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Fact Sheet

Suicidal thoughts: wanting to end your life


ReachOut fact sheets are written by young people for young people and edited by a mental health professional. Want to discuss the topic in more depth? Visit the ReachOut Forums.

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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:

  • Break-ups
  • 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.

Information for this fact sheet

U.S. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration Strategy for Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Your Life Your Voice, run by Boys Town (for everyone)

Last edited by Kristie - April, 2014.



  • avatar2

    Reply - Quote


    hello my name is alicia

    ok so heres my story of my life starting now about how i feel and going into the beggining i remember almost every detail since i was four but not most of the good details just the bad ones i promised i won’t do anything to hurt myself ever i had only tried once but itold haley about that and she told the counselor like i had her do ever since then i was sworn to never do it again but i still thnk about it i still have panick attacks i have haad panic attacks since i was four but i didn’t know how to controll them i had them rarely but now days they happen at school as well every one ask me if im ok when i get to school they think if they ask it will help but it only makes it worse it makes me think of every bad thing and when people ask if im ok it makes me think about my past and a ll, the mental and verbal fights my parents had when i was four all i remember is the worst fight my parents ever had i was in my house we lived in [...], mississippi its was my first panick attack i was just walking around the house when i came accross my parents room i could hear slight talking it wasn’t yelling but it was talking. simple talking. i decided i would walk in at the moment they started to yell so i could try to get them to stop. wich was a bad i dea on my part cause the second i walked in i almost got hit by a peice of glass that one of them threw i don’t remember if i stayed but i do remember running to my room and curling up in a ball my head was tucked in between my knees and my hads hugged my knees i rocked back and forth and cried how i remember this i do not know i just do still today i think that these parts of my life will become the greatest story that anymay have heard most of it will have been hard times in my life but if i get through with them anyone who has a hard time like i did will be able to read my book and figure out just what to do rather than end their life immediately they can learn the way i did but with todays future i don’t think books will be made by time mine gets published and sent out people may never read my story they would hear a few word here and there but they won’t understand no one understands how hard it is to be me life is hard i get that a lot but that doesn’t change well it didn’t change how i felt about everything i learned this when i was six my parents had again another fight and was involved in it i don’t see why i always had the urge to try and stop them but i did it was here i indiana where i live i was playing in the snow when i got too cold so i came in i heard my parents yelling so went to find them to have them stop they were yelling and i think that was their first physical fight they had im not sure about the others but my dad had pushed my mum up against the wall and i had screamed at him he was so angry he didn’t know what to do so he shoved me out of the room all i remeber after that was noises yelling and me hitting the door i had another panic attack then i remember another fight it was a few years after that i was eight my parenyts were yelling i had called my grandma and she called the police i had a panic attack when the police came so i hid away im my room i don’t remember anything besides passing out from hyperventiallation ( im nnot sure how to spell that) i woke up in the hospital but thats about all i remember. another was when i was ten they started getting physical then like really physical i don’t remember what they did but all i remember is the police coming and taking my dad and me haveing two panic attacks after that times at home got worse my parents fought more and more each day and every night i cry and cry as i sit alone in my bed curled up in a ball i still do this now when i am at schooli can’t help but to remember each and every fight they have or had and what makes them worse is when everyone crowds around me im also claustraphobic so that makes it worse now you haley and the counselors know my story what am i to do to get better i don’t know but i hope i find a way to break this shell soon


    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote


      Hi Alicia,

      It sounds like things have been very hard for you, and we’re really sorry about that.  One thing you can always do is call the Boys Town Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.  They’re available 24/7 to talk to you about whatever you need to talk about!  This fact sheet might also give you some ideas about ways to cope with family fights, as well:

      We wish you the best!
      —The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

    Reply - Quote


    I’ve suffered from self harm for the past year and a half. I’m 16 and I have had many people try and help me. It’s not just self harm, it’s alcohol abuse, suicidal thoughts/dreams and attempts as well as eating disorders. I’ve been admitted to hospital for cutting and overdosing and I still continue to feel the same and I’m struggling. I’ve talked to a lady at camhs she helped and then it stopped and I went down hill again, now in college I speak to several different people and nothing is helping all I want to do is end my life or make everything better. To be honest ending my life seems the easiest way at the moment! My mum shouts at me because I want to end my life and it feels no one cares yet I’m the one oh always goes out my way to help others with mental health problems! The worst thing is that my sister was raped 4 years ago and she only came out with it at the beginning of the year, I find it difficult to deal with this and everyone else as well as college I can’t do it anymore. I constantly cut and feel the need to not eat, drink too much and want to commit suicide. I don’t know what I can do anymore :’(

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote


      Hey there,

      It’s a LOT that you’re dealing with, so of course you feel overwhelmed!  You’re human!  We’re just so sorry that all of this is happening.

      You said that you’ve talked in the past to someone from camhs—is that an option again?  Talking to someone helps so much.  You could also call the Samaritans at 08457 90 90 90 and have a chat with them as well.

      We are concerned for you, and hope you make a call to one of these helping agencies!

      Take care,
      The ReachOut Crew

  • avatar2

    Reply - Quote


    It’s true; nobody understands me. I don’t belong anywhere.

    • avatar1

      Reply - Quote


      Hi Kristin. Sometimes life is overwhelming and it may seem like you are alone, but you are not alone. There are people out there who share your experiences and will understand. If you need someone to talk to, please call the Boys Town Hotline at 1-800-448-3000 or visit to chat or email. It’s free, available 24/7, confidential, and not just for boys.

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