Taking Care of Yourself After a Suicide Attempt

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Trigger warning: this post contains frank discussion of suicide and what comes after a suicide attempt.

Suicide attempts are more prevalent than anyone would like. This means that there is a whole population of people out there who need a different kind of help than the one suicide prevention resources offer. This also means that many people may currently be finding themselves alive on the other end of a suicide attempt and wondering, “What happens after a suicide attempt?” 

Common Feelings After a Suicide Attempt

The period after a suicide attempt is a fragile one. We may feel vulnerable and raw in a way we never have before, possibly to an even greater extent than before the suicide attempt.

The main goal of this period is to just get through it in one piece and steady the ground beneath us. It is therefore important that we are able to identify and acknowledge our emotions fully. This will help us feel less overwhelmed by them and feel more in control. 

After a suicide attempt, it is not uncommon to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Lots of people express thinking of the attempt as yet another one of their failures — a reflection of their weakness. We should try our best to recognize this feeling as just a feeling and nothing more. Feelings are not the truth. 

We may also feel disappointed that our attempt failed. Or we may feel relieved to be alive. Often, we may feel both things to different degrees, and feel confused by our conflicting emotions. 

After an emotionally intense event like a failed suicide attempt, our sensitivity may be heightened. It is normal to act touchier than usual and get angry or frustrated with the people around us, including our loved ones. We may want to hide away and isolate, or lash out and behave recklessly. 

In other words, we may not feel quite like ourselves. In the face of all this, what is the best way to get through each day after a suicide attempt? 

How to Take Care of Yourself After a Suicide Attempt

Ultimately, we all must be responsible for taking care of our own mental health. The period after a suicide attempt is an especially crucial time. By helping ourselves through this period, we will learn a lot about ourselves and discover effective ways of managing our mental health that we can carry with us throughout our whole lives. 

But we have to put in the work.

For one, during this sensitive time, self-protection is key. Be protective of your time and attention. Do not over-commit. Take time off of school or work. Avoid people, places, and situations that you find mentally and/or emotionally draining.

Find soothing and relaxing activities. Even if it sounds silly, activities such as spending time in nature, going on walks, and drawing or coloring have a way of calming the brain. Taking as much stress off of the brain as possible while it recovers from the trauma is very important. 

Establish a routine. Even a loose routine does wonders for reducing stress and mental fatigue. Incorporate relaxing activities and other grounding routines such as meditation into the routine. 

In short, we should take it easy on ourselves and get out of our own heads. We need to give ourselves space both physically and mentally to let ourselves heal. It is our choice to take the period after a suicide attempt to view this as an opportunity to change our relationship with ourselves for the better. 

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.

Unhealthy Coping Skills Causing Suicide and Suicide Attempts

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Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide, suicide attempts as it pertains to how unhealthy coping skills can lead to suicide.

Having unhealthy coping skills can play a major role in suicide attempts and death by suicide. When someone is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, the pain and confusion he/she feels is often compounded by misinformation, incorrect beliefs, and unhealthy coping skills that can lead to suicide. Yet, these are often the only things a person suffering from a mental health crisis has at his/her disposal. It's time to change this now by having educational conversations about mental health, suicide, and healthy coping skills.

I spent many years battling depression before receiving an actual diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Those years were a nightmarish mix of darkness, numbness, pain, and loneliness. When I tried to describe my thoughts and feelings to friends and family, I was told to pray about it. I was also encouraged to stay strong in my faith and focus on my blessings. People said things about my needing to get out of the house more or exercise more or get outside in the sunshine more. Well, I was doing these things, and they were not helping. In turn, what these well-meaning -- yet misinformed -- people were saying was making me feel guilty. This guilt, added to the negative thoughts I already had about myself due to depression, wore me down time and time again.

