Suicide is a leading cause of death in America, and that has to and can change. Deaths from suicide are preventable, but it means being brave and speaking up about suicidal thoughts — whether you have them, know someone who does or just want to be an advocate for mental health.
Suicidal thoughts are common. Sometimes they’re temporary and sometimes they last for a long time, but they’re not a sign of a moral flaw or that something’s inherently wrong with you. And most importantly, you don’t have to act on them. Help is available and healing is possible.
If you’re thinking about or planning suicide, know that you aren’t alone in these thoughts, and you don’t have to follow through with them. Although it may seem impossible to see right now, your life matters, and people exist who want to talk with you and walk with you through this. They’re here for you, 24 hours a day, at the National Suicide Hotline at Call1-800-273-8255 and the Crisis Text Line when you text HOME to 741741. There is help for you, always.
Why Talk to a Doctor About Suicidal Thoughts?
It’s understandable to be nervous about telling a doctor or a mental health professional about suicidal thoughts. You want to be treated with respect and dignity — not hospitalized against your will or treated condescendingly.
However, clinicians — mental health professionals and your primary care physician — can’t help you heal if they don’t know that you’re struggling. Most doctors see it as a positive sign when you open up about these difficult feelings. It’s more concerning when you hide them.
When you talk with a health care professional about suicidal thoughts, they can help you heal from the underlying cause of these thoughts and impulses, whether it’s a mental health condition like depression, overwhelming stress, recent life changes, substance misuse or another concern.
When to Talk to Your Doctor About Suicidal Thoughts
It’s always worthwhile to talk with a doctor about suicidal thoughts. There’s no reason to wait until you have one or all of these five signs, and the sooner you speak up, the faster you can get to the root of the issue and make a plan of healing with a mental health professional.
You Think or Talk About Dying a Lot
People who are suicidal will often write or talk about death, dying and feeling hopeless. You might feel like you just want to disappear. You might think that you’re better off dead or that your loved ones would be better off if you weren’t around. These thoughts and feelings can be overwhelming, so it’s worthwhile discussing them with someone who cares.
You Avoid Family, Friends and Favorite Activities
Social, physical and emotional avoidance is common with suicidal ideation. You might lose interest in your favorite things and avoid friends, coworkers, family members and partners. Explicitly saying goodbye to people is a significant warning sign of suicidal planning.
You Have a Personal or Family History of Suicidal Thoughts or Attempts
If you’ve attempted suicide in the past, your risk of dying in this way is higher. Similarly, if someone in your family died by or attempted suicide, your risk is higher. However, there is help for you, and you don’t have to follow the same path.
You’re Seeking an Escape Through Sleep or Substances
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, you may feel exhausted and oversleep. You might seek relief from these feelings in the form of harmful drugs or drinking too much alcohol. If you’re looking for escape routes and need a release from the weight of suicidal thoughts, talk to someone — a friend, therapist or your doctor. Expressing these feelings in a safe, non-judgmental environment will help you feel better than drugs or sleep can.
You’re Starting to Form a Plan
The most significant sign that it’s time to get help for suicidal thoughts is when you’ve gone from having a desire to die to making a plan to do so. Planning can include giving away prized possessions, searching online for lethal means, acquiring lethal means and making arrangements for a specific day.
Even if you have a suicide plan, you don’t have to follow through with it. Although it might not seem like it sometimes, your life matters. There are people who would miss you dearly, and there are people who want to listen to and help you, too. People are available to help, 24 hours a day, on the National Suicide Hotline at Call1-800-273-8255, or you can text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
Suicidal Thoughts: What a Physician Looks For
When you express suicidal thoughts, your primary care physician may evaluate you, or they may refer you to an emergency department for a more in-depth assessment. A psychiatrist or other mental health professional will likely be involved in the evaluation process.
Medical professionals may perform a physical examination or order lab tests to see whether there’s an underlying medical issue that’s causing your suicidal thoughts or behaviors. They may perform a sort of interview process, asking a series of questions related to suicide risk factors, such as past suicide attempts, drug addiction and recent emotional trauma.
They may also assess your coordination, strength and sensation, or order a blood or urine screening to check for drug toxicity or poisoning.
Depending on your needs, you may be recommended to begin medication therapy immediately to help relieve the suicidal thoughts, and a follow-up appointment with a mental health practitioner may be scheduled in the following days.
Suicidal Thoughts: What a Therapist Looks For
Sometimes, suicidal thoughts stem from mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia or depression. However, not everyone who has suicidal thoughts has a mental health condition. An evaluation with a mental health professional can give you answers and help you heal, too.
A therapist will want to assess your immediate risk of suicide by asking straightforward questions like:
- Do you think you’d be better off dead?
- Do you want to end your life?
- Do you have a plan to do so?
- Have you taken any steps in this plan?
- Have you acquired, or do you have access to lethal means?
Your answers will help your therapist understand your suicide risk level and which steps to take to best help you. The therapist can then make a medication management plan for you, create a counseling schedule and create a safety plan with you for how you’ll manage suicidal thoughts and impulses.
Compassionate Mental Health Care You Can Count On
At the AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute, we can help you heal from the underlying causes of suicidal thoughts, including mental health conditions like depression, with whole-person care. Our team of mental health professionals are here to help you embrace healing in body, mind and spirit. Learn more about our mental health care for different mental health conditions or reach out to us to get started.
If you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, you don’t have to face these thoughts alone. There are people who care about what you’re going through, and they want to remind you of how much your life matters. These people are ready and willing to listen to you, 24 hours a day, on National Suicide Hotline at Call1-800-273-8255, and the Crisis Text Line when you text HOME to 741741. There is help for you, always.