Using Suicidal Ideation as a Depression Coping Mechanism

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Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide and suicide attempts as it pertains to suicidal ideation as a depression coping mechanism.

Depression brings about a lot of changes in a person's mind and body, such as feelings of apathy and hopelessness, and headaches and body pain. These changes are typically overwhelming and most of us need to rely on some coping mechanisms to be able to simply function on a day to day basis. Unfortunately, not all coping mechanisms are healthy and can harm the individual, even causing death if left unchecked. Suicidal ideation is one such negative coping mechanism that is best avoided by a depressive.

Why Suicidal Ideation for Depression Is Dangerous

Suicidal Ideation for Depression Coping Is Addictive

As the term implies, suicidal ideation means wanting to take your own life. There are two types of suicidal ideation: passive and active. Passive suicidal ideation is when you wish you were dead, but you don't take any action to make that happen. Active suicidal ideation is when you wish you were dead, and you make a plan to die by suicide. Generally, and in my case as well, I got passive suicidal ideation, which then morphed into active suicidal ideation. This transition is what makes suicidal ideation so dangerous, and why us depressives should avoid it even though suicidal ideation is a) not a choice and b) occurs naturally. 

Suicidal Ideation for Depression Coping Is Insidious

Shortly after I was diagnosed with clinical depression last year, my mind was naturally drawn to passive suicidal ideation. Whenever I had a particularly bad day or was in a situation I'd rather not be, I would wish that I were dead. Often, I would even picture my own funeral. Either way, I would feel calmer and soon, passive suicidal ideation became my go-to coping mechanism for episodes of depression.

However, over time, the thought of not existing wasn't enough to make me feel better. And then when I first experienced a very bad episode of depression, my mind immediately took me to the then alien zone of active suicidal ideation. I went from passively wishing I were not alive to actively planning ways to die. It was overwhelming and made me feel completely out of control. At one point, I almost succumbed to it too. If it weren't for my younger sister stopping me from harming myself, I might not have been here today to share my experience. That's when I realized that using suicidal ideation as a coping mechanism was a terrible idea. It always escalates, so it's best avoided completely.

How to Avoid Suicidal Ideation as a Depression Coping Mechanism

A few days later, my therapist and I figured out a healthy coping mechanism for depression. Now whenever I feel lost and hopeless, I cope with it by taking deep breaths and read my little book of positive mental health affirmations. More often than not, the combination of deep breathing and mental health affirmations helps keep my depression and suicidal ideation in check. On the rare occasion that this doesn't work, I confide in my friends, family, or therapist.

Once others know you are in a bad place and are thinking of taking your own life, you'll be surprised to know how supportive some people can be. Just give them and your life a fighting chance and stay away from suicidal ideation. For all you know, if you ignore suicidal ideation long enough, it may stop visiting you forever.

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section

Sleep in Recovery from Mental Illness: When Is It Healthy?

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Healthy sleep in recovery from mental illness is absolutely vital, but do you know when you're using sleep as a coping mechanism and when you're using it as avoidance? It can be a very fine line, but in this post and video, I talk about some of the good signs and red flags when it comes to healthy sleep in recovery from mental illness.

Good Signs for Healthy Sleep in Recovery from Mental Illness

Obviously it would be ideal for most of us if we could get 8 hours of sleep in recovery from mental illness every night, wake up feeling refreshed, get through the day with plenty of energy, and go to bed just tired enough to sleep soundly again. But in my experience, that is a very rare occurrence for almost anyone, let alone those of us with mental illness. So if you can't get 8 hours of sleep, or if you simply have to take naps throughout the day, how can you tell if you're doing so in a healthy way?

First, I can always tell that I'm getting healthy sleep if I actually feel well-rested after sleeping. I may not feel great, but I will notice that I gained some energy while sleeping, and increasing energy is a great, healthy reason to sleep well in recovery from mental illness. Second, if I have insomnia and simply cannot stay asleep at night, it's perfectly healthy to sleep when I can, even if that's during the day. Yes, it's better to sleep at night, but do you know what's even better than that? Sleeping at all. If I've been up all night and I notice my body getting tired around 2 am, I am not going to deny myself a nap. It's important to give my body the sleep it needs to stay healthy, no matter what time that sleep in recovery happens to occur.

