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Realizing you’re suicidal is unquestionably a low point in life, but it should not be an end point.
The oft-heard adage is true: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. With time and help, everyone can feel better.
This may seem hard to believe, as was the case during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. I recognize the difficult mental health challenges that swamped many Americans during that time, and suicidal ideation has jumped up an alarming amount from that time till now.
A group of researchers with the CDC and a data analytics company surveyed more than 5,000 Americans at the end of June 2020. Respondants filled out a web survey and answered a series of mental health questions.
The results were grim. Nearly 41% of people reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, and more than 10% of responders had "seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey."
Suicidal thoughts plagued 25.5% of young adults aged 18-24, 18.6% of Hispanic respondents, 15.1% of Black respondents, 30% of unpaid caregivers and 21% of essential workers.
So, is it normal to feel suicidal? Yes! and you're not alone.
But there is hope. (There is always hope!)
In 2016, researchers examined the records of more than 2,000 Canadian adults who had been classified as suicidal and found that nearly 40 percent of them later achieved complete mental health.
Complete mental health. That means not only were they free from suicidal thoughts, they had no symptoms of mental illness and reported feeling satisfied and happy almost every day.
I love seeing turnarounds like these. And my experience supports what the study found: Complete recovery is much more likely when the suicidal person has someone they can confide in. That person can be a therapist, a spiritual leader, a friend, a family member, or anyone else.
Building that support network is important for everyone’s mental health. If you feel like your network is weak, work to become more involved in your community. The best way I’ve seen to do that is through volunteer work. (I wrote about how to connect with your community in COVID-friendly ways in this blog post!)
These sorts of connection not only offer opportunities to form relationships with the people you serve and serve with, it shows you the value your life can have and leads to more and more positive feelings.
Other important steps in recovering from an encounter with suicidal thoughts and feelings include eating right, sleeping enough, exercising, spending time in nature, and getting treatment for any mental illnesses you have.
Life will get better! Just know that the feeling is temporary, so promise not to take any permanent action now. Suicide may seem like the only solution to your sadness and depression, but hold it.
Sleep, eat well, and fInd a friend or mental health specialist to speak with if your suicidal thoughts persist. And it’s encouraging to read how much better it can get for so many people. It can get better for you, too!
(Read more about the study here.)