Five Steps You Can Take
There are some very specific steps that you can take – even when feeling overwhelmed – that can help you get out of the danger zone and open up possibilities for you.
These steps won’t solve all the problems, but they can get you out of immediate danger. You can then combine these 5 steps with the 6 longer term steps to get on a good life path.
Step #1: Promise Not to do Anything Destructive Right Now
Even though you may be feeling overwhelmed by pain right now, give yourself some distance between suicidal thoughts/feelings and suicidal actions. Promise yourself that you will give yourself 24 hours to start finding new solutions to your pain other than suicide.
If you are in intense emotional and/or physical pain, remember that your judgment is being clouded by that pain. If you are considering suicide, you are trying to end that pain. Please do not confuse ending your pain with ending your life. The two are very different.
After all you’ve been through, 24 hours is not much more time to wait. And there really are people and strategies that can make a difference. If you act on your suicidal thoughts/feelings now, you will never know what might have been.
Step #2: Connect with Others – Don’t Keep Suicidal Thoughts/Feelings to Yourself
Find someone you trust and let them know how bad things are for you right now. It may be a friend, a neighbor, a therapist, a member of the clergy, a teacher, a coach, a member of your extended family, or a family doctor. It can also be an experienced counselor at one of the helplines noted above and in the Resource section on this site.
Ask them to stay with you until you are safe (even over the phone). If you are not in a safe place, get to one. Drive yourself, have someone else drive you or walk with you – or call 911 and get help from emergency services.
Do not let fear, shame, or embarrassment prevent you from seeking help. Remember, it’s not a sign of weakness or being inadequate. One of the keys to life is being able to ask for help – in small and large ways. We all need support at different times. Just talking about how you are feeling and how you got to this point can release a lot of the pressure that has built up, clarify your thinking and increase your ability to cope.
If you don’t feel understood, find someone else. There will be a surprising number of people that will be ready to support you, but not everyone will be good at it (see “Help Your Helpers” below). In fact, the more people you engage, the better.
The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.
Step #3: Take Heart and Remember Who You Are – People Do Get Through This
Yes, right now the pain of life is overwhelming your capacity to cope. Even in the midst of the pain and discouragement, however, there are several reasons to take heart and regain a sense of hope.
First, remember that you have fought for yourself up to this point and you are much tougher than you feel right now. You have expended a tremendous amount of energy coping and drawn on a lot of strength. Those qualities are still there even though they may have been temporarily overwhelmed. They will re-emerge as you get some rest, get connected to those who can help and discover some new strategies for dealing with these pressures.
Second, the pressures and pain that have overwhelmed you right now will not last at such a high level – in the vast majority of cases. As a teenager you will face lots of challenges because that’s the way it works and it’s how you grow and develop – but they won’t often approach what you are feeling now and you will continue to develop your abilities to master them.
Step #4: Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
Suicidal thoughts can become even stronger if you have taken drugs or alcohol. It’s tempting to use drugs or alcohol to make the thoughts go or diminish the pain. But adding these chemicals to your body actually just makes it a lot harder to think clearly and they can make depressive feelings more powerful. They can also leave you more vulnerable to impulsive thoughts and actions, which is really dangerous right now.
Step #5: Make Your Home a Safe Place
Remove, lock up or give to others things you could use to hurt yourself, such as pills, guns, knives, razors, or other sharp items, like scissors. If you are on prescription medications and thinking of taking an overdose, give your medicines to someone who can return them to you one day at a time as you need them. This protects you from impulses to harm yourself from sneaking up on you.
If you don’t feel safe staying by yourself at home, go to a place where you do feel safe, like a friend’s house, your parent’s house, or a community center or other public place.