Red Flags for Unhealthy Sleep Choices in Recovery from Mental Illness

In my experience, sleep is usually a great thing for my mental health, but sometimes I can tell I'm making unhealthy sleep choices. The biggest red flag for me is when I'm not actually very tired, but I force myself to go to sleep anyway, often in the middle of the day. In this case, I'm not using sleep to build up energy to recover from something that was physically or emotionally draining, I'm simply sleeping because I don't know what else to do with myself. I just don't want to be conscious and deal with all the frustrations it entails, so I go to sleep instead. This is avoidance, and it isn't good for me.

Do you use sleep in recovery from mental illness using unhealthy choices to cope? How can you tell you're getting healthy sleep even when it looks different from the typical 8 hours at night? Let us know in the comments, and check out the video for more information.

Psychopath Quotes

Psychopath quotes and quotes from psychopaths are chilling representations of what real psychopaths think and will do. Nothing is off-limits for the psychopath (Think you might be a psychopath? Take our psychopath test.). Some psychopaths will silently eat away your soul whereas others will rape, torture or kill. Some psychopaths will do all those things.

Some psychopath quotes will show you how psychopaths behave from the outside in, giving you a sense of the red flags associated with psychopathy. Other psychopath quotes come from inside the psychopath him- or herself and display the unfeeling, uncaring inner core of dangerous people: like those with antisocial personality disorder.

Use the following psychopath quotes to fortify yourself against people who have no conscience, to put up a barrier that makes it difficult for psychopaths to affect you – too much.

We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow. ―Ted Bundy

How does such a cold, calculating psychopathic personality develop? What compels some psychopaths to warn us about themselves and others like them? It’s not a conscience; perhaps it is to instill fear.

A psychopath can tell what you’re thinking but what they don’t do is feel what you feel. These are people without a conscience. ―Robert D. Hare

It is very difficult to spot the symptoms of psychopathy in a person. Psychopath quotes like this one barely scratch the surface of what it means to run into a person without conscience.

A psychopath can use a word like “I love you” but it means nothing more to him than if he said, “I’ll have a cup of coffee.” ―Robert D. Hare

How can you know that you’re with a psychopath when they use words convincingly underscored by observed emotion? Psychopaths know how to act to get what they want, but they never feel the emotion they copy.

Despite the psychopath's lack of conscience and lack of empathy for others, he is inevitably better at fooling people than any other type of offender. ― Anna Salter

This is a psychopath quote that seems to make little sense. How can a person who feels nothing, who cares nothing about anyone other than him- or herself, fool us into thinking they experience love, sadness, and joy like everyone else?

The eyes of a psychopath will deceive you; they will destroy you. They will take from you, your innocence, your pride and eventually your soul. ― Dr. Samuel Loomis

Unfortunately, most of us don’t recognize or identify psychopathic behavior until the damage is done. Even then it is hard to believe a person can be so calculatingly cruel.

I regularly comment on my desire to exploit my admirers or to kill babies and cute animals, and I don't even need to laugh or smile for people to think I am joking. ― M. E. Thomas

No one really wants to know what a psychopath truly is – what he thinks. Yet it’s important that we understand the danger some people present to us, our children and even our pets.

It's hard to recognize the devil when his hand is on your shoulder. That's because a psychopath is just a person before he becomes a headline. ― Becky Masterman

Few people recognize the psychopath in their lives until it is too late. Take a look at “Famous Psychopaths You Wouldn’t Want to Run Across” to see if there are similarities between these famous psychopaths and someone you know.

Psychopaths know intellectually what is immoral, they just don’t have a feeling of immorality about it. ―Barbara Oakley

We teach psychopathic children what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Most child psychopaths grow up knowing the difference between good and evil. It’s just that the psychopath feels no guilt for violating the moral code.

And people who do hideous things do not look like people who do hideous things. There is no face of evil. ― Martha Stout

The portrait of a psychopathic killer would look no different from yours. As this psychopathic quote explains, there is no way to tell a psychopath by looking at them.

A hallmark feature of psychopaths’ disorder is that they don’t get bothered by much of anything. They don’t ruminate and they don’t get depressed. ― Kent A. Kiehl

Psychopathy offers immunity to much of the human experience. Learn more by reading “Psychopathy: Definition, Symptoms, Signs, Causes” to better understand what you could face in the next person you meet. Or in someone you already know.

To admit that some people literally have no conscience is not technically the same as saying that some human beings are evil, but it is disturbingly close. ― Martha Stout

This psychopath quote reminds us that the psychopath cannot be cured; some evil cannot be exorcised. However you slice a psychopath, their traits and characteristics are evidence of their inherent danger.

