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The Question That Helps Me the Most When I'm Having Suicidal Thoughts

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Having struggled with depression for around seven years, I have grown familiar with what I see as one of its worst symptoms: suicidal thoughts.

Throughout my depression, the severity and consistency of these thoughts have varied, but they are always there, waiting to jump out and disarm me at the most unexpected of times. And right now, they are refusing to go away.

As I’m sure you are aware, suicidal thoughts aren’t exactly something we talk about in a quick catch up, or in the simple exchange of messages. But if like me, you struggle with them, it might be the one thing that you really do need to talk about.

But see, it isn’t so easy as just telling the other person, “I’m having thoughts about taking my own life.” In the deep darkness of suicidal thoughts, there are many barriers that stand in the way. We are afraid of how people will respond, if they’ll freak out, who they might tell, how upset they’ll get or how little they’ll seem to care. We are afraid that suicidal thoughts will scare them and that, without necessarily meaning to, they won’t be there anymore to ask us how we are. Suicidal thoughts seem a world away from ordinary conversation and the thought of mentioning anything becomes too overwhelming to even consider.

If you feel as though you are able to say something, then I beg of you that you do. But I know this isn’t always the case. This is why I am reaching out to those who have friends who are in the depths of mental illness to find the courage to ask them this simple question: “Are you having suicidal thoughts?”

We are often too afraid to ask such deep and direct questions like this. Perhaps we are afraid that asking this sort of question could trigger suicidal thoughts. But the reality is if someone is fighting depression, it is most likely they are familiar with these thoughts. If their answer is “no,” then no harm has been done, and they will understand that you care deeply enough about them to ask. And if the answer is “yes,” then you might have just given them both the freedom to finally tell someone and the relief of no longer having to fight suicidal thoughts in silence. When the thoughts become trapped in your head, they become all the more suffocating. But when you share even just the fact that you are thinking about suicide, the burden isn’t quite as heavy anymore.

Whilst I have a number of dear friends looking out for me in my struggle, there is only one who asks this simple question: “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” Not only does this bring relief and lighten the burden, but it means that in my darkest moments, when suicidal thoughts start to threaten my safety and I become a danger to myself, I have someone I can turn to who I know will not freak out, but will share the burden by simply standing beside me in the darkest moments.

If you have a friend who you believe is in immediate danger, it is important to encourage them to seek professional help if they are not currently doing so. But I cannot explain how much it has helped to be able to talk about my suicidal thoughts. Perhaps you could be the friend who reaches out to the loved one struggling with depression, asking them the simple question: “Are you having suicidal thoughts?” and help lighten the burden by enabling them not to have to battle these thoughts alone.

Getty image by finwal

Originally published: September 16, 2019
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