4 Coping Strategies When Thinking About Suicide

Mental Health Awareness Week

You may or may not know but this week is mental health awareness week.  Sadly the number of suicide is increasing and is now at 17 a day in the United Kingdom.   So today I am sharing with you a blog post on 4 coping strategies when thinking about suicide by Dr M Welby a Harvard psychiatrist.  I hope you find it helpful.

Preventing suicide takes forethought and planning, not only in the world as a whole to create better support systems and treatment but for individuals struggling with how to deal with suicidal thoughts.  Creating a plan for how to prevent suicide and manage emotions at the height of intense feelings is a lot to ask of anyone.  But coming up with a plan ahead of time for how to manage distress and suicidal urges can help allow the feelings to pass.  This post includes coping strategies to manage distress, problem-solving techniques to help cut down on crisis, and suggestions on how to create coping cards and a hope box to use when thinking about suicide.

1. Prevent Suicide By Learning Distress Tolerances

Suicidal impulses are often brief, intense urges lasting minutes to hours. Trying to come up with how to manage these waves of intense suicidal feelings the moment they are occurring is a challenge. Having a go-to list of coping strategies is a helpful tool in getting through a wave of suicidal urges unharmed.

Even for people that are chronically suicidal, there are often moments of increased intensity for suicidal feelings. Using these distress tolerance skills can help reduce risk.

Exercise

10 Coping Strategies To Manage Distress

Each individual may find different things soothing but I encourage you to come up with a variety of options so there are more to choose from at the moment you need them:

  • Deep breathing: Use an app like Breathe2Relax or other mindfulness apps that can walk a person through a breathing relaxation exercise. Find one you like and have it ready on your phone.
  • Phone apps such as Stress Free Now, Calm or Headspace.
  • Aromatherapy: Pick an aromatherapy scent you like and carry it with you. Taking a moment to focus on an enjoyable scent can be grounding.
  • Exercise: I particularly like high-intensity bursts of exercise that can match the intensity of the emotion. Exhaust yourself by doing rapid jumping jacks, pushups, running quicker than is comfortable, burpees, a punching bag…there are many options available. If this level of exercise is not possible, find other exercises that are doable such as going for a walk.
  • Take a warm bath
  • Music: Crank it up or play it softly. Music can be a great distraction.
  • Pet: There is nothing more grounding than spending some time petting or playing with your animal. Animals are always in the moment and can help us get back to the here-and-now by following their lead.
  • Nature: Being out in nature is calming and grounding. It sometimes helps us to see the world is bigger than this moment.
  • Do a word game or puzzle
  • Any other distraction you can think of!

2. Using Coping Cards When Thinking About Suicide

During a wave of intense distress and suicidal feelings, thoughts become distorted and people are often unable to come up with solutions at that moment.

The pattern of thinking during a crisis is often pretty consistent. Many people have predictable thoughts that happen when they feel distressed:

  • “I’ll never get better”,
  • “I’ll always feel this way”,
  • “My life will never change”,
  • “I’ve made no improvement”

    It can be helpful to list these thoughts on a notecard and write out a matching response on the other side:
  • “I’ve made it through times when I felt hopeless before”,
  • “I do not always feel this way”
  • “The last many times I felt this bad I was happy I didn’t harm myself the next day because I felt better”

Carry these cards with you (or take a picture on your phone to access them) for the moments you may start to struggle and forget that distress and suicidal urges will pass.

3.  Preventing Suicide With A Hope Box

A hope box is just like what it sounds: a box full of reminders of hope and reasons why you are choosing to live. Life-saving information is stored in this box so when a person is in crisis and can’t recall their coping skills or reasons for living, they can access this box and see the information in one place.

I first heard about hope boxes while researching mental health apps and discovered Virtual Hope Box. This is a free app that adapts the physical hope box (which obviously would be challenging to carry around) into a virtual space so it is always there, ready to access on your phone. It includes options like: Distract me, Inspire me, Relax me, and Coping tools.

