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10 Survival Tips for When You're Suicidal — but Don't Know Where to Turn

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What does it feel like to be suicidal? As community member Megan G. put it:

It’s like constantly being on “high alert” and looking for an escape route from a monster, only the monster is inside you. Everything becomes a tool to analyze, every place becomes a place to explore with your eyes, only the problem is that you are looking at everything as a way to stop the thoughts that consume and overwhelm you and race through your brain.

Oftentimes, in this head space, it’s all getting through a moment. It’s all about survival. If we can survive these moments, if we can only stay when everything in our mind is saying the opposite, then we give ourselves the chance of things getting better. Then we give ourselves the chance of finding peace.

To figure out what other people do to get through these tough moments, we asked members of our mental health community to share with us a “survival tip” they use when they’re suicidal. However you’re feeling right now, we hope these tips help. Come up with your own and write them down for a day you might need it. There’s nothing shameful about being suicidal — we just want you to know you can survive it.

Here are the tips they shared with us:

1. Wait — and take it a minute at a time.

“The biggest thing I try and remind myself, in relation to self-harm, is to wait. Wait 15 minutes. Wait 30 minutes. Wait an hour. However much time; because in that time, the intensity of the urge subsides. It may look like rubbish, but if you’ve used it even once, you find how useful it actually is.” — Rebecca F.

2. If you have one, think about your pet.

“Honestly, my dog. I would start thinking things like, ‘If I died my books would go to so-and-so, my games would go to –” but when I’d get to my dog, it would make my anxiety so bad. I couldn’t imagine what would happen to him if I was gone and that’s the biggest thing that’s kept me here.” — Monika C.

“I find the closest animal. Animals are the only things that can make the world seem less terrifying. They’re the only ones that can talk me off of that ledge, without having to say a single word. They remind me that life is worth living purely because they are there, and they will always be there. Even if it’s a random stranger’s cat, it still gets me through the really rough days.” — Justine A.

“Call for my dog. She always cheers me up and reminds me I need to be alive to care for her. I get outside and play with her or go for a walk and remember how amazing this planet can be, even on the worst days.” — Helen R.

3. Turn to music.

“I have a playlist on my Spotify called ‘Stay Alive’ and ‘BPD and Me.’ Since I don’t have much support or understanding in my life, those songs kind of give me the love and validation I need.” — Haley F.

“I play my most angry/upbeat song of choice (tends to be ‘Break Stuff’ by Limp Bizkit) to either let off some steam, let go of the frustration or get myself motivated and then I’ll read up on puns. They always manage to make me smile. I distract myself. And once I’ve managed to ‘normalize’ myself, I list all the good things I have going. The things I still want to do.” — Alizée B.

 4. List good things that have happened since the last time you were suicidal (even if they’re small).

“I remember that I’ve felt this pain before. I think of the last time I felt like this and come up with five good things that have happened to me between episodes. It reminds me that I will get through it. I can get through it.” — Sheila Hydle 

5. Procrastinate.

“So it doesn’t make sense to everyone, but I procrastinate. I’ll tell myself, ‘OK, I’ll just finish this episode first, if I do it now, I’ll never know how [insert TV show] ends,’ or something similar, ‘Well I’ll just grab some Chinese food first, I’d like to eat crab Rangoon just one more time, then I’ll do it…’ It’s kept me alive so far.” — Amber R.

One primary thing that works without fail is come up with excuses to be alive. Like, I need to be alive tomorrow, because I promised Mom I’d make dinner. Another is, I need to be alive next week because I have a fancy dinner planned with my fiance.” — Sarah C.

6. Call a friend.

“I called my best friend to come get me. She looks after me. It was 2:30 a.m. and she was 20 minutes away. She got to me in 22 minutes. Saved my life that night, she did. Forever grateful.” — Kate S.

“Reaching out to people is the biggest for me. I literally can not be alone when I’m suicidal because I don’t trust myself to be alone. Talking to someone makes me realize that life is worth living as long as you’re not living life alone.” — Tara R.

7. Call/text a suicide hotline.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741.

“I have called the suicide hotline a few times. They’ve helped me a lot during my difficult moments. They listen, allow me to talk, cry and left me with resources once I’m ready to hang up the phone. If I needed more help to talk to someone, they have had called emergency services to get the help I needed. I’m so thankful they’re there with these services and have people who listen.” — Tatauq M.

8. Follow a safety plan (or make one if you don’t have one already).

“I read my safety plan I carry with me. It outlines what I need to do. To get me grounded, I have to physically exert energy somehow, like going for a run.” — Lisa W.

9. Avoid being alone.

“I will get out in public or to the office… I will avoid being alone as I cannot trust myself when I am in a low mood.” — Ira U.

“When I’m experiencing suicidal ideation, I force myself to stay in the company of my mother and siblings. They are my main support system and have learned to help me in specific ways when they notice any symptoms of my mental illnesses.” — Lea B.

10. Distract.

“Distract, always distract. Escape the room. Do something. Talk to a stranger about nothing intense. Games or TV shows or just drinking a lot of very cold juice with ice to give myself brain freeze.” — Steph M.

“Playing guitar. My head gets so full of music and theory that I can lose the dark thoughts underneath them.” — Shawn S.

 What would you add?

Originally published: June 18, 2018
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