APA Reference
Holly, K. (2019, September 16). Psychopath Quotes, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from

Last Updated: September 17, 2019

Use the DBT FAST Skill to Keep Self-Respect During Conflict

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Years ago, I was the queen of passivity, but the dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) FAST skill helped me overcome it. It used to be that I avoided conflict and difficult conversations at all costs and refused to put my needs and desires first. I would come up with scripts in my head of what to say; however, as soon as an intense conversation would begin, I felt my self-respect fade away ("Show Yourself Respect: How to Communicate with Confidence"). I wished that I could trade in my copious amounts of passivity for self-respect, but something always got in the way. Fortunately, in the past year, I have learned how to maintain self-respect during a conflict by following a few simple steps set out by the DBT FAST skill. 

How to Use the DBT FAST Skill During Interpersonal Conflict

If you have read my articles before, you know that I am enrolled in an intensive DBT training program at Columbia University and loving it. Through being trained in becoming a DBT therapist, I have been able to practice these therapeutic skills on myself. One interpersonal effectiveness skill I particularly like is the FAST skill, which is an acronym that outlines how to maintain self-respect when asking for what you want. 

Be (F)air 
Be fair both to the other person and yourself. Be fair to yourself by acknowledging your needs as opposed to hiding them, which requires a degree of assertiveness. Be fair to the other person by avoiding judgment, harsh tone, and other harmful communication tactics. Many people shut down when they feel targeted. 

No (A)pologizing
I should clarify that this does not mean that you should never apologize! Apologizing when you have done something wrong can help rebuild trust and relationships. However, if you have not done anything wrong, do not be sorry. I have a bad habit of apologizing compulsively, and I believe that this is an issue that many women in our society face. Pay attention to how often you apologize daily, and you may be surprised. 

(S)tick to Your Values
During conflict, it can be tempting to compromise what is important to you in order to please the other person. Make a list of your current values and stick to them. If you are not sure of your current values, it is worth exploring this. In any relationship, it is crucial that you and your partner have your needs and desires met. If your partner does not respect your values, perhaps it is time to reflect on your relationship. 

Be (T)ruthful
Be honest both with yourself and others. I have struggled with being truthful in conflict, and I have minimized my feelings and wants. By not being truthful about what you hope to get out of the conversation, you may never have your needs met. 

Do you think you'll try this DBT FAST skill in your next conflict? Why or why not? Contribute your thoughts in the comments.

Tracking Your Mental Health Is Centering and Empowering

Here's what's happening on the HealthyPlace site this week:

Tracking your mental health is a simple yet effective way to help you take charge of, and improve, your mental health. Read more on HealthyPlace.

Tracking Your Mental Health Is Centering and Empowering

Living with any mental illness can be discouraging. Have you ever wondered, “Will I ever get better?” or, “How do I heal?” Questions like these are often overwhelming when you don’t know the answer.  Tracking your mental health is a simple yet effective way to make you feel more centered and empowered to take charge of yourself and your life.

Tracking helps you see what your brain and body, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are doing. You can look for patterns and broaden your perspective. In your mood tracker or mental health journal, keep a record of things such as:

  • The symptom
  • What time you’re feeling it
  • Your circumstances
  • How long it lasted
  • What you did to help it improve
  • Medication you’re taking, doses you accidentally miss, how meds are impacting your symptoms
  • Your nutrition, what you’re eating and drinking and how these influence your moods
  • Situations that worsen your symptoms and those that relieve them
  • The amount of sleep you’re getting, and what habits you form to increase your sleep quality

While tracking any aspect of your mental health arms you with information so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t, over-tracking can increase stress and anxiety. Start by selecting just one thing to monitor.

Tracking gives you insight into your mental health so you can reduce problems and increase wellness.

Related Articles on Tracking Your Mental Health

Your Thoughts

Today's Question: If you use a mood tracker or mental health journal, how has it helped your mental health? We invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the HealthyPlace Facebook page.

From the HealthyPlace Mental Health Blogs

On all our blogs, your comments and observations are welcomed.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of any blog post. And visit the mental health blogs homepage for the latest posts.


Most Popular HealthyPlace Articles Shared by Facebook Fans

Here are the top 3 mental health articles HealthyPlace Facebook fans are recommending you read:

  1. Stigma Against Schizophrenia Prevented Me from Being Honest
  2. Intrusive Thoughts, OCD, and Anxiety
  3. How Our Expectations About Self-Harm Recovery Sabotage Us

If you're not already, I hope you'll join us/like us on Facebook too. There are a lot of wonderful, supportive people there.


