Can we pause?
Lesson 1 Section 1
Would it be ideal if we could stop all of the suicidal thoughts? Sure. That would be preferable, but it might not be possible right now.
I get it.
The suicidal thoughts might feel uncontrollable and trying to keep up with them can be both frustrating and exhausting. Even after the crisis point the emotional pain might barely be tolerable.
Maybe you can't change all of that right now. I’m only asking you to pause.
Can you give yourself a break from planning or preparing? You can choose to do nothing, even if you can’t direct your thoughts or take positive actions right away.
There are alternatives to consider, but only you can judge them because you're the expert on you. To seriously think about other life possibilities you can't be working on death possibilities at the same time. Put that on pause.
“I wish I could make your suicidal thoughts disappear, but I can’t.
What I can do is teach you how to get through those excruciating moments
when every cell in your brain and body is screaming I want to die.”
- Susan Rose Blauner
How do you pause?
The main idea for pausing is to take a step back from your suicide plans.
You deserve to have time to consider other options including ones you might not know about yet, and options you already learned about but can’t remember right now.
When you're moving through a thick fog you can only act on what’s right in front of you. One option is to stop for a little while (pause), and let the fog clear away some before you keep going.
Pain clouds our minds like a thick fog. That's why I recommend a pause. You can pause by stopping the move toward suicide.
Resources for pausing
“When things begin accelerating wildly out of control, sometimes patience is the only answer.
– Douglas Rushkoff
Why Pause? (Click the sections below to open more information)
Suicidal urges can get so intense that it feels like I need to do something right now to make it stop. It's not always that intense though. Maybe right now I'd say it's at level 9 on a 10-point scale, but maybe in an hour it'll be at level 8. Maybe tomorrow it will feel more like level 6.
The pain of crisis isn't the only time when we might choose to pause – even for hunger pain there is this pressure to do something right now, but I know it’s not true. I do need to get some food, probably soon, but I also know that I’m not going to instantly starve if I don’t drop everything else I’m doing so I can get food right away.
It’s the same with suicidal feelings. I acknowledge them. The pain is real and it can be severe. I know there's something wrong that needs to change for me to feel better. I also know that I don’t have to do anything with that if I choose not to, and I definitely don’t have to just drop everything else to follow that urge right away.
Being able to do that - to pause - has saved me from many potential suicidal actions over the years.
Almost every model or theory about suicide risk shows that while suicidal thoughts are a serious cause for concern, only your potential suicidal actions are dangerous.
That is why the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's Policy for Helping Callers at Imminent Risk of Suicide seeks to stop you from suicidal action, and does not have the unrealistic goal of immediately stopping every suicidal thought.
Similarly, their Suicide Risk Assessment Standards indicate that the availability and seeking of materials to be used in a suicide attempt represent a clear danger. Pausing interrupts any move towards finding, acquiring, or using suicide methods and thus would decrease the danger. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention has also recommended that reducing access to lethal suicide methods should be standard care across healthcare settings.
Finally, contemporary suicide risk models (referenced in the Suicide Risk Assessment Standards) indicate that specific plans are more dangerous than general plans, and adding a pause or interruption could change the specific parts of a suicide plan allowing time for your feelings to become less intense.
You can find the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline policies and supporting research here.