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I was deeply saddened when a friend and mountain guide committed suicide recently. It was an incredibly unfortunate end to his life.
Like many of his friends, I knew he had been troubled by depression. A hard to accept reality for any mountain guide is that if they work in their career for some length of time, they will know people who die–either other guides, friends, or clients. My friend was no different.
His death reminds me of how important it is to get help when depression is taking over your life–especially when suicidal thoughts come.
Some lists can also be helpful. For example, list what you can do to calm or soothe yourself. You can create a list of your reasons for living. You could create a list of support people and their numbers and of places you can go to feel safe. Finally, you could create a list of things you enjoy doing with the goal of doing something on that list regularly.
If you’re feeling suicidal, it’s time to enlist the support of friends, family, and professionals. Use them to talk with when those feelings come up, and ask them to help you come up with a safety plan.
Talk with someone even if you feel like you don’t want to burden them. Chances are both of you will be glad you did! Talk regularly. Ask her or him to check in with you regularly. Hire a therapist. Go for urgent counselling as needed.
This should include getting rid of any items in your house that you’ve thought about using to kill yourself. You could give your guns to someone for safe keeping. You could give your prescriptions to your physician or pharmacist. If you can’t give an item to someone else, plan around that with someone. For example, if the thoughts come, your plan might be to have a family member or friend come over to stay with you or for you to stay with them until the feelings have passed. If the feeling isn’t passing, talk with a therapist or go to the emergency department of a hospital.
A health plan can also be useful. Keep it simple. Focus on eating some good foods. Cut down on caffeine. Cut down or quit drinking or doing drugs. Try to get some exercise every day–even a short walk can be helpful. If you’re sleeping a lot, set the alarm and try to get up, dressed, and out of your home. If you’re not sleeping much or at all, practice some good sleep hygiene. See 5 Steps to Sleep Better and How to Sleep Better for more info.
Consider what contributes to your suicidal thoughts. Are there certain situations that really bother you? For example, does drinking alcohol lead you to dark thoughts? Deciding not to drink may be in your best interest. Does staying isolated in your home become like a lead weight? You may want to come up with a plan for getting out more and being with one or more people.
Maintaining a routine can also be helpful. Continue going to work. Continue doing the things you used to, and if it seems like too much of an effort, enlist the help of someone to do it with you.
I wonder if my friend felt ashamed that he was still feeling depressed and suicidal. I wonder if that helped prevent him from continuing to reach out for help. I wonder why he stopped doing the things above that could’ve helped him.
It’s hard work to make the commitment to live…but it’s worth it.