If you are suicidal, please see all the resources listed at the bottom of this post or simply call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-8255.
If you’re living inside the darkness of pain (on any level – physical, mental, emotional), anger, abuse, loss, depression, anxiety, and so much more….please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Did you know that, on average, there are 121 suicides every single day?
That it’s the 10th leading cause of death in the US?
That it’s the 2nd leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34?
And that for every 1 person who commits suicide, another 25 attempt it.
These statistics personally leave me speechless.
I’m glad that, as a society, our conversation around suicide is changing. But it’s still such a taboo…
- Can we stop pretending that it’s some shit we can’t touch with a 10 foot pole?
- Can we stop pretending that it will never happen to someone we know? Someone we love?
- Can we stop pretending that life isn’t hard? That darkness capable of swallowing us whole doesn’t exist? Posting our perfect selfies and pictures of food, focusing only on the positive stuff, and checking out when someone actually wants to talk about their problems.
Conversations about the Darkness
I work with a lot of people who live most of their life in the darkness. Ya know what an ALARMING number of them say to me?
“Alyson, I feel so alone. I can’t talk to anyone about my problems because they don’t want to hear it. They may ask me how I am, but I can tell that they don’t really care. So I just keep it bottled up inside of me.”
Or they say…
“I don’t have anyone in my corner. No one else understands my pain; I just want someone to understand what I’m going through.”
“Everything just piles up on me. I think I have my shit together, and then something else happens. It’s like I’m trying to keep my head above water as the intense waves just keep crashing over me.”
You’re Not Alone
As humans, we like to think that our problems are unique, that no one else understands, or that we are the only one going through what we are going through.
That couldn’t be further from the truth…
The truth is that we are all connected. And we are never Truly alone.
[[I don’t say this to shame anyone who is or ever has been suicidal. I say it as an invitation to those who are feeling disconnected and out of options and as a challenge to everyone else who can offer support and love to others.]]
It may seem like no one cares. Like no one sees you. Like no one understands what you’re going through. After years of journeying through the darkness myself, coupled with professional experience in the mental health arena, I think that, by and large, we DO care about each other.
We just DON’T KNOW HOW TO HOLD SPACE FOR THE DARKNESS.
We are uncomfortable sitting with pain, anger, abandonment, agony, grief, abuse, and so much more.
We don’t know what to say or do (or we are afraid to say or do the wrong thing).
We feel like we can’t impact someone else’s life.
We feel powerless to HELP someone else because we can’t even help ourselves. Or sometimes even worse, we actually focus on another’s pain so that we can forget our own.
We don’t know how to process these emotions and feelings within our own life story.
How can we possibly be present for, listen to, and process someone else’s pain when we can’t be present for, listen to, and process our own first? How can we have space for someone else’s shit when we are filled to the brim with our own personal struggles?
So what do you do if you’re filled up with emotions, thoughts, and struggles? What can you do? Where can you turn?
The Importance of a Team Approach to Healing
If you are struggling and have considered suicide (and even if you haven’t, but you’re feeling depressed and overwhelmed), please know that that is okay. It is okay that you are struggling! It is okay that you have thought about suicide! It is even okay that you may have planned out your suicide! These things do not make you a bad person, weak, f*cked up, or any number of other negative things you may think about yourself.
You don’t have to struggle alone. And you DO have options.
Many people believe that if they reach out for help, it means that they are weak or that they can’t handle it on their own. They may believe that this makes them less of a person. They may even believe that they are not even worthy of help. It’s okay to feel this way, but know that receiving help and reaching out does not make you weak or less of a person.
You don’t have to approach healing alone. There are SO many people who care. Some of us have even spent our entire lives and careers specifically training to help people in their darkest moments to journey toward the light again.
Below, I have prioritized and outlined some categories of a team that is often the best approach to healing and recovery for someone who is feeling alone, depressed, overwhelmed, and out of options. This circle of individuals – including yourself – may look different for each individual! There may be additions or subtractions, but in general, this is a place to start, especially if you are feeling lost right now.
- The best place to start is with a mental health professional.
This may be a doctor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a counselor, a mental health occupational therapist. These individuals are specially trained to help someone on their journey with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, mental illnesses, and so much more. They are usually well connected with resources and can refer you to facilities, people, medications, and other information you may need. They can also help educate your family and friends about what you’re experiencing.If you are currently suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (available for free 24/7) at 1-800-273-8255 in order to get connected immediately to resources in your area.If you are not suicidal, but are feeling depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, check out the following resources for finding mental health professionals in your area:
Finding a mental health professional – NAMI
Types of professionals – NAMI
Finding a mental health provider – Vanderbilt
- Friends & Family can be a good support.
Or not. Your family may just *get* it and be an amazing support system. Or maybe they don’t get it! Maybe they tell you to just “get over it” or “man up.” If that’s the case, they don’t have to be on your team, at least initially. But like mentioned above, your mental health professional team can help bring family and friends on board if they aren’t already and educate them about what you’re going through as well as how they can best support you.
- Consider including other professionals as well.
This can look different for each individual, but it may include people like nutritionists/dietitians, personal trainers, life coaches, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and many more. Healing, recovering, and feeling good again is a holistic thing. Every area of our lives is affected by depression, not just our minds. If you’re feeling mentally stressed and strained, I’m willing to bet that you feel it physically, emotionally, spiritually, in your career, with your family, and in every other way, right? These other professionals can help fill in the gaps and address a wide range of goals that you have.
- Don’t forget to listen to yourself.
Your intuition and your own inner wisdom is an important piece of support on your healing journey. But when you’re in a place where you feel like you’re totally out of options, it is nearly impossible to distinguish that voice in your head and determine whether it’s good or bad. This takes time, so don’t beat yourself up if you feel like this is light years away for you; there’s a reason it’s number 4 on the priority list!
- Add in information from other resources as needed.
Once you have the support structure of numbers 1-4 in place, add in other resources as you need them. This could include books, documentaries, blogs, self-development courses, and more. The professionals that you work with should be able to recommend many of these things for you at the right time.
If you’re reading this as someone who lives in the darkness, please know that you are not alone.
If you feel suicidal, please don’t hesitate to call someone who does know how to hold space for that darkness, like the wonderfully trained professionals at the National Suicide Prevention Lifelife at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Suicide Prevention is ALL of Our Responsibility
You may feel like you can’t do anything to impact the staggering rates of suicide, but that’s not true. Just listening is enough. Opening up some time and space in your schedule to reach out to someone, genuinely ask them how they’re doing, and just listening is enough. Knowing the warning signs and taking them seriously is enough. Telling someone that you care about them and backing that up with action is enough. Walking your own healing journey is enough.
You can make a life-changing difference for someone just by being you and being present. Having an impact on suicide rates doesn’t mean you need to be an expert. In fact, the first line of defense in preventing self-harm and suicide is best performed by everyday people. We are the friends, the family, the coworkers who have daily contact with dozens of people who are potentially stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and even suicidal. Don’t assume that you don’t know someone who is struggling. We ALL go through challenging things – on various levels – at different times in our lives.
Pay attention. Ask questions. Be a present friend. Reach out. Connect. Encourage participation. Be YOU.
If you are under-educated about suicide, please check out the resources section below. Spend 15 minutes today reading through some of these sites to familiarize yourself with how YOU can prevent suicide and why the responsibility belongs to each and every one of us.
How to spot the warning signs of suicide & what to do about it
More about the warning signs of suicide
How to help your loved one through the darkness of depression and anxiety
What to do if someone you know has attempted suicide
Best practices for providers & professionals on suicide prevention & mental health
Receive training in suicide care & prevention (open to anyone, not just professionals)