I blamed myself for my thoughts and feelings. I felt like such a failure because I just could not get better. I started wondering why I couldn't just pray enough or have enough faith to be happy and filled with positive thoughts. Why couldn't I just be rid of this darkness? I got so tired of fighting it all the time. I'd do better for a while, but then depression would come back and cover me again.  I realized I couldn't beat this thing. I was tired and just wanted to rest and be at peace.

Unhealthy Coping Skills Contribute to Suicide   

I realized at some point during all of this that I probably needed to be on medication, namely an antidepressant. I was stubborn, though, and didn't want to take those. I still thought I could get better on my own. I also didn't want want to be someone who had to take medicine just to function. I know -- rather prideful of me. Plus, let's be honest. I knew if people found out I'd have to deal with being stigmatized. 

Instead, I used unhealthy coping skills. I self-harmed in order to deal with my pain. I zoned out a lot of times. I would have no idea what had been going on for an hour or more. I didn't know then and I don't know now exactly where my mind went during those periods of time. I just know it wasn't in the present moment with my body. I binge-watched television or spent way too much time online. I'm an avid reader, but I couldn't even read during this time. The words made no sense to me. I would try, but I just wasn't able to take a coherent thought from the page to my brain. I isolated myself from friends. I couldn't handle seeing or talking to people. I didn't have the energy. I coped by sitting in one spot on the couch and just being alone with my online or television "friends." I felt like I was going through motions but not really making conscious decisions about anything. I was confused and scared, and I had no idea what was happening to me.

Unhealthy Coping Skills and My Suicide Attempt

With all of this going on inside me, and with my having no healthy coping skills to handle it, I broke. I don't know a better word for it. I look back at myself on that January day of 2017 on which I attempted suicide, and that's how I would describe myself: broken. I was broken, confused, afraid, and exhausted. I wanted peace and rest. I wanted to give my husband the chance to find a better wife, and I wanted my kids to have a better mother. I believed I wasn't good enough. At that time, I believed suicide was my only choice. Thankfully, my attempt was not successful. My husband came home and took me to a local hospital for treatment, and afterward, I spent a week in inpatient psychiatric care. While there, I received a diagnosis, started taking antidepressants, and began therapy. 

How Healthy Coping Skills Can Prevent Suicide

I was taught healthy coping skills while in therapy. These skills, along with antidepressants, have kept my occasional, fleeting suicidal thoughts that sometimes appear now from becoming actual suicide plans or attempts. Because of this, I feel that my suicide attempt could have been prevented if I'd been taught healthy coping skills earlier. There is a part of me that is angry because I wasn't taught these skills until it was almost too late. For some people and their loved ones, it is too late.

Ignorance and stigma kill. People need to know that major depressive disorder cannot be prayed away, exercised out, or cured by sunshine. When people tell someone who has depression but has yet to seek professional help yet, these kinds of things, it's harmful and stigmatizing. It's also misinformed and incorrect. Someone, like myself, with major depressive disorder, could potentially reach the point of suicide. I needed healthy coping skills, and I needed a society where it was not only safe to talk about mental health, but encouraged and even expected. I still need this today. We all do. Let's start now.

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.

Staying Grounded and in Your Power During Verbal Abuse

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It's hard staying grounded while facing verbal abuse, especially if you've been on the abuse merry-go-round with family, friends, or significant others for some time. Having deep-seated connections with abusers can cause confusion when it comes to determining your feelings and deciphering boundaries because these loyalties make it difficult to decide if a behavior is okay.

No matter the person, situation, or type of attack, the only way to combat an abuser is by staying grounded in your power and setting immediate boundaries. To successfully release an abuser in a moment of verbal abuse means knowing who you are, knowing the other person is in the wrong and removing yourself from the situation in a safe way.

Second-Guessing Yourself and Not Staying Grounded During Abuse

I'm not sure if it's optimism or human nature, but it seems we don't want to believe negative things are occurring in the moment. For a long time, I told myself people weren't verbally abusing me. I thought that they were having a bad day, they were just tired, or their behaviors were normal. In moments of abuse, I knew they were happening, but I didn't want to believe it. I wasn't strong enough to believe it. I would second-guess the behaviors or I would jump into victim mode and shut down. But this wasn't the worst part of the experience. It was the internal dialogue that followed which caused significant damage to my heart and soul.

