What are suicidal thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts can range from being preoccupied by abstract thoughts about ending your life, or feeling that people would be better off without you, to thinking about methods of suicide, or making clear plans to take your own life.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, you might be scared or confused by these thoughts.
But you are not alone. Many people think about suicide at some point in their lifetime. Suicidal thoughts are one of the symptoms of depression and just like symptoms of any other illness they do not reflect anything about you as a person. Suicidal thoughts are natural, but it is important to learn to deal with them. Do not isolate yourself with these thoughts, fearing the judgement of others, that only makes them worse. Tell someone, bring it out!

You are not alone!

Many of us have had suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives. Feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesn’t mean that you are crazy, or weak, or flawed. It only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. This pain seems overwhelming and permanent at the moment. But with time and support, you can overcome your problems and the pain and suicidal feelings will pass.

How can I change those feelings and thoughts?

TELL SOMEONE – The most important thing to do is to tell someone what you are thinking and feeling. Tell a friend, family member, crisis line (phone: 1717, webchat www.1717.is) or a health professional. The act of opening up and telling someone can help. It is important to be open about all of your thoughts. If you have a suicide plan, it is important to tell someone what your plan is. People often say they are relieved that they shared how they felt with someone. Talking can help you feel less alone.

CONNECT WITH OTHERS – If you are worried that you may lose control or do something to hurt yourself, tell someone. Make sure you are around someone you trust. If you live alone, ask a friend or family member to stay with you. If you don’t know anyone or can’t reach friends or family members, call a crisis line, phone:1717 and use the webchat www.1717.is, also, see the page “where can I turn to?”.

KEEP YOUR HOME SAFE – It is important to get rid of things that could be used to hurt or kill yourself, such as pills, razor blades, or guns. If you are unable to do so, go to a place you can feel safe.

DEVELOP A SAFETY PLAN – It is very helpful to have a written safety plan when you have thoughts of hurting yourself. Have a trusted family member, friend, or professional help you to complete this safety plan. Keep this plan somewhere you can see or find easily. Write down the steps you will take to keep yourself safe (see an example here). Follow the steps. If you follow these steps and still do not feel safe, call a crisis line (phone: 1717 and webchat: www.1717.is), get yourself to a hospital emergency room or call emergency services 112.

PROBLEM-SOLVE – It is always helpful to think of multiple ways to solve your problems. First, make a list of all the problems you are dealing with in your life. Second, make a list of all the solutions you can think of to those problems. You can ask someone you trust to help you with this. Dealing with 1 or 2 small problems can help to put an end to immediate feelings of suicide. Once you are thinking more clearly, you can tackle other bigger problems.

THINK OF REASONS FOR LIVING – Most people who think about suicide want to escape their pain, but they do not always want to die. When you feel low, it’s easy to stay focused on things that are negative and upsetting in your life. This makes it easy to think of suicide as the only option. Start thinking about some reasons you have for living. For example, many people have relationships with loved ones, pets they love, religion, goals and dreams, or responsibilities to others in their life that give them reasons to live and prevent them from acting on their suicidal thoughts. Think of all of the reasons you have for living. Write them down. Remind yourself of them when you are feeling low.

REMEMBER THINGS THAT HAVE HELPED IN THE PAST – Many people have had thoughts of suicide before. Think of some of the things that helped you feel better when you faced the same types of problems in the past. Some examples are: having faith and trust that time always helps; reaching out to friends and family; calling a crisis line (phone: 1717 and webchat: www.1717.is); seeing a professional; going to a support group; following a safety plan; doing something you enjoy; not being alone; keeping a journal; or not drinking or using drugs.

GET TREATMENT FOR MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS – It is important to get treatment for depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug problems. Just seeing your family doctor may not be enough. It can help to see a mental health specialist, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. You can get referrals from your doctor or contact them directly. If you are already receiving treatment, speak up if your treatment plan is not working. You can get a free consultation at Geðhjálp by calling 570 1700 or sending an e-mail at gedhjalp@gedhjalp.is and get interviews at a short notice.

DO THE OPPOSITE OF HOW YOU FEEL – When you have thoughts of suicide, it can be helpful to do the opposite of how you feel. For example, when people feel depressed they usually want to be alone. Doing the opposite, for example getting in touch with others, can help with feelings of depression.

Where can I turn to?

