Thoughts about SuicideFeb 08, 2024
Perhaps there is no category of thoughts with more stigma or misunderstanding than suicidal thoughts. These kinds of thoughts scare us. We don’t like to talk about them and most of us don’t know what to do when we find them in our own heads or in the heads of the people we love and care about.
But suicidal thoughts are common for human beings and really understanding why we have them and what we should do with them is an important part of taking care of yourself and protecting others.
Today is a special episode of the podcast dedicated to understanding why brains sometimes have suicidal thoughts and reducing the fear and the stigma that is associated with them.
You’ll learn the simple and practical things that you can do when you’re scared because you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, how to prioritize your own mental and emotional wellness to minimize your risk of suicide, and some important things to remember when you feel hopeless.
I know that today’s episode is focused on a sensitive, tender topic, but I hope that the tools and thoughts I share will help you feel more empowered and courageous and hopeful whenever you encounter these thoughts.
For more resources and help with suicide:
Welcome to the 100% Awesome Podcast with April Price. You might not know it, but every result in your life is 100% because of the thoughts you think. And that, my friends, is 100% awesome.
Hello podcast universe, welcome to episode 249 of the 100% Awesome Podcast. I'm April Price, I want to welcome you to the podcast. I know my voice sounds a little bit different than it usually does. I am recording this podcast first thing in the morning and I wasn't really expecting to, but I decided to turn the mic on and record this episode. I'm getting ready to go on a trip with my husband, and I actually recorded a different podcast last night in anticipation of that and like, just to be all ready for it.
And I woke up really early this morning and thought, nope, I need to talk about something else. And I was not expecting this. This isn't a topic that was like top of mind, but for whatever reason, I needed to create this episode. And so it's going to be a little bit of a serious one, and I think an important one. And one that I am 100% sure that I am not qualified to really give. And for that reason, every time that I have thought about talking about suicide and suicidal thoughts on the podcast, I've always talked myself out of it, thinking like, okay, well, I don't want to mess that up and I don't know if I know enough.
And of course, you know, your brain always has the fear that you're going to do more harm than good in the world, right? Especially my brain. But like I said, I woke up today with the conviction that it was something that I needed to talk about. And so that's what we're going to do. All our inadequacy and all our doubts and all our fears, we are going to talk about it. And and as we go through the episode, you'll see that that's one of the most important things about suicide and suicide prevention is to overcome our own fear of talking about it.
And so I'm going to kind of model that today by talking about it here on the episode. And I hope that it will help all of you see suicide differently and your role in preventing suicide differently. And if not, then I hope it will help just one of you, just the one of you that needs to hear these thoughts, and I hope that it will help you feel like you are not alone, and that you are known and that you are loved, and that this will be like a confirmation that you matter.
Okay, before we get into this, I want to remind all of you. I know I say this a lot on the podcast, but especially for this episode, I never want you to use anything that I say against yourself. This is a very tender, very sensitive topic, and I know that some of you have very significant grief and trauma and heartache because you have people in your life who have died by suicide. And I never want you to use these words that I'm going to say against yourself to add to that pain. It's so important that you never make yourself wrong for someone else's choices. Suicide is complex, and the reasons for suicide are multifactorial. And while we're going to talk today about ways that we can hopefully intervene and hopefully prevent suicide, I just want to remind you that you are never responsible for someone else's choices. We can't ever be aware of everything that is happening in someone else's life, in their mind, and we can't ever be powerful enough to take away someone else's choices.
You are never to blame if someone you know or love dies by suicide. And I don't want you to hurt yourself by thinking that you could have done something different to prevent that action. That is not true. And those kinds of thoughts are so excruciating and cruel to yourself, and I never want you to think that way. My intention today is just to remove the fear and the stigma around suicidal thoughts, so that you can be much more empowered in talking to other people who might be having these kinds of thoughts. And also to tell those of you who are having thoughts about suicide that you are not alone, and to offer a bit of hope, and to encourage you to talk to someone that loves you about your thoughts. Okay, so with that, let's get started.