Things To Include In The Hope Box

  • Coping cards that you made with alternative thoughts to counteract the challenging ones that usually come up in a crisis,
  • Emergency numbers: both numbers for crises lines but also numbers for your support system (family, friends, therapists…whoever you need to call for help)
  • Reminders of coping strategies to use and distress tolerance skills (see the list above for ideas of coping strategies)
  • Lists of reasons to live
  • Pictures of loved ones: family, friends, and pets,
  • Letters from loved ones,
  • Sentimental objects or gifts
  • Reminders of past successes
  • A pleasurable aromatherapy scent to distract you
  • A treat you would enjoy like a piece of gum or a hard candy

Create both a virtual and a physical box. Going through the physical box can be grounding in itself- physically touching the items and sorting through the box can serve as a distraction while waiting for the distress to pass.

Problem-Solving Skills

Suicide is an attempt to solve a problem. Be it a harmful attempt, it is an attempt nonetheless. Although this may sound overly simplistic, improving problem-solving skills can help people see other options besides suicide.

The goal of these problem-solving techniques is not necessarily so that a person can solve everything in the heat of the moment. The hope is that improving problem-solving capabilities will cut down on moments of crisis by being proactively better able to think through challenges. Problem-solving techniques are one part of the formula to manage distress and suicidal ideation.

A Lesson From The Business World

Problem-solving skills are commonly used in business to successfully resolve obstacles and are also needed in general life. Recommendations in business management rely upon breaking down the problem in order to better understand it and come up with a solution. These steps help take some of the emotions that can cloud thinking out of it.

5 Problem Solving Steps To Go Through

  • Define the problem.
  • Determine the causes.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Select the best solution.
  • Take action.

 Personally I think the problem-solving steps to go through are done best with a counsellor or therapist or a good friend.

I hope that you find this article helpful. But please remember you are not on your own and there are people out there who can help you. All you need to do is reach out…

Contact the Samaritans

Contact Mind

If you are local to Harrogate, North Yorkshire there is a free online support group on Facebook called Harrogate Black Dog.

Love and Light

Tracey x

What Depression Looks Like

Depression comes in all shapes and sizes and ticks various different boxes.  The thing with depression is a lot of people are quite good at hiding it, in fact, they are very good.  How many times have you heard that sadly someone had taken their own life and their friends and family didn’t have a clue.  Believe me, it happens and it happens a lot.  I will try and talk about what depression looks like but there is no description that fits all people.  It is also one of those things that is so difficult to understand unless you have experienced it yourself.  I hope today’s post goes some way to show you what depression looks like, also it might help if you are starting to think that you may be struggling with depression and also highlight some things to the loved ones of people who are struggling.  

I Understand

It is so important to be able to understand; it’s a valuable position to be in and you can help more than you realise.  You don’t need to be a psychologist to help someone.  The biggest thing you can do is to listen…. just that…. listen.   No interruptions from you just be there for the other person.  It takes a lot to be able to say “I’m struggling” so stop whatever it is you are doing and just be there.  Believe me when I say you can make a difference!

I have experienced a lot of tragedy, hurt, pain, and loss throughout my life.  Rape, murder, physical abuse, homelessness, emotional abuse, financial abuse, the list goes on.  The last major episode was when I was in an abusive relationship and spent 8 months sleeping on the living room floor.  That ended with me being found in the garden with a knife in my hands; needless to say I ended up in A&E with the crisis team.  So I know what it feels like to be so desperately unhappy to the point where you can’t take anymore.  

We all have different limits but there is a level to how much we can take as an individual.  This is why it is so important to try and recognise the signs if you possibly can.  I hope that today’s post will also give hope to people struggling.  After everything I have been through I can promise you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  

I have achieved a first-class honours degree while in an abusive relationship, homeless and with a new baby.  I have retrained in complementary therapies while struggling with fibromyalgia and other chronic health conditions.   I set up an online mental health support group while struggling with PTSD which now has over 500 members.  I have this month set up a not-for-profit community interest company while we are in a pandemic.  So seriously if I can get through to the other side there is no reason why you can’t either.

