Thinking about suicide is very common. One study of a large group of teens found that 30 percent had thought about killing themselves. Another study found that 60 percent of adults had thought about committing suicide at some point in their lives. Few people talk about these feelings when they have them, and fewer yet ever act on them, because rarely do people really want to die. Their suicidal thoughts and feelings are a sign that they're deeply angry or unhappy about a situation in their life—a situation they don’t think they can change and that makes them feel hopeless.
Signs and symptoms
If someone goes so far as to talk about suicide, their feelings of despair are intense and there is a real chance that they will act on them. You must take them very seriously and act immediately to help. Don’t be afraid that bringing up the topic will make the person more likely to commit suicide. In reality, talking to a person about their suicidal feelings shows them that you care and allows them to release pent up negative emotions. It can save their life!
Talking about suicide and saying things like “I wish I was never born” or “You’d be better off without me” are obvious signs a person is thinking about killing themselves. There are other, less obvious, signs to watch for:
- Talking, reading, or writing about death
- Withdrawal from friends and family, or visiting and touching base with important people in their lives
- Sleeping a lot, complaining about aches and pains
- Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
- Using or abusing drugs and/or alcohol
- Boredom, lack of interest, difficulty concentrating, doing poorly in school
- Seeming happy and calm after a period of depression and turmoil (this could indicate a decision to go ahead with suicide)
Teens are particularly vulnerable to acting on their suicidal thoughts. They are struggling to develop their identities, they may be suffering at the hands of bullies, they may feel they don’t fit in, or they may think they have no control over their lives. They may also have not yet learned that situations can and do change, and that there are healthy ways they can cope with their problems and negative feelings.
Let them know they are not alone. Encourage them to talk about their negative feelings, without interrupting or judging what they say. Encourage them to write their feelings in a journal and make a list of what they can do to change their situation. Urge them to see a mental health professional. If you are the teen’s parent, make the appointment and take your child there. A professional can identify and treat the underlying mental health issues that have given rise to the suicidal feelings. It can get better.
Thinking about suicide is a pretty scary experience, but it doesn’t mean that you are crazy or that you are the only kid to have these thoughts. In a study of a large group of teens, 30 per cent of them had thought about suicide. And youth aren’t the only ones who think about suicide. In one study, 60 per cent of adults reported that they had suicidal thoughts at some time in their lives.
So these kinds of thoughts aren’t unusual, but what do they mean? Most often, it means that you are very unhappy or angry about some stuff in your life and that you don’t feel that you have any control to change it. After awhile, you start to feel a bit desperate and then the idea of suicide pops into your head. But as you get older and more experienced at living, you figure out more and more ways to solve problems and they won’t seem so huge.
What Can I Do?
So what can you do about these thoughts? First of all, don’t try to run away from them. You are thinking this way because you are really upset or angry, so listen to yourself. Ask yourself what is bothering you so much. Then talk to someone you trust. Just telling someone how upset or angry you are will help you feel better. Second, write in a journal. This will also help you feel better. One of the best things to do is write down all your feelings and then make a list of all the ways that you can change the situation. And finally, if the thoughts don’t go away after you’ve done these things, ask your parents about seeing a counsellor for a bit. The counsellor can suggest new ways of coping.
Sometimes suicidal thoughts won’t go away by themselves. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts that won’t go away, then you should tell your parents and ask them to take you to your doctor or counsellor.