If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts/feelings or the desire to harm yourself, or have made suicide attempts, we hope you may find the following information and resources helpful.
These resources are the work of Carolyn Spring. Carolyn is now a psychotherapist, but she herself was once stuck in the cycle of self harm and suicide attempts. We feel that her work offers both hope and help to others who are struggling. Her blogs posts and posters (extract below, more links down the right hand side of this page) combine personal insights and practical tips.
At the bottom of this page we have provided a summary of her approach and an introduction to using the resources, as we feel that understanding what is going on inside us can be helpful in learning to cope with it.
‘Suicide — to be or not to be?’ by Carolyn Spring
“Everything screamed at me that pain, this suffering-screech of unbearable despair, would remain until I did something about it, and the only thing I could do about it was to kill myself.
But then I learned that there are things that we can do when we feel big feelings: things that don’t involve suicide, nor even self-harm. Things that are soothing. At first, I wanted just to vomit even at the sound of the words ‘self-soothing’. There was something distinctly, creepily uncomfortable about them, like somehow it was to do with abuse (it’s not) or that it’s selfish (it’s not) or that it shows that I’m not coping (it doesn’t).
I had to learn that self-soothing is merely a set of strategies we can have for helping our emotions to remain within a ‘window of tolerance’ – not too high, not too low. It’s things we can do that help us rebalance, like playing Sudoku; or talking to a friend; or watching comfort telly; or going for a walk; or filing and tidying; or sleeping; or counting backwards; or taking a shower; or cleaning; or shredding old bank statements; or breathing from the belly; or journalling; or birdwatching; or anything at all that helps or distracts or amuses or reassures. Because right at that moment, on that wave of crushing emotion, too often I would freeze and forget that there are things that I can do (other than suicide) that will make things just a teeny bit more bearable, just get me through the next five minutes, just get me acting and being and asserting my right to life, rather than being drowned under the collapsing wave of too-much-too-much.
Suicide is not the answer, although I know how much at times it feels as if it must be. I’m glad – now – that I didn’t kill myself. And why didn’t I? Maybe because I am one of the lucky unlucky ones – unlucky enough to have been abused, but lucky enough to have some support now, as an adult, to work it through.
The best response we can have to suicidal people is to support them way before they get to that point, which in times of mental health cuts and austerity measures is easier said than done. But we can still try. I found a purpose in life, of recovery being my best revenge and a deep-in-my-guts need to bring change to this world, as my reason to push through the pain and to keep on living. It’s what gets me out of bed every day of the week: the need to be alive, so that I can change something, and make things better, even if only a little. Judith Lewis Herman talked about a survivor mission being a crucial part of recovery.
We have to find better reasons to live than all our reasons to die. That’s why I don’t like suicide websites, and internet forums which focus only on the negative. I don’t need to be pulled down even lower when I’m already on the floor. I need to look up, and I need other people to help me look up. Empathy is important, but hope is more so. I’m glad I kept on hoping when everything seemed so hopeless. Because recovery is possible, and I could never have imagined back then, when I was twenty, with the paracetamol lined up and the hopelessness of despair beckoning me downwards, that life could be as hopeful and fruitful and positive and blessed as it is for me now. There is hope.”
— from the blog article ‘Suicide — to be or not to be?’ by Carolyn Spring
© Carolyn Spring 2015
Original blog article can be found at:
References and further reading
A short blog post about patient and therapist becoming allies in the goal of reducing distress.
PDF resource © Carolyn Spring 2019
In this blog post, Carolyn shares how she has struggled to manage her emotions and the practical steps she now takes to help calm down.
© Carolyn Spring 2018
Original blog article can be found at: https://www.carolynspring.com/blog/how-to-calm-down/
Carolyn describes how she went from finding the idea of ‘self care’ annoying and irrelevant, to really learning what it meant and putting it into practice, changing old patterns.
© Carolyn Spring 2011
Original blog article can be found at: https://www.carolynspring.com/blog/self-care/
More on self care! How hard it is, and yet how simple; how it doesn’t need to be bubble baths, and could be watching sport; it’s about rediscovering the things that bring you some joy.
© Carolyn Spring 2017
Original blog article can be found at: https://www.carolynspring.com/blog/self-care-what-would-you-do-for-you/
This is one version of a ‘safety kit’ – filled out here with examples.
© Carolyn Spring 2019
Original PDF poster can be found at: https://www.carolynspring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/emotional_thermometer.pdf
If you think it could be useful, try filling out your own.
© Carolyn Spring 2019
Original PDF poster can be found at: https://www.carolynspring.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/emotional_thermometer_blank.pdf
One example of an emergency box, some comforting items to have on hand when things are getting tough.
© Carolyn Spring 2019
Original PDF poster can be found at: https://www.carolynspring.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/emergency-box.pdf
A longer resource, this 100-page e-book for trauma survivors and those who work with and support them, providing explanations and help with flashbacks, triggers, and how to manage our mental health after trauma. It is free to download from Carolyn Spring’s website.
© Carolyn Spring 2021
Original PDF poster can be found at: https://www.carolynspring.com/shop/trauma-survivors-resource-guide
All our helpline workers have received some of Carolyn Spring’s training and can also talk through these resources, ideas and coping strategies with you via the helpline phones or webchat.
Get in touch
You can contact us via our Helpline
Telephone Helpline Opening Hours
Mon 10am-12noon / 1pm-3pm / 8pm-10pm
Tue 10am-12noon / 1pm-3pm / 8pm-10pm
Wed 10am-12noon / 1pm-3pm
Thu & Fri 10am-12noon
0345 458 2914
0117 916 6461
Webchat Opening Hours
Mon 1pm-3pm / 8pm-10pm
Tue 10am-12noon / 8pm-10pm
Thu & Fri 10am-12noon