Emotions I Have Felt Emotions I Now Feel
I felt unheard  I feel empowered
I felt judged I feel strong
I didn’t feel good enough I have self-worth
I didn’t feel worthy I have passion
I felt left out I believe in myself
I felt blamed I have the power within in me to achieve anything I want to
I felt uncared for I have love in my life
I felt unloved I have compassion
I felt controlled I have empathy
I felt betrayed I have kindness
I felt unimportant I have friends
I felt disrespected I have my life
I felt desperately sad  I have tenacity




It Can and Does Happen To Anyone

Depression, anxiety, etc can happen to anyone and everyone.  It can creep up on you and it can hit you suddenly for all sorts of reasons.   Today is the basics for people to understand that it affects everyone and anyone and you know what it is ok; it doesn’t mean you have failed at something, or you are not good enough.  All that is bollocks.  The more we talk about it the better it will be.  We live in a crazy world and we all need help even if it is just a hug; we all have needs and we are all different thank God.

As nearly everyone knows depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.  It affects how you feel, think, and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.  It is a cruel illness.  It moves over you like a black fog until you feel like you are clinging onto a clifftop by your fingertips.  The easy thing to do is just let go the hard thing is to climb back up.  People are there to help you climb back up; you are loved more than you will ever know.  There is always another option.  

So I have written a list of things that you can feel or experience when suffering from depression.  The list is just a way to make you think about where you are emotionally; do any of these things below resonate with you?  If they do then please talk to someone.  You can talk to your GP, a friend, a boss, the Samaritans, Mind, there are a lot of groups out there and I will be providing the information for all of these organisations on a separate page.

Alarm Bells

    1. Canceling plans at the last minute
    2. Believe you are a burden to people
    3. Eating all the time or not at all
    4. Mood swings that can last for hours or days
    5. Being emotionally distant
    6. Constantly needing reassurance
    7. Isolating to protect themselves
    8. Frequent crying
    9. Having an outburst over something that others would consider to be small
    10. Avoiding reality
    11. Pretending to be happy or okay
    12. Feeling incomplete and messed up
    13. Avoiding people and social interaction
    14. Sleeping too much or too little
    15. Increased use of drugs or alcohol

 

I am not going to end this post without some kind of self-help so please find below 10 ways you can try to help yourself get to a better place.

Things You Can Do

  1. Commit to plans, practices, habits, rituals, routines that are good for your well-being – even when you don’t want to.
  2. Allow yourself to feel a multitude of feelings without labeling it as wrong, bad or negative.
  3. Practice listening to your needs and discovering different ways of meeting those needs.
  4. Practice self-forgiveness for not being perfect, for forgetting, for your past, for what you don’t know, and for getting “off track: sometimes.
  5. Let yourself start again, over and over, as often as needed.
  6. Take care of your basic needs, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, move your body, and eat plentifully. 
  7. Give yourself permission to rest, to take breaks, and to have downtime.
  8. Spend quality time with yourself: reading, writing, creating and getting to know who you are underneath who you think you should be.
  9. Use a lens of curiosity and compassion with yourself as often as possible.
  10. Remind yourself that you are as worthy as anyone else in life.  Make yourself a priority in your own life.

I hope you find this post valuable.  If you would like to leave comments or ask me questions then please do and I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can.  I suffer with depression and have bad days just like a lot of others do.  However, I will always be here and will continue to raise mental health awareness and continually fight to prevent suicide.

You can also email me here.

This weekend I  listened to my own advice and I went outside to a wooded area, surrounded myself with nature and walked the dog with my daughter.  Every day is precious and every day should be celebrated in a small way.

I hope you enjoy your weekend and I will speak to you again on Monday.

Love and Light

Tracey xXx