Are you thinking about suicide? How to stay safe and find treatment
Medically reviewed on January 31, 2018
When life doesn't seem worth living anymore, it may seem that the only way to find relief is through suicide. When you're feeling this way, it may be hard to believe, but you do have other options.
Take a step back and separate your emotions from your actions for the moment.
- Recognize that depression and hopelessness can distort your perceptions and reduce your ability to make good decisions.
- Realize that suicidal feelings are the result of treatable problems.
- Act as if there are other options instead of suicide, even if you may not see them right now.
It may not be easy, and you might not feel better overnight. Eventually, though, the sense of hopelessness — and thoughts of suicide — will lift.
Get immediate help
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, get help right away by taking one of these actions:
- Call your mental health specialist.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Seek help from your doctor or other health care provider.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
Learn coping strategies
Don't try to manage suicidal thoughts or behavior on your own. You need professional help and support to overcome the problems linked to suicidal thinking.
Your doctor or mental health provider can help you identify coping strategies tailored to your specific situation. Consider discussing these coping strategies with people who know you well, such as family members or trusted friends.
You may be advised to do things you don't feel like doing, such as talking with friends when you'd rather stay in your bedroom all day. It will get easier to do such things as they become habits.
Make a plan for life
Create a written plan of action or a "safety plan" with your mental health provider that you can refer to when you're considering suicide or in a crisis. Learn to spot your warning signs early, so you can put your plan into action.
Your plan is a checklist of activities and actions you promise to do, so you can stay safe when you have thoughts of suicide, such as:
- Contact your doctor, therapist or crisis center to help you cope with suicidal thoughts
- Call a supportive family member or friend who can help you cope with your suicidal thoughts
- Try specific healthy and enjoyable activities when negative thoughts start to intrude
- Review why your life is valuable and the reasons to live
Even if the immediate crisis passes with your self-care strategies, see a doctor or mental health provider. This will help you get appropriate treatment for suicidal thoughts and feelings so that you don't have to continually operate in a crisis mode.
As a foundation for your plan, take these steps:
- Stick with your treatment plan. Commit to taking your medication as prescribed and attending all treatment sessions and appointments.
- Keep a list of contact names and numbers readily available. Include your doctors, therapists and crisis centers that can help you cope with suicidal thoughts. Include friends or loved ones who agree to be available as part of your safety plan.
- Remove potential means of killing yourself. This may include ridding your home of guns, razors or other objects you may consider using to hurt or kill yourself. If possible, give your medications to someone who can safeguard them for you and help you take them as prescribed.
- Schedule daily activities. Activities that brought you small pleasure in the past can make a difference — such as listening to music, watching a funny movie or visiting a museum. Or try something different. Because physical activity and exercise may reduce depression symptoms, consider walking, jogging, swimming, gardening or a new activity.
- Get together with others. Establish your support network by reaching out to friends, family and people who care about you and are there when you need them. Make an effort to be social, even if you don't feel like it, to prevent isolation.
- Join a support group. Joining a support group can help you cope with suicidal thinking and recognize that there are many options in your life other than suicide.
- Avoid drug and alcohol use. Rather than numb painful feelings, alcohol and drugs can increase suicidal thoughts and the likelihood of harming yourself by making you more impulsive and more likely to act on your self-destructive feelings.
- Avoid risky websites on the Internet. Stay away from websites that may encourage suicide as a way to solve your problems.
- Write about your thoughts and feelings. Consider writing about the things in your life that you value and appreciate, no matter how small they may seem at the time.
Look beyond thoughts of suicide
The hopelessness you feel as you consider suicide may be the side effect of a difficult situation or an illness that can be treated. This emotion can be so overpowering that it clouds your judgment and leads you to believe that taking your own life is the best, or only, option.
- Recognize that these feelings are temporary and that with appropriate treatment you can learn how to help yourself feel better about life again. Asking others for support can help you see that you have other options and give you hope about the future.
- Create a list of the reasons you have to live. This list can include being alive for your pet, your children, a favorite niece, or something that you enjoy doing at work or at home. It doesn't matter what the list includes, but finding a sense of purpose in your life can make a difference.
By getting proper treatment and using effective coping strategies, you can learn to manage or eliminate suicidal thoughts and develop a more satisfying life.