Thoughts about ending one’s own life are among the most fleeting forms of human thought. It happens to many of us, whether we are mentally healthy or mentally ill and some would say that it happens to all of us, sometime in our lives, whether we care to admit it or not. It is one of the most shameful thoughts anyone can have.
Under stressful conditions these common, fleeting thoughts can become more frequent and lasting. The suicidal thoughts take on a haunting feeling, an almost spooky character. They can come to us simply as an overall feeling of destructiveness with no real target, just a tangle of thoughts about the breakdown of everything. It is frightening to us causing us to wonder, “how did I get to this state?” As mentioned above the shame associated with this can be of little help in getting rid of or managing these thoughts and can actually strengthen the suicidal thinking. This can happen with the more chronic mental illnesses, with repeated trauma or in times of war. It can turn an everyday experience, like driving a car into a real gamble.
One of the things we know about suicidal thinking is that it gains strength when we are alone with it. Again, the shame of it keeps us alone with it and keeps us from talking about it. But when we talk about it with a family member, friend, doctor or counselor it loses much of its strength. One of the best things we can do is reach out and talk to someone about these thoughts. This may not make the thoughts go away but it can help us manage the thoughts better and increase our willingness and ability to ‘talk-it-through’ when we are stressed out. Again, since the shame and social taboo of suicidal thinking is so strong one of the easiest things to do is pick up a phone and speak anonymously to someone at a crisis line. The Veteran’s Crisis Line is devoted to helping Veterans in crisis and their families. Please give us a call anytime at 1-800-273-8255 and press ‘1’ or visit us online.
Robert Hawkes is a Veterans Crisis Line Supervisor.