Suicidal thinking is a brain attack that causes an irrational episode of emotional pain so great, people who suffer from the thoughts think that death is the only option. They think they are worthless and that your life would be better without them.
That moment comes on with extreme intensity and can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours but a typical timeframe would be twenty minutes.
In that moment of unbearable pain, the sufferer’s brain betrays them and tells them the only way out is to kill themselves which, of course, is not the case. But remember, a major organ is under attack which means it’s incapable of realizing other, more rational, options at that time.
“We’ve learned that the brains of people who die by suicide differ from those who die from other causes in terms of structure and function, specifically in the areas related to stress response and impulse-control.”(*Source: American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, Talk Saves Lives)
If you can get them to the “other side” of that suicidal episode, remove the means that they are going to use to take their lives, you can save a life. Someone who is irrational doesn’t typically have the wherewithal to come up “with another way to do it.” So removing means, whether that’s pills or a firearm, can keep them safe until those thoughts subside and that brain returns to a more rational state.
Your job is not to fix. Your job is to listen so they feel supported (the most important thing), try to keep them safe without endangering your own life and get them to the next level of care.
That could be the emergency room, making sure they are not left alone, connecting them with a trusted adult or mental health professional in the coming hours or days. The suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) can help you determine what to do and all you can do is the best you can do.
My last conversation with Charles was hard to understand because he was in that irrational state. I was expecting him to ask for help in a normal way when in fact I was expecting it from someone not capable of that action at that time. In his case withdrawal was part of that state.
- 85% do not reveal ideation
- 30%–60% do not reveal past attempt to anyone
- 90% of attempts unknown to parents
- 69% had less than 30-minute interval between ideation and attempt
- Second leading cause of death for 15-24-year-olds
- 90% of all who die by suicide suffered from a mental illness
Comments from readers who suffer from suicidal thoughts
I thought these might help you understand those feelings of suicidal thoughts from those with lived experience.
Sometimes the darkness wants to take over, and it can be so strong.
Please know that mental illness is treatable.
Suicide is preventable.
It’s just the depression part that always brings me back. It’s like my only motivation to live is just so I can use again which is the most hopeless, horrible feeling. I felt like charles and I were in the same situation but he acted on it before I did and I wish it had been the other way around. I would take his place if I could…..The friend who found him dead by suicide