How to deal with suicidal thoughts

Graphic shows three young people walking across a football pitch. Above their heads is a cloud, which represents coping with suicidal thoughts, and a bolt of lightning

Trigger warning: This article contains references to suicide and suicidal thoughts.

Suicide isn’t an easy thing to understand, and working out how to deal with suicidal thoughts can feel overwhelming. Here’s a guide to dealing with suicidal thoughts and how to help someone who’s struggling with them.

Find help for suicidal thoughts

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, know that you’re not alone and that we’re here to help you, whenever and wherever you need us.

Contact our Crisis Messenger 24 hours a day, who are there to support you with whatever you’re going through.

You can also contact Samaritans, CALM, or Papyrus, who specialise in supporting people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Suicide is preventable and with support, you can regain control suicidal thoughts and make them stop.

Why do people have suicidal thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts are often the result of a build–up of emotional, mental or physical pain, or a combination of all three, which leave you feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.

Anyone can experience a mental health crisis, which can sometimes lead to suicidal thoughts. This can happen for many different reasons and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. The thoughts can develop over time, or appear suddenly if you experience trauma.

I’m having suicidal thoughts, what should I do?

  • If you can, speak to someone you trust and tell them how you’re feeling.
  • Try to stay safe. Agree with yourself that you won’t act impulsively and keep away from items you could use to hurt yourself.
  • Think about the people who are important in your life and focus on them.
  • Think about things you might like to achieve in the future.
  • If you’re thinking about ending your life, call 999 and the emergency services will come and help you.

How to cope with suicidal thoughts

There are some simple coping strategies you can turn to when things feel difficult and overwhelming. Sometimes when you have suicidal thoughts, you can experience a numbness and disassociation from your surroundings.

To bring yourself back you can try:

  • Eating something sour or bitter.
  • Holding something cold or warm and notice how it feels.
  • Cuddling your pet.
  • Concentrating on your breathing.

To help you feel more in control you can try:

  • Counting down from 100 to one or singing your favourite song.
  • Breaking your day into small parts by writing a to-do list and checking it off.
  • Writing down three things you have achieved in the past week, no matter how small.

To experience an emotional release you can try:

  • Punching a pillow.
  • Shouting or screaming out loud.
  • Throwing eggs or ice cubes at a wall.
  • Popping some bubble wrap.

To express how you’re feeling you can try:

  • Writing down negative thoughts and feelings and challenging them – why might they not be true?
  • Drawing or painting how you’re feeling.
  • Writing a letter to let your loved ones know how you’re feeling (you don’t have to send it).

Try making a safety plan, so you and others know what to do if you experience a crisis. You can fill this Papyrus worksheet out and print it out.

Watch our short film about young men and suicide

How can I cope when I get triggered?

Sometimes a conversation, an event or a piece of content related to suicide can upset you, or trigger a mental health crisis. There are things you can do to cope with being triggered, which should calm you down and help you detach from the thing which has triggered you:

  • Take slow deep breaths.
  • Try some mindfulness meditation.
  • Go for a walk or a swim.
  • Take some time to rest and recover.
  • Talk to someone you trust.
  • Use the coping techniques we listed earlier in the article.

How do I tell someone I’m having suicidal thoughts?

Telling someone how you feel might be difficult, but it’s the first step towards keeping yourself safe. You might start by talking to a friend or someone in your family.

Try telling that person how you’re feeling and what you need. If you don’t feel you can say it out loud, you could write them a letter.

Be prepared that the person you’re telling might have an emotional reaction. You should also be aware that they won’t be able to keep this a secret – they will be concerned for your safety so will probably seek support.

If you don’t feel comfortable telling someone close to you, you can talk to your doctor (who can refer you to a mental health professional), a teacher or speak to our team.

My friend is having suicidal thoughts, how can I help them?

Starting a conversation about suicide can be scary and it’s hard to know where to start, but it could also save someone’s life.

If you’re worried about a friend or family member, check out this link for some warning signs of suicide.

Talking about suicide reduces the stigma and makes people feel more able to share their feelings.

  • You could start by asking the person directly whether they are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Let them talk and really listen and respond to what they’re saying.
  • Let them know they’re not alone and that you’re there to support them.

Check out this article from one of our volunteers on recovering from suicidal thoughts.

Take look at this Papyrus resource if you want to help someone with suicidal thoughts.

Thanks to CPSL Mind and Papyrus for their resources and advice.

For further help and support:

  • Check out our other resources around the issue of suicide here.
  • Papyrus supports young people who are feeling suicidal – you can call, email or text them. Call on 0800 068 41 41.
  • Anyone can contact the Samaritans on their 24-hour helpline to talk things through. 116 123.
  • CALM is dedicated to preventing male suicide. Call their national helpline for free on 0800 58 58 58, 5pm-midnight, or visit their webchat service .
  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • Mind offers advice and support to people with mental health problems. Check out this page if you’re looking for a peer support group. Their helpline runs nine to six from Monday to Friday. 0300 123 339.

Next Steps

  • Anyone can contact the Samaritans on their 24-hour helpline to talk things through. 116 123
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 12-Apr-2023

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