Suicide is a real threat to bipolar sufferers; life can seem pretty hopeless in Bipolar depressions, and suicide can seem like the perfect solution.
In my depressive episodes I quickly turn to suicide. At first I don’t actively want to commit suicide, it’s just that thoughts of death frequently pop into my head, and I even dream about destruction. Then I want to die, I want things to be over…but I don’t want to kill myself. Then I want to kill myself but don’t have a plan, and finally I have a plan and am ready to go through with it. (this isn’t the same for everybody by any means, it is just an example)
Myths about suicide:
- People who talk about committing suicide aren’t serious about it, and are just seeking attention.
Any mention of suicide should always be taken seriously, even without a Bipolar diagnosis. People may joke they “would be better of dead” – take heed, listen to them and ask what they mean. Casually mentioning suicide can be a way to reach out without directly asking for help.
- People who are suicidal always want to die, and we can’t help them.
People who are suicidal are struggling. They are hurting so bad and desperately want a way for the pain to stop. Many times they don’t actually want to die, they just can’t face living the life they have been dealt anymore. They can be helped.
- If a person has attempted suicide, they won’t try again
The opposite is usually true, and once a person has attempted suicide they are more likely to eventually succeed.
What to do if you are feeling suicidal
There are a number of places you can phone, email or write to. However if you are in immediate danger and can’t keep yourself safe, the best thing you can do is to call someone. This can be a family member / friend, but this isn’t always possible. There are helplines (see below).
You can also get in touch with your GP, care coordinator, social worker, psychiatrist etc if they are available. If it’s out of hours, get in touch with the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment team (CRHT), go to A&E or phone emergency services and ask for an ambulance. Your safety is paramount.
If you are going to A&E it can be very helpful to take someone with you – a spouse, partner, friend, carer or family member. Unfortunately there are medical professionals who have no understanding of mental illness and may not treat you as they should; having someone with you who can stand up for you is a great idea.
Self-help: The waiting game
This is something that Anon has been doing since she was a mid-teen and struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Tell yourself you are going to hold off acting on your suicidal thoughts for a period of time (this can be as long as 24 hours, or as little as 5 minutes). Wait. Once you hit your target, congratulate yourself and set a second target. This can be the same as the first, longer or shorter. Keep going.
Self-help: Write it out
Another strategy Anon has used since she was young is to choose a sentence that matches how you feel (eg. “I am so alone”, “I want to die” etc) and write it out, over and over again. Page after page, however you want. It might not work for you, but this usually helped Anon work through the most intense part of the crisis, and then she was able to switch to another strategy, such as the waiting game.
Something Anon has been doing since she was a pre-teen is writing out tallies. This is another thing that is useful to help pass time and try and carry you through the eye of the storm.
It’s just as it sounds; grab a piece of paper and either draw a tally (|||) or draw dots, and count from one to a hundred…or however many you want. Anon would do this with music playing in the background. Sounds stupid, but it gives you something calming to focus on and does work for some.
Self-help: The beat game
Put some music on, either music you love or just random music. Using your thumb / finger / a finger on each hand, tap them on something in time with the music.
This is great for focusing your mind on something else other than suicidal thoughts, even if it does sound stupid. You can make it harder by tapping one finger on your left hand and two on your right; play about!
Self-help: Distraction games / activities
Anything that can hold your focus and keep you distracted – give it a try.
What about: colouring books, stacking cards into a pyramid, playing a video game (ones that don’t require a lot of focus are good as it can be exceptionally hard to concentrate when you are in such pain), Lego.
I have found both Bop It and Bop It Tetris wonderful for distracting myself. You need to focus enough to be able to play the game, which keeps you busy and safe, but you can almost do them on auto-pilot so don’t have to worry about a sluggish brain! I’ve found these games useful not just for suicidal thoughts but also distancing & calming myself with hallucinations.
Self-help: Sensory corner
Buy things in that, when you’re at your worst, you can just sit and watch.
Some good things include fake aquariums, projector torches and glitter lamps. You can sit and focus on these, and just be. Anon has also found they help because when she is focusing on them, the things she is thinking don’t feel so overwhelming.
Are there any soothing hobbies you can do safely? Cooking can be a bad idea because of kitchen tools, as can going for a walk if you live near viaducts and such. Things like crosswords, listening to music, creative writing or interacting with a pet can work.
I need to talk
There are several charities and organisations that you can call or email to help you feel less alone:
Papyrus (teenagers and young adults)
Campaign Against Living Miserably (young men)
Sane / Saneline
Metanoia – http://www.metanoia.org/suicide/
Grassroots Suicide Prevention – http://prevent-suicide.org.uk/index.html
Stamp Out Suicide – http://www.stampoutsuicide.org.uk/
What to do if someone else is feeling suicidal
Don’t leave them alone. Listen to them and ask questions. Take what they say seriously, and let them know you are there to help. Encourage them to seek help, either from their GP / psychiatrist or by going to A&E. If the person is a danger to themselves, or delusional, get in touch with their Dr’s and call for help yourself.
Suicide warning signs
– Period of intense depression
– Talking about dying, death or suicide (“I wish I was dead”, “I wish I hadn’t been born”, “everything would be better if I just killed myself”)
– Making a will, or giving away possessions that are important to them
– No hope for the future; feeling helpless and worthless
– Feeling trapped and talking about seeing no way out
– Withdrawal from friends and family
– Sudden change in mood – someone quickly becoming being happy and / or calm after being extremely depressed can be the result of a person decided to commit suicide
– Saying goodbye unexpectedly (eg. in the form of notes, texts or phone calls)
If you take a suicidal person to hospital because you feel they are in danger, be prepared to fight for them.
It is disgusting but true that the NHS do not take people who say they are suicidal seriously; they leave them waiting for hours, offer them no support and even send them home after doing nothing. It is often extremely difficult for the suicidal person to stand up for themselves, and medical staff can be very intimidating. You can help here.
My thoughts on suicide being ‘cowardly’
“Suicide is a coward’s way out”
This view disgusts me, I’m not going to lie, and I’d imagine most people who uphold this viewpoint would feel differently if the person opting to end their life had a serious physical illness, eg. cancer.
Suicide is not an ‘easy’ option – think how desperate you must feel, how much pain you must be in to even consider it. Think how long you must have been struggling for. A suicidal person feels their life isn’t worth living; there is no hope – why would they carry on?
Many people are aware of the pain their death will cause their family; they sit and beat themselves up over it and hate themselves for it, but feel there is no other option.
For other people they believe their family or friends will be better off without them; either understanding that whilst they will be sad in the short term they will be happier in future; others believe with all their heart that their family & friends will feel immediate relief upon hearing the person is dead.
A person considering suicide is not thinking straight; they are suffering massively. Often they have been struggling greatly for years.
“Committing suicide is selfish”
I can certainly see where someone saying this is coming from, but as someone who spends a huge amount of time battling suicidal thoughts, why is it not considered selfish to force a suicidal person to live?
It’s easy to call people who commit suicide chickens, but unless you have been in their shoes you really don’t know what they were going through or why they made that decision.
It is far too easy to tell people to pull their socks up, or that they are being selfish…it is far harder to think the same once you have been in their situation and felt their pain.
People struggling with suicidal thoughts need help keeping themselves safe, until they are once again able to, and they need understanding, support and compassion. Telling them they are cowardly and selfish will not do them any good.
I am not advocating suicide. I am merely saying suicidal people need help, not insults or derisive comments. For over 11 years now I have battled long bouts of intense suicidal feelings; I am not an exception. It’s hard to keep fighting when you have been struggling for so long.