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Suicidal Thoughts - a guide

Dealing with suicidal thoughts


If you need help RIGHT NOW, please contact the Samaritans or other national helpline

There are times in life when we might feel totally, hopeless, helpless, overwhelmed with emotional pain.  It can seem like there is no other way out of our problems, we've run out of ideas, possible solutions.  Our problems seem unfixable.  The pain feels like it will never end. We believe we've run out of options, and suicide is the only answer left.

Maybe the suicidal thoughts come to mind, you might have mixed feelings about them.  Suicidal thoughts are very common, but can be frightening and confusing.  We tend to avoid talking about them, so we don't realise how common they are.

Suicidal thoughts are a sign to change something in your life - NOT to end your life!

For some people, suicide may be a way of getting back at others, or showing them how much pain you're in.  But after suicide, you won't be there to see that they feel guilty, or finally understand your pain.

Feelings will pass.  Depression feels permanent, but it's transient.  Things will change.  Depression comes and it goes. 

Over 90% of people who survive a potentially lethal suicide attempt, do not go on to kill themselves. 

It is a temporary crisis, an attempt to stop the inner pain. You will get through this tunnel and come out the other side. The feelings will pass!

Depression and pain distort our thinking.  It can seem like we're wearing very dark tinted 'gloomy specs'.  Everything looks different to how it really is. 

Thoughts are thoughts
 - not necessarily how things are, although it certainly feels like the thoughts are true.  Thoughts affect the way we feel, and thoughts and feelings affect the way we react, what we do (see CBT page).

Suicidal thoughts can result when we experience too much pain, without having enough resources to cope.


We therefore have two ways to get us through this horrible time:

  • Reduce our pain - felt both emotionally and physically

  • Increase our coping resources




  • Do something that will help you feel better, right now

  • Perhaps collect items into an emergency bag or box that you can turn to

  • Use all five senses to find things that will soothe you

Focus your attention on looking at something nice, nature, a painting, watching a favourite programme or movie

Listen to a favourite piece of music, sounds of nature, sing

Really notice smells - favourite soap, food, essential oil

Use sensation of taste to focus your attention.  Eat mindfully - savouring each moment

Wear soft comforting socks, stroke a pet, give yourself a hand massage

A useful reminder, using the 5 senses, to help you shift focus of attention and ground you into the present moment:

5 things I can see

4  things I can hear

3 things I can touch

2 things I can smell or taste

1 breath.  Then continue to just notice your breathing and the sensations of breathing in  your belly

Avoid drugs and alcohol

  • Whilst it seems like they help for a while, they will make your problems worse.

Ask yourself:

  • Are these thoughts facts or my opinionThey may FEEL true, but are they actually true?  (Talk to someone to hear what they have to say! or ask yourself "What would x say about this?")

  • What has helped me feel better in the past?

  • What can I do right now that will help me feel better?

  • What gives my life meaning?  What are my goals, dreams or life values?  E.g. Family, friends, pets, helping others, faith, spirituality, community life, connecting with nature.

Tell yourself:

  • Use positive coping statements

  • I've coped this far, I can get through the next .... (day, hour, 10 minutes)

  • Things will look better in time.

  • Depression is temporary - this will pass.

  • Depression is distorting my thinking - these thoughts are the voice of depression.  They are not facts.  I don't have to act on them.

  • The vast majority of people get better from depression.  I will look back and be pleased that I chose to live.

Write things down


Take one step at a time

  • Take things a little at a time.  Set out to get through the next day, the next week or month, perhaps the next hour or even less.  Tell yourself:  "I've got through so far, I can get through the next hour".

Grounding Techniques

Help for Distress - Now


  • Do something else, and focus your attention fully on what you're doing, e.g.

  • Gardening

  • Household chores

  • Physical exercise - walk, run, cycle, dance

  • Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique)

  • Reading - magazine, self help book

  • Television

  • Seek out a supportive discussion forum on the internet

  • Learn something new on the internet

  • Use an Imagery technique
  • Help someone else

  • Go to the park, the beach - pay attention to nature

  • Visit someone

  • Music

  • Stroke a pet

  • DIY

  • Feed the birds

  • Sudoku or crossword

  • Do something creative:  painting, writing, knitting, play a musical instrument, make a collage, bake a cake, cook a meal, arrange some flowers, make a website or blog

(or worksheet PDF version) 

Talk to someone - now!

  • A friend or family member

  • telephone helpline  (E.g. Samaritans 116 123)

  • A health professional

  • Go somewhere you'll feel safe - be with other people

  • Go to the local Accident & Emergency department

  • Call the local emergency number (E.g. 999, 112, 911)






Take action!

  • We can only change our situations by changing something about the way we think, or what we do

  • Complete a Multimodal Treatment Plan

Plan activity and routine

Look after yourself

Systematically work through a problem

Maintain or improve relationships

Lower your expectations

  • Sometimes life can feel like we're struggling to drive or cycle up a long and steep hill, in top gear.  The motor just can't get us there.  It works really hard, but it's impossible to get up that steep hill in top gear.  We need to change down a gear or two.  Changing down gives the motor more torque, and is much better able to drive those wheels up that hill, albeit a bit slower.

  • We often try to struggle on in top gear, expecting so much of ourselves, of others, of life itself.  Sometimes we need to change down a gear.  Slow it down, reduce the struggle.  Carry on, but in a lower gear.

  • Pace & Plan  PDF

Write a daily diary or journal, or use these worksheets:

Use Self Help MP3s

Self Help Videos

One man's experience of wanting to kill himself : Reasons to stay alive

This page as PDF

Learn effective skills online - The Decider Skills For Self Help  online course.


If you need help RIGHT NOW...

Call the Samaritans  116 123 

Call another national helpline

Contact your local services

Call a trusted friend or family member

Call the emergency number 999

Go somewhere you feel safe - where you'll be with others

Go to your local Emergency Department





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