The first thing that I want to do as we talk about suicide and suicidal thoughts is I really want to create some normalcy around these thoughts. One of the things that gets in our way when we when we talk about suicide or when other people bring it up to us, is there's just so much fear and stigma around it. And we think like, oh, I'm not supposed to have those thoughts and there's something wrong with me if I even have those thoughts, right? And as part of my coach training every year, we're required to take a course on suicide prevention, and we renew that every year just to like, remember the things that we've learned. And one of the very first things I learned that surprised me the most was how common suicidal thoughts were. And suicidal ideation like that is a very common thought that occurs to us as humans.
And that maybe sounds strange. Perhaps, right? Because we all know that our brains whole job is to keep us alive and to fight for our survival. So why would it give me thoughts about ending my life? Right? That doesn't make any any sense. But really, those thoughts come secondary. We have those thoughts when we're trying to solve a feeling, when we feel so bad and we're trying to solve that and and feel better and we we can't find any other solution. All right. So those thoughts are pretty natural when we're trying to find a solution to to some terrible feelings. And we're trying to find a way to feel better. And our brains, our problem solvers, are going through all the options. Okay, you feel terrible. Here are some options, right. And it's not uncommon to have that possible solution enter your mind as a way to feel better. And I think it's just really important that we recognize like this does not mean that there's something wrong with me. I know for me, in my life, I know for many years my brain would offer it as a solution, as, as like a possible option.
I remember sitting in my car and waiting at the stoplight and just thinking, like the thought popping in my head, like, this would be so much easier if I just run into that traffic light, right? Like if I just gonna and run into that telephone pole or whatever it is that like that would feel better than how I feel right now. And so, I just want you to understand that just because you've had a thought of suicide as a solution, it does not mean there's something wrong with you or your brain. And that's true for your loved one or for the person that you're worried about as well.
Like I said, your brain is a problem solver and what we want to be aware of. If this is the solution that your brain just keeps coming back to and that that it feels like that's the only solution, then we need help and we need support and we need to talk to someone. And so we're going to talk more about that in just a minute. But just know that having the thought does not mean you're broken or there's something wrong with you, something wrong with your brain, that you've done something wrong and that you need to hide this from other people.
Right? The truth is that if you are over 30 years old, if you, you know, are an adult, you probably know someone who has made a suicide attempt and you for sure know someone who has thought about it right? And you may even know someone who has died by suicide. And so suicidal thoughts are much more common than most of us realize, because we don't talk about it, right? There's so much fear and shame that is created around this, and we need to create much more normalcy and understanding so that we can talk about it so that we can get help so that we can help each other.
All right so what we want to do is move away from our our shame and fear about these thoughts and move towards them. As we talk today, we're going to talk a little bit about how we can intervene and really help people who are suffering with these thoughts and, and. Step in and save a life. And what you have to do is to learn to lean in to these thoughts and be curious about them, and ask about them and talk about them, and lean into the other person's pain, rather than leaning away from it or pretending it's not there or ignoring it.
Right? And for most people, talking about suicide is more difficult than talking about anything else, right? They've done these studies where, like linguists have found that people are like, we use these like this highly specialized language to discuss things that are uncomfortable, right? Like uncomfortable subjects like suicide or sex. And we use these kind of euphemisms instead of talking about it directly. And so, you know, research even shows that physicians and nurses and even some mental health care professionals are really uncomfortable talking about suicide and our inability to, like, frankly, talk about it and to talk about these thoughts.
That's what leads to death. Like it's not the thoughts themselves. It's the fact that we don't have a place, a safe place to talk about them. And so we want to remove some of that today. All right. Because suicide is rarely an impulsive act. Most people who commit suicide have been thinking about it a long time. And what we want to do is be able to talk about it somewhere in the middle of all that thinking. We want to create a space where people can talk about it, because the majority of all suicidal people really do want to live.
