It is very normal to think about death. It is even common to want to be dead, to think it would be easier to be dead than alive, or to have thoughts about ending your own life.
We don’t really talk about it as a society, but probably between a quarter and a half of people experience suicidal thoughts at some point. However, it is so taboo, that we keep it to ourselves – sometimes until it is too late.
This page is for people who sometimes get thoughts of suicide, but are not actively suicidal right now. If you are suicidal, meaning you currently are intending to end your life, please contact your local emergency services or find a hotline on our global resources page. This page is also for people who are concerned about a friend or loved one and want to help them.
This article does not cover deliberate self-harm.
The information here has been written by qualified doctors, with the help from CheckPoint’s community, who bravely shared their experiences of suicidal thoughts so they could help others.
Normalising Suicidal Thoughts
Thinking about suicide does not mean you want to die, or would end your life. Suicidal ideation is a scale where you can be in any place on, and you can move up and down the scale at any time. One of our community suggested using a colour chart:
|Never or very rarely think about suicide||Sometimes think about suicide, but no intention to do it and no plan about how to do it||Often think about suicide, has considered a plan but no current intention to carry it out||Frequently thinking about suicide, have begun to consider how and when to do it||Current intention to end own life and plan about how to do it|
Most people usually sit in the green/yellow area. Yellow and above should see a healthcare professional regularly, and red/black should see emergency services urgently. Hopefully this will act as a good starting point if you are having a dark day, or have a loved one who discloses suicidal ideation, in knowing what to do immediately.
How To Help…
If you are someone who sometimes experiences suicidal thoughts, please know that you’re not alone. This is incredibly common, and there are lots of things you can do now to protect and prevent anything bad happening in the future.
Tell Someone You Trust
If you don’t do anything else, please do this! Even at your darkest times, when it feels the least likely of all, the people who love you want to help you. The problem is, when things get bad, the knowledge of that can be harder to find. Take action now, when you are well, so that if things get rough even if you don’t believe it anymore, there is someone who is looking out for you. Tell a loved one that you sometimes get dark thoughts, and help them to understand what that feels like for you. If possible, give them some tips about what to do if they are concerned that it is happening.
“Would it be okay if I told you something about myself that other people don’t know, and ask for you to do something for me?…”
“I really value your friendship. Sometimes I go through these stages where I’m not very good at communicating that though…”
“There’s something I really want to talk about, but it’s pretty hard for me to open up…”
If it’s difficult to just sit down and have a conversation – and for lots of guys, this is very much the case – you could try bringing it up during a different activity. We’ve heard lots of our members feel able to discuss these issues whilst gaming with their friends.
Silence of the Sleep
Learn Your Early Warning Signs – And Tell Someone
Most people get an inkling that things are going downhill before they are very deep in it. This varies dramatically from person to person. Have a think about the last time you had a dark day – were there little signs beforehand? Our audience mention experiencing…
- Tension, muscle pain
- Anhedonia (not enjoying anything anymore)
- Feeling numb or disconnected
- Isolating from others, cancelling plans etc
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muddled/confusing thoughts
- Specific thought patterns like catastrophising, spiralling negative thoughts
- Self doubt
- Low motivation, struggling to get out of bed etc
- Changes in appetite
- Excessive boredom
Work Out Your Triggers
No two people are the same, and what seems like a walk in the park for one person might be excruciatingly difficult for someone else. Here are some of our community’s experiences of things that can worsen a dark day.
- Traumatic events/memories/reminders
- Physical illness or disability
- Arguments with loved ones
- Seasons (for example, winter)
If you learn what triggers you, you can plan and prepare for if you encounter that thing, and you can make sure to do some checking in with yourself.
Make a Safety Plan
If you’ve had a trigger, or you notice that you’re experiencing early warning signs, it is vital to know what to do next. That’s where your safety plan comes in. In a situation where the fog is too think to see forward, or the motivation to do anything just isn’t there, have this list handy – it’s your lifeline.
- Call a Suicide Hotline
- Talk to a friend
- Have code words/colours so they know what the situation is if you can’t say it
- Environmental safety: give razors and pills to friend
- Open the Emergency Mental Health Kit
Create An Emergency Mental Health Kit
On average, people consider harming themselves for only a few minutes before they do it. The level of distress can be so high that the urge is unbearable. During this time, the absolute best thing to do is distract yourself in any way you can. That’s where your Emergency Mental Health Kit comes in. It could be physical, digital, or a combination – the important thing is that it’s packed full of things that can keep you going and activities to distract your mind. Our community suggests:
- A list of reasons to stay alive
- A handwritten list of things that you know that make you happy
- Radical self-care ideas
- Watch your favourite movie
- Draw, paint
- Listen to music
- Video games!
“My safety plan was a handwritten list of things that I know made my happy. It is simple things like my favorite pizza from my favorite place, or some youtubers who knew how to make me laugh.”
