5. At least become willing to delay your plan.
If you’ve gone far enough in your process that you’ve actually developed a general or specific plan or intent to follow through on suicide, try to become willing temporarily delay acting on it– even if it’s just an internal commitment to not do it over the next 24, 48, or however many hours. Make this promise to yourself. Give yourself a fighting chance to at least think this decision through with more time and more help for clarity.
If you’ve been thinking about this for a while, it can’t hurt to give yourself a little more time. If you only started seriously thinking about this recently, you owe it to yourself and others to give the decision a little more time. Either way, the first thing to do is buy yourself time.
4. Tell someone– anyone.
Don’t process these thoughts and feelings alone– please try telling someone you trust. Consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, calling your doctor, or taking yourself to an emergency room.
If those options don’t appeal to you, at least tell a friend or someone you trust. Be honest about how you’re feeling, be open about any plans or intent you may have formulated. If you can, make a promise that you will talk to them before deciding to act on your plan.
The more people you tell, the better.
3. Remember that most people who survive a suicide attempt are deeply grateful they survived.
You may feel alone in this moment, but you are not the first person to think about ending their life. You’re not the first to contemplate it, try it, or successfully do it. From those who have been where you are right now, we know this:
Those who act on their plans usually regret it, and are deeply grateful they survived.
Somewhere around 90% of people who survive a suicide attempt go on to live full lives, realizing that attempting to end their own life was a mistake, no matter how rational it felt in the moment. Many regret the decision instantly, such as we’ve seen in interviews with people who survived jumping off a bridge. Many bridge jumpers report experiencing regret over their choice to die as soon as they jumped.
As hard as it might be, trust the wisdom of those who have been where you are: they acted on their plan and regretted it.
2. Make a list of all the lives that would be impacted or devastated if you took your own life.
You may feel isolated and alone right now, but trust me: there’s a list of lives that would be significantly impacted if you follow through on your plan. As hard as it might be to think about others right now, make a list of their names and at least try to consider how suicide might alter their lives.
Loving someone who commits suicide is deeply traumatic. Please think about what this would do to your kids? To your parents? Siblings? And don’t stop there– suicide is traumatic even for coworkers or other students at school. If you’re going to make the decision to commit suicide, please wait and at least gather information regarding what would happen after you die. A critical piece of information you need to consider is the long list of lives that will be impacted for years to come.
1. Try this exercise: Imagine what you’d do if suicide wasn’t an option.
While suicide is a response to an overwhelming amount of pain and sadness, the ultimate act itself in many ways is a failure of imagination. Suicide feels like it becomes the only viable option because in that moment, our imagination can’t see any other options.
Since we know that most people who attempt and survive suicide go on to live full and normal, happy lives, what we do know is that the building blocks to a better life are there if we can trigger our imagination to look for them.
So, try this: sit down with a paper and pen and imagine that it were impossible to commit suicide. If dying wasn’t an option, what would you do? What are the building blocks that could at least one day lead to a normal, happy life? If you had no choice but to live the next 5, 10, or 20 years, what could you do with them?
Become willing to let this exercise trigger your imagination. Become willing to consider that if dying were not an option, their are still others.
While the issue of suicide is a stigmatized topic, I don’t think it’s an abnormal experience to feel so much pain that you at least consider, to one degree or another, the idea that ending life is the only solution.
As hard as it is to imagine in the moment, it’s not the only solution– but it is the solution most people instantly regret trying.
Instead, give yourself a chance– give those in your life who care about you a chance– and at least try these things, first.
Good suggestions. We all need to be aware of the people around us. People on the brink, people considering suicide will often telegraph their moves. Sometimes, by paying attention, by listening, by being willing to hear something that’s painful, you can save a life…
Thank you for forthrightly addressing the needs os all of us who may be in these unfortunate dire circumstances, these tragic conceptual contexts. I pray that your counsel may be implemented by all in this frame of mind, and that you will hold fast to your own advice if that should be necessary.
All the best to all in Christ, our Lord, remembering his extreme anguish and constraint in accepting what others did to him but limiting what he did to the will of God. Blessings to all in Christ, who accepted the mortal hostility of others while not engaging in that intent toward himself. Cling to Christ our loving savior, and he will save you from your own intentions.
One of the reasons I haven’t topped myself is because I found me dad.
It screws with the head of survivors……
Ben, I have actually thought about doing this. Many times. One of the reasons I have refused to have a gun in my house is that I get drunk a lot. Almost every other night. Speaking of which, I am drunk, now. I don’t want a gun in my house because I get depressed every other night and…well…fill in the blanks. Thoughts happen.
My life is not at all what I imagined it to be. I thought I would be important, popular, wealthy, something else. I see now that I’m just like everyone else, except that I cannot have children. I was ‘cursed’ from birth (I guess) to be sterile. What kind of effed up deity would do that to his beloved? I would be atheist if I had not asked God to prove to me he existed and he had not responded (FYI – he did, akin to Science Mike’s experience).
I keep trying to take it day by day. I hope that the next day will be better. So far, it has not. But I keep hoping. I also think about what my wife would have to tell my family. What they would tell my nieces and nephews. How my parent’s would take it. And those thoughts lead me out of it. But it still remains. The easy way out…the coward’s way out, I guess. I would rather just be able to ‘turn off’ the sh*tty feelings that I have with regards to this current life. This mortal coil. WTF.
I have a great church (GracePointe in Franklin, TN) and great people. I am convinced that many of my congregation have been through far worse. That also keeps me going, knowing that they have had the same thoughts. I think that is most important. We have to find a place where we feel we belong. A community of like-minded people, even if they are broken seemingly beyond repair.
My son, 26 year old just committed suicide. He was brilliant well-loved with a great childhood. He was a world Traveler and accomplished more in his life than most of us will. I always thought he was on the high functioning autistic side…Self-taught computer coding genius. Although he seemed to struggle with long-term close relationships he seemed to be so confident and have no trouble being in the Limelight in acting and plays and parties but I realize now a lot of that was because he was just a good actor. When he went off to travel the world to Mexico India Japan Australia, he became very socially withdrawn. He grew his hair out and around us he was distant, blank! l think he finally realized who he was. It was like once the realization that everything is “fake” sunk in, he couldn’t handle the corruption and the sadness. He helped so many people and was a kind soul, sensitive. He was a big believer in psychotropic drugs to help open up his mind. Turns out it wasn’t such a good idea for people that may have been manic depressive or bipolar, he’s never been diagnosed with that but looking back I think he probably had that. He ended up going into a persistent psychosis, after some bad drugs in Thailand and was hearing voices. I dont know anything! I’m guessing he was probably struggling with this for a while and he didn’t reach out and ask for help. He kept telling us he was totally fine. He accidentally called his sister when in a delusion so we knew he was in trouble and we flew down to Thailand to bring him home. He didn’t make it. He jumped off a high ledge and died but I think he found comfort knowing his parents were there to bring his body home. I wish I would have known he was suffering I wish I would have said something when he started changing and withdrawing, I just thought it was a normal young man thing trying to find out who he was. How can I turn this tragedy in to something good? What’s the best way to help others? Thank you for the article as it points out some good tips and also the comments.
Some things I’ve done that have helped when the black dog bites….
Take up a hobby.
Do something you really love.
Help others (weird I know).
Horribly enough, just three days ago my closest cousin committed suicide. It has been extremely difficult to bear. Regret is a son of a bitch.
Thank you for this, Dr. Corey.