Suicidal Thoughts Without the Desire to Act

I recently had a friend who crowd sourced an interesting question on Facebook.  She wanted to know how people get rid of suicidal thoughts.  She said that she had started to get out of her depression, and did not have suicidal feelings, but the thoughts would not leave her.

I have dealt with this issue many times in the past.  My depression begins to lift, but the suicidal thoughts will not leave me, sometimes these recurrent thoughts contribute to my mood lowering again.  I have tried to explain this to my mental healthcare team, but after trying and failing to get them to understand what I was trying to say, I gave up.  I figured it must only be me.  This mindset was certainly not helpful.

My friend received responses from a dozen or so people, all sharing what they do if they have a suicidal thought, without the desire to act on it.  This is apparently an issue people deal with, not just me, not just the two of us, but a bunch of people.

My friends post taught me something important: without even realizing it, I was self-stigmatizing about my suicidal thoughts when I knew I did not want to die, and because of this I did not talk to others about it.

Below is a sample of some of the answers my friend received from her friends on Facebook:

  1. (My answer) I have named my suicidal and other negative, unhelpful thoughts Rhonda; so when I have one of these thoughts, I will tell Rhonda to shut up and leave me alone. I find that this acknowledges the thought (which is sometimes all the thought needs) but it also signifies to myself that it is not a thought I’m okay with.
  2. Think about loved ones and how it would make them feel. [perhaps a better strategy for if you planned to follow through with the thought]
  3. Do a chore to get your mind off it.
  4. Accept that the thought may not go away, but that you do not need to ever act on it.
  5. Make something, do a craft, bake, cook, anything.
  6. Tell people.
  7. Think about how life insurance will not pay out if I were to act. [maybe more helpful if you planned to act]
  8. Don’t hide from whatever is behind the thought. Did something bad just happen?  Are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?
  9. Say out loud, “Stop!”
  10. Listen to happy music and sing along.

All of these are great answers because they all work for someone.  It may take a lot of trial and error, but I think the first steps are:

  1. Understand you do not need to act on the thoughts.
  2. Know you are not alone.

Suicide is a complicated issue, and even when your logical brain and/or emotions are telling you that you would like to live, suicidal thoughts can still pop up.  If you experience suicidal thoughts, whether you plan to act on them or not, it is best to discuss this with a mental health provider, or, if not available, a primary care provider, emergency room staff, or someone from a suicide hotline.  You can get links to places to call for help here.


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