Depression | Coping With Suicidal Thoughts

Last Updated February 2024 | This article was created by editorial staff and reviewed by Leisa Bailey, MD

Suicidal thoughts are thoughts about hurting yourself or taking your own life. Suicide is the act of taking your own life. Suicide can be linked to depression. 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. Suicide is often preventable.

There are multiple risk factors for suicide, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Poor physical and mental health
  • A history of violence
  • A family history of suicide
  • Having weapons in your home
  • Having recently been released from a long stay in prison or jail
  • Hanging out with others who talk about suicide or encourage you to take your own life
  • Traumatic events

Path to improved well being

Even though it feels like your pain will never end, suicidal thoughts often are caused by a treatable health problem. This includes physical medical conditions such as depression. Depression is a serious medical condition. It changes the chemicals in your brain. It affects your moods, thoughts, and emotions. It can make it hard or impossible for you to feel happy, remember good times, or see solutions to your problems. If you have been treated for depression in the past, you may need to try other treatments to find the one that works.

Some of the things you can do when you are feeling depressed include:

  • Reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). You are not alone. You may feel like your loved ones don’t care. But people want to help you. Tell someone what’s going on. Call a friend or family member, your family doctor, or your church.
  • Avoid things that trigger suicidal thoughts. These things are different for everyone. Common triggers include being alone, drinking alcohol, and doing drugs. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, don’t skip your medicine. Take the right amount at the right time.
  • Work with a professional. This could be a psychiatrist or a counselor. Don’t be afraid to open up to the professional. You should tell them what you are feeling and don’t hide anything.

Things to consider

Suicidal warning signs include:

  • Feeling trapped or hopeless
  • Feeling like you need an escape
  • Feeling unbearable physical or emotional pain
  • Focusing on death, dying, or violence
  • Feeling that friends and family would be better off without you
  • Making a plan or searching for a way to take your life
  • Feeling guilt or shame
  • Using drugs and alcohol more frequently
  • Increased anxiety
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • No longer having an interest in the things you used to enjoy
  • Changed eat and sleep patterns
  • Extreme anger, rage, or revenge
  • Giving away things that once mattered to you
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Writing a note, making a will, or putting your affairs in order

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What’s the difference between depression and feeling down?
  • Does everyone think about suicide at one time or another, even if it’s short-lived?
  • Is there medicine I can take?


After a Suicide Attempt

Lifesavers Guide

LGBT Suicide Prevention

National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Supporting Your Loved One after Suicide Attempt

Talk Saves Lives

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