What are suicidal thoughts and suicide?
Suicidal thoughts are thoughts about hurting yourself or taking your own life. Suicide is the act of taking your own life.
Suicidal thoughts may include:
- Feeling trapped or hopeless and like you need an escape
- Feeling like it is too painful, overwhelming, or sad to continue living
- Focusing on death, dying, or violence
- Feeling that friends and family would be better off without you
A person who is suicidal may:
- Make statements such as, "I wish I were dead," or "I wish I had never been born"
- Think about or actually find ways to commit suicide, such as buying a gun
- Withdraw from friends, family, and social situations
- Say goodbyes to family and friends, as if they don't expect to see them again
- Abuse alcohol or drugs, or engage in other risky behaviors
- Have personality changes or mood swings
What causes suicidal thoughts?
Suicidal thoughts can happen to anyone – young and old, male and female – for a number of reasons. Usually, suicidal thoughts occur when a person is in intense emotional pain and doesn't see a way out. The things that cause this type of pain are different for everyone.
Even though it may feel like your pain will never end, know that thoughts of suicide often are caused by a treatable health problem, such as depression. Depression is a serious medical condition that changes the chemicals in your brain and affects your moods, thoughts, and emotions. It can make it hard or even impossible for you to feel happy, remember good times, or see the solutions to your problems. Even if you have been treated for depression in the past, you may need to try other treatments before finding the one that works best for you.
How can someone cope with suicidal thoughts?
Give it time. You do not have to act on your suicidal thoughts. Make a promise to yourself that you will give yourself time to ask for help and seek treatment.
Reach out for help. You are not alone. You may feel like your loved ones don't care about you or are better off without you. But know that, even if it doesn't feel like it right now, people want to help you. So tell someone what's going on. Call a friend or family member, your family doctor, or a clergy member. Or, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).
Avoid things that trigger suicidal thoughts. These things are different for everyone, but common triggers include being alone, drinking alcohol, and doing drugs. Instead, spend time with family or friends every day. Make your home safe by getting rid of alcohol, drugs, and the things that you used or planned to use to hurt yourself.
Take care of your health and wellness. Follow your doctor's eating and exercise advice. Get plenty of sleep. Learn how to deal with stress. Find and do things that you enjoy. If you're taking medicine to treat depression, take the right amount at the right time.
This content has been supported by Forest Laboratories Inc.
- National Institute of Mental Health. Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention. Accessed October 12, 2012
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Suicide Prevention. Accessed October 18, 2012
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.