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Dealing with Thoughts of Suicide

Learn what to do if you or a loved one is having thoughts about suicide. Understand what suicidal thoughts mean and how to seek help.

Suicide is commonly called "a permanent solution to a temporary problem."

Many people think suicidal thoughts are controlled by the person thinking them. Those who have never suffered from depression may not be able to relate to the constant pain a depressed person may be under. However, for those living with depression, the unrelenting despair is chemically created and incredibly difficult to control.

The Risk

A person suffering from depression is not automatically at risk for suicide. Just as clinically depressed people don’t necessarily have thoughts of suicide, people who have never suffered from depression may occasionally have thoughts of escaping the pain of everyday life through suicide.

Serious suicide attempts, however, often follow long periods of depression. Some compare depression to feeling as though you’ve fallen into a deep hole and can’t find a way out. For a select few, suicide may seem a possible way out of that hole, but those people don’t generally realize there’s a much better way out.

The truth is, depression does carry with it a suicide risk. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health says more than 90 percent of those who die by suicide either suffer depression or a substance abuse disorder. This risk is especially prevalent in men, although more women attempt suicide than men.

Understanding Suicidal Thoughts

If you are having suicidal thoughts, it’s important to first promise yourself you won’t do anything until you seek help. Many people have experienced suicidal thoughts and survived, only to be very thankful later as they were capable of living a full, happy life.

By seeking the help of a qualified professional, even if it’s through calling the suicidal lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), you can start to realize that you aren’t alone and that there is something you can do to get through this.

If you are suffering from depression, a licensed counselor can help you work through the trials of the condition. Through psychotherapy and medication, many formerly suicidal women and men have been able to get past suicidal thoughts and live happy lives.

Possible Causes

Researchers have found a genetic link to those who have suicidal thoughts, known as “suicidal ideations.” While the link hasn’t been officially determined, there is a higher incidence of suicidal thoughts among those who have a family history of suicide.

Often, life conditions can lead a person to have suicidal thoughts. Going through a divorce or suffering economic woes can instigate a depressive episode, leading one to begin to contemplate a “way out” from the negative thoughts and feelings. But these troubles are temporary and often can be relieved by asking for help from a family, loved one, or counselor.

Effect on Loved Ones

Suicide takes a toll on everyone in the victim’s life, with aftershocks being felt for many years. Guilt and anger are common, leaving loved ones to spend a lifetime wondering what they might have done to help.

Another consideration is that suicide doesn’t always lead to death. Some attempt suicide, only to end up with permanent brain damage or organ failure. One act in a moment of crisis could lead to a lifetime of regret.

Seeking Medical Help

When you meet with a counselor about your condition, you’ll want to find a kind, compassionate person whose primary interest is helping you. You will probably be asked about your medical history, as well as any previous suicidal thoughts you’ve had. Your counselor will attempt to determine if your suicidal thoughts are a result of depression, bipolar disorder, or another mental health condition in order to best treat your condition.

There are other reasons you might have suicidal thoughts, including medications, personal history, or even physical conditions like thyroid disease and lupus. Your therapist will try to isolate the cause, but you will probably also feel relieved to be able to openly discuss your feelings. Unlike friends and family, your therapist is an objective professional who will simply listen without trying to change your mind.

While occasional thoughts of escaping life from time to time are part of being human, serious suicidal thoughts need treatment. If you are currently thinking about suicide, seek help immediately.

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