Question: If I’m feeling suicidal or violent what should I do?
Consider Your Options
At some point in our life, questioning the difficulty and the painfulness of our struggle is common to mankind.
We may find ourselves struggling with overwhelming emotional or physical pain from which we see no viable path of escape. We may feel backed into a corner with nowhere to go.
Death may look like — the only way out.
I’m not here to judge you or to make you feel guilty.
You can choose your own destiny.
There are, however, significant problems with choosing to take your own life; we need to consider our actions carefully.
The first and most important trouble with choosing to take our own life is that it multiplies the burden of our pain and puts it on the shoulders of others.
The second trouble with taking our own life is that, if we succeed, it is permanent.
The third and frequently overlooked trouble with taking our own life is that we die hard. Many suicide attempts result in badly broken bodies or permanently damaged brains — followed by lifetimes of needless suffering, disability, guilt, and shame.
The storm of severe depression and suicidal thoughts can seem like it will last forever.
Death or disability last much longer.
There are many ways to overcome pain. Suicide isn’t one of them. It simply passes the pain along.
If we can ride out the storm — the sun will shine again!
It’s worth the wait.
We Need to Talk About It
Suicide is the big scary monster in the closet that no one is comfortable talking about. Perhaps that is why the subject has made its way into the popular culture of adolescents — it’s one subject that can still make the adults in the room squirm in discomfort.
I have never held a gun to my head and pulled the trigger.
I have never stood on a freeway overpass and jumped onto the pavement below.
So, perhaps I can’t speak with authority on the subject of suicide.
But, at least I can still speak, so I will do my best.
In spite of a life that has been very blessed in so many ways, I have entertained the following thoughts from time to time.
It’s what depression does to us.
Why am I here?
Is it worth the struggle?
The world would be a better place without me.
I would be better off dead.
Yes, I have even had thoughts about how I might die. The professionals call this suicide ideation.
Let’s look briefly at:
- Our Pain
- Our Purpose
- How Pain and Lack of Purpose Can Work Together to Make Us Feel Suicidal
- How Food Can Affect the Functioning of Our Brain
- How Medications Can Cause Suicidal Thinking and Suicide.
- Sources of Help
Guilt or shame can be generated by the inappropriate actions of others.
An example of having been inappropriately shamed by the actions of others would be someone who is violated as a child and made to feel responsible for the unsavory actions of the perpetrator.
Before psychiatric medications became the modus operandi of the psychiatric industry there was a big push by psychiatrists to uncover the childhood trauma that was causing depression and suicidality in adults. Frequently, and inadvertently, led by the therapist, patients would come to believe that they must have been abused as children, and bizarre stories would emerge that ripped families apart and even led to legal actions taken against innocent people.
The difficult lesson learned was that while childhood trauma can certainly lead to depression and suicidality, not all depression and suicidality are caused by childhood trauma.
Guilt or shame generated by what we are.
We may be shamed by something that we are or something that we are perceived to be.
We are “different.” We may be unintelligent, unsuccessful, LGB or T, ugly, extraordinarily beautiful, have the wrong color of skin, lonely, sickly, or just-plain-weird!
(This is the realm of bullying.)
Guilt or shame generated by something we have done.
We may feel guilt or shame by having done something inappropriate, unsavory, unacceptable, or inexcusable.
Awkward or embarrassing events or poor choices may cause us humiliation or shame too.
Chronic discouragement, hopelessness, or helplessness generated by repeated failure, chronic illness, or catastrophe.
This could include repeated business, career, or academic failure. It could include physical pain or discomfort that is relentless, overwhelming, and that won’t go away. It could include natural catastrophes such as flood or fire, catastrophic events such as school shootings, or personal loss such as the death of a loved one or a divorce.
These are some, but certainly not all, of the many possible sources of our pain.
As traditional roles have changed and interpersonal connections have weakened, many of us have tended to lose a well-defined sense of a purpose for our life.
It seems we need each other less and less.
We no longer ask grandma for that favorite recipe. We google it.
We no longer talk to our sister about our problems. We see a therapist.
Our wife no longer cooks our meals. We go out to eat or open another can of soup.
Our talents, skills, and muscles are no longer needed. Machines and cheap foreign labor can do it better.
The husband is no longer the breadwinner, the man who brings home the bacon. The wife brings home a paycheck too.
Johnny no longer brings in the firewood and Priscilla no longer knits our socks. Our children are left in a void, with daycare providers, public schools, and entertainment media filling the gap.
