People helping each other

Before you read this article, please take care of yourself. If you need help to stay alive right now, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 anytime you need to talk or get ideas to cope

If you have not told a professional about your thoughts of suicide before, you may have an idea about what happens next. Often people think they will have the police called on them or they’ll be sent to a psychiatric hospital. The truth is, professionals like therapists want to make sure you can stay safe, and will work with you to see what that looks like for you.


The first thing I want to do if you tell me you’re having thoughts of suicide is understand where you’re coming from. What’s going on? What’s causing this pain? This helps me empathize with your circumstances while letting you know it’s OK to talk about.  

Just like I want to understand your reasons for wanting to die, I also want to understand what has kept you alive. Whatever you say will be important for developing supports and motivation to work towards a life worth living.

A person helping another up a mountain

I’m also concerned for your safety when there are times you want to hurt or kill yourself. So, I need to get a sense of how imminent the risk is. I ask clients to rank the intensity of their thoughts on a scale of 0 to 10. Zero is for thoughts that just pass by, and 10 is very intense and the client cannot keep from acting on them. Higher scores necessitate a higher level of intervention. Meaning, at a 10 we would likely discuss places you could be monitored 24 hours a day which might be a hospital or behavioral health center. Any lower answers would lead us to make a personalized safety plan. 


You can find out more about making a safety plan on our last blog post, but here are the highlights: 

  1. What are your triggers? Any thoughts, feelings, or situations that tend to come before suicidal thoughts? Write them down! These are your cues to do something to feel better. 
  1. What works to help you feel relaxed, distracted, or okay? Whether it’s going on a walk, playing video games, listening to your feel-good playlist, or something else, write down your options for when you need a reminder. *Remember media and whatever you consume can affect you – so be mindful of how you feel when you are engaging with dark themes, desolate topics, and more positive vibes. 
Two men on a dock discuss suicide prevention
  1. Who can you call or where can you go? Who or where can make you feel better, supported, or distracted? Brainstorm now and use that help when you need it. 
  1. Professionals and Resources for Emergencies.  Just in case you can’t keep yourself safe in the future, think now (and write down) the closest emergency room, crisis counseling lines you can call any time, and of course 911. 


When you disclose suicidal thoughts to your therapist/counselor you should feel understood, taken seriously, and faith in a safety plan that is personalized for you. One other thing I remind clients is even though life sucks, you have to stay alive for it to improve! Take it one day at a time and we will get through this together.  Call us or make an appointment at Heartland Therapy Connection if you need help.  We believe we are all #betterconnected.  Take care!  

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