How Not to Kill Yourself – A Guide

dead_suicide_fingers_hanging_finger_desktop_1440x900_wallpaper-140926It’s national suicide prevention week in the US and, since we’re all connected by the internet, that tends to mean that ‘national’ for the US and other countries often becomes ‘international’. There’s tons of advice out there for people to talk to, signs to look out for and how to help people who may be feeling suicidal but not that much out there for the people who might actually be feeling that way. Medical resources are tight everywhere, even in nations with nationalised healthcare, so getting help – useful help – can be very difficult.

I suffer from moderate depression with bouts of severe and dangerous depression and suicidal ideation. I’ve been on the brink several times but have pulled back from it each time. While I think I’m qualified to offer insight because of this, what I offer here may not work for everyone. I’m just spelling out what’s helped me, in the past, to get through it.

1. Be Mindful

Learn to recognise the signs that you’re going off the deep end. If you’re anything like me you can – for a time – pretend to be OK, put up a façade, fool even professional therapists that you’re fine. The only person that really knows your inner world is you and nobody can save you from yourself except you. If you can feel yourself slipping and sliding or running out of the energy required to ‘seem normal’, it’s time to break down and find some help.

2. Stagger Your Coping Mechanisms

We all have them, some of them are very unhealthy (cutting, drinking, drugs etc) but they’re a damn sight better than killing yourself. When you can’t cope, try some of these things first rather than collapsing straight away. Muster what will you have left and do whatever it is that – sometimes – takes the edge off. Use the extra time that gives you to seek help.

3. Acquaint Yourself With the Suicide of Others

You may well know someone who killed themselves, odds are you know the family or friends of someone who did. Get to know the harm and upset that it caused, the devastation it left behind. Understand that suicide isn’t just self-harm but that it affects people who love you. Even if you can’t recognise that love in the moment. Examples from my life have helped me keep back from that brink and they’ve also kept me from serious self-harm and from drinking.

4. Get a Cat

Or another pet, even a dog I suppose. Unconditional affection from a little furry being that depends on you is a lifesaver. At my lowest ebb my cat forced his way into the bathroom and yowled at me – in a way he never has before or since – and reminded me that someone, at least, loved me and needed me.


Since this is still, ostensibly, an atheist blog, it’s worth mentioning a couple of things about this from the non-believers point of view.

A. Religious People Will Prey On You

Despair makes you weak and whether from the best intentions or not people will try to help you find Jesus (or whatever deity du jour is current in your location). If it’ll genuinely help I won’t begrudge you turning to Glob, but I don’t think it will help. Like any other displacing behaviour (drinking, self harm etc) getting that old time religion will only display the inevitable or cause it to emerge in new, twisted, nasty ways. If someone tells you this despair is because you don’t ‘know god’ you are fully justified in punching them in the nose.

B. You Have Less Support

This is more the case in America than elsewhere, but it is true that without a church you have less of a support group in your community. Build one. Go to evening classes. Join a band. Get to know people online. You don’t get a support group handed to you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have one.

C. The Natural World is Wonderful

If that can’t give you hope, nothing will. Every day science produces more knowledge, more beauty and more hope than we can hope to absorb in a lifetime. Why would you want to miss out on the next Hubble Deep Field or the first man on Mars?

6 responses to “How Not to Kill Yourself – A Guide

    • Re. point B, It depends on the church. Fundies have the greatest incidence of marriage failure. Ignorance is one factor, but so is censure. Rather than getting support from co-religionists if your relationship is getting on the rocks, you are blamed, and shunned. I can imagine it is the same with mental problems – God obviously thinks you deserve to suffer, so why should we give a shit?

  1. All are good and sensible points. Have a funny feeling that if I’d had a chitten {cat} it would have decreased the excessive misery and mild alcoholism not to mention lessened the number of suicide attempts. It *is* very hard to wreck yourself when some small bundle of fur is meeping at you….

  2. Dark matter and dark energy! I want to know about them!

    In my brother’s case, he had most of the above (1-4). He had a bunch of great dogs and a funny little hairless cat. And a wife. And alcohol to take the edge off. Or dull the senses. Not sure which. In his case, he ran into a problem that he could not see a way out of. And from his perspective, I suppose it was true. However, I wish he had remembered the support group around him and talked to someone. But he kept it all inside, and the problem remained hidden from anyone that could help him.

    And so he made his decision.

    Talk to other people. More minds are smarter than one and can often help you find a way out of whatever confronts you.

  3. You are right on about having a pet. Lots of times when I am deep in a pit, its my cats that have saved me. I was worried that if I were gone they would suffer and no one will take care of them. My cats are unconditional love and a lifeline when I am sinking. They know when I am down, and they will jump up and head butt me and do anything to let me know they love me. I have to be careful when I am down that they don’t suffer feel effects them selves. My favorite cat Bear and I are so connected, that when I was really bad he suffered too. He stopped eating and got sick. Really sick and almost died. The connections we have with our pets goes two ways. Connections coupled with love go very deep.
    And another way to help with depression is to volunteer. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, Hospital, school, the main thing is to help others in trouble need because it takes you out of yourself and help keep you from drowning in yourself, and you are helping other people. Helping other people gives you strength you didn’t know you had.

  4. If all else fails, keep breathing. Just coast. Go on autopilot. Promise yourself that you will wait it out. Depression is depression. It sucks bigtime but its not fatal unless you make it so. Depression has its ebbs and flows. When you are standing on the edge of the cliff thinking about jumping…..just sit down and try to wait it out. Tomorrow is another day, and you don’t know what may come. Just keep breathing, stop trying so hard, and coast.
    My sister died on her second suicide attempt. She was 16. I was 17. That was decades ago. I have found ways to cope. Depression is a part of me, but I work to not let it control my actions. When I get tired of the struggle, I just coast…..until I am strong again. Just coast.

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