Mental Health Quote

"Wake up, smile and tell yourself: 'Today is my day'."

Read more mental health quotes.


That's it for now. If you know of anyone who can benefit from this newsletter or the site, I hope you'll pass this onto them. You can also share the newsletter on any social network (like facebook or stumbleupon) you belong to by clicking the links below. For updates throughout the week, follow HealthyPlace on Twitter or become a fan of HealthyPlace on Facebook. Also, check out HealthyPlace on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, where you can share your mental health pins on our Share Your Mental Health Experiences board.

back to: Mental-Health Newsletter Index

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, September 16). Tracking Your Mental Health Is Centering and Empowering, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from

Last Updated: September 18, 2019

Why People Suffering from PTSD Have Suicidal Thoughts

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Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide and suicide attempts, specifically as they relate to PTSD and suicidal thoughts.

Suicide can be a tough topic to discuss among those suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Though around 56% of people with PTSD experience suicidal thoughts, ideation, or actions1, admitting to having those feelings can feel shameful.

It can be quite shocking for people to learn how prevalent suicidal thoughts and actions are among those with PTSD, but it's not surprising to me. I understand all too well how PTSD can drive a person to the edge. I've been driven there myself.

PTSD traps you in your own mind. It takes the very worst moments of your life and puts them on replay in your brain. Try as you might, it can feel impossible to stop the symptoms of PTSD from overtaking your life. Yes, there are ways to cope with it. Yes, PTSD does get better over time. But it never disappears completely. It's a nightmare that never ends.

Why PTSD Can Cause Suicidal Thoughts

Despite the hardships of PTSD and suicidal thoughts, it is possible to live a peaceful life alongside the disorder. I've managed to find moderate peace and happiness in my own life through years of hard work and dedication. But sometimes it's hard to keep up with the processes that help ground me. 

Going to therapy every week and putting in that emotional effort can be draining. Trying to stay calm when I feel a panic attack rising up in my chest is tiring. Waking up after a night full of bad dreams and memories is exhausting. I constantly feel tired, and it's not a feeling that sleep can fix.

Human resiliency can only go so far. We're tough enough to get through horrible circumstances when it's required. We can survive emotional and physical trauma. We can endure grief and pain. But we can't withstand it forever, and this is why people with PTSD are sometimes driven to suicidal thoughts and actions. They get tired of constantly fighting the war within themselves.

I have considered suicide many times throughout my PTSD journey, but it was never out of a desire to end my life. I simply wanted the pain to stop. I wanted the endless nightmares to stop. I wanted to stop feeling and remembering, but I never wanted my life to end. I wanted a life without PTSD.

I've heard other people with PTSD express the desire to go back to the way their lives were before they developed the disorder. Because my trauma started at such a young age, I can't remember a "before" time. My life has been painful for as long as I can remember. But I do relate to the desire to have a life without PTSD. Sometimes it just doesn't feel possible, and that's what drives hopeless thoughts into my life.

Finding Hope in a Life with PTSD (Without Suicidal Thoughts?)

The most important thing to remember when you're struggling with PTSD is that a life with PTSD does not have to be a bad one. PTSD might bring a lot of bad days and nights into someone's life, but it doesn't erase all the happy days and nights. For every painful memory that crops up, there are many future joyful memories to be made.

PTSD can make things difficult, but it doesn't have to prevent you from having a happy life. You are still capable of feeling love, experiencing love, and giving love. You are still able to form friendships and relationships. You can learn to trust others again, no matter how long it may take you. 

Be patient with yourself. Take the time you need to heal. Focus on your mental health and happiness. Little by little, the shattered pieces of your life will start to feel whole again. And with that healing comes peace. 

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section


  1. Tarrier, N., and Gregg, L., "Suicide Risk in Civilian PTSD Patients--Predictors of Suicidal Ideation, Planning, and Attempts." Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, August 2004. 

How to Honor Someone Who Has Died by Suicide

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Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide.

How can we honor someone who has died by suicide? Since suicide is unfortunately common (it’s the second leading cause of death in the US for people aged 15 to 341), it’s likely we all know someone who has died by suicide. A death in that manner can be a sensitive topic. 

How to Honor Someone Who Died by Suicide

Share Positive Memories

Just like you would when you want to honor someone who has died in a natural way, share positive memories of the person who died by suicide. Although that person may have struggled with mental illness (in fact, 90 percent of those who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental health condition1), some interactions you had were surely positive. 

