Shifting the Way we See Suicidal Ideation

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This is an excerpt from one conversation I had about my depression with someone close to me a few years back. I was struggling with suicidal thoughts. I thought that sharing those thoughts would maybe help, but it turned out to be incredibly upsetting, a conversation that made me feel even more guilty and ashamed of my thoughts.

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I am highlighting this experience to show that it is time to change how we view suicidal thoughts. Right now, there is so much stigma and shame attached to these thoughts. For me, “recurrent thoughts of death” and “suicidal ideation” were symptoms of my major depressive episode. Let me say this again: this thinking pattern was a symptom of my illness. I did not choose to have this symptom. Who would want to have obsessive, recurring thoughts of death and suicide?

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The issue is that these thoughts were not viewed as symptoms of an illness by the other person in my conversation. The stigma makes it seem as if I was choosing to have suicidal thoughts, as if I just was not trying hard enough to be positive or happy. This puts the blame on the person with the illness rather than on the illness itself. Attacking someone for having symptoms makes zero sense. Would you attack someone with asthma for having difficulty breathing? No. You should not attack a depressed person who has suicidal thoughts either.

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We need to create a safe space in which people can disclose their thoughts [without being judged] rather than maintain an environment in which people feel the need to keep them painfully hidden. Creating this safe space will take work, but it has the potential to improve or even save lives. Conversations on suicidal thoughts must include ways to help those who are exhibiting this symptom.  If we strip away the stigma and shift the way we see suicidal thinking, we can have more life-saving conversations.

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As with any other symptom or illness, it requires professional assessment and treatment. If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help ASAP.

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Call 1-800-273-8255
Online chat also available on their site

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