If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you are not alone.
The number of people who experience suicidal ideation in the U.S. every year numbers in the millions. You are not selfish or a bad person for feeling this way.
Be assured that most people who experience moments of intense suicidal feelings are able to recover and live fulfilling lives.
Hold that in mind and keep reading. Let’s take a moment to take stock of your situation:
First, Are you safe?
If you have already tried to self-harm today or are feeling intense suicidal urges, call 911 immediately or have a friend or family member get you to mental health urgent care or an emergency room.
If you have not yet tried to harm yourself but are feeling strong suicidal thoughts or urges to self-harm, please contact a crisis counselor right away:
- Crisis & Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988
- NSPL Online Chat Services
- Crisis Textline: Text “SAVE” to 741741
Fully recovering from your suicidal feelings will require long-term help, but your focus right now should be staying safe through your current suicidal episode.
If you have not yet reached crisis point, here are the steps you should follow to stay safe while you weather the current storm:
If you are experiencing persistent suicidal ideation of any sort, reach out to someone you trust as soon as possible and tell them how you are feeling. Even if you are not likely to hurt yourself right now, having somebody who knows what you are struggling with will make it easier to get help.
Know that talking may be difficult.
You may not feel like there’s much the other person can do, or you may not want to worry them. Try to remember that your perception of your own worth is distorted when you are suicidal.
You are not a burden. You are worthy of help. The first and most important step to keeping yourself safe is to reach out to a friend, family member, or medical professional who can provide you with that help.
Remove access to means of self-harm.
Once you have somebody you trust, get their help to remove anything dangerous from your presence. Your trusted person can hold onto any knives, firearms, pills, chemicals, or anything else you could use to harm yourself until you feel safe again.
This is easiest if you have a cabinet or safe where you can lock everything up and turn over the key to your loved one. But any means of keeping these items out of your hands is better than nothing.
Giving yourself a sensory distraction of some sort can help to calm the immediate impulse to self harm. Listen to music, take a walk, lay on the floor (yes, that can be enough), or pet an animal.
If the urge is acute, sensations that are intense but not harmful such as placing ice cubes on your skin can help to keep it at bay. If you just need to divert your attention until the worst of the feelings pass, something mundane and harmless like a movie, game, or craft might help keep your mind occupied until you feel safer.
Create a safety plan.
If you are currently safe but feel your situation may escalate toward self-harm, work on creating a plan in case you enter crisis mode and can’t think clearly.
Save.org has provided this excellent safety plan template where you can write down the steps to follow and people to contact if you start going into crisis. Share this plan with your loved ones, doctors, trusted religious leaders, or anyone else you think might be able to recognize when you are in distress and can take action.
Once the episode has passed and you are in an okay place, you should try to secure some help toward your long-term recovery. It is time to make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional so they can help you work toward feeling better.
If you are severely depressed, you may be unable to motivate yourself to go through all the necessary steps of scheduling and attending an appointment. It is okay to ask for help with this. You are not a burden. Don’t hesitate to lean on someone in your life to set up your appointment for you, and even to help you get there if necessary.
Available Support Resources
If financial hardship or other barriers to your seeking mental health treatment are already one of the contributing factors to your suicidal thoughts, do not let these instructions discourage you.
No matter your situation, there are resources for you on both national and local levels. Here are some of the options that may be available to you:
Community Mental Health Centers
Most states have some level of community mental health services. These can usually be found through the Department of Human Services on your state’s website. Private non-profits can also offer free or sliding scale mental health treatment. A good place to start is your local YMCA or similar community center.
Churches or Spiritual Communities
Many churches provide support resources for their congregations. Your church leaders may offer free individual counseling for those who need it. Some congregations may be willing to provide financial assistance to members who need help seeking treatment.
It is also very common for religious communities to sponsor support groups or group therapy. These are often open to the general public, so you do not need to be a member of the congregation or be religious to attend.
Online Resources and Communities
There are widely available resources online for people experiencing feelings like yours. Free crisis chat lines are obviously a good place to turn if you are in active distress.
For the process of recovery, many online therapy platforms offer reduced rates for those who are struggling financially. Online support groups can also provide a lot of connection and stability in times of need.
If you are a student, your university almost certainly has a resource center where students can receive mental health assistance. Whether they can provide you counseling on site or help you get in touch with affordable outside treatment, your school can be an incredibly helpful resource.
There are training clinics for every sort of medical practice, from family medicine to mental health, and they often operate at much more affordable rates than other clinics.
The training physicians there are in the final stages of earning their degrees and are overseen by more experienced attending physicians, so the standard of care provided will be exactly the same as anywhere else.
Most people don’t realize how often mental health clinics are willing to work with people who are financially insecure so they can still have access to the treatment they need. Especially if you have been struggling with thoughts of suicide, don’t hesitate to ask a nearby clinic if they can help you work something out.
Steps Toward Recovery
Once your medical needs are taken care of and you are feeling a little more stable, you can begin to take other small steps to help in your recovery. Small things like reestablishing interest in your hobbies and improving your self-care habits can begin to make a huge difference in how you feel on a daily basis.
Larger steps involve things like finding a broader community of support among others with experiences similar to yours. These can help you progress in your recovery without shame—and provide plenty of support to fall back on in case things ever get difficult again.
Things may seem dire and hopeless right now, but they can and will get better. It is always okay to ask for help and to seek out a new support system if yours has failed you.
Once again, if you are in crisis, don’t hesitate to contact any of these resources:
- Crisis & Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 988
- NSPL Online Chat Services
- Crisis Textline: Text “SAVE” to 741741
No matter what you’re feeling right now, you will get through this with time and help. Life will begin to feel kinder and a lot more manageable.