Suicidal Thoughts (Tips): You’re Not Alone
For over ten years, I’ve been practicing therapy at Fathers’ UpLift, a mental health and substance use treatment facility Samantha Fils-Daniels and I founded in Boston, Massachusetts. It’s been a journey and one of the highlights of my life. We have witnessed an exorbitant amount of pain since our first introduction to the social work and mental health fields in our mid-20s. While being of service to others, one of the hardest lessons to learn was being present for ourselves concurrently. As such, I felt compelled to share some guidance around suicidal thoughts. Suicidal Thoughts are specific thoughts/plans about taking your life or subtle thoughts about how the world would be without you. Often, they occur before an attempt or suicide occurs.
Recently, Samantha asked me a question that took me by surprise. She said, “Charles, be honest with me; when was the last time you had suicidal thoughts?” I paused and asked, “Is everything all right?” Of course, she replied, but that did not mean I did not have to answer the question. So, I did. I told her that I had not had any suicidal thoughts since I was in undergrad, and when I did, I convinced myself that this world would be better off without me, which was untrue. Even though I did not plan on acting on those thoughts at the time, they sure were in my mind. Those thoughts were hard to escape. Afterward, she shared her experience with me, and we hugged each other tightly.
We have been exposed to two suicides that have occurred within days of one another. First, we received devastating news when we heard that famed actor and director Regina King’s son, Ian Alexander, Jr., had died by suicide. Following the death of Ian a few days later, we received word that Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst, had died. Cause of death, suicide. Both of them were Black and in the public eye. These recent events, including the stress from the pandemic, have hit us hard in many ways. We are all feeling something, whether it be anxiety, depression, stress, or sadness.
It is normal to feel these things. More than half of people who died by suicide did not have a mental health condition. Suicide and suicidal thoughts can impact us all regardless of our profession. I wanted to share a few tips on handling thoughts of suicide.
Remain Aware of The Signs
The National Alliance on Mental Illness listed the following as warning signs that someone may be thinking about suicide:
- Threatening or commenting that you are about killing oneself
- Withdrawing from others
- Increase alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
- Speaking and writing about death
Suicidal thoughts can be passive, and some can grow to planned suicide or an actual attempt. If you feel down and question your existence, reach out to someone you trust and speak about your feelings. If you have a doctor, schedule a doctor’s appointment as well. There is nothing wrong with seeing a doctor. And, if the thoughts become too overwhelming, call 9-1-1. Let this be a reminder; no one is strange and crazy for having these thoughts. They are human.
The Small Things
I keep a notebook on me so when I’m feeling low, I can remind myself of 1) the people that value me, 2) and secondly, the things that make me thankful. Reflecting on the small things in life can bring joy. Some apps can help store moments of gratitude throughout the day. There’s one I am currently using called gratitude. Find an app, notebook, or journal for you to store your reflections. You can always read them when you are having a moment. It helps
Ask for Help
Asking for help can be a struggle, especially when experiencing these thoughts. Understand one thing; you are deserving of the support. Name one person that did not receive help in this life. If you can’t, join the rest of us who’ve overcome an obstacle because someone was willing to lend a hand. When we reach out for help, someone will answer the call, family, friend, or stranger (you will never know if you don’t ask). You are not alone, even if you may feel that way. Asking for help is a conscious decision to allow someone else to be of service to you the same way you have benefited someone in your life at one time or another.
There’s nothing wrong with receiving what you have given. With that, I hope you allow someone to be there for you. If you are reading this and know someone that can use a little uplift, reach out and say hello, lend an ear, or share how you’ve been able to deal with unwanted thoughts. It would make a tremendous difference.
Here are some additional resources:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Visit a therapist. Before the visit, you can always request a consultation to see if that person is a good fit for you. I strongly recommend it.
- Visit a Primary Care Provider (PCP). Be sure to ask them to check your blood, thyroid, and vitamin levels for deficiencies or any unforeseen issues. Your Primary Care Provider can check for any conditions that can impact your mood.
- Samaritans: 1-877-870-4673 or text 24/7
I am thinking of all of you.
With gratitude and appreciation,
Dr. Charles C. Daniels, Jr.