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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Fennell

Learning to Talk About Suicide

Why We Don’t Talk About Wanting to Die

*Content warning: this post discusses suicide, which may be sensitive for some readers. If you or someone you know if struggling, please seek professional help and refer to the crisis resource listed at the end of this post. Reader discretion is advised.


Right now, in our nation there are more people than ever who are struggling with thoughts of suicide, yet most of them are not talking about it. This leaves them vulnerable and at risk. It also leaves them feeling very alone and isolated due to the emotional pain they are carrying around day in and day out. Unfortunately, our culture does not encourage conversations about suicide for several reasons.


The topic of suicide is complex and leaves individuals feeling conflicted and often guilty for even having thoughts. So instead of reaching out and sharing, individuals try and push them down even deeper inside. This tool may work in the short term, but eventually the thoughts may pop back up, leaving the person feeling defeated and even more alone. Stuck in a cycle of emotional suffering, this can be unbearable and leave a person feeling hopeless.

 


When Others Don’t Understand

One main reason so many are hesitant to share about their suicidal ideation is fear of the reaction of those around them. Due to the serious nature of this topic, most are not trained or prepared to handle the conversation in a calm way and may overreact for fear of losing someone they love. They may also react due to religious or moral beliefs about the topic, which can prompt guilt and shame for the person already struggling. These are all reasons people struggle to open up about the topic and need empathy and support if they do decide to speak up.

 

How We Were Raised

Another reason some may be hesitant to speak up about thoughts, feelings or urges around suicide can be upbringing. Often how we are raised shapes our attitudes about ourselves and how we feel about asking for help. When we are in a painful place in our lives we might struggle to reach out if we grew up learning this was not acceptable or considered weak. Another reason might be if we grew up learning to help other people and not focus on ourselves. This can hold us back from taking steps to reach out when we need help ourselves.

 

Troubles Even in Therapy

Another barrier some clients have shared is past negative experiences in therapy. They have said therapists were uncertain of how to handle their suicidal ideation, which was very difficult for them. This can also be unnerving when the hope is therapy will help. Other clients have shared the fear of being hospitalized when they talk about suicide. They don’t feel like it is safe to even talk about the topic without the anxiety of being locked away. I have educated my clients on the topic and the value I hold in keeping my clients in their lives and not in the hospital. I also have a deep conviction that the goal of therapy is to explore our thoughts and urges, not to avoid them. So, I try to make a secure space for these conversations to occur.

 

The Value In Letting Someone In

Although it can be scary to talk about about such a vulnerable topic such as suicide, finding a therapist who is supportive and safe can be imperative. When we are in such pain it is often hard to see a way out. It is the job of a skilled therapist, trained in such modalities as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to offer the right tools you need.  A value in DBT is for the therapist to carry hope for the person feeling like life is just not worth living any longer. There is also an effort to explore what prompts these thoughts and urges, so you are not stuck in a pattern. A DBT Therapist can also help you create a life worth living goal that is practical and help you work towards it. The skills you can also learn within DBT can help you find other ways of coping when life feels painful and overwhelming. Please know you don’t have to figure it out on your own or even suffer in the silence. There are skilled therapists trained to help you.


Click more to learn about my specialty around trauma and suicidal ideation. 


If you need immediate help please call Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988


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