We're just like, they just have run out of solutions, all right? And if they can be shown a solution, if they can be shown a different way, then it offers a way to choose to live. All right. So I thought it might be really useful to share one effective way of being able to intervene and prevent suicides. And the technique is called QPR. And so you've probably heard of CPR, right. Like we all that's a common acronym that we use CPR.
You know if we if you know CPR then you can save a life and you can step in in that moment and know what to do to help that person. And so the acronym was suicide is called QPR and it stands for question persuade refer. All right. And so if you have someone in your life that is talking about suicide and they're probably not talking about it directly, right. They're probably using euphemisms like, like I just can't go on or it's just all too much or. I think it would be better if I wasn't here. And when you hear kind of euphemistic thoughts like this, this is an opportunity to step in and to use QPR. Because sometimes when we hear those phrases, we're scared or we're shocked, and what we do is we avoid talking about it and we like just step around and pretend like, okay, we didn't hear that right. And what that person really needs us to do is to stop and listen and to pay attention.
All right. So let's just talk through each of these. The first one is question. So when you have the feeling or the instinct or the indication that somebody might be having suicidal thoughts, the first thing you want to do is ask them about it. You want to ask questions. And sometimes we're a little hesitant to do this because we think that if we ask them if they are thinking about committing suicide, and we ask them if they have plans to commit suicide, and if we ask them about this, then it will put the thought in their mind that this is a possibility.
And I just really want to reassure you that you have not put that thought in their mind, right, that they have already had the thought, and what they need is someone to question that thought with them. What they need is someone to be able to talk about that. So sometimes we don't say anything because we're like, well, first of all, I don't know what I would do if they said yes, right? And we're like, we feel a little bit unqualified, like I said, or inadequate to be able to solve that problem. And so we kind of don't want to know.
And the second thing is we're scared that like, we're gonna tip the balance, like we're going to bring up an option that they hadn't thought of and make it so that this then becomes a possibility. And I just really want to reassure you that that is not the case, that you are not introducing a new idea to them. And in fact, what most people report is that there's so much relief in finally being able to say it and finally be able to share their thoughts. All right.
So all the research shows that once people are asked if they are thinking about suicide, they feel relief and not distress. All right. It's like it's like you have given them permission to be able to talk about this thing that they felt like they had to hide. And it creates, you know, a glimmer of hope. And like I said, relief. So asking the suicide question does not increase risk. And I also just want to say like, it's okay if you're scared, right? It's so it's okay if you feel like, well, I don't I don't want to do it wrong.
Right. I just want to really reassure you that asking the questions like, you can't do that wrong. You just want to be curious. You just want to, like, be a good listener. And you can ask the questions very directly, like, have you had suicidal thoughts? Are you safe? Do you have plans? You can be very direct, but it's important that once you ask what they're thinking and what they're feeling and if they have plans. After you ask those questions is just so important to listen. Like most people who are thinking about suicide, want to talk. And your role there is to listen like, yeah, the first letter is Q, which is question, but then we need to make space for the other person to talk.
And listening is just one of the greatest gifts that you can give another human being, especially in that position. And you want to take some time. Like, first of all, if you know you're going to have this conversation, plan to take plenty of time, or if the conversation comes up abruptly, like whatever you were going to do or whatever you were going to next can wait, right? We just need to make space to listen right now. And yeah, it takes patience. It takes courage, it takes time. And so you want to give that person your full attention and not interrupt them.
Just let them talk and not judge it. You're just creating a space where they can honestly talk about how they're thinking and how they're feeling. And so after you ask them if they're considering suicide, if they're thinking about suicide, and if they have plans and you ask that suicide question, get it out in the open. Then you want to start to listen for the problems that they believe that death by suicide is going to solve, right? Remember that suicide is a solution to a problem, a solution to pain.