Getting friends together to reminisce about good times, whether as part of a formal remembrance service or as an informal gathering, can be cathartic for those left behind. Sharing those positive memories can also help put that person’s life in context by balancing all the negative thoughts and conversations around the way the person died. Repeating this get-together every year on the anniversary of your friend's death can be a great way to continue to honor that person's memory.

Spread Suicide Awareness to Honor Someone

Another way to honor someone who has died by suicide is to spread awareness. Your loved one’s death is no longer preventable, but someone else around you is likely struggling with a mental health condition as well. Take the opportunity to spread awareness about mental health and suicide. 

Make yourself a resource for others who might be contemplating suicide. The simple act of talking to you about suicidal ideations could make the difference between life and death for someone else. Some steps you can take to become a resource include doing your own research on suicide prevention, keeping contact information for suicide hotlines handy, and taking training for how to help someone who may be suicidal. 

You can make others aware of your commitment to suicide prevention by posting related content periodically on your social media or volunteering at a local suicide prevention organization. 

While the conversation regarding someone’s death by suicide may be delicate, we can still honor that person by focusing on positive memories and sharing suicide awareness. 

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.


1. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Suicide Facts. Accessed September 13, 2019.

How to Use Writing to Cope with Suicidal Ideations

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Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicidal ideation, and specifically, how to cope with suicidal ideation through journaling.

The feeling that life is meaningless can lead to suicidal ideations. These ideations are thoughts about suicide without the intention to follow through with it. While suicidal ideations are common and can pass quickly, they can become dangerous if they are not treated. I find writing to be a healthy way to cope with suicidal ideations. Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to use writing as a healthy coping technique.

Writing to Cope with Suicidal Ideations: 5 Things to Remember

1. Do not force yourself to write to cope with suicidal ideations.

I hear many writers talk about writing as a “job” — something that they have to do. They think writing all of the time is the only thing that determines their identity as a writer. Without writing, they feel as though they are nothing. No matter how serious you are about writing, it can become more of a punishment than an outlet. When you struggle with depression, putting too much pressure on yourself can add to suicidal ideations instead of reducing them.

2. Use writing as a type of therapy.    

Some people think that writing has to be perfect. If you take writing seriously, you probably do this quite frequently. But there is a time to be a serious writer, and a time to simply treat yourself as a therapy patient. Write as though you are a patient talking to a therapist.

3. Try not to judge your thoughts when writing to cope with suicidal thoughts.          

As you write, you might learn things about yourself that you never even considered. Some of these revelations could be negative and cause you to feel really sad or guilty. Try not to focus on these feelings. Instead, acknowledge the truth to these difficult lessons without judgment. Remember that some of the lessons you learn could help you shape your future in a positive way.

4. Remember that you are not weak.

Having suicidal ideations is really hard. So writing about these ideations takes a lot of strength. I will admit that writing about my own suicidal ideations has made me feel weak at times. It has made me feel ashamed of even thinking about suicide. But by writing about something so sensitive, raw, and honest, I have learned that you can gain so much internal strength. Writing allows you to process even the darkest thoughts. By doing so, you can allow yourself to see life from a new perspective. You can change your thoughts and even get rid of suicidal ideations.

5. Find a place where you feel comfortable to write.

Some people feel uncomfortable writing in public places. That is completely understandable. If you want to write in your bedroom, that could help you avoid distractions. Perhaps writing under a tree in a secluded area will help you feel relaxed. Find the place that is most comfortable for you.

If you have used writing to cope with suicidal ideations, please share some of your own tips in the comments.

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

Anxiety and Suicide: Supporting Anxious Loved Ones

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Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide and suicide attempts as they relate to anxiety.

We don't talk about anxiety and suicide very often. In fact, when we think about suicide, the first association that comes to mind is often depression. The link between suicidality and depression has been documented not only in the research literature but also in much of the media we consume, to the extent that the majority of people are aware of this link. Unfortunately, we are much less aware as a society of the impact that anxiety has on suicide. 

Anxiety Is Associated with Suicide

Although this is a contentious subject, there is evidence that anxiety independently contributes to suicidality. One study of anxiety found that it was an independent risk factor for subsequent suicidal ideation and attempts and that comorbid anxiety increased the risk of suicide for individuals suffering from mood disorders1. Additionally, different comorbid anxiety disorders seem to convey distinct risks of suicide, such that comorbid panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and anxiety generally all increase the risks suicide2. Finally, there is also evidence that panic and generalized anxiety disorder are associated with suicidality even after accounting for the effect of depression on suicide, and that comorbid anxiety and depression have an interactive effect that further increases suicide risk3

What Can We Do to Prevent Suicide Caused by Anxiety?

