Depression affects more than 260 million people worldwide. Depression does not discriminate against age, race, economic standing, or gender. While conversations around depression and the impact it has on daily life are becoming more common, there is still one area of conversation frequently tiptoed around.
Someone who is experiencing symptoms of depression may have the belief that there is no future happiness waiting for them and that there are few happy memories from the past. They may experience physical and emotional pain that feels unbearable and weighty. When these feelings and experiences are sustained for an extended amount of time, many individuals find themselves thinking that things would be better or at least their pain would be over if they were no longer alive.
For individuals having this experience, suicide becomes a more considerable option – if only to not have to feel what they are feeling any longer. Individuals experiencing suicidality may have thoughts of suicide, may start forming plans, and may even reach a point where they have decided to take that step. For loved ones, and even for individuals experiencing suicidality, this can feel like a scary and overwhelming thing to address. And with the challenges of the last year of life, more and more people are reporting thoughts of suicide as they have been isolated from loved ones, challenged by fear, and have witnessed and been a part of global traumas.
Thoughts of suicide are not uncommon, even for individuals not diagnosed with depressive illness. The reality is that suicide is always an option – it’s just not an option many actively consider. But when life is challenging, when our minds cannot find peace, when our internal and external world feels defined by chaos, the option of suicide can move into the forefront of our minds. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. If you are worried that someone you love is experiencing thoughts of suicide, you are also not alone. If you are open to having conversations with them, here are some things to consider:
Talk about suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
One major fear and myth is that talking about suicide encourages suicide. This is not true. When we are willing to enter into conversations about suicide we reduce the stigma, we provide community and space for people experiencing suicidality, and we can offer insight and love they may feel they are missing.
If someone you love is suicidal, it is not about you
People who die by suicide are not selfish and looking for an “easy way out.” Their internal storm of suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors has nothing to do with how much they care about you. If you are having a conversation with someone about suicidality, please remember that their experience is personal and that they are not sharing the heaviest parts of their heart to hurt you. If you are not able to support someone who is experiencing suicidality, please connect them to and offer resources that may be valuable.
It is okay to ask for help
If you are struggling with suicidality, it is okay to ask for help. If someone you love is struggling with suicidality, it is okay to encourage them to ask for help. If you are trying to help someone who is struggling with suicidality, it is okay to ask for help. There is no shame in suicidality and no shame in wanting help – in fact, asking for help may be the very thing that moves someone out of a suicidal space. There are professionals who are trained to help and who have skills, resources, and information to provide. Please connect with them, please seek them out, please work with them.
In the event that someone is currently suicidal and needing help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, open 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255.