Talking to family and friends
Talking to family and friends can make a real difference. They may calm you down and offer you a breathing space while you decide what to do next. They may also be able to suggest how to manage your difficulties. It is often easier for other people to see solutions, particularly if they know you well.
It is surprising how many people will step up and help through a very difficult and distressing period.
It is also important to be realistic about the kind of help they can give. They may not be able to help make you feel better right away. Your feelings might be difficult for them to hear. And they may not always be available to listen to you – sometimes when you need them most. If you have family members and friends you feel close to, you may find it helpful to keep their telephone numbers in a safe place so you can find them easily if you need urgent help.
Many organisations around the country, including Mind, run support groups for people with different types of mental health problems. Group members can support each other and learn from each other’s ways of coping. Call the Mind Infoline for support in your area.
If you believe that family and friends don’t understand you or that you cannot keep bothering them – especially in the middle of the night – it can be a good idea to phone a helpline, such as Samaritans or PAPYRUS, and talk to someone who has been trained to listen to people who have suicidal feelings.
Keep the number handy so that you aren’t hunting around for it in a crisis. You can usually write, email or text if you don’t want to talk on the phone. If you do call, the person listening to you will give you the time and space to talk in confidence without judging you. They will not tell you what to do; they will help you think through what to do for yourself.
Online discussion groups
Online discussions groups can help you to learn practical ways of managing your crisis from others who have been through a similar experience. Unfortunately, the quality of the information and support offered online will vary. In some cases the websites may be harmful if they are not promoting recovery. If you want online support, you could start, for example, by checking out links on Mind’s website. Also see How to stay safe online.
Some practical self-help tips
- Remove any means of killing yourself – this is important while you learn how to cope with suicidal feelings. For example, make sure that you have only small quantities of medication in the house; if you are no longer driving carefully, hand over your car keys to a friend.
- Make a distraction box – fill a box with memories and items that can provide comfort and help lift your mood when you feel down. The box can contain anything that is meaningful and helpful to you, e.g. a CD you like listening to, a book, photos, letters, poems, notes to yourself, a cuddly toy, a perfume, jokes etc.
- Give yourself a break – and take a break from yourself. If your attention is focused mainly on your distress, try instead to notice the world around you. Like any new habit, it may take effort at first, especially if you feel cut off and disconnected.
- Be kind to your body – regular exercise like walking, running and swimming can lift your spirits and make it easier for you to sleep better. Yoga and meditation can energise you and help to reduce tension. A healthy diet can help you feel stronger and may help you feel better. When you feel well, it might help if you put together a list of meals that are easy to prepare. If you have been misusing alcohol and drugs, cutting down on these will make your mind clearer and better able to focus on how to help yourself.
- Express yourself – you might like to write down your thoughts, feelings and achievements (however small) in a daily diary. Alternatively, creating artworks based on your feelings can also be a powerful tool. Over time, this can help you see what you are thinking and feeling. And this can make it easier for you to find ways to respond differently to your difficulties.
I give myself a break – it’s okay to cry until you can’t cry any more – it’s the mind’s natural way of fighting the illness.
- Learn from others – reading about how other people have managed difficult times is usually inspiring. Self-help books can suggest ways to improve your self-esteem and take you through practical problem-solving exercises. You may be able to get self-help books on prescription from your GP.
- Learn ‘distress tolerance’ skills – do this when you are well. These can help you survive when in crisis and support your ongoing mental health. Dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) gives lots of suggestions for accepting distress, soothing yourself and beginning to think more clearly. (See Mind’s online booklet Making sense of dialectical behavioural therapy, and dbtselfhelp.com)
- Make a wellness recovery action plan (WRAP) – write down what helps you to feel better about yourself. It can including, for example, going for a walk, talking to someone you trust.
I have a wellness recovery action plan which I have written down. It includes all my distraction techniques to get through a crisis. It includes a bath with candles, reading and knitting. Going for a walk. Going for a coffee. It is all written down as I can’t think straight in a crisis.
(Courtesy of Mind UK)