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Unhealthy Coping Skills Causing Suicide and Suicide Attempts

September 12, 2019 Jennifer Smith

Trigger warning: This post contains a frank discussion of suicide, suicide attempts as it pertains to how unhealthy coping skills can lead to suicide.

Having unhealthy coping skills can play a major role in suicide attempts and death by suicide. When someone is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, the pain and confusion he/she feels is often compounded by misinformation, incorrect beliefs, and unhealthy coping skills that can lead to suicide. Yet, these are often the only things a person suffering from a mental health crisis has at his/her disposal. It's time to change this now by having educational conversations about mental health, suicide, and healthy coping skills.

I spent many years battling depression before receiving an actual diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Those years were a nightmarish mix of darkness, numbness, pain, and loneliness. When I tried to describe my thoughts and feelings to friends and family, I was told to pray about it. I was also encouraged to stay strong in my faith and focus on my blessings. People said things about my needing to get out of the house more or exercise more or get outside in the sunshine more. Well, I was doing these things, and they were not helping. In turn, what these well-meaning -- yet misinformed -- people were saying was making me feel guilty. This guilt, added to the negative thoughts I already had about myself due to depression, wore me down time and time again.

I blamed myself for my thoughts and feelings. I felt like such a failure because I just could not get better. I started wondering why I couldn't just pray enough or have enough faith to be happy and filled with positive thoughts. Why couldn't I just be rid of this darkness? I got so tired of fighting it all the time. I'd do better for a while, but then depression would come back and cover me again.  I realized I couldn't beat this thing. I was tired and just wanted to rest and be at peace.

Unhealthy Coping Skills Contribute to Suicide   

I realized at some point during all of this that I probably needed to be on medication, namely an antidepressant. I was stubborn, though, and didn't want to take those. I still thought I could get better on my own. I also didn't want want to be someone who had to take medicine just to function. I know -- rather prideful of me. Plus, let's be honest. I knew if people found out I'd have to deal with being stigmatized. 

Instead, I used unhealthy coping skills. I self-harmed in order to deal with my pain. I zoned out a lot of times. I would have no idea what had been going on for an hour or more. I didn't know then and I don't know now exactly where my mind went during those periods of time. I just know it wasn't in the present moment with my body. I binge-watched television or spent way too much time online. I'm an avid reader, but I couldn't even read during this time. The words made no sense to me. I would try, but I just wasn't able to take a coherent thought from the page to my brain. I isolated myself from friends. I couldn't handle seeing or talking to people. I didn't have the energy. I coped by sitting in one spot on the couch and just being alone with my online or television "friends." I felt like I was going through motions but not really making conscious decisions about anything. I was confused and scared, and I had no idea what was happening to me.

Unhealthy Coping Skills and My Suicide Attempt

With all of this going on inside me, and with my having no healthy coping skills to handle it, I broke. I don't know a better word for it. I look back at myself on that January day of 2017 on which I attempted suicide, and that's how I would describe myself: broken. I was broken, confused, afraid, and exhausted. I wanted peace and rest. I wanted to give my husband the chance to find a better wife, and I wanted my kids to have a better mother. I believed I wasn't good enough. At that time, I believed suicide was my only choice. Thankfully, my attempt was not successful. My husband came home and took me to a local hospital for treatment, and afterward, I spent a week in inpatient psychiatric care. While there, I received a diagnosis, started taking antidepressants, and began therapy. 

How Healthy Coping Skills Can Prevent Suicide

I was taught healthy coping skills while in therapy. These skills, along with antidepressants, have kept my occasional, fleeting suicidal thoughts that sometimes appear now from becoming actual suicide plans or attempts. Because of this, I feel that my suicide attempt could have been prevented if I'd been taught healthy coping skills earlier. There is a part of me that is angry because I wasn't taught these skills until it was almost too late. For some people and their loved ones, it is too late.

Ignorance and stigma kill. People need to know that major depressive disorder cannot be prayed away, exercised out, or cured by sunshine. When people tell someone who has depression but has yet to seek professional help yet, these kinds of things, it's harmful and stigmatizing. It's also misinformed and incorrect. Someone, like myself, with major depressive disorder, could potentially reach the point of suicide. I needed healthy coping skills, and I needed a society where it was not only safe to talk about mental health, but encouraged and even expected. I still need this today. We all do. Let's start now.

If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 9-1-1 immediately.

For more information on suicide, see our suicide information, resources and support section. For additional mental health help, please see our mental health hotline numbers and referral information section.

APA Reference
Smith, J. (2019, September 12). Unhealthy Coping Skills Causing Suicide and Suicide Attempts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2019/9/unhealthy-coping-skills-causing-suicide-and-suicide-attempts



Author: Jennifer Smith

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