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Understand The Unthinkable: Exploring Suicidal Thoughts and Finding Hope

Friends holding hands to offer support

Suicide is a prevalent problem in our society. According to the CDC, it is the 11th leading cause of death in the US leading to 48,143 American deaths in 2021 (AFSP, 2023). Though it is a heavy concern in our culture, it can be a difficult conversation to have and navigate. When someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it is often misunderstood as to why or how someone struggles with such thoughts. In this blog I talk about two commonly asked questions about suicidal thoughts and how we can help support loved ones experiencing these thoughts.

Why Do People Have Suicidal Thoughts?

There are many reasons why people struggle with suicidal thoughts, but let’s talk about a few of the most common reasons. First, suicidal thoughts can appear situationally. For example, someone may be experiencing a very difficult season in their life. Perhaps they have lost everything financially leaving them in what feels like a no win situation, or are experiencing a stressful life change such as a divorce or relationship troubles. Intense situations like these can sometimes lead people to feeling trapped, like there is no way out of the problem or situation they are in. They may feel like they have become a burden to close loved ones around them, and think of suicide as the solution.

Another reason why someone may experience suicidal thoughts may stem from mental illness. Those who are experiencing severe depression and have lost hope or motivation to live may have thoughts of suicide as a form of relief. Symptoms of certain mental illnesses like social withdrawal or acting impulsive can contribute to one experiencing suicidal thoughts as well. Whether it is situational or mental illness, suicidal thoughts can emerge and be fleeting thoughts or be frequent recurring thoughts.

What Can Help with Suicidal Thoughts?

Older man talking to a female therapist about depression.

Suicide can be a difficult topic to speak about. When someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it can be very intimidating when thinking of how to approach them. However, one of the most helpful things you can do for someone you know who may be struggling is being a listening ear for them. Holding these thoughts in without a release can contribute to the problem. Talking about the suicidal thoughts out loud can provide some relief or a release of pressure that has been building up for someone. Being seen and feeling heard when struggling can often bring a person a sense of hope. After listening, help them find additional support such as a suicide hotline or mental health professional who can help them develop a plan to stay safe.

Therapy can also be very helpful for someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts. When having suicidal thoughts, it is easy to think and believe that they will never go away. That this is just the way life is now. However, life doesn’t need to continue this way. In working with a therapist, you can learn coping skills and strategies to combat and reduce the intensity and frequency of suicidal thoughts. Therapy can help you navigate why these thoughts started and help work through the root of the issue or concern.

Suicidal thoughts can appear for many different reasons like stressful life situations or the onset of some mental illnesses like depression. Those struggling often feel that there is no way out or no hope. Talking about what you are feeling and experiencing or being a listening ear to someone can provide a sense of hope and relief. Therapy can help equip you with coping strategies to reduce the intensity and frequency of these thoughts. It can also provide some insight as to why these thoughts appeared in the first place and develop a plan to move forward. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, tell someone, reach out, and know that hope is always there even in the hardest of times.

Written by: Dr. Austin Shugart, LPC

Crisis Hotline: Call 988 or text TALK to 741741

Suicide statistics. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2023, July 10).

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