I told myself it was my fault. I told myself I deserved it. I started thinking about all the bad things I'd ever done in my life and used it as negative self-talk kindling. This response is exactly what verbal abuse does. It creates a downward spiral of negative thoughts that make you feel unsafe and helpless. It's the reason people stay in abusive relationships. This is what it looks like when you allow the other person to take your power.

How to Stay Grounded While Facing Verbal Abuse

It may feel impossible to stand up to your abuser but standing up for yourself doesn't mean putting on a shield, grabbing a sword, and playing the part of a Greek hero. Staying grounded and in your power means keeping calm, acknowledging the abusive words and patterns that are coming at you, and letting it all bounce off. The key here is recognizing abuse tactics in his or her words and reminding yourself none of it is real.

Think about verbal abuse as a glitch in a computer program. It's a mistake from incorrect programming. It's not real, and it's not personal. What the other person is saying to you reflects his or her life, not yours. And the more you can reinforce this narrative in your mind, the easier it will be to walk away unscathed.

When faced with a difficult person, here are some in-the-moment reminders for staying grounded:

  • Stay calm.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • If given the option to speak, say your piece once and only once.
  • Do not engage with irrational rhetoric because you can't talk rationality into an irrational person.
  • If the person refuses to calm down, hear you, or acknowledge his or her behavior, walk away.

When someone is using verbally-abusive tactics, he or she is most likely hurting. That person's inner child is in pain because he or she has been abandoned by the adult version of him or herself. It may feel cruel, but that person's problems are not your problems. You have worked hard to combat abuse and better yourself and you should be proud of the person you are. Don't let anyone take that away from you because, at the end of the day, you're the only person who can release your power and allow someone to steal your joy.

Your Pass to Walk Away from Verbal Abuse

In some cases, it's a cranky co-worker. In others, it's a parent or spouse. No matter the context, abuse stems from the same place: conditioned responses from childhood programming and or a complete lack of self-awareness. No matter the person and no matter the reasoning, if you are in the line of verbal abuse fire, you're allowed to walk away.

I needed someone to tell me this. I needed someone to tell me it was okay to set emotional limits and that it wasn't my job to fix the world. I needed someone to tell me I didn't have to feel bad about setting boundaries with the people around me, especially after my abuse awakening. I am here to be that person for you.

It's okay to stop talking to people who put you down or make you feel bad, no matter how long you've known them. I'm here to tell you that even though someone is your blood, that doesn't give that person the right, privilege, or pass to say hurtful things and demand you take his or her baggage. You are allowed to walk away from an abusive partner no matter how many excuses and reasons flood your mind. I'm here to give you a get-out-of-abuse-free card--free of charge. It's good for life and it never expires. Stay grounded and in your power, metaphorically throw the card and walk away.

Anxiety, Guilt Are Normal When a Loved One Attempts Suicide

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Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide and suicide attempts as it pertains to guilt and anxiety regarding suicide.

Every time somebody attempts or dies by suicide, at least six people are left struggling profoundly to deal with the difficult, overwhelming emotions that are a natural part of grief.1 Those bereaved by suicide often feel high anxiety and guilt. Unfortunately, however, this intense anxiety and crushing guilt can be overlooked as everyone focuses on the person who has attempted or died by suicide. If you have excessive anxiety, worry, fear, and/or feelings of guilt in the wake of suicidal behavior of someone you care about, know that you're not alone and that your feelings aren't wrong or selfish. The following information can help you identify your anxiety and guilt as well as know what to do about it.

It's Okay to Have Anxiety and Guilt When a Loved One Attempts or Dies by Suicide

Suicide causes anxiety not only in the person planning it but also in caring and concerned friends and family members. Worries, fears, and relentless what-ifs are common in someone mourning a loved one's suicide attempt or completion.