Grandfathers no longer tell stories and kids don’t engage in creative play with each other. Electronic games and YouTube are more interesting.
When our interconnectedness is weakened, our purpose for being here becomes obscured.
We may begin to think: I’m worthless, nobody needs me, nobody likes me, nobody appreciates me, and nobody cares.
Adolescents who haven’t yet identified a direction for their life, unattached adults, empty-nesters and retired folks are particularly susceptible to this phenomenon.
We’re unsure where we fit in.
It is being connected and having a purpose that gives meaning to life. When we lose that connection and that purpose our life loses meaning.
What gives your life purpose and meaning? I’d like to hear about it in the public comments at the bottom of this page.
How Pain and a Lack of Purpose Can Work Together to Make Us Feel Suicidal
When we feel there is no meaningful purpose in our lives — and — we experience emotional pain in the absence of any positive feelings of happiness or well-being, we may become suicidal.
People can endure a great deal of emotional or physical pain if they have a strong sense of purpose or if there is an occasional break in the clouds when the sun shines through.
Pain, however, can become overwhelming when we lack purpose and see no break in the clouds.
A soldier on the battlefield may endure a great deal of pain and suffering to rescue an injured comrade.
A mother may endure a great deal of pain for the sake of her child.
An Olympic athlete, in pursuit of a gold medal, can endure a great deal of pain and suffering on their race to the finish line: long hours of preparation, a strict diet, painful blisters, sore muscles, pounding heart, and shortness of breath.
An aimless person simply meandering through life with no purpose could not and would not endure the pain of the soldier, the mother, or the Olympian.
A greater level of pain in our lives may require we find a greater purpose, in order for us to cope.
We’ve all seen people who have overcome an extraordinary loss of purpose including severe handicaps, death of a child, or terminal illness by turning their pain into a purpose; they’ve started a crusade or joined a mission larger than themselves: Mother’s Against Drunk Driving and the Jacob Wetterling Foundation come to mind. These people no longer count their days as too many but as too few.
In middle age, our purpose may come to us in the form of dependent children or dependent family members.
In some cases, our purpose may be thrust upon us unexpectedly.
Some of us find spiritual purpose through a faith in God, believing that God has a purpose for our lives.
Strengthening our connections with others will increase our purpose. It may give us the needed break in the clouds that let the sun shine through. Connections will give us commitments to keep and we will discover needs we can fill.
In fact, seeing to the needs of others may help us more than it helps them.
Little things in life can give us purpose too. Being responsible for livestock, pets, gardens, or even houseplants can give us a small degree of purpose. Something as simple as keeping the snow shoveled off the sidewalk, sweeping the steps, or picking up litter in the park can help.
In the face of pain, we may need to go out and find or invent a purpose — because it is having a purpose that gives meaning to life.
Food Can Affect the Functioning of Our Brain
Not all depression can be explained by life experience or by a lack of purpose. In 1986 I discovered that eating wheat brought me not amber waves of grain but dark clouds of depression. There are a number of dietary issues that can cause depression including malabsorption of vitamin B-12, thyroid problems, blood sugar issues, and even the imbalance of the flora in our intestinal lumen. Many of these diet-related causes of depression can be tested for. See A Depression Diagnosis? Should I take Antidepressant Medications? for more information, and sign up for my email updates to be informed of upcoming articles on the subject.
When our body and brain are compromised by eating the wrong foods we are less able to handle the stresses of life and we become more susceptible to depression and suicide.
Medications Can Cause Suicidal Thinking and Suicide
Many medications list depression or suicide as a side effect. A website called verywellmind.com lists 10 classes of drugs that can cause depression or that are linked to suicide.
When it comes to suicidality even antidepressant medications themselves are suspect.
The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) is an international peer-reviewed medical journal. A report in The BMJ states: “It can no longer be doubted that antidepressants are dangerous and can cause suicide and homicide at any age. It is absurd to use drugs for depression that increase the risk of suicide and homicide when we know that cognitive behavioral therapy can halve the risk of suicide in patients who have been admitted after a suicide attempt and when psychotherapy does not increase the risk of murder.”
According to many, however, the jury is still out. Those who make a living manufacturing and prescribing the drugs claim that they do more good than harm while others claim they are dangerous and need to be avoided.
Science requires simplicity to make accurate measurements and needs to be repeatable to be considered reliable. Drug studies are neither. They are very complex, too small, too short, too biased and possibly fraudulent at times; they are often shrouded in secrecy, and they have not proven to be repeatable. As consumers of the drugs in question, we are often left in the dark.