And so what you're listening for is the things that are creating that pain. What are the problems that they think there are no solutions to? And you just want to again ask questions about that. And like if you don't understand something, ask another question like this is a place for curiosity and not judgment, for a place of like. Openness and questioning and not fear. Okay, after you ask all those questions, the next letter is persuasion. And the goal of persuasion is very simple. All we want to persuade the other person to do is to be willing to get some help. Okay. So you can persuade that person. Ask them if they're willing to go and see a counselor with you. Ask them if they're willing to go and get help with you. Ask them if they're willing to, like, let you make an appointment. You can also just persuade them that they won't take action until they have talked to somebody.
It's often really useful if you will go with that person or help them find that resource. Many times they're so discouraged and so despondent they don't even know where to look for help. And so you just persuade them to wait until you have a resource for them, until you find a resource that can be useful to them, and you can persuade them to wait until you can help go with them, or make sure that they get the help that they need. And you can simply express your love for them and say, I want you to live.
Will you stay until you get to talk to somebody, until you get somehow and really persuade them that they matter to you, that you love them? Now, I know I talk a lot on this podcast about like, listen, we just need to let people have their thoughts and we need to, you know, not try to change that model for them and not try to convince them of new thoughts. But this is one of those situations where you want to do your best to change their mind. You want to do your best to persuade them to delay their action.
What you're trying to do is to persuade them to stay alive. And until you can try a few other solutions right now, if they say no and they don't want to be persuaded, you know, you do have other options and there are other things that you can do to intervene. But you want to start by just trying to persuade that person. I think it's important to say that when you're persuading, you're not trying to minimize the other person's feelings or sufferings. What you're trying to do is just offer alternatives to the solution.
You're trying to convince them that the solution that they have picked out isn't the only one. All right. So it's really important that you not say things like, it's not that bad or trying to talk them out of their feelings. What you want to do is acknowledge, of course, that they feel bad, acknowledge the reality of their pain, but offer different alternatives. Persuade them that this isn't the only solution and it isn't the best solution, and that we can find other ones.
Persuade them that you will be there to help them. You want to show like respect for their pain and respect for where they're at and. What you're trying to do is kind of like just persuade them that there might be options that they haven't thought about. And can we wait to take action until we explore some of those? And persuading is really about offering small pieces of hope and love and warmth and understanding.
Sometimes just having someone else here. Your pain can be such a powerful piece of hope. Okay. The last step then of course is refer. So we're going to question we're going to persuade and then we're going to refer. So refer just means like we're going to try and help connect your friend or your loved one or the person in your life with help with a competent, good local mental health professional. And so sometimes that's going to take some work.
It's going to take some homework. And you might have to do some research. You might have to reach out to to some people. But there are resources available in your community in your churches that are available. And yeah, with a little bit of googling, a little bit of research, a little bit of networking, a little bit, maybe a few phone calls, you can find help for the other person. And the best referrals you can make are is when, like you personally make the appointment or you take the person with you, you go with that person so that they don't have to do all that.
Like next best scenario is you give them all the information and kind of like check up with them and see if they've made the appointment. Like, most people want to get help, but sometimes, like they're in such a dark, discouraged place that it just feels like too much effort to try and get it. So sometimes I think we can sort of think like, well, kind of that phrase comes to mind. Like you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink like I gave them information, but like I can't make them go. Sometimes they just need way more assistance in getting their.
If you don't know anyone to refer them to. You can even just call your own family doctor and ask for a referral. You can also call 211, which is like a state by state Directory of Human Services. You can also call 988 which is the Suicide and Crisis lifeline. All right. And they can give you referrals as well. The other thing that you can do is you can make suicide hard.
And by that I mean when you're asking questions and asking about the person's plans, you want to ask questions to find out if they have the means to follow through on their thoughts. And you want to make that as hard as possible. You want to take away guns if they have access to them, or medications if they have access to those. And I was thinking about when Abraham Lincoln was very depressed as a young man, and he was considering suicide, like he said, that his friends and neighbors asked him to give him his guns and his knives.
And he at the time, agreed that he wasn't safe with them. And at the time, like he was in such a dark, despondent place, he wrote, I am now the most miserable man living, if what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully foreboding I shall not to remain as I am is impossible.
