It’s everywhere: mental health issues are on the rise. People’s thoughts go -quote unquote- to a dark place. That’s a soft way to say: more and more people have thoughts about killing themselves… Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I think we need to talk about this. More specifically, we need to reframe some of the common assumptions that make talking about suicidal ideation such a big no-no, because feeling shame about the thoughts that go through their mind is why so many people are unable to seek help when they desperately need it.
Assumption 1: I’m having irrational thoughts, maybe I’m going crazy
As human beings, we are programmed to avoid suffering and our mind is designed to help us find ways to do that. Sometimes, we find ourselves stuck in a painful situation, so the mind starts thinking about a plan to eradicate our suffering, once and for all… Dark thoughts aren’t always irrational, and they don’t make you crazy. They are workings of the mind trying to avoid pain, and they are human.
Now, it’s not because those types of ideas are fundamentally human that they are good for you.
You are not going crazy, but you are having thoughts that aren’t good for you and that’s why it’s important not to leave them to fester and grow.
Assumption 2: Something’s wrong with me
Nothing’s inherently wrong with you. Similar to physical pain, mental pain is a natural signal that arises to draw your attention to something that needs addressing. This is so that healing can begin, and return to a pain-free state can happen.
In the same way, having dark thoughts is a sign that something needs to be looked at and dealt with. Just like acute physical pain, it is an urgent prompt to go get help- not to stay silent.
Assumption 3: No one around me would understand
Here’s a recent statistic. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, in 2020, 11% of Americans considered suicide. That’s more than 1 in 10. I’m sure you know at least 20 people… so there are at least two of you thinking the same thoughts.
Another way to look at this is, by making this short calculation: how many Facebook friends do you have? Divide this number by ten, and you’ll know roughly the number of people that could understand what goes on in your mind.
I hope that, by understanding what they are and what they aren’t, more people will being feeling safe to talk about their darkest thoughts. After all, it is through exchange that most of us find ways to overcome the obstacles we are facing… even if when the challenges come from within.