There is some consensus that antidepressants are less effective at treating depression, and more likely to cause suicide, in the under age 24 population. The cost-benefit ratio of taking SSRI’s is lower for that group. This is reflected in the FDA’s decision that requires all SSRI antidepressant medications to carry a black-box warning about the increased risk (compared to placebo) of suicidal thinking and behavior in those under age 24.
This black-box warning is the most serious type of warning used in prescription drug labeling and should not be taken lightly!
My personal experience with antidepressants is that they helped my depression in the short term; usually for several weeks or months and then their effectiveness would wear off. My feeling is that they muted my painful emotions (like sadness, hopelessness, and anger) but that they also muted the positive emotions (like happiness, awe, and wonder.) They hampered my ability to have meaningful relationships and to be creative. They made my life less worthwhile over the long-term.
In light of the fact that there are many other ways to deal with depression and suicidality, I have tapered off all my antidepressant medications and I feel much, much better!
Sources of Help
Our Personal Army
The fact that you are here reading this and that I am here writing this is an indication that there is hope for all of us.
There is a lot we can learn and do to overcome suicidal thinking.
We may feel very alone but there’s a whole army behind us.
If we are in the midst of relationship problems with significant others, there are still others in our army to turn to.
Our army may include our friends, teammates, employees, doctors, grandmothers, school counselors, college classmates, grandfathers, spouse, masseuse, fellow soldiers, mother, father, support group, nurse, step-parent, foster- parent, spiritual leader, brothers, teachers, coworkers, playmates, boss, aunts, bus driver, sisters, social worker, acquaintances, uncles, lover, roommate, minister, business associate, neighbor, golfing partner, store clerk, our sons, our daughters and many others people with whom we come in contact.
We can contact any caring person for whom we have respect. It is important that we make a meaningful connection because making that connection will change us; people change people.
If you are still having trouble coming up with a name of someone you can connect with you might peruse your email or telephone address book, or another pertinate directory that you can use.
Text. Call. Go over to their house. Whatever you have to do. Face-to-face or person-to-person is best.
Talk, hang-out, or do some activity together.
You are buying time until the storm passes, but more important than that, you will get better as a direct result of connecting with another person. You will make commitments. You will see the world from a fresh perspective. You will discover something you can do for someone else.
Happiness comes from togetherness.
It’s the way we’re made.
Suicide Prevention Helplines
While I strongly recommend reaching out to others within our own circle of influence — because this can help us build meaningful relationships and lasting wellness — there are other options to consider. There are many suicide prevention helplines around the world that you can contact. Most are free and confidential. BetterHelp provides a list of many such numbers worldwide.
In the United States, you can talk to someone now at The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Click on this link to go to their homepage directory. If you’ are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. They provide contact numbers for English speaking, Spanish speaking, veterans, and deaf and hard of hearing. They also have a disaster distress helpline.
If we have complicated or messy issues or pain that leave us hurting and confused then a counselor, therapist, or psychologist may be particularly helpful. There may be this kind of professional help available through medical facilities, schools, colleges, youth groups, churches, or workplaces. Health insurance may cover these appointments; check to be sure.
In our area, an appointment costs about $70 and wait times can be long. If your first therapist isn’t a good match for you, you may wish to try another.
There are also therapists online who can help us work through our depression without leaving home.
Law Enforcement, Emergency Rooms, and Psychiatric Centers
If you or someone you know are feeling out-of-control, hospital emergency rooms or psychiatric centers are available in most communities. Doctors or psychiatrists may prescribe medications to help you regain control.
These medications should be seen as short-term crisis interventions.
Wait times can be long and frustrating depending on your area and emergency room visits and hospital stays are costly. (But if that is what you need, that is what you need!)
A mental health crisis or suicidality at home can be frightening and may involve a domestic dispute. If you, or anyone else, are in imminent danger of harm call law enforcement.
In the United States Dial 911.
If it is safe and reasonable for you to do so, remove knives and guns from the area. If it is dark, and electric lights are available, turn the lights on before the police arrive.
Learn More About Overcoming Depression
This blog is about learning how to overcome depression without the use of medications.
The contributing causes of our depression and suicidal thinking may be many, and they may be quite apart from what we think they are.
It is very helpful to learn the many ways we can find purpose and begin to take control of our life.
You can learn more here: