Suicide Prevention and Crisis Intervention
IN AN EMERGENCY CALL (1-800-273-8255) National Hotline
1-800-799-4889 Deaf Hotline
Please contact your local Crisis Hot Line or Locate a Center Near You
In 2012, Clusterbusters visited the offices of SAMHSA, the agency charged with reducing suicide in the United States. Following these meetings, and working with the agency, we, along with our medical associates drafted training materials for all suicide hotline operators. No longer are the suicide hotlines unaware of “suicide headaches” and how best to handle such calls.
Suicide Prevention Hotlines Around the World for 24/7 Support
Clusterbusters is working on compiling a comprehensive list of suicide prevention hotlines around the world. If you don’t see your country listed, please let us know.
- United States National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
- Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland Lifeline: 116 123
- Austria: 017 133 374
- Belgium: 0800 32 123
- Denmark: 70 201 201
- Finland: 010 195 202
- France: 01 40 44 46 45
- Cyprus: 8000 7773
- Germany: 0800 111 0 111 / 0800 111 0 222
- Greece: 1018
- Hungary: 116 123
- Ireland (North and South ): 116 123
- Netherlands: 0900 0113
- >Italy: 800 86 00 22
- Norway: 116 123
- Poland: 89 19288
- Portugal: 225 50 60 70
- Spain: 717 003 717
- Sweden: 116 111
- Switzerland: 143
- United Kingdom: 116 123
If you are feeling suicidal…
There are several ways to find assistance:
- Check your phone directory for the listing of your local crisis center.
- http://suicidehotlines.com/ For suicide prevention and emotional crisis – helps find hotlines in your area
- http://www.befrienders.org/support/index.asp?PageURL=index.php (A 24-Hour confidential e-mail service by the Samaritans)
- Covenant House Nineline – 1-800-999-9999 – 24/7 free resource to help cope with stress, anxiety, loneliness, grief, anger, depression, thoughts of suicide and more.
- http://www.metanoia.org/suicide Contains conversations and writings for suicidal persons to read. If you’re feeling at all suicidal, be sure to read this page before you take any action. It might just save your life.
- http://suicidal.com/suicidalteens/ for teens and parents of teens
What to Do If a Loved One is Contemplating Suicide
It is a myth that people who plan to attempt suicide don’t talk about it beforehand. Research studies have shown that people do bring it up, even as a joke. If you are concerned that someone you know may be thinking of suicide, you can help.
Remember, as a helper, do not promise to do anything you do not want to do or that you cannot do.
If the person is actively suicidal, get help immediately. Call your local crisis service or the police, or take the person to the emergency room of your local hospital. Do not leave the person alone.
If the person has attempted suicide and needs medical attention, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency services number.
Avoiding the topic or staying silent about suicidal thoughts may make the circumstances worse. Many times, the situation is nowhere near as bleak as one believes it is in their head and talking about it can help. Mental health experts recommend these steps, according to the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Ask him or her if they’re thinking about killing themselves directly to open a dialogue.
- Pay close attention to the conversation and how your loved one is feeling and don’t leave them alone.
- Remove your loved one from an environment that could be lethal such as removing a weapon or dangerous object from the premises.
- Connect them with a suicide prevention specialist that’s central to your country. In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. International outlets can be found at the bottom of this page.
- Keep in touch with your family member or friend who is in crisis to make sure they know they’re loved, and that life is valuable.
Cluster headache attacks come on quickly, and the pain is likened to a hot poker, ice pick, or “brain freeze” that lasts hours, several times a day. It’s very common for suicidal thoughts to come up during attacks, and for some, during remission. Clusterheads live in fear of the next attack and are constantly concerned about available treatments to stop the pain.
When comforting someone with cluster headaches, please avoid comments that diminish the condition such as, “I’ve had one of those,” “Have you tried Excedrin Migraine?” or “Maybe you need to drink more water.” Remember that this is an established medical condition that is considered one of the most painful things a human being can experience and wanting to end the pain is a natural response.
Your reaction in these circumstances can provide a much-needed support system. Family and friends may play a critical role in suicide prevention as a sense of belonging, and understanding, along with supportive relationships and self-identity, can decrease the likelihood of self-harm.
Additional suggestions for helping someone who is suicidal include:
- Listen actively to what the person is saying to you. Remain calm and do not judge what you are being told. Do not advise the person not to feel the way they are.
- Reassure the person that there is help for their problems and reassure them that they are not “bad” or “stupid” because they are thinking about suicide.
- Help the person break down their problem(s) into more manageable pieces. It is easier to deal with one problem at a time.
- Emphasize that there are ways other than suicide to solve problems. Help the person to explore these options, for example, ask them what else they could do to change their situation.
- Offer to investigate counseling services.
- Do not agree to keep the person’s suicidal thoughts or plans a secret. Helping someone who is suicidal can be very stressful. Get help – ask family members and friends for their assistance and to share the responsibility.
