Suicides are on the rise, and many more people have suicidal thoughts than are reported each year. It’s a natural occurrence that appears when pain negatively outweighs our surroundings—but talking to a therapist can help.
Many people experience thoughts of suicide at one time or another in their lives—and if this sounds like you—please know that you are not alone. Understanding the issues surrounding suicidal thoughts and mental health is a great way to put a stop to these thoughts and prevent suicide. Here are some ways to cope.
Are Suicidal Thoughts Normal?
“I just wish I was dead…”
“I can’t go on like this…”
“What if that car just hit me…”
“I’m so tired, I wish I could sleep forever…”
Do you ever have thoughts like these? If so, you are not alone. It is well documented that 12 million Americans have suicidal thoughts each year. However, we imagine that the actual rate is a great deal higher, as thoughts of suicide are those that we regularly hide from others.
If you’re having suicidal thoughts, it is important to remember how common—how human and universal—they are. When we are in the moment, we often feel disconnected from others. In a world where everyone talks more honestly about suicide and suicidal thoughts, we would find that 12 million is far from the truth.
How Common Are Thoughts of Suicide vs. Suicidal Behavior?
While the vast majority of people who experience suicidal thoughts do not act—for some, thoughts turn to plans, and plans turn to actions.
Constant suicidal thoughts can wear a person down over time. When intrusive suicidal thoughts become consistent, and people don’t know how to get rid of suicidal thoughts or find the support they need, they become more likely to act.
Suicide is particularly on the rise in the US. Nearly 1.4 million Americans attempted suicide in 2020—and 48,344 of those tragically succeeded in taking their life, the majority of which through the use of firearms.
Today, the statistics are so high that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all people in the US. And all these deaths were partly the result of countless conversations that did not happen. People were unable to share what was going on with them and get the support they needed.
The stakes are high. Suicide facts show that young people, veterans, the LGBTQI community, and middle-aged men are particularly at risk. Suicide is also a global problem, with low and middle-income countries the most affected—700,000 people worldwide lost their lives to suicide last year alone.
These brutal facts show us that there is another, quieter epidemic making its way through our world and communities, with the US having the highest rate of suicide out of the first world nations. Leaving aside so-called “deaths of despair” that are often related to mental health issues and a fractured social fabric, the evident numbers of suicides have a story to tell.
What Causes Suicidal Thoughts?
In my practice, I often find that another human being brings someone with intrusive suicidal thoughts to the edge of what is bearable. Suicide, suicidal plans, and even passing suicidal thoughts are simply the result of having too much pain and not enough resources to deal with that pain.
The exact pain is different for everyone. The cause could be the death of a loved one, a break-up, job loss, complex family dynamics, internal identity issues, or feelings of disconnection and failure. Suicidal thoughts are a natural reaction that occurs when painful circumstances outweigh ways to cope with our surroundings.
How to Deal With Suicidal Thoughts
We often hide this type of thinking from others because we fear their reaction—whether they take us seriously and react out of fear or dismiss us and make us feel ashamed, calling us dramatic or foolish.
People especially hide suicidal thoughts from their closest loved ones, often worsening feelings of isolation and depression. These feelings can become very intense when hidden, unattended, or ignored—beyond the reach of another’s support or comfort.
Even in the safe space of therapy, suicidal thoughts can be scary and uncomfortable to bring up. But I am here to reassure you that your therapist welcomes every part of you.
Therapy to Help With Suicidal Thoughts
Your therapist is ready to hear these thoughts and feelings and be with you in them.
When you share your thoughts and feelings, you can expect them to respond compassionately and supportively. They will ask more questions about how you are feeling and try to get a sense of if you have a plan or are at risk of carrying the thoughts into action.
If the thinking about suicide has progressed to a more concrete plan, you can expect your therapist to make what we call a “Safety Plan” with you, which includes many steps that you will agree to take to keep yourself safe while working through the complicated feelings.
There is no reason not to talk openly with your therapist. Sharing suicidal thoughts with your therapist will help them understand you more completely and aid them in supporting you properly.
How to Overcome Suicidal Thoughts
Counterintuitively—when working with people who have expressed suicidal thoughts—I have not found a lack of a will to live, but instead the desperate desire for some control in a world that has made them feel they have none.
Underneath the pain, there is a genuine love of life and the potential for life to be meaningful and pleasurable. The loss of connection to life and hope—and the pain itself—can become all-consuming.
Therefore, connection is the best method many people find in learning how to stop suicidal thoughts. Connecting with another person, like your therapist, about your lived experience is a path out of the pain.
If you are currently having suicidal thoughts, take it slow. Instead of taking drastic measures, wait. Despite what your emotions are telling you, know that you are not alone. Please get in touch with a friend or loved one immediately, call one of the hotlines listed below, and find a therapist to talk to. When you meet with your therapist, share what’s been going through your mind and heart honestly. Humantold is here to listen.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Substance Use/Addiction and Mental Health