Having suicidal thoughts
If you are feeling suicidal, or if you want to end your life, it’s important that you keep yourself safe. Try to remember that thoughts about taking your life are just thoughts. You don’t have to act on them, no matter how overwhelming they are or how often you have them. You won’t always have these thoughts.
Why do people want to end their lives?
Sometimes living can be very painful, and problems can seem overwhelming. At some point, many people think about suicide, but do not plan or act on it. However, for others, the thought of suicide might begin to seem like a real alternative to a problem or situation that appears hopeless.
Situations that might contribute to a feeling of hopelessness include:
- Family problems
- Sexual, physical or mental abuse
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression
- The death of a loved one
- School or work problems
- Unemployment or being unemployed for a long time
- Feeling like you don’t belong anywhere
- Any problem that seems hopeless
Is deliberate self-harm the same as wanting to end your life?
Wanting to end your life is not necessarily the same as deliberate self-harm. Deliberate self-harm, such as cutting or burning oneself, is often a tactic used to cope with difficult or painful feelings. However, most people who engage in deliberate self-harm don’t wish to die. Check out the Deliberate self-harm fact sheet.
What to do if you want to end your life
Everyone goes through tough times and feels hopeless every now and then. It is possible to get through these times by creating your own “tool kit” of strategies to cope with these feelings. Here are some suggestions to help you cope:
- Postpone any decision to end your life: While it may feel like you have to act now, try to postpone your decision. Keep a list of things you can do to distract yourself. This might include watching a DVD or going to the movies, playing a game, calling a friend, chatting online, exercising, reading a book, or listening to music. Take these actions when your negative feelings start to surface. Many people report that by postponing a decision to die, they found that their lives changed. They were able to get the support they needed and could move on to a better, happier place.
- Tell someone: Although it might seem like a bigger challenge than ending your life, it is important to reach out to others who might help you find alternative ways to solve a problem and realize what’s important to you. You can talk to a family member, friend, counselor, teacher, religious leader, or anyone that you feel comfortable with. If that person doesn’t believe you or doesn’t want to listen, keep trying until someone else does. Sometimes, people don’t react well at first because they don’t know how to react. Although it might be hard, this isn’t your fault. Don’t give up! If you are having difficulty talking about what you’re going through, you can start with sentences like “Right now, I’m feeling…”; “I think it started when…”; “I’ve been feeling this for a while…”; or ”Lately school/work has been…”
- Call a crisis helpline: If you’re having difficulty talking to people you know about how you’re feeling, call a crisis line: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or youth helpline Your Life Your Voice at 1-800-448-3000, run by Boys Town (for everyone) are both anonymous, free 24-hour help lines.
- Write down your feelings: Writing down your feelings or keeping a journal can be a great way of understanding how you’re reacting to a particular situation. It can also help you think about alternative solutions to the problems you’re facing.
- Set small goals: Sometimes people set goals that are almost unachievable, and then they feel worse when they can’t reach those goals. Try to set goals that are achievable for you, even if they’re on a day-to-day or hour-to-hour basis. And remember to reward yourself for reaching these goals, too!
- Exercise and eat well: Even though you might not feel like it, exercising and eating well can help when you are feeling down. Biological factors, as well as social factors, influence how you feel and how you think about yourself and the world around you. Exercise helps stimulate hormones like endorphins, which help you feel better about yourself and your life. If you haven’t done a lot of exercise before, it might be a good idea to start with something small a couple of times each week. A 15-minute walk or two or three laps in a pool can be a good place to start.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol Try not to use drugs or alcohol in the hopes that they will make you feel better. The high you get from drugs and alcohol is usually temporary, and the after effects often make the problems worse.
- Talk to a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or other mental health professional. Psychiatrists are mental health professionals who have special training in mental illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia and suicide. Clinical psychologists and mental health counselors have a similar training, but don’t administer medication like psychiatrists can. You might be able to find a psychiatrist or psychologist through your medical doctor, your local community health center, or local psychiatry and psychology associations. Also, check out the Get Help section on ReachOut for more information on how these professionals can help.
This video from our we can help us campaign, has more information around overcoming suicidal thoughts:
Information for this fact sheet
Last edited by Kristie - April, 2014.