I must die or be better, it appears to me. Like there's so much tenderness in that writing, right? Like, I don't know if I'm ever gonna feel better, but I'm afraid that I won't. And that's true for everybody who is having suicidal thoughts. Like they feel so bad and they think that they will never feel better again. And sometime after his depression lifted, his friend, you know, like I said, his friends and neighbors took his guns and his knives and and sometime later, after that depression lifted, he wrote to another depressed friend these words he wrote, remember in the depth and even the agony of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again.
And I know that feels impossible to the person having the feelings that they will feel well again. But what you're trying to do as the friend, as the loved one is you're trying to intervene in the meantime and use the power to intervene in the. In the meantime, they will feel well again. But in the. In the meantime, we need to step in when it feels like they never will again. We can, we can buy them some time and get them some help so that they can get to the place where they feel better.
It takes a lot of courage to do this. It takes a lot of courage to ask the questions and to persuade. And it takes effort and energy and work to refer. But you can do this, and it's important that you do it. And what you're doing is you're leaning in to that person's pain instead of, you know, avoiding it instead of leaning away. And that takes courage, but is such important work.
Okay, now I just have a couple of other things that I want to say. The first is that I just want to bring to all of our awareness that it is pretty well established that the world is facing a mental health crisis. Like the experts at the World Health Organization and the CDC, I just heard the surgeon general talking about how we're facing a loneliness epidemic. And there's just a lot of mental health issues right now coming to the surface.
And since the pandemic, the amount of isolation and loneliness has just gone up exponentially. Right. And he was just talking about how we are just like we are facing an epidemic of loneliness, and rates of depression and anxiety are at an all time highs. And depression, of course, is one of the leading causes of suicide. So we all need to take our mental health seriously. We all need to think like, well, like that happens to somebody else and not me. We just need to be aware that there are so many risks for depression and anxiety and loneliness in our world right now, in our modern world, and we need to be actively cultivating and taking care of our own personal, mental and emotional wellness.
And we need to be paying attention to the state and the condition of our own neurochemistry. I just did an episode on this, but we all need to be much more intentional about our dopamine sources, and much more intentional about naturally increasing and cultivating our serotonin and our oxytocin. We need to be prioritizing connection with other human beings and limiting the amount of artificial and superficial dopamine that we that is just prevalent everywhere.
We need to be really choosing the thoughts and and the actions that are going to help us feel good. You know, we probably all need to be on our phones list and we need to be connecting with other humans more. We need that as human beings, and we need to remember the things that bring us joy, and we need to start doing them. You put down our phones or turn off the streaming service, and we need to do some of those things that bring us joy, and we need to get outside, and we need to practice gratitude, and we need to do all those hard, boring things that promote healthy brain function.
Now, I am not trying to minimize any of this and say, like, if you're depressed, just go for a walk, right? Like, I'm not. I'm not trying to say that the solutions are easy, and if you don't feel good, then then you're doing your life wrong. But I just want us to all be aware that our modern world, in our modern world, it takes so much more intentional choosing in order to maintain and promote good mental and emotional health. And if we're just like doing what's easy for our brains, then we're not going to feel as good as we can and as good as we need to.
And we increase our risk for all of these things. So, you know, it used to be that these things that maintained our mental and emotional health were built in. We used to eat around the fire together, and we used to have to pee outside. And we and our brains used to produce all of the things that we needed naturally. And we've just, like, turned off so many of our receptors and our production of that because, like, the artificial sources are so readily available. All right. So those things are not built into our lives anymore, and we're suffering because of it.
And so we just have to be much more aware personally and taking like an inventory, like, am I taking care of myself mentally and emotionally? Okay, finally, I just want to offer you some thoughts. If you have been having any of these suicidal thoughts yourself. And the first thing that I want you to know is that you have a purpose. Your life is your purpose. Your purpose is just to be here. To be in your body. To be experiencing this life. To be feeling your feelings and just breathing air. Just being here. Just occupying this space. And this time your purpose is just to be. And you are fulfilling it. You don't have to do anything. You don't have to create meaning outside of you. Just being you and just being here is the meaning. I talked to so many people who say, like, I just don't feel like I have a purpose. I talked to a young woman just yesterday who said, I don't have a purpose, and I'm not sure I need to be here because I don't have this.
