I realise that this is probably going to be a difficult read for some of you, but I feel raising awareness and breaking the taboo is so important.
This article is exploring the feelings around what it means to be suicidal in the hope that it may help those who have fortunately not experienced it themselves, to better understand the thoughts and feelings of those who have. It might also help if, you find yourself face to face with someone feeling suicidal.
Although, this is an account of my own experience and is not a comprehensive list of thoughts and feelings associated with considering suicide, many people now talk to me about their own experience and these are the very common themes that show up time and time again.
Often, it’s remarked that the suicidal person is “attention seeking” and presented in such a way that it makes it seem that the threat far less serious than for a person who isn’t. However, I would argue that attention is actually a very basic human need and not feeling seen has a serious detrimental effect on self-esteem.
Being seen matters because essentially, we all want to contribute, have a purpose and make a difference. But how can we do that if nobody notices us?
Likewise, suicidal thoughts can often intrude when someone is desperate to be noticed because they do not know how to deal with the feelings they are experiencing at that very moment. In the turmoil, they can think of no other way to make the pain stop and death seems to be the only solution available to them.
This usually stems from a feeling of helplessness and it will be super familiar to the person having the thoughts.
Feelings of helplessness are often associated with low self-esteem and they become intrinsically linked in childhood. Self-esteem is how someone evaluates their own worth and so, if they had been in a situation where they felt helpless and which they couldn’t fix at a young age, then they begin to believe that they can never fix it.
Confirmation bias means that they encounter experiences that repeatedly confirm this belief that they can’t fix it because, whatever we look for, we find.
Equally, if someone doesn’t see their own value, they believe they are not worth the effort and that is why so many people do not ask for support. They simply can’t believe that they are important enough for someone else to make time to help them.
If you suspect someone is feeling this way, or in a place of danger, coax them to safety with the promise of your time.
This is the greatest gift you can give them, and the promise will be powerful enough to interrupt their looping thoughts at that moment. This is because, they will have heard all the usual platitudes and, in that crucial moment, it’s pointless mentioning their family or friends because, they believe they are a burden.
They think they will be doing everyone a favour and life would be much easier for those they love if they were no longer around. The link between what their death might mean to their loved ones comes way further down the path of their recovery.
Rarely, do they need to hear your solution for their issues, or opinion, or take on the situation. They just need your time; they want to be seen or heard even if they are saying nothing in that moment.
Regardless, of whether it’s been a long build up to that moment, or whether it is an ‘out of the blue’ episode, it is often unlikely that they will be able to identify, never mind articulate what they are feeling. However, if they do begin to share, validate their feelings by listening and then acknowledging the thoughts being shared.
However well meaning, please don’t be tempted to talk at them sharing why, in your opinion, they ‘shouldn’t’ be feeling that way. Just being there, next to them, either listening or in silence, will make such a difference.
If you find the silence uncomfortable, that is something about yourself that you may want to work on. But in that moment, switch your focus to the person in front of you and just be there.
Likewise, so many times when someone has been lost to suicide, we are told that it has come as a great shock for their family and that nobody had any inkling about how they were feeling. So, let’s check in with each other, rather than ask “Are you ok?”, change the question to “How are you feeling today?” – trust me it makes a difference to the thought process behind the response.
Even if they cannot identify how they are feeling, never underestimate the power of interrupting their thoughts.
As always, I am available to talk to anyone who might need some support with any aspect of this important subject 💛x
The Samaritans 116 123 (FREE)