What To Do if You or Someone You Know is Suicidal
For over 10 years I've dealt with an awful mental illness called Generalized Anxiety with Panic Disorder, which has resulted in depression & thoughts of suicide. Part of what I really want to do with this space is start a conversation about mental health & build a supportive community where people can come to share their stories, read about others, & find some tips on how to deal. There are days that I feel so alone, because everyone around me seems to have their shit together & can deal with the things that cause panic attacks in me. One of the things I've found very helpful is connecting with others around this, whether it be hearing stories from others, learning some of their coping skills, or sharing what I've learned in hopes of helping someone else. I think the first place to start changing the views of mental illness & removing the stigma is by starting an open, honest conversation. So today I am sharing my story & some tips on how to come up with a safety plan in a suicidal situation.
The anxiety and depression has come back so badly that for the last month or so my only goal has been to make it through the day without hurting myself. Some days have been better than others, where I've been able to go check out Market Collective or do some shopping with my mom, but most of the time has been spent trying to regulate panic attacks, going to therapy & sleeping. I unfortunately no longer have a job, but am so, so lucky to have family who are helping us out while I try to get better & wait for EI to come through. I'm in an intensive day program at a hospital, where it's basically a full time job being in therapy. I've done counselling before, but it seems that despite how much I've tried nothing has helped enough to keep me functioning. There are definitely times that I have wanted to give up - if I didn't have the support system I do then I honestly do not think I would be here to share this story. I'm not going to lie & pretend it is all better; I finish program at the end of this week* & I still have to fight everyday to not give up. But despite the fact that I am struggling to love myself, I know how much the people in my life do love me (because they keep telling me over & over). I am holding on for them.
While this is a fucking brutal process, I am grateful I reached out for help. Please, if this is something you are struggling with, talk to someone. It could be your partner, a parent, a friend, a coworker, a doctor or even the distress line. Please know that there are so many resources out there (some of them free!) that are there to help you - talk to your doctor or phone the Distress Line or Access Mental Health for more information. The world is a better place with all of us in it. We all have a purpose & some role to play, even if you feel like you've lost your way.
Another extremely important thing is knowing how to come up with a safety plan. There are someone online templates, but if all you can manage right now is reading this, here is a list of things you can do:
- tell someone your plan (a friend or family member, someone you live with, someone you used to be close with - anyone you trust)
- have someone hide the object you plan on using to harm yourself
- phone the Distress Line (in Calgary the number is 403.266.HELP (4357))
- go to the nearest emergency room
- talk to your doctor or Access Mental Health
If someone you know has disclosed to you, here are some tips on how best to support them
- always, always, ALWAYS take what they say seriously, even if they say it in passing - try and dig deeper
- ask them about their plan - if they have a set plan, it may be best to phone the distress line or take them to an emergency room
- make them promise not to harm themselves (this does not work with everyone, but it doesn't hurt to try)
- hide whatever means they have to harm themselves with
- just listen - that may be all they need in the moment
- once they are out of the distress period, help them come up with a plan to access more intensive help
Please make sure if you are supporting someone who is dealing with these thoughts that you are also making sure to do some self-care. It can be devastating to learn someone you love is hurting so much, yet you can do nothing to take that hurt away. Do something to be kind to yourself - go for a walk, take a long bath or shower, eat a delicious meal. Also be sure that you are talking to someone, whether it be another family member the person has disclosed to or a mental health professional. Even if they might not say it, remember that every little thing you do is deeply appreciated & you are making a difference.
*I finish on New Years Eve... symbolic, no?