Anxiety can skyrocket when family members are called to the hospital or the morgue. This can be incredibly traumatic. Sometimes, it's hard for someone to stop thinking about the event or to rid themselves of horrific images. These recurring thoughts can intensify anxiety until it seems to take over. Such acute stress and trauma can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); therefore, receiving help in the form of therapy, medication, or both is vital. 

Anxiety can also develop when there are problems within the family and disagreements around how to talk about the (attempted) suicide. Stress and tension are usually high, and when coupled with grief and loss can wreak havoc on someone's sense of security and stability. When family members argue about to whom to disclose information (Employers? School? Family friends? Young family members?) and what, exactly, to say, anxiety can make civil communications and solutions impossible, which serves to exacerbate anxiety even more.

Common worries following a loved one's death by suicide or attempted suicide include:

  • Was this my fault?
  • Could I have prevented it?
  • What is wrong with me that I didn't see this coming?
  • Will my loved one try again?
  • How can I prevent this from happening again?
  • I'm afraid I'll be powerless to stop her if she wants to retry.

The worries and fears that arise after a loved one's suicide attempt or completion can take over, affecting your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It's not unusual for someone to develop anxiety about the safety of all loved ones, which can lead to over-protecting, fretting, and clinginess. This, in turn, can strain relationships, increasing stress and anxiety.

It's normal to feel out of control or unsteady after someone you love dies by suicide or attempts to do so. Your future can seem uncertain, which is another cause of anxiety. Feeling steady and calm in the knowledge that everyone you care about is safe can seem impossible, especially at first.

Anxiety can become debilitating. It's important that you be able to seek the help you need in order to heal from anxious thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that arise when dealing with suicidal behavior in your loved one. Guilt, though, can interfere, preventing people from reaching out. 

Guilt Is Normal After a Loved One Attempts or Dies by Suicide

Guilt and anxiety often go hand and hand, each contributing to the other in a dizzying dance. Survivor's guilt is an extremely common experience in many situations involving a death regardless of the cause. When a loved one dies, or attempts to die, by suicide, survivor's guilt can be paralyzing. Just a few examples of the guilt people may feel in this situation include:

  • This was my fault.
  • I should have been a better spouse/parent/child/sibling/friend.
  • I am a terrible person for wanting to avoid the stigma surrounding my loved one's death.
  • What if I had paid more attention to him?
  • What if I had tried harder to take her to the therapist or doctor?
  • What if I hadn't been late to get home?

Ruminations of guilt and anxiety can be relentless. A loop of emotionally and physically painful what-ifs can haunt someone night and day. 

You are Allowed To Seek Help

Anxiety and guilt can keep you prisoner. Both can make you want to avoid anyone and anything that has to do with facing this painful struggle. Many people believe that they don't deserve to seek help for themselves, but that is a belief distorted by anxiety, worry, fear, guilt, loss, and grief. Connecting with others can help you deal with your feelings, thoughts, and experiences and adjust to a life that has been changed by the suicidal behavior of someone you care about.

Working with a therapist that specializes in grief and the anxiety associated with it can help you identify distorted beliefs, confront them, and rework them to reduce both anxiety and guilt. Support groups can also be valuable. Group information can often be found at your community center, library, hospital, schools, or clinics. 

Experiencing anxiety, guilt, or both after someone you care about has attempted or died by suicide is normal, but that doesn't mean the thoughts are accurate. It's possible to heal, and, yes, you deserve it.

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. 

Sources

  1. Harvard Health Publishing, "Left Behind After Suicide." May 2019.
  2. Bryan, H., "After an Attempt: The Emotional Impact of a Suicide Attempt on Families." Feeling Blue: Suicide Prevention Council, 2006.

How Blogging Helps My Mental Health and BPD

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How can blogging help your mental health? Here's how it's helped mine.

