What Does Being Suicidal Actually Feel Like?

Patient Expert
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Suicide is the all-too-frequent outcome of a complex web of distorted views, depression, and delusional thinking. It’s the result of a person’s mind operating in ways that are counter-intuitive to a person’s natural desire for self-protection. That said, I’ve been suicidal many times in my life, but can’t really explain how it feels because I don’t know how to explain emptiness.

Suicide is a Process -- of Sorts

Being suicidal isn’t one specific feeling; it’s more a collection of events that leads you down a dark path. It generally begins with depression, and that leads to thoughts of suicide. Most people consider themselves to be suicidal when they are seriously considering acting upon the impulse to kill themselves.

Suicidal thinking generally involves rationalizing and action. A person living with mental illness is very susceptible to the idea that they are better off dead and/or that they won’t be missed.

Rationalizing comes in when the suicidal person begins to think that he or she is a burden to loved ones. Suicide (this sort of thinking goes) would improve loved ones' lives. The suicidal person rationalizes his or her death as "a good thing."

Depression is very painful and it’s easy to believe that suicide is the only way to make that pain stop. Suicidal people are typically unable to see how their lives can improve, and therefore see suicide as the only option.

Some people do plan to die by suicide. But this is a lot less common than popular culture would lead us to believe. That said, people don’t generally attempt suicide out of the blue. They have been tormented by a distorted thought pattern for some time. Then, in a moment of crisis, they act on those thoughts. The “crisis” doesn’t have to be something huge, either. It’s often just “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” To a person in this state of mind, even small things can be overwhelming.

It’s important to realize that, while it only takes someone a moment to decide to end their life and then act on it, it also only takes a moment to intercede and save someone’s life. It’s important that if you think someone is contemplating suicide that you say something to them.

To go back to the question posed at the beginning of this post, if I had to choose any word to describe what being suicidal feels like, I’d pick hopeless. When I’ve felt suicidal, it was because I felt like life would never improve. I believed that what I was feeling in that moment would be how I’d feel for the rest of my life.

In those moments, I’d do anything to stop that feeling; to stop my suffering. It’s irrelevant that my feelings were unreasonable, because they felt so incredibly real. Feeling suicidal feels like eternal hopelessness without the benefit of foresight to realize that things can -- and will -- improve.