The most important step is to tell someone how you are feeling, be it a friend, a family member, a crisis line or a professional. Here are some useful phone numbers:

Distress and psychiatric problems:

  • Red Cross Helpline, 24/7 crisis line, phone nr: 1717 and webchat 1717.is
  • Consultancy of Geðhjálp, free interviews with a consultant, phone nr: 5701700, e-mail: gedhjalp@gedhjalp.is. www.gedhjalp.is
  • Emergency services, phone nr: 112
  • Emergency Room of the Psychiatric Department (LSH), phone nr: 5434050 The emergency room is open weekdays from 12:00-19:00 and 13:00-17:00 on weekends. Outside of the opening hours you can turn to the general emergency room in Landspítalinn Fossvogur.
  • Psychiatric Department (LSH), phone nr: 5431000
  • Psychiatric Department of Akureyri, phone nr: 4630100
  • Child and Adolescence Psychiatric Department (BUGL), phone nr: 5434300

In Reykjavík you can look into groups and organizations such as Clubhouse Geysir, Hugarafl and Hlutverkasetur. Outside of Reykjavík, you can turn to Grófin in Akureyri, Vesturafl in Ísafjörður, Ásheimar at Egilsstaðir to name some, an internet search will provide more options. You can also look up independent psychologists at www.salfelag.is or www.sal.is.

Furthermore you can turn to doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists or other mental health professionals. If you are at school you can turn to school-psychologists (in primary-schools and several collages) or other employees, for example counselors or nurses.

Sexual abuse
If you have been sexually abused you can turn to Stígamót or Drekaslóð. Stígamót also offer interviews at Pareksfjörður and Egilsstaðir. In Ísafjörður you can contact Sólstafir and in Akureyri, Aflið.

Drugs and alcohol abuse
If you have a drug or alcohol problem, you can get a free consultation from SÁÁ. You can also enter a 12-step program such as AA or NA www.nai.is.
If you are a parent of someone that has an alcohol or a drug problem, you can turn to Foreldrahús (parentshouse) www.vimulaus.is.

Psychologists that specialize in treatment of drug and alcohol problems can be found at at www.salfelag.is or www.sal.is. You can get help 24/7 at the Red Cross crisis line, call 1717 or use the webchat www.1717.is.

What is self-harm?

Being someone who self-harms or being close to someone who self-harms is tough. Understanding why people close to you hurts himself/herself can be very difficult, even scary. People have all sorts of feelings about self-harm, including fear, anger, frustration, helplessness and worry.

Self-harm is a common health problem for young people. Iceland has a population of around 50.000 young people between the ages of 14 and 24 years old. Previous studies have shown that around 10% of young people have intentionally injured themselves at some point or made a suicide attempt. This translates into approximately 5.000 young people that are self-harming or have self-harmed. Adults who self-harm are 100 times more likely to commit suicide.

The most frequent types of
self-harm in teenagers include cutting, overdosing and poisoning and to a lesser degree, head banging, burning, strangling themselves and jumping from heights. Poisoning and overdosing are the behaviors most likely to attract medical attention, although cutting is the most common form of self-harm in young people.

People self-harm for different reasons although it is usually linked to anxiety, depression and anger. Self-harming does not always mean that you want to commit suicide, that you are “looking for attention” or you are being manipulative.

Young people who self-harm do so as a way to cope with emotions and situations they feel too hard to deal with. Some young people don’t know how to put this pain into words and self-harm is the only way to show others the hurt inside. For someone to deliberately harm himself/herself by cutting or burning their body, he/she must be suffering a lot.

Why do people self-harm?

Some reasons people self-harm includes:

FEELING UPSET, ANGRY OR SCARED and the only way to stop these feelings seems to be to hurt themselves

HAVING A HORRIBLE FEELING building up inside and cutting is the only way to let it out or stop it by feeling physical pain and distracting the mind from the inner pain

FEELING ALONE AND ISOLATED from everybody and hurting themselves is the only way they feel ‘real’ or ‘connected’

FEELING OUT OF CONTROL and cutting or hurting themselves is the only way they feel in control

FEELING RESPONSIBLE for everything and everyone

FEELING NUMB and the only way they feel is by causing pain

IT CAN MAKE THE PAIN YOU FEEL INSIDE visible and when it is visible, it’s easier to understand

FEELING LIKE others only care about them if something bad happens

FEELING LIKE everything is hopeless

ELF-HARMING can be a way of punishing themselves or others for something

FEELING BAD about themselves and

FEELING LIKE they have no one to talk to.

Some people who self-harm have experienced physical abuse or suffer from anxiety. Other people have experienced sexual or emotional abuse, lost a family member or were not treated well as a child. This can create stress and pain in people’s lives. Sometimes this leads people to stop the pain by hurting themselves. However, not all people that self-harm have been abused or experienced big losses.

People who self-harm have difficulty coping with and talking about their emotions. Because of this, these emotions can build up and feel too much. Self-harm can seem like the only thing that will make these emotions go away or to feel something different.

People who self-harm may not like themselves or their bodies. They may have difficulties with relationships, not be able to talk about what is going on or be depressed, anxious or stressed. It is important to understand that whatever the reason for your self-harm, there are other and better ways of dealing with the way you feel.

People hurt themselves because it is the only thing they can think of doing to cope.

Why do I keep hurting myself?

Some people say that self-harm helps take away the emotional pain and that this seems like the only way.

If something makes us feel better, then we tend to keep doing it. In this way, self-harming is like an ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOUR. Like a drug, self-harming when you feel like you are not coping can make you feel better. Because you feel better, you keep doing it.

Something that is addictive is really hard to give up.
When people find hurting themselves brings relief, it can become their main way of dealing with problems – this can start to affect their life in a negative way. What is important to understand is that SELF HARMING IS JUST ONE WAY OF DEALING WITH THINGS and that THERE ARE OTHER AND BETTER WAYS!

Some other reasons why people find it difficult to stop self-harming include:

WONDERING WHAT THEY WILL DO to cope instead of self-harming

WONDERING WHETHER PEOPLE will still show they care if they don’t see the cuts and scars

WONDERING WHETHER PEOPLE will still know that they are hurting if they don’t see any injuries

LETTING GO OF SELF HARMING is like letting go of a familiar part of yourself “Who will I be if I don’t self-harm?”

WORRYING THAT THEY MIGHT get swallowed up by their feelings if they don’t self-harm

CONCERNED that they might stay numb

What are the consequences of self-harming?

You may be self-harming and not being able to see the negative effects. Here are some consequences of self-harming:

YOU MAY ACCIDENTALLY OR DELIBERATELY GO TOO FAR ONE DAY AND CAUSE YOURSELF A SEVERE INJURY OR SUICIDE.

CUTS SOMETIMES TURN INTO SCARS: Most people don’t understand self-harm and may treat you differently when they see your scars. This can make it difficult to make friends, get a job, have a boyfriend/girlfriend or wear t-shirts without people seeing your injuries. Having said this, those people who only judge you by your scars don’t know the real you.

PEOPLE WHO SELF HARM USUALLY KEEP IT A SECRET: This can be a really lonely experience. Dealing with your feelings in this way means you are probably not sharing your pain or getting the support you need.

YOU MAY BE AVOIDING THE ISSUES THAT LEAD TO YOU SELF HARMING: Expressing yourself in this way might not allow you to see the causes of your pain.

YOU MAY HAVE TO LIE: You may have to lie to friends and others about your injuries. Most young people find this difficult and stressful. As a result of the lie, you may think, “Do they believe me?”, “Do they think I’m a freak?”

YOU MAY FEEL GUILTY: Young people who self-harm often feel guilty about it. This means that they hide their behavior and get down on themselves. This creates more stress and hurt which leads to more self-harm to cope.

How can I stop self-harming?

Self-harm is a way of trying to cope with inner pain. It is very difficult to stop self-harming without having other ways to cope. Changing any behavior is difficult and it is a decision ONLY YOU can make. Here are some different ways of reacting when you feel like self-harming. These won’t always be easy and will take lots of effort.

DECIDE that you want to stop self-harming – making this decision is the first step.

TAKE YOURSELF AWAY from the situation – something as simple as removing yourself from the presence of knives, razors or whatever it is you use to self-harm works for some people.

15 MINUTE DELAY – try not to self-harm for 15 minutes. If this works, try another 15 minutes and so on.

HAVE SOMETHING TO DO – keeping yourself occupied can keep your mind off stress and not leave you time to think about self-harming. Plan things to do to occupy your free time. You could paint, listen to music, draw, play guitar, dance, write, sing or anything creative.

TRY TO FOCUS on something else rather than the pain you may be feeling. You could go outside and look
at the clouds, take a shower, watch some TV, read a book, go for a run, get on the internet, eat some food, drink a hot drink etc. Anything that distracts you from how you might be feeling can stop you feeling worse.

MAKE A LIST OF FRIENDS/SUPPORTS you can talk to or call when you feel you need to. These people should understand your situation and what you’re going through. Not all friends will be able to do this – most people find it difficult to understand why someone self-harms. If your friends are having trouble understanding, you can call the crisis line 1717, use the webchat www.1717.is or you may need to talk to a professional (see the page “where can I turn to?” below).