When I was first diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I felt incredibly isolated. I didn’t have any specialist help which meant that I turned to books and the Internet to learn about the condition. The depth of the stigma that I discovered during my research was shocking, both from academic and more informal sources. I encountered psychology books that described people with the condition as manipulative, YouTube videos that depicted people with BPD as chainsaw-wielding monsters, and websites vilifying people with BPD who so much as dared to be in a relationship. 

Blogging About Mental Health Was Prompted by the Stigma

Horrified by the stigma, I decided I needed to put something online that reflected my reality of life with BPD. I wanted to reveal what my daily life with intense emotions, suicidal thoughts, and agonizing fear of abandonment was truly like and to show that people with this condition are not as the stereotypes suggest. First of all, I created an anonymous Twitter account and shared snippets of my day-to-day experiences. Almost immediately, people related to me, offered their empathy, and shared their own difficulties, as well as coping tips for BPD. After many years of knowing no one who experienced the kinds of hypomania and extreme lows that I did and feeling completely alone, my sense of isolation lifted. 

Starting a Blog About BPD

Not long after finding solace in Twitter, I began to write longer articles and post them on a blog for my mental health. I wrote in detail about my therapy, psychiatry appointments, how confused I felt by my ever-changing emotions and the constant anxieties about rejection. It felt amazing to have a place where I could reveal my story -- not just a vague or glossed over version of events, but the full extent of my life from suicidal despair, nauseating shame, uncontrolled anxiety, and overwhelming joy. It felt honest, satisfying, and even thrilling to type out my reality and have it there for strangers to see. 

Blogging as an Outlet

In the first year or so of my diagnosis, very few people in my offline life knew I had a BPD diagnosis. I was very guarded about it because I was terrified of being judged as someone I wasn't. Out of the handful of people who did know, almost nobody knew the extent of my difficulties. For several years, every day was a struggle to function and some days, it was a trial just to stay alive. My blog was there for me. It was my outlet to talk about the things I couldn’t say out loud and the thread which connected me to a web of others going through similar difficulties. 

Finding My Voice

Over time, blogging for my mental health enabled me to find a vocabulary for describing my BPD. My anonymity allowed me to experiment with expressing myself until I found a tone that worked for me. Initially, my blog was called "BPD Orchid" because orchids are very sensitive flowers that bloom spectacularly when cared for properly and I found this an apt metaphor for people with BPD. However, mental health blogging guided me to a place where I can now talk about my BPD in real life with both strangers and the people I love so I changed its name to "Talking About BPD" and I am no longer anonymous. 

Have you ever considered blogging for your mental health or about your BPD? If you already do, has it helped in any way? 

How to Calmly Deal With Suicidal Thoughts

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

It can be quite scary and disturbing to experience suicidal thoughts. These kinds of thoughts may also overwhelm you and make you feel worried about acting on them. However, you can calmly deal with suicidal thoughts.

Often, suicidal thoughts arise as part of a mental health condition, such as major depression. They may be related to feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, but they can also arise if you have been suffering (physically or mentally) for a long time, especially if this has been debilitating for you. For many people, suicidal thoughts come from a deep desire to no longer be in pain and not being able to see a way out of that pain. Experiences of suicidal thoughts can be highly personal, however.

While dealing with suicidal thoughts may be frightening and make you wonder whether you’ve become a danger to yourself, you can deal with these thoughts in a calm manner and protect your mental wellbeing in the process.

4 Ways to Deal with Suicidal Thoughts

1. Take a Mindful Approach to Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts 

Suicidal thoughts become more difficult to deal with when you build on them in some way. For example, suicidal thoughts can morph into more intense or unpleasant thoughts if you approach them with an attitude of resistance, denial, fear, and guilt. Taking a mindful approach to suicidal thoughts involves allowing them to arise and pass without judgment, simply noticing them in the process. There is no reason to panic about having suicidal thoughts. While mindfulness can help you take away the seriousness you attach to suicidal thoughts, this doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t seek out help if they are a persistent feature in your life.