Games Which Might Help
We asked our audience which games they use in times of distress – and their answers were as diverse as you would imagine! Perhaps it’ll give you some new ideas about games that might help you.
- Any game that makes you nostalgic! This can help you connect with happy memories and emotions, even causing a physiological response.
- Immersive stories that can provide escapism into another world.
- Intense games which take a lot of concentration, like FPS and RTS, or even a puzzle game which requires lots of thought power
- Games designed for distress tolerance. There are many games with breathing exercises and similar activities, such as Flowy and Breath of Light.
- Relaxing and calming atmospheres – think Journey, Stardew Valley and Abzu.
“Especially when I’m in a bad place, I tend to play really dark horror games. They help me get the feelings and memories to the surface. I have someone who is like an adopted dad to me, and I send him screenshots from the games to try and illustrate exactly how I’m feeling.”
Specific games our CheckPoint pals play:
- Baldur’s Gate
- Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls
- Darkest Dungeon
- Doom 2016
- Elder Scrolls
- Fortnite and PUBG
- Path of Exile
- Stardew Valley
- Super Mario Odyssey
- The Witcher
“My catharsis game is bloodborne; it’s so easy for me to just pick it up and play it and the rewarding nature of that gameplay cycle sorta creates the short-term dopamine rush i need to get over dark place.”
God of War
How To Help…
…A Loved One
It can be incredibly difficult hearing that someone you love doesn’t value their own life. What do you say? How do you behave? How can you best help them?
At the same time there are natural emotional responses which can be confusing. It is completely normal to feel hurt, guilty, or even angry toward your loved one. Understanding and accepting your own vulnerabilities allows you to let them go and focus on helping.
Your loved one might not say that something is wrong – they might not even know if something is wrong. Look for small behavioural signs: perhaps they are more quiet or irritable; maybe they aren’t coming out to social events. Recognising and acknowledging that something is different is an important way of encouraging the person to consider their own mental state, as well as letting them know you care and are concerned for their wellbeing.
“Sometimes for me it is just about recognition. Someone saying hi to me, or asking me how my day was. To get reminded that I’m not alone, and that people care.”
“I wish I had someone who would have noticed I was behaving differently. Just wish someone would have asked me if I am doing okay.”
Life is Strange
Listen and Validate
If someone comes to you saying they feel suicidal, and they are safe – ie they don’t need to immediately go to hospital – the most important thing you can do for them is just listen. Try to withhold judgement, and try not to offer any advice – just hear them out.
You might not agree with what they are saying, and that’s okay. Sometimes thoughts can become distorted and things seem darker to others than to you – or vice versa. It’s important to remember that even if you objectively disagree with what they say, those beliefs and feelings can be very real to them and this should be validated.
Active listening can be very powerful in helping someone to feel supported and valued. Give them time, show you are listening, paraphrase things back to them, offer physical support if appropriate.
“I wish just someone would’ve been there period to be there and listen. Not even to say say anything but just to listen.”
“When I felt suicidal the thing that I wished people would do for me is to tell me they are there for me and to sit with me. To provide a feeling of safety and familiarity.”
“When I’m feeling suicidal, the thing I want most is to be recognized by another person. Most times I’m feeling suicidal I’m also feeling intensely lonely, so someone just reaching out and saying “Hey, I’m here, and I hear you” is often enough to break the thought process.”
In times of distress it’s easy to forget, overlook or even deny how much you mean to other people. If your loved one is in this position, it might seem obvious that you love them and will support them – to you. But not to them.
Simple reassurance can be incredibly therapeutic. Reminding someone that they are loved, they have a place in the world, they have support if they need it…these are small gestures that can make a huge impact.
“It sounds clichéd but having someone tell me that they’re around for me, and that however dark things seem, they’ll get better, does seem to help me.”
“Oddly enough, I always wish someone would impress upon me how awful things would be for them and the people that love me were I to be gone, especially in that way. Something my girlfriend often reminds me of when I get in those states.”
Metal Gear Solid 4
Remember, life is a journey on a bumpy road. Each bump lasts just a moment but feels very significant. Sometimes, all someone needs is a friend to say, “Let’s get you thinking about something else for a bit,” and that bump will pass. Providing company, offering to do a shared activity or something similar can help someone take their mind off dark thoughts until the distress passes.
Some suggestions might be watching a funny movie together, going for a walk outside, baking, or – of course – playing a video game together.
Some co-op/multiplayer suggestions:
- Don’t Starve Together
- Sonic Racing
- Rocket League
- Portal 2
- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
This is by no means an exhaustive guide on what to do during a challenge such as suicidal thoughts. But it might be a good place to start thinking about how you can help yourself and your loved ones.
For more information, we have collected some international resources – and if you need help please visit our Global Mental Health Directory.