TRY DEEP BREATHING and relaxation exercises. Deep breathing provides your body with oxygen which can help you feel relaxed. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises can also be good ways to stop you focusing on your emotions.

WRITE A DIARY – write down how you feel and what might have made you feel like you wanted to self-harm. In this way you can be aware of what leads to you self-harming and what you might be able to do before things get too bad.

MAKE A LIST OF REASONS why you are going to stop hurting yourself and set some realistic goals to help stop self-harming e.g. “Next time I feel like cutting,
I will scream into my pillow”.

CALL A CRISIS LINE if you feel that your self-harm is becoming dangerous. Call 1717 or use their webchat at www.1717.is, see also “where can I turn to”? below.
If you’re trying to stop, it’s important to understand that you may do it again. Don’t get down on yourself about this. What’s important is that you don’t give up trying to stop and you get the support you need to help you through.

Why is it so hard to talk about?

Talking to people that you are close to about self-harm can be really hard. A lot of young people who self-harm worry about how their family and friends will react. Some reactions they fear are:

BEING VERY WORRIED ABOUT YOU AND BECOMING UPSET

NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO OR SAY

GETTING ANGRY BECAUSE THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND FEELING LIKE IT MIGHT BE THEIR FAULT

TELLING YOU NOT TO DO IT AGAIN OR TELLING YOU TO STOP BEING SILLY

TRYING TO IGNORE IT IN THE HOPE IT WILL STOP

THINKING THAT YOU ARE DOING IT FOR ATTENTION

Whatever you think the reaction might be, it is important you
talk to someone about your self-harming. Keeping it a secret will only keep the behavior going and you will be at risk of seriously injuring yourself or worse.

Here are some ways of getting support from others:

BE SENSITIVE to those around you. Self-harming may seem like a normal behavior to you but to the people around you it may seem frightening.

When you talk to people about it, try to PICK A PLACE THAT IS PRIVATE where you can talk about it without pressure.

Make sure you and the other person have TIME TO TALK ABOUT IT – try not to mention it on your way out the door.

Tell the person THE THINGS YOU ARE DOING TO TRY AND STOP HARMING YOURSELF.

It is never going to be easy talking with other people about your self-harm. Remember, you are in control of how and what they find out. The most important thing is to tell someone.

Where can I turn to?

The most important step is to tell someone how you are feeling, be it a friend, a family member, a crisis line or a professional. Here are some useful phone numbers:

Distress and psychiatric problems:

  • Red Cross Helpline, 24/7 crisis line, phone nr: 1717 and webchat 1717.is
  • Consultancy of Geðhjálp, free interviews with a consultant, phone nr: 5701700, e-mail: gedhjalp@gedhjalp.is. www.gedhjalp.is
  • Emergency services, phone nr: 112
  • Emergency Room of the Psychiatric Department (LSH), phone nr: 5434050 The emergency room is open weekdays from 12:00-19:00 and 13:00-17:00 on weekends. Outside of the opening hours you can turn to the general emergency room in Landspítalinn Fossvogur.
  • Psychiatric Department (LSH), phone nr: 5431000
  • Psychiatric Department of Akureyri, phone nr: 4630100
  • Child and Adolescence Psychiatric Department (BUGL), phone nr: 5434300

In Reykjavík you can look into groups and organizations such as Clubhouse Geysir, Hugarafl and Hlutverkasetur. Outside of Reykjavík, you can turn to Grófin in Akureyri, Vesturafl in Ísafjörður, Ásheimar at Egilsstaðir to name some, an internet search will provide more options. You can also look up independent psychologists at www.salfelag.is or www.sal.is.

Furthermore you can turn to doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists or other mental health professionals. If you are at school you can turn to school-psychologists (in primary-schools and several collages) or other employees, for example counselors or nurses.

Sexual abuse
If you have been sexually abused you can turn to Stígamót or Drekaslóð. Stígamót also offer interviews at Pareksfjörður and Egilsstaðir. In Ísafjörður you can contact Sólstafir and in Akureyri, Aflið.

Drugs and alcohol abuse
If you have a drug or alcohol problem, you can get a free consultation from SÁÁ. You can also enter a 12-step program such as AA or NA www.nai.is.
If you are a parent of someone that has an alcohol or a drug problem, you can turn to Foreldrahús (parentshouse) www.vimulaus.is.

Psychologists that specialize in treatment of drug and alcohol problems can be found at at www.salfelag.is or www.sal.is. You can get help 24/7 at the Red Cross crisis line, call 1717 or use the webchat www.1717.is.

SuicideSelf-harm
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