2. Maintain Self-Compassion When Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts

It’s worth reiterating that suicidal thoughts can arise out of a wish to no longer be in pain – they don’t have to result out of a genuine desire to not exist. It’s a common experience for many people to have suicidal thoughts when they are feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, and in crisis. While it is understandable to have suicidal thoughts in the midst of emotional hardship, self-compassion can also help you through those difficult times and it can allow you to view your suicidal thoughts in a more understanding way. Try to recognize your suffering, that your suicidal thoughts come from a place of pain, and that you don’t want to be in pain. This will help you to see suicidal thoughts as a cry for relief and help, rather than as a serious solution.

3. Don't Deal with Suicidal Thoughts Alone

Suicidal thoughts can also be based on unrealistic beliefs about oneself. This can often happen when you experience a severe episode of depression, for example, and you are burdened by intensely negative thoughts about yourself. You might believe you’re a burden to others, a failure, worthless, useless, and unlovable. The very fact that you are depressed and struggling to function as normal may also make you think you’re fundamentally broken in some way.

By dealing with suicidal thoughts (and the beliefs that underlie them) and by voicing them to others, you can get a more realistic perspective on things. It may be hard to reveal such thoughts to loved ones, but doing so can prove to be highly illuminating and beneficial. In response to your thoughts, loved ones can stress how they believe the complete opposite and think of you as lovable, capable, and valuable to them for so many reasons. While you may be primed to doubt or reject such affirmations, if there’s a chance that some of it will combat your suicidal thoughts, then this is a conversation worth having. You can also remind yourself of these comments from others if suicidal thoughts arise again. This can help them to dissipate.

4. Know that Suicidal Thoughts Don’t Have to Lead to Actions

Suicidal thoughts can range from abstract thoughts about ending your life to imagining actual methods of suicide. It’s important to know, however, that suicidal thoughts don’t have to lead to suicidal plans or actions. Having suicidal thoughts or feelings doesn’t necessarily mean you’re at a high risk of taking your life. Treat your suicidal thoughts simply as thoughts. They don’t have to be authoritative, controlling, or connected to any dangerous behavior. When you start to fear and worry about suicidal thoughts, they can become overwhelming, but they don’t have to be. Of course, suicidal thoughts can sometimes lead to actual intent and planning, so if you do feel a danger of this happening – or it’s happened – it’s vital that you seek immediate help and support. Even just one conversation can make a world of difference.

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.

Providing Support for a Suicidal Friend

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Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide as it pertains to supporting a suicidal friend.

Let's face it; most people feel uncomfortable when the word suicide comes up in conversation because we don't know how to support a suicidal friend or loved one. No one wants to think about losing someone to suicide. It can be painful to hold space for someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. You might think, "I don't know what to say. What if I make it worse?" Luckily, providing support for a suicidal friend or loved one is more straightforward than it seems.

Providing Support When a Friend Is Suicidal

When I was in graduate school, I worked for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I worked on a mobile unit that responded to calls in the field. If a person called the hotline and said they were suicidal, they were offered a pair of crisis specialists to come to them wherever they were, day or night, to support them and create a safety plan with them. We also provided transportation to the hospital for those who could not be stabilized in the field, but the vast majority of people who called didn't need to go to the hospital. People needed someone to listen to them, to validate their pain, and to show compassion for their suffering. More often than not, once they felt heard and cared about, they were willing to make a safety plan and send us on our way ("Is Talking About Suicide with a Suicidal Person Dangerous?").

My experience working for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline taught me many valuable lessons, but one stood out among them all: everyone wants to be seen. We want our existence to matter. We want our pain acknowledged and comforted. We want to know we aren't alone. When we meet these basic needs for others, it gives them the strength to keep going. It provides hope that things will get better.