- Suggest that the person see a doctor for a complete physical. Although there are many things that family and friends can do to help, there may be underlying medical problems that require professional intervention. Your doctor can also refer patients to a psychiatrist, if necessary.
- Try to get the person to see a trained counselor. Do not be surprised if the person refuses to go to a counselor – but be persistent. There are many types of caregivers for the suicidal. If the person will not go to a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, suggest, for example, they talk to a clergyperson, a guidance counselor or a teacher.
We hope these suggestions will help you. Don’t forget to check your phone directory for the number of the local crisis service.
How to Cope with Suicidal Thoughts and Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches have an intimate relationship with suicidality being nicknamed “Suicide Headaches.” When it comes to thoughts of killing oneself, clusterheads are more likely to want to kill the “beast,” meaning the pain itself, not themselves. When you’re in the throes of a cluster headache cycle and getting up to eight attacks every single day, you can reach desperation quickly. Remember that each attack will end. You survived the last one, and you will survive this one too, and there are throngs of other clusterheads who understand your pain and want to help you get better.
Connecting with other patients going through the same circumstances as you can greatly improve your condition both psychologically and physically. There are many treatment hacks and tips you won’t hear from your doctor that cluster patients swear by such as using energy drinks or energy shots to abort an attack at onset or using oxygen at a lower flow after an attack to prolong the time between attacks.
If you’re in a critical situation where suicide seems the only option, follow these steps:
- Call your local or national suicide prevention phone number (see next section) or emergency department to speak with a mental health professional.
- Speak with someone you trust and maintain regular communication, which could be a family member, friend, church, spiritual leader, or support groups, such as the Clusterbusters Forums or Facebook groups.
- Take care of your body through regular exercise and walks, trying something new, and getting proper rest and nutrition. (Although, sleep is a trigger for cluster headaches, which compounds the issue.)
- Practice self-care, including spending time with people you enjoy, avoiding getting “overwhelmed” with projects at work or school, and learning coping techniques.
- Do something you enjoy, like playing with animals, going out to eat, or watching your favorite movie.
Why Are Cluster Headaches Nicknamed Suicide Headaches?
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between ten and 34 according to the American Psychological Association. What’s more, is that suicidal ideations are more common in cluster headache patients, particularly during an attack. The largest cluster headache survey conducted found that 69 percent of the 2,270 patients surveyed had “some degree of suicidal ideations” during a cluster headache attack, compared to 31 percent who experienced these thoughts when in remission or out of cycle. Initial research into the suicidality in cluster headache patients by Clusterbusters in the early 2000s found that suicide attempts were 20 times the national average, which is why cluster headaches are commonly nicknamed “Suicide Headaches.”
There could be many reasons for the higher rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts in cluster headache patients such as the isolation and inability to sleep, but the severity of the pain is the most likely culprit. In the same survey, patients rated cluster headaches a 9.65 out of ten, compared to:
- Shingles 4.58/10
- Migraine Attack 5.55/10
- Gunshot Wound 6.51/10
- Kidney Stones 6.58/10
- Childbirth 7.15/10
- Pancreatitis 7.63/10
Despite the excruciating nature of these attacks, there are effective treatments, and you have a wealth of support at your hands. Cluster headache patients contemplating suicide are not alone in these thoughts. You may be isolated and in pain, but you are never alone. There are thousands of people just like you who are available nearly 24/7 to provide support. Clusterbusters has worked with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. to help volunteers speak with clusterheads who are in the middle of an attack and/or considering harming themselves.
Just like family members and loved ones may offer ineffective solutions to cluster headaches such as essential oils or drinking more water, some patients may be frustrated with lifeline volunteers who don’t understand the severity of the condition and compare it to episodic migraines and other disorders. That’s why Clusterbusters worked with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to improve the response for callers.
The risk factors for suicidal thoughts are unfortunately also common symptoms during a cluster headache attack such as agitation, extreme mood changes, self-isolation, and feeling trapped, but other warning signs include:
- Expressing interest in suicide
- Making preparations for killing oneself
- Consuming an increased amount of alcohol and drugs
- Talks about feeling hopeless
- Riskier or reckless behaviors
People who have had depression and other mental health concerns in the past may be more likely to need suicide prevention, and different situations can increase your risk, such as:
- Previous suicide attempts
- Substance abuse
- Chronic pain
- Physical and/or sexual abuse
- A traumatic event like the death of a loved one
- Financial problems
Mental illnesses and suicides spike on campus. What is surprising, however; is that only 25% of college students seek help for their mental health problems.
In order to help students who have considered, or previously attempted, suicide as they make their way to college, a comprehensive guide has been designed that aims to:
- Lower the stigma associated with suicide, depression, and getting help
Highlight suicide risk factors, warning signs, and high-risk populations
- Demonstrate how to find a college with strong mental health resources
Suicide Prevention Guide.