What You or Your Friends Need to Know about Suicidal Thoughts
I want to start this article by saying that most of my friends and family do not know this about me. I’ve kept my story about suicide a secret for a long time. But recently I’ve noticed a growing number of people who suffer like I’ve suffered. I’ve also noticed many people who were not able to make it out of the dark night.
I write this for you. I write this so that you know you are not alone. You are noticed, you are loved and you are wanted in this life.
I find it difficult to write about suicide because it’s personal for me. It makes me feel vulnerable.
Years ago, I suffered from an emotional/mental pain that felt like it would never go away. It was there when I woke, when I fell asleep — it was there even in my dreams. Regret coupled with depression and self-hate put me into a tailspin before I had even turned 25 years old.
I tried to numb the pain with alcohol, sex and partying. But those soon betrayed me, and the pain became worse than before.
I couldn’t escape it, and soon the darkness of despair began to creep into my heart. Ideas and thoughts seemed to come at me from all sides, telling me my life wasn’t worth living.
I am a burden. Suicide would make it all go away. No more pain, no more regret. I wouldn’t hurt others or disappoint them… I heard these lies, and many more, in my head as I started to close my heart to Mercy and open it to darkness.
I felt utterly alone — the feeling of loneliness that breeds doubt, fear and multiplies the pain. I wanted to escape the pain, to make it end.
I thought suicide was the only answer and my only relief.
I attempted suicide that night. And I'm quite happy I failed. In fact, it has been my greatest failure.
Suicide is not a topic that rolls off the tongue or an easy conversation starter — but it’s a conversation we need to have. Too many people suffer from suicide and its effects.
Every 12.9 minutes, someone in the U.S. commits suicide, according to the CDC. But the frequency at which it occurs does not equate to its understanding. Too many people associate suicide with words like weak or insane.
We often give insult to things we do not understand. Suicide is complex and the result of many things — including emotional, spiritual and neurological struggles. But one of them is also a failure of communion with others. Loneliness and isolation have become some of our greatest poverties today.
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
— Mother Teresa
In the moments of isolation, many look for a way to alleviate the pain. We often use one poison to alleviate another. Pills, sex, alcohol, porn — anything to distract or distance our souls from the pain, even if it’s only temporary.
For me to get past my pain, I had to face it. I had to admit I had a problem and get the help I needed. For many of us, suicide is an enigma; because it is so mysterious, we ignore it.
We can't ignore it any longer.
If you struggle with thoughts of suicide, know this:
1. You are not alone.
You are not weak or insane. But you do need help. There is no shame in your struggle, in admitting you need help or in reaching out. Please reach out to a friend or family member and ask to talk, to come over — just ask for help. Get help in therapy. If you are scared to go to therapy, ask a friend or family member to go with you for support. You can also call 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It’s okay to not be okay — but it’s not okay not to ask for help.
2. The pain is temporary.
The pain will not last forever. It will subside. I know we wish it would disappear in an instant, but it takes time. For many of us, the suffering that led to suicidal thoughts was not an immediate rush upon us. It was a slow fade into despair. The process out of the pain will take time, but you will heal.
3. Learn to live.
Coming out of suicidal thoughts requires a new take on life. As Fulton Sheen would say, “Life is worth living!” We have to learn to live again — to move out of the pain and into a place of repair and renewal. For me, it was getting counseling and renewing my faith life with daily prayer, meditation and adoration. Building a support network around you is crucial for recovery.
If you know someone who struggles with thoughts of suicide, know this:
1. You won’t solve all of their problems.
I wish you could, but you won’t. However, even if you are not the solution, you are called, as a friend, to be a part of it.
2. Please don’t say, “You’re going to hell.”
One of the worst things to tell someone who is deep in the trenches of suicidal thoughts is to threaten them with hell. Instead, remind them of God’s everlasting love and plan for them (Jeremiah 29:11). Reassure them that God has not abandoned them in their suffering, and that He will not fail or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5).
3. Be a friend.
Don’t assume someone else will take the time to be a friend. Take action and ask how a person is doing. “Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them” (Sirach 6:16).
Being a friend means staying in contact (talking, texting and hanging out face to face), praying for your friend and being brave enough to compassionately bring up the topic of suicide if need be. You are not planting the idea in their head by asking. If the person is struggling with these thoughts, he or she may be relieved that you asked, and will feel freer to talk about what they’re going through. Suggest that the person go to therapy, and offer to go with them, even if you just stay in the waiting room.
If your friend is experiencing suicidal thoughts, never promise to keep it a secret. They may be angry at you for telling someone, but it could literally be a matter of life or death.
Life is the greatest gift we have ever been given. Treasure the gift of life, and please remind others of their dignity in the life God has given them.