How to Help and Support a Suicidal Friend

You don't need to be a mental health professional or a trained crisis specialist to support a suicidal friend. Don't be afraid to ask a loved one if he or she is considering self-harm. Asking a person questions about suicide will not make that person suicidal. If one is considering self-harm, that person might be relieved to know you see that person's suffering and care so much about it.

Consider saying the following helping statements:

  • I care about you and I support you.
  • Let's call the crisis hotline together.
  • You aren't a burden. I want to be here for you.
  • How can I help you stay safe?
  • We don't have to talk right now. I can just sit with you.
  • We will get through this together.
  • Your pain is valid.
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.

12 Strategies to Use When Someone with DID Is Suicidal

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

The time to talk about suicide and dissociative identity disorder (DID) is now. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in adults.1 For those with dissociative identity disorder (DID), the Cleveland Clinic asserts that 70 percent of sufferers,2 more than any other mental health condition, have tried to die by suicide. Discussion of suicidality is no longer optional. It is imperative that we end its stigma and discuss it now. There are 12 coping strategies and skills you can use to help those who are suffering and wanting to die by suicide. What specifically can those with DID do to help themselves and their headmates cope with the overwhelming desire to end their pain? 

12 Strategies for Coping with Suicidal Thoughts with DID

  1. Find a reason to live, even if it's just to get you to the next moment. When my mom passed away unexpectedly last year, I was devastated. No one could have prepared me for a loss so huge. I thought seriously about suicide, but I came up with reasons to live. First, I couldn't allow my dad to bury another person whom he loved, nor could I let my husband. And, to some, it might seem silly, but I also could not kill myself because of my dog, Maybelline. I knew she would wonder why I was no longer there to greet her, give her treats, and take her on walks. I didn't want anyone or anything else hurting the way I was hurting. It is important to acknowledge that finding a reason to live did not conquer my feelings of wanting to die; I found something outside of myself to keep me living, even if it only helped a little bit at a time.
  2. If your alters/headmates are suicidal, ask them to promise not to do anything right then at the moment. Ask them to wait five minutes. Then after the five minutes have passed, ask them if they can try to wait another five minutes. Keep stalling your headmate until the feelings pass or help arrives.
  3. Remind your headmate that relief and death are not the same things. Let your headmate know that you understand they just want to find relief from their pain, but they won't be able to experience the sweet relief that will eventually come if they are dead.
  4. When you are suicidal and you can't find any solutions, realize it's not that the solutions don't exist. Your headmate is just currently unable to see the fix, and that is okay. This is why other headmates and therapists, friends, and spiritual guides can help them to understand there are solutions, even if your headmate cannot see them.  
  5. As a healthy headmate, gather together with other concerned headmates and write or draw what you hear and feel from them, showing the suicidal headmate how much internal support they have.
  6. Allow the suicidal headmate to draw pictures of how he/she is feeling. These pictures may be gruesome, but they are only pictures and they allow the headmate to show the pain that is reflective of what they are going through.
  7. Allow the headmate to use a red marker to "cut" on him/herself through drawing. This act simulates a suicidal gesture and the headmate receives a visual, but this pseudo-cutting might hold the suicidal headmate over until he/she starts to feel better or help arrives.
  8. Sit with the suicidal headmate and let her write out her suicide letters. First and foremost, the suicidal headmate should know that these letters will not be acted upon and will not be available to her afterward, but this is another tool that allows her to express herself in non-violent means.
  9. When your headmate is feeling suicidal, do something that will help her know the DID system will be there for her when she is needing it, such as giving your headmate her favorite foods or allowing her to watch her favorite movie.
  10. Let the suicidal headmate listen to some of those "sad songs" Elton John writes about. In my situation, being numb is a trigger for wanting to end my life, so I put on music that matches my insides and it offers me some comfort until I can be safe again.
  11. Some DID insiders have said that prayer helps them push through the crisis. In addition, everyone should hold a safe space inside where no tolerance is allowed for criticizing or judging those sensitive subjects like religion, politics, etc.   
  12. Plan ahead. As previously stated, 70 percent of those with dissociative identity disorder try to die by suicide. Make a list of coping strategies of your own. Give the list to multiple people that can help you. And always remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Feelings come and go. Your life will not.

