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Ways to stay alive even when you don't have the desire to keep going.

How To Stay Alive (When You Really Don’t Want To)

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How To Stay Alive (When You Really Don’t Want To)

A subscriber recently requested:

❝Request: more people need to be aware of suicidal tendencies and what they can do to ward them off❞

…and we said we’d do that one of these Psychology Sundays, so here we are, doing it!

First of all, we’ll mention that we did previously do a main feature on managing depression (in oneself or a loved one); here it is:

The Mental Health First Aid That You’ll Hopefully Never Need

Now, not all depression leads to suicidality, and not all suicide is pre-empted by depression, but there’s a large enough crossover that it seems sensible to put that article here, for anyone who might find it of use, or even just of interest.

Now, onwards, to the specific, and very important, topic of suicide.

This should go without saying, but some of today’s content may be a little heavy.

We invite you to read it anyway if you’re able, because it’s important stuff that we all should know, and not talking about it is part of what allows it to kill people.

So, let’s take a deep breath, and read on…

The risk factors

Top risk factors for suicide include:

  • Not talking about it
  • Having access to a firearm
  • Having a plan of specifically how to commit suicide
  • A lack of social support
  • Being male
  • Being over 40

Now, some of these are interesting sociologically, but aren’t very useful practically; what a convenient world it’d be if we could all simply choose to be under 40, for instance.

Some serve as alarm bells, such as “having a plan of specifically how to commit suicide”.

If someone has a plan, that plan’s never going to disappear entirely, even if it’s set aside!

(this writer is deeply aware of the specifics of how she has wanted to end things before, and has used the advice she gives in this article herself numerous times. So far so good, still alive to write about it!)

Specific advices, therefore, include:

Talk about it / Listen

Depending on whether it’s you or someone else at risk:

  • Talk about it, if it’s you
  • Listen attentively, if it’s someone else

There are two main objections that you might have at this point, so let’s look at those:

“I have nobody to talk to”—it can certainly feel that way, sometimes, but you may be surprised who would listen if you gave them the chance. If you really can’t trust anyone around you, there are of course suicide hotlines (usually per area, so we’ll not try to list them here; a quick Internet search will get you what you need).

If you’re worried it’ll result in bad legal/social consequences, check their confidentiality policy first:

  • Some hotlines can and will call the police, for instance.
  • Others deliberately have a set-up whereby they couldn’t even trace the call if they wanted to.
    • On the one hand, that means they can’t intervene
    • On the other hand, that means they’re a resource for anyone who will only trust a listener who can’t intervene.

“But it is just a cry for help”—then that person deserves help. What some may call “attention-seeking” is, in effect, care-seeking. Listen, without judgement.

Remove access to firearms, if applicable and possible

Ideally, get rid of them (safely and responsibly, please).

If you can’t bring yourself to do that, make them as inconvenient to get at as possible. Stored securely at your local gun club is better than at home, for example.

If your/their plan isn’t firearm-related, but the thing in question can be similarly removed, removed it. You/they do not need that stockpile of pills, for instance.

And of course you/they could get more, but the point is to make it less frictionless. The more necessary stopping points between thinking “I should just kill myself” and being able to actually do it, the better.

Have/give social support

What do the following people have in common?

  • A bullied teenager
  • A divorced 40-something who just lost a job
  • A lonely 70-something with no surviving family, and friends that are hard to visit

Often, at least, the answer is: the absence of a good social support network

So, it’s good to get one, and be part of some sort of community that’s meaningful to us. That could look different to a lot of people, for example:

  • A church, or other religious community, if we be religious
  • The LGBT+ community, or even just a part of it, if that fits for us
  • Any mutual-support oriented, we-have-this-shared-experience community, could be anything from AA to the VA.

Some bonus ideas…

If you can’t live for love, living for spite might suffice. Outlive your enemies; don’t give them the satisfaction.

If you’re going to do it anyway, you might as well take the time to do some “bucket list” items first. After all, what do you have to lose? Feel free to add further bucket list items as they occur to you, of course. Because, why not? Before you know it, you’ve postponed your way into a rich and fulfilling life.

Finally, some gems from Matt Haig’s “The Comfort Book”:
  • “The hardest question I have been asked is: “How do I stay alive for other people if I have no one?” The answer is that you stay alive for other versions of you. For the people you will meet, yes, but also the people you will be.”
  • “Stay for the person you will become”
  • “You are more than a bad day, or week, or month, or year, or even decade”
  • “It is better to let people down than to blow yourself up”
  • “Nothing is stronger than a small hope that doesn’t give up”
  • “You are here. And that is enough.”

You can find Matt Haig’s excellent “The Comfort Book” on Amazon, as well as his more well-known book more specifically on the topic we’ve covered today, “Reasons To Stay Alive“.

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