As summer ends, in thinking about some of the newsworthy moments of this season, Robin Williams's untimely death comes to mind.
Coincidentally, just a couple of months before Williams's suicide and roughly 10 miles away, the Golden Gate Bridge board approved plans to build a suicide barrier. Researchers discovered that if someone wishes to die and his or her plan is intercepted, over 90 percent of once suicidal individuals go on to live. In studying the Golden Gate Bridge specifically, 94 percent of those stopped at the bridge ultimately chose not to die by suicide.
Years ago, a client came to me several years after she had attempted to die by jumping from a building. When she presented in my office, she was paralyzed from the waist down. Amazingly, she presented to work on social anxiety -- she no longer felt depressed. Despite her ongoing physical pain and limitations, she experienced joy and wished to learn tools to feel less nervous in meeting new people.
A common experience so many people get stuck in is to believe thoughts when we don't feel like ourselves. If you feel the midst of feeling depressed, it's important to remember:
1. Thoughts don't need to drive actions.
Estimates suggest 50 percent of college students think about suicide. A thought doesn't equate to a good idea. If you feel stuck with thoughts of suicide, know you are not alone. You don't need to act on suicidal thoughts or assume that because the thought entered your mind, it's sensible. If you feel stuck, choose to seek help.
One of my client's worried he was at risk of suicide because he had thoughts of suicide though he didn't want to die. In therapy, we worked on noticing the thoughts, normalizing thoughts come you don't choose, and building reminders of why he wanted to live that he brought to mind in the face of the thoughts. He soon felt freer to enjoy his life.
2. Impulses pass.
Just as thoughts pass, feelings and urges pass. Again, remember more than 90 percent of people whose plan is intercepted go on to live and don't try to die.
3. Moods affect how we think.
When we feel down, it's almost impossible to think rationally. In an experiment, when people were told that they'd end up alone in life, they performed worse on math problems they were able to compute with ease before this prediction. If you feel down, you likely can't calculate the worth of your life. You are not a burden and your life isn't hopeless.
4. You can fix a lot by fixing your sleep.
Beyond moods influencing us, not sleeping can wreck havoc on both the way you think and feel. Insomnia and other sleep problems contribute to hopelessness and thoughts of suicide If you are struggling with achieving restful sleep and want to treat insomnia through behavioral interventions, visit behavioralsleep.org.
5. Therapy works.
Even if your mind screams, "Nothing will work," and you haven't found therapy useful, it's important to know that certain forms of therapy seem to work in helping people who feel stuck with suicidal feelings. Cognitive behavioral therapies, including Dialectical Behavior Therapy, have been found especially useful in treating suicidal thoughts and feelings.
You can build a life you want -- despite how you feel right now.
Have a story about depression that you'd like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.