If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or mental illness, you may experience disturbing, intrusive thoughts of death. You should get help right away if you experience new thoughts about taking your own life, called “suicidal ideation.” But suicidal thoughts won’t go away immediately after you seek out help. You need a plan to shut down suicidal thoughts that occur while you are on the path to recovery.
If You are Having Suicidal Thoughts, Help is Available Right Now
Anyone can struggle with thoughts of suicide. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can get help right now, 24 hours per day, by calling or texting:
The calls are confidential and free, so you can get help right away when you need it.
Starting July 16, 2022, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline will be available nationwide just by dialing 9-8-8. Like 9-1-1 emergency response, the 9-8-8 Lifeline will route callers to one of over 180 local suicide crisis centers in their local area, with trained volunteers and doctors who can help shut down suicidal thoughts. The Lifeline is available in some parts of the country already, but if you aren’t sure, you can always use the number above to get help right now.
Get Help Shutting Down Suicidal Thoughts
Talk to a psychotherapist today about how to cope with suicidal thoughts and say no to suicide.
Don’t Make the Decision Right Now
If you find yourself considering whether to take your own life, try to remove the urgency from making the choice. Invite yourself to sleep on it and weigh your options. Focus on just getting through today, this week, or this month. If there is an event coming up, like a birthday or holiday, give yourself permission to see that event through. You may find you are better able to cope when that time comes.
Move Your Body
Exercise, even just taking a walk around the block or dancing in your bathroom, can release neurochemicals that shut down suicidal thoughts. By doing activities that trigger dopamine and serotonin in your brain, you can make it physically easier to ignore the thoughts and break out of a downward spiral.
Distract Yourself from Suicidal Thoughts
On the other hand, if your suicidal thoughts come from a place of anxiety, you can sometimes shut them down by taking direct action to relax and interrupt your racing thoughts with another stimulus. This might involve:
- Applying a breathing technique
- Watching a guided meditation
- Using a mindfulness strategy
- Exposing yourself to a favorite smell or taste
- Visualizing or looking at a picture of a favorite location
- Removing yourself from a stressful situation and getting outside or someplace quiet and calm
Each of these strategies can help you interrupt the thought spiral behind suicidal thoughts and bring yourself back to the present moment.
Think About the People You Will Leave Behind If You Act on Suicidal Thoughts
Many times, depression can make you believe you are alone, you don’t matter, or no one would miss you if you were gone. But that is never true.
Think about the people closest to you:
How will listening to your suicidal thoughts negatively affect their lives? Do you have friends who will miss you? Will your family have trouble paying the bills? Who will have to pick up the slack for your absence? If you are feeling worthless or unloved, consider the practical problems that would result from your death. Identifying how suicide will affect other people can make it easier to say no to the thoughts because it is often easier to think about others’ needs than your own.
Seek Out Support
If you are having suicidal thoughts, one of the best things you can do is seek out support right in that moment. This can be formal support, like the lifeline or a professional psychotherapist, social worker, or religious leader. Support can also come from friends and family members.
Tell your friends and family what you are going through. They may be able to help keep you safe and connect you with broader support. Even if all they do is sit with you, that can still prevent you from making a decision you can’t take back. No matter what, the goal is simple: to say no and keep saying no to intrusive suicidal thoughts.
David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. He helps adults, teens and children with suicidal thoughts from depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns, individually, and as comorbid diagnoses. Contact David Stanislaw to get help today.