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Millions of Americans battle depression and suicidal thoughts every year, and the numbers of death by suicide are staggering: on average, there are about 120 suicides every day in the U.S., making it one of the leading causes of death for individuals over the age of fifteen. Because the reasons behind suicidal thoughts are so varied and complicated--and because sometimes death by suicide follows a battle with an undiagnosed disorder--it’s difficult even for the person who is having those thoughts to understand why or reach out for help. When you can’t put something into words, it’s that much harder to talk about. Shame can also play a role in being unable to reach out, especially if you have been battling addiction to heroin or other highly addictive substance.
One of the first steps toward ensuring your safety is to create a plan, which includes a list of resources to call upon in an emergency, surrounding yourself with people who love and support you, and mapping out a path toward actively preventing suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Understanding what long-term prevention strategies are and how to implement them can help you feel prepared when things become overwhelming.
Here are a few of the best ways to prepare an emotional toolkit:
Having a list of resources at your fingertips can help you find light at the end of the tunnel in an emergency. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, thoughts of self-harm, or are dealing with a deep depression that seems endless, it’s important to remember you’re not alone, and that these feelings will pass. Suicide is a permanent solution to what is very likely a temporary problem; be mindful of these facts and allow yourself to count to ten, take a deep breath, and reach out.
If you have weapons or firearms in your home, leave immediately after you begin to face suicidal thoughts, or call 911 (or emergency services).
Suicide rates are highest in the spring, and although there is no way to know for sure why that is, it could be because many people look forward to spring as the birth of hope after a long, hard winter. Depression and seasonal affective disorder can lead to suicidal thoughts, so when the warmer months come and bring color and vibrancy to the world again, it’s easy to believe our own problems and burdens will be lighter. When things don’t change the way we want them to, those dark feelings can come back with a vengeance.
Because about ⅔ of all suicides occur due to undiagnosed or untreated depression, it’s important for you to seek counseling or therapy. It may not be fun to delve into why you feel the way you do, or to bring up bad memories, but that is almost always a part of healing. Being able to talk about your thoughts and feelings is a key part of working through depression, and it can save your life.
While therapy can help immensely in preventing suicidal thoughts, it’s also important to learn the best ways to get healthy, in every way. Your body and mind need ways to heal and find peace, so consider yoga, meditation, daily exercise, and practicing self-care, which can include everything from treating yourself to a pedicure to having a long lunch with friends.
It can also be helpful to learn “coping statements”, which you can write down on colorful pieces of paper to post where you’ll see them every day. These are things you are essentially reminding yourself of, an affirmation that you are worth more than those suicidal thoughts. Some examples include, “I don’t really want to die, I just want the pain to end” and “My suicidal thoughts are not rational”. It can be difficult to tell yourself these things in the darkest throes of depression, so seeing them every day can help you keep them in the front of your mind.