Line: 724-652-9000
    • Mercer County Crisis Line: 724-662-2227
    • The Crisis Text Line can be accessed by texting HOME to 741741
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 

The point is to try to intervene BEFORE the situation becomes immediately dangerous, because sometimes when you’re on the path you set out for yourself and gaining momentum, you don’t think to ask for help. This is why your safety plan should ALSO include practical things that prevent that turning point from passive to more active suicidality. Some small things that can make a huge difference are getting up at the same time every day and eating breakfast. These seemingly simply things really help with emotional regulation, which can become out of whack if you are experiencing suicidality. If you have been experiencing any level of suicidal thoughts, a big recommendation is to also work on making your natural environment safer. Eliminate built up supplies of old medications, consider having friends or family hold on to any guns, and generally decrease ease of access to any component that is included in your suicidal plan. This may slow the action portion of completing a suicidal plan down long enough for an intervention or for you to be able to rethink your circumstance.

Ongoing Support 

Having a competent therapist to work with you and process your suicidal thoughts or desires is essential to keeping yourself safe and working toward healing. If you need someone to help you work through suicidal ideation in a nonjudgmental way, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with Angelus Therapeutic Services. And if you are in immediate danger, have this hotline handy: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. It is open and running 24 hours, every day. Sometimes suicides are impulsive and sometimes they are planned. Regardless of what led up to feeling this way, intervention can help prevent the completion of suicide. Reaching out is hard but can save your life and give you a chance for a better tomorrow 

How Can I Help Others

Another way to help raise awareness, break the stigma, and support suicide prevention is to participate in or donate to an Out of the Darkness Community Walk, which is founded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Their goal is to reduce the suicide rate by 20%. You can participate and walk for yourself, in support of someone else who may have attempted or completed, or simply walk to support the cause. Lawrence County’s Out of the Darkness walk is scheduled for 9/14/2019 at Riverside Park. Learn more about it here If you would like to help Angelus Therapeutic Services reach our donation goal, please click here. We will be participating in this year’s walk and hope to see you there.

Never stop learning

Phone Numbers:
  • Lawrence County Crisis Line: 724-652-9000
  • Mercer County Crisis Line: 724-662-2227
  • The Crisis Text Line can be accessed by texting HOME to 741741
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services