Surviving suicidal thoughts

Have you made specific plans? Might you act impulsively on your thoughts? It is vital that you GET HELP NOW! Go directly to ‘Feeling like I want to die?

A risky habit

Suicidal intentions are prompted by a desperate need for relief from intensely painful feelings. Surviving suicidal thoughts is about learning how to find relief without resorting to suicide.

Simply having suicidal thoughts does not mean you will act on them. However, the habit of repeatedly thinking about suicide is a risky one. Repetition brings a sense of falsely comforting familiarity. It dulls the instinctive recoil from danger. Though it may be difficult, hold on to the belief that there ARE ways to resist depression and find relief.

Making a safety plan

A Safety Plan helps you plan ahead for the times when you may feel particularly low and at risk of acting on your suicidal thoughts. It is a way to personalise and summarise the possible strategies for taking care of yourself.

A Safety Plan supports your healthier self – the bit of you that wants to hold on and survive – when things are hard and you are feeling overwhelmed. The strategies listed here offer a solid foundation for creating a safety plan and for working towards breaking the suicidal thinking habit:

Make a commitment to yourself

When you notice thoughts of suicide, challenge the self-bullying habit and make a commitment to taking care of yourself as best you possibly can for the moment. Remind yourself to follow your Safety Plan if you have made one, or you can use the general safety plan set out on the ‘Feeling like you want to die?’ page.

Attend to your self care needs

Suicidal thoughts arise as a result of deeply painful feelings of despair and hopelessness. Recognise the pain you are feeling as something which needs a compassionate and caring response. Practise constructive ways to take care of yourself when you are feeling this way (see ‘Taking care of yourself’ for ideas about self care and self soothing).

Tell someone how you’re feeling

Tell someone else how you are feeling or get someone to be with you. Be prepared for non-professionals to be shocked by what you tell them, and don’t expect a ‘perfect’ response – it is always better to make human contact than to stay isolated and alone with your thoughts.

Reduce the risks

Protect yourself from impulsively acting on your thoughts by putting dangerous objects out of immediate reach. Preferably give pills, weapons etc to someone else for safe-keeping, but even putting them in a locked or inaccessible place makes it a little harder to act impulsively.

Plan to get professional help

It is unreasonable to see suicide as the only solution if you haven’t sought any professional help for your depression and suicidal thinking. Doctors and counsellors help many people move on from depression. and get appropriate help. You may need to challenge yourself about what’s stopping you getting help.

Check medication side effects

Be aware that some anti-depressant medication can increase the risk of suicidal thinking, especially when you first start taking them. Also, when the medication first starts taking effect it can increase your energy and motivation before improving your mood, increasing the risk of acting on suicidal thoughts. Talk to your doctor about the risks and be extra vigilant with other strategies for keeping yourself safe.

Check alchohol and drugs

Both alcohol and drugs tend to reduce your inhibitions and make it more likely you could do something you will regret the next day. Check your alcohol/drug consumption and try to cut down. Try not to drink alone or to end up alone after drinking.

Minimise time spent alone

Depression and suicidal thinking thrive in isolation. Try to minimise time spent alone in your room – take work to the library, ask friends to be with you at vulnerable times, make plans ahead for weekends and other lonelier times, generally work on building your support networks.

Give yourself small goals

Each evening set yourself small tasks or goals for the next day. It can be something as simple as watching a certain TV programme. Or set yourself another task as soon as you have completed one. Just knowing you can still do things you set for yourself despite feeling low can help combat depression.

Identify depressed thinking habits

Suicidal thinking is the ultimate all-or-nothing thinking habit, and the culmination of other habits of depressed thinking which intensify the depression habit spiral. Learn more about identifying and challenging depressed thinking, particularly self bullying.

Start breaking the suicidal thinking habit

We can’t stop thoughts from entering our heads, but we can stop actively inviting them in. Try to stop using thoughts of suicide as a barometer for how bad you are feeling. Use self soothing or distraction techniques (see ‘Focusing outward’) when you notice thoughts about suicide bothering you, or practise other techniques for challenging depressed thinking.

Understand some of the reasons for suicidal thinking

Because suicide is such a taboo, you may not be aware of how common it is for people to think about suicide and of the various general reasons for suicidal thinking. Read ‘Thinking about suicide’ and ‘Making sense of suicide’ and assess your own suicidal thinking habit to identify which reasons are relevant to you.

Work on rebuilding meaning in your life

Depression works to drain assumed meaning out of life and challenges us to take responsibility for making our lives meaningful. Challenge the cynicism or perfectionism which may be preventing you from embracing hopeful or constructive ideals and goals for your life.

Next: Thinking about suicide

Take Action

Make a safety plan


Take care of yourself
Consulting counsellors & doctors
Depression and the meaning of life