The Best Suicide Coping Skill for DID

No one strategy is better than the other. They are all just different ways to cope, so keep trying to find the right one for you and your headmates if it is needed. As number 12 mentions, plan ahead. Try to prepare what you will do before anyone feels like dying by suicide. Conference with your headmates. Let all alters know you care about them and ask each one to pick a strategy that they feel would be useful to keep them safe.

More than anything, do not go through this alone. Reach out to someone, anyone. And be assured, no matter how much pain you have had to endure, you have the potential to create a life you will enjoy. Do not give up and let suicide prematurely end your ability to live a happy life. 

If you feel you may hurt yourself or someone else, please dial 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.

Sources

  1. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Suicide Statistics. Accessed September 2019.
  2. Cleveland Clinic, Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder). Last reviewed April 20, 2016.

Successful People, Suicidal Thoughts: No One Is Immune

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

When a celebrity dies by suicide, the reports that follow tend to focus on different versions of the same question: how could someone with such an awesome life be so unhappy?

The stigma of mental illness suggests that successful people have no reason to be suicidal because suicidal ideation and mental illness are dictated by external circumstances and reserved for those with difficult lives. Not only does this type of thinking perpetuate mental health stigma, but it also diminishes and shames successful people who suffer from suicidal thoughts, making them more likely to suffer in silence with fatal consequences.

Why Successful People Aren't Immune to Suicidal Thoughts

Success Isn't a Vaccine For Mental Illness

Successful people experience suicidal thoughts because success doesn't make them immune from mental illness. Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness, with 60 percent suffering from major depression. In many cases, mental illness originates internally from genetic or biological factors and is entirely unrelated to any external circumstance or experience. In other words, people can have all the success in the world, and their brains could still get sick. Mental illness doesn't discriminate, and it isn't dependent on success.

For this reason, it's crucial to reject the idea that successful people with great lives can't be depressed or suicidal because they have no reason or right to be. Faced with this sort of stigma, a person may internalize their suffering, rather than seek treatment.

Reasons Successful People Suffer Suicidal Thoughts in Silence

The world is understandably shocked when a well-loved, admired celebrity takes his or her own life, and the conversation that follows will often include comments such as, "He seemed so happy," or "She was always smiling." The following are some key reasons why successful people may be prone to silent suffering:

  • Guilt -- They recognize that they have it all and don't understand why they're still depressed, resulting in guilt that may make them feel unworthy or undeserving of the resources and support that could help them.
  • Shame -- They are ashamed of being depressed or suicidal when their life is so privileged compared to most.
  • Stigma -- The stigma that mental illness must look a certain way or result from a difficult circumstance may cause successful people to refrain from seeking treatment.
  • Fear of judgment or rejection -- Being viewed as ungrateful, entitled, or weak may prevent a person from opening up about their suffering. Successful people may feel that seeking help for suicidal thoughts would result in rejection because they consider themselves undeserving of support.
  • The maintaining of appearances -- For people who are used to non-stop success, the idea of attending therapy, joining a support group, or checking into a mental health facility may be interpreted as weakness or failure, deterring them from considering the benefits of these resources.

When it comes to mental illness or suicidal thoughts, there are no criteria for suffering, and success does not invalidate someone's pain. No one is immune to suicidal thoughts, and we are all worthy of help regardless of circumstances.

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.

Videos on Anxiety Disorder and Sleep Problems from Real People

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2019, September 10). Videos on Anxiety Disorder and Sleep Problems from Real People, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/sleep-disorders/videos-on-anxiety-disorder-and-sleep-problems-from-real-people

Last Updated: September 18, 2019