I believe the studies above clearly illustrate the risks of suicide that are associated with anxiety disorders. To be clear, this does not mean that just the slightest bit of anxiety in our loved ones means they are suicidal, nor is it my intent to convey this. Instead, I wanted to share this information to demonstrate the importance of obtaining treatment for anxiety.

It can be hard to make the decision to look into treatment, and so our most important role is often to encourage our loved ones to obtain treatment. This can be a difficult role, but I believe that the key is to maintain consistent compassion, love, and support throughout the process. Additionally, once treatment has started, we can help by cultivating an environment that naturally supports treatment goals. This may involve changing your schedule, moving furniture, preparing different foods, or a range of other steps, but by being willing participants in the treatment process in whatever way is required, we can make each step far easier for our loved one. 

It is important for us all to take anxiety seriously and support our loved ones as best we can as they go through their journey in overcoming anxiety. This can be a challenging process, but by maintaining love and empathy, we can all provide the support our friends and family need. 

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.


  1. Sareen, J., "Anxiety Disorders and Risk for Suicidal Ideation and Suicide Attempts.Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2005. 
  2. Pfeiffer, P., "Comorbid anxiety as a suicide risk factor among depressed veterans.Depression & Anxiety, June 2009. 
  3. Norton, P., "Suicidal ideation and anxiety disorders: Elevated risk or artifact of comorbid depression?Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, December 2008. 

How Shame Feeds Suicidal Thoughts in Complex PTSD

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Trigger warning: This post contains frank discussion of suicide, suicide attempts and the role of shame in complex posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Suicidal thoughts are often part of living with complex PTSD, especially after childhood trauma. When you are experiencing shame, those thoughts can become worse. Understanding how to identify shame and have self-compassion can help with suicide prevention.

How Shame Affects Suicidal Thoughts

Complex PTSD after childhood trauma can result in severe depression and anxiety that lead to suicidal thoughts. When you were never taught proper coping skills as a child for handling strong emotions, you may be left feeling the only way to escape your pain and bad feelings is through suicide. Shame feeds this feeling, because not only can't you see a healthy way out of your pain, feeling as though you are bad, don't belong in the world, or are different from everyone else can feed your feelings that it would be better if you just weren't alive. 

Survivors of childhood trauma can experience very low self-esteem. You may have grown up in an environment where you constantly received messages that you didn't matter and you had no value. Emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse can leave you with intense shame that affects the way you view yourself in relation to the world and feeds suicidal thoughts.

When I made a suicide attempt several years ago, I was deeply ashamed of who I was. Sexual and emotional abuse that I had hidden for years kept the message going in my head that I was worthless, damaged and broken. I was living with constant anxiety and depression that only grew worse as I very poorly tried to handle what I was feeling on my own.

As a nurse practitioner and mom, I was deeply ashamed that I couldn't stop my panic attacks or pull myself out of depression. I was constantly afraid someone would know how badly I was struggling when I was always seen as "the strong one," which led to even more shame. Ultimately, because I hadn't sought help and continued to stay quiet about what I was struggling with, I decided the best way to escape my pain was to end my life. 

Stop Shame from Feeding Suicidal Thoughts

Thankfully, my suicide attempt was unsuccessful. After that night, I sought help from a trauma-informed therapist and began learning I was never taught coping skills to handle my anxiety and depression. I also learned the even though I thought I was in charge of my life, actually, complex PTSD and shame were in control.

The message behind shame is that "I am bad,"  which feeds the negative beliefs your childhood abuse has left you with. This message only serves to reinforce the thoughts in your mind that may say you don't deserve to live.

In therapy, I began facing the intense shame and negative feelings I had about myself because of what happened to me. I learned that shame keeps us stuck in the lies of abuse. Most importantly, I learned how to take my power back from shame and complex PTSD through healthy coping skills.

It's extremely important to recognize when you are feeling shame, especially when you're struggling with suicidal thoughts. Signs you are feeling shame include thoughts that you are bad, stupid, or worthless. These are messages that you received as a child, but today you can teach the child within you that those messages were never true. 

Once you become aware of how shame feeds your bad feelings, you can begin to address your pain with self-compassion so that it doesn't intensify suicidal thoughts. You can give a new voice to the abused child inside of you by changing the shame messages in your mind and recognizing the role shame plays in making you feel worse. 

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources, and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.