I don't have a purpose. And I think it's one of the most painful thoughts we can have, that there's something more, that there's something outside of us, that there's something we have to do in order to have purpose, in order to have meaning in order to, to, to qualify, to be here. And it's just not true. You are valuable just because you are. We are just valuable. There's nothing we have to do or earn or prove. We don't have a meaning outside of being us. You are here and that is enough. That makes you valuable. That makes you important. That makes you purposeful.
Secondly, I want you to know that it's okay to feel bad you aren't doing your life wrong because you feel bad. There's always a good reason for feeling bad, and sometimes we are just so impatient with our feelings, so frustrated. We're so disgusted. We're like, there's no reason I should feel as bad as I do. And we're judgmental of that when we need to be curious and compassionate and we need to talk to somebody. It's okay that I feel bad, I wonder why.
Like, you don't need a good reason to feel bad, and you're not being dramatic or silly or a whiner or ridiculous or weak. If you feel bad, you're not wicked. If you feel bad, you aren't living your life wrong. If you feel bad. Bottom line, you aren't bad. If you feel bad, you're just having feelings. It's hard to be a human. We have all kinds of thoughts that make us feel bad. We have all kinds of mental and physical challenges that make us feel bad.
We have all kinds of hormones and neurotransmitters and environmental causes and genetics and like all of that, adds up together. And like, there's always a reason that we feel bad and we aren't bad if we feel bad. I want you to know that it's okay, but I also want you to know it's not the finish line. It's not the ending. Like every storm runs out of rain. And this one will to. And it's important that you talk to somebody about how you're feeling. I know so many times we think talking won't help.
Like I feel bad and what is talking about it gonna do, right? But I love what Mr. Rogers said. Like, he said it better than anybody else. He said anything that is human is mentionable. And anything that is mentionable can be manageable. Write, anything you're going through, anything you're feeling as a human being that is mentionable you get to talk about it. And then anything that you talk about and anything that you mention is then manageable.
It becomes manageable. Right, he said. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary. And he was talking to children right when he said that. I think our feelings can become less upsetting and less scary. But he's talking to all of us, right? And we need to be able to talk about our feelings so they become less scary and so that we feel less alone. There are lots of solutions to feeling bad, and there are people who care about you that want to help you find a solution.
Finally, I want you to know that you matter. And I want you to know that you don't have to do anything or be anything to matter. That you just matter. Just being here, just being you. You make a difference in the world. Just being you. The other night I was at the temple and it had been like a long, heavy day, and I was emotional and I cried a lot through that temple session. And there was a woman that I knew in the session. And as we were getting dressed and leaving the temple, she just gave me a hug. And she said. I could see you were struggling. And I want you to know that I love you. Like just being there, just being her, just being another human in the world who could see me mattered. And I felt like I mattered. Said I had been seen. It's so important that that you know that that your existence matters to all of us.
And we are all changed because you exist in the world. You don't have to do anything to make yourself matter. You just do. So important that you understand that and that you feel that. And it's so important that we all understand that really seeing other people and witnessing their pain and expressing love for them exactly where they are makes a difference and that it matters. I want you to know that you are not alone. That you are loved. And that you matter. And that, my friends, is 100% awesome. I love you for listening and I'll see you next week.
Thanks so much for joining me on the podcast today. If you're serious about changing your life, you first have to change your mind. And the best way to do that is through coaching. I work with my clients one on one to help them change their thoughts and their feelings about themselves, their lives, and their challenges so that they can live a life they love. If you'd like to work with me one on one, you can learn more and schedule a free call to try coaching for yourself at Aprilpricecoaching.com.
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