Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts

If you or someone you know is in danger of harming themselves or someone else, please call 112 or 999, or go to the emergency department of your local general hospital. 

Reaching out for help:

We have put together two pages that outline ways you can seek help. The first one is a link to sources of help if it is an emergency or crisis situation – it is an emergency if you can’t keep yourself safe, or if you don’t want to. The second page gives guidance on how to ask for help for your mental health in a non-emergency situation.

If you are feeling suicidal, or having thoughts about suicide, there are a few important things to remember.

  • You matter.
  • You can get better and deserve to get help to get better.
  • There are people that want to help. Feeling suicidal can be really scary, but you are not alone.
  • Suicide and suicidal thoughts can affect anyone of any age or background.
  • The earlier you talk about how you are feeling and get help, the sooner it can start to get better.
  • It’s ok to not know where to start, or to not be sure who to tell, what to say, or to be unsure about how they might react.
  • Most people will want to help you and will care about how you are feeling, and if they don’t know how to help, can help find someone who does know. 

Having suicidal thoughts does not make you a bad person. It makes you a human being going through a tough time. There is no shame in feeling like this, or in asking for help about it. 

What does feeling suicidal feel like? 

If you feel suicidal, you might generally think you just want to die – or you might have more specific thoughts, about how or when you will take your own life. You might have more abstract or vague feelings about suicide, such as feeling that your friends or family would be better off without you, or that you want to put an end to pain and suffering. 

It can feel different for different people – you might feel like you are unable to cope with your feelings, and like you can’t go on. These feelings can build over time, or they can change from moment to moment, and there might not always be a clear reason why you feel this way; it may be a combination of different things. 

Here are some things you might feel if you are having suicidal thoughts: 

  • Hopeless, like there is no point in living 
  • Tearful and overwhelmed with persistent negative thoughts 
  • Unbearable pain that you can’t see ending (this might be emotional pain) 
  • Useless or not wanted or needed by others 
  • Desperate, like you have no other choice 
  • Like you are a burden, and that everyone else would be better off without you 
  • Cut off from your body or physically numb 
  • Fascinated or preoccupied with death 

Here are some things you might experience if you are having suicidal thoughts:

  • Poor quality sleep, including waking up early 
  • A change in your appetite or weight in either direction 
  • Not wanting to take care of yourself, for example, neglecting your appearance 
  • Withdrawing from others, or from things you normally enjoy  
  • Making a will or giving your things away 
  • Struggling to communicate 
  • Self-loathing or low self-esteem 
  • Urges to self-harm 
  • Loss of interest in work or education 

What can contribute to feeling suicidal?

  • Having no support network around you
  • Mental health problems or mental illness 
  • Bullying or discrimination 
  • Any kind of abuse 
  • Bereavement or loss
  • End of a relationship 
  • Long term physical pain or illness 
  • Big life changes such as losing your job or moving home 
  • Financial problems 
  • Housing or accommodation problems 
  • Isolation or loneliness 
  • Addiction or substance misuse 
  • Being in prison 
  • Feeling inadequate or like a failure 
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, or post-natal depression 
  • Uncertainty about our gender or sexual identity 
  • Cultural pressures e.g. forced marriage 
  • Trauma 

Who is at risk of suicide? 

Suicide is the fourth highest cause of death among people aged 19-25 globally (WHO, 2023). Men are more than twice as likely to die by suicide as women, largely due to stigma and outdated views of masculinity, involving the idea of ‘manning up’ instead of allowing yourself to feel or talk about your feelings. 

Members of the LGBTQ community are also at high risk of suicide due to the multiple phobic behaviours people display towards them, as well as stigma and discrimination, and difficult experiences around coming out and being accepted by people close to them. 

What can I do if I’m having suicidal thoughts? 

If you feel like you are at risk of taking suicidal action, get help. Call emergency services, a crisis line, or talk to someone you know. Move yourself to a safer location if you need to, including moving yourself away from any items you could use to hurt yourself. If you have a crisis or safety plan, make use of it. Avoid using alcohol or drugs.

Stay present/ grounded 

You don’t have to act on your suicidal thoughts right now. Try to get through the next five minutes. If you do that, reward yourself, and then try to get through the following five minutes. Repeat this, increasing the chunks of time incrementally as you go, keeping them small and feeling manageable until your feelings ease or until help arrives. 

Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method: 

  • Identify 5 things you can see 
  • Identify 4 things you can touch 
  • Identify 3 things you can hear 
  • Identify 2 things you can smell 
  • Identify 1 thing you can taste 

Take deep breaths – sometimes when we are upset or struggling with our thoughts and emotions we can start to breathe too shallowly. Taking in deep breaths can help you to focus on keeping yourself safe. 

Getting out of your own head 

Try not to be alone – even if you aren’t engaging directly with people, if you can, go to where people are, such as a shopping centre, coffee shop, or park. If you can’t go to where other people are, that’s ok – consider asking someone to come and be with you where you are. 

Go outside if you can, and focus on how the weather, whatever the weather is doing, feels against your skin. Be around nature if you can. 

Distract yourself 

Distracting yourself forces you to focus less on your thoughts and emotions, and gives your body something to do, which can sometimes help dispel emotional energy that is pent up. This might help bring you to a state where you can call someone for help, or help you wait while help is on the way. Some examples you could try include:

  • Hold some ice in your hands and focus on how it feels 
  • Tear up something like paper into lots of tiny pieces 
  • Take a cold shower 
  • Do jumping jacks or run on the spot 
  • Take care of your needs. Some ideas you could try include:
    • Drink something 
    • Make and eat something 
    • Get yourself comfortable 
    • Write down how you’re feeling 

Move your body however you can. Exercise helps to release hormones that can help you to feel better. It also brings yourself more into your body which can help you to be more present. 

How can I help myself in the longer term? 

One of the ways you can help yourself when you are not feeling suicidal is to prepare for a time when you might feel that way.  

  • Get support even when you aren’t in crisis mode
  • It might feel like we don’t need help when times are good and we are feeling ok
  • That is the time when we can learn to understand ourselves and why we struggle better
  • It’s a good time to develop skills to reduce or prevent the risk of a crisis occurring
  • It also gives us an opportunity to build up relationships and a support network with professionals
  • That way, if we do get into crisis, we aren’t trying to navigate all of that for the first time when we are not at our best capability

Sometimes there are particular things that can trigger a crisis or a high level of distress. It can be helpful to learn what these triggers are for you, as they can be different for everyone, and it might be helpful to do this with a mental health professional so that you can come up with ways to either avoid or cope with them.  

While it is important to make ourselves feel better when we are feeling low, it is also important to keep ourselves feeling well when we are in a good place. Creating a wellness action plan can help with this – this is something that can help you identify what keeps you well (using our resources on self-care might help with this), what puts us at risk for or causes you to become unwell, and what steps to take to address any mental health problems. 

You could identify a safe space or a place that calms you down. That way you can go to this place as a preventative measure as well as if you are struggling. 

You could remove things that you could potentially use to harm yourself during a crisis from places like your room or house, or you could either give them to someone you trust or have a conversation with those around you about what they can do with these items should the need arise. 

Making a list of people that you can call or talk to, both in a crisis and on a day-to-day basis can help you to stay socially connected when you are feeling well, and can also provide sources of help in a crisis. Similarly, making a list of the positive things in your life, things you are looking forward to, and plans you are making can help you to focus on the positive in the moment, and give you something positive to reflect on as part of your safety plan and/or hope box. 

Talk to the people in your support network about what would be helpful for them to say or do if you are in a crisis. Most people in your life will likely want to help, but some will not know how to, and having these conversations when you are in a good place will mean you can agree on a plan, and you will likely be better able to explain things than if you try to do it when you are distressed. 

Find reasons to live, big and small. This might sound cheesy, but while we mentioned triggers above as something that can cause our mental health to take a dip, the opposite also exist. These are known as glimmers, and they are things that can give us a little boost. Something as small as noticing a flower on your journey to class, or something as big as finishing college all count as glimmers. 

Make plans for far and near into the future. Plans give us something to look forward to, and as a result can become reasons to live in times when we are struggling to find other reasons. Having a long-term plan means you have something in your future to commit to living for and working towards. However, long-term plans often have to change, sometimes for reasons beyond our control. Making smaller plans like planning to go for a walk with your best friend next weekend give you things to look forward closer to the present moment, and can be more controllable. Having a balanced mix of long- and short-term plans can give us things to keep moving us forward in life. 

As much as possible, if you struggle with your mental health at any level, try to reduce your substance intake, whether legal or illegal. They affect the parts of your brain that control judgement, concentration, behaviour and emotions, and while it might feel like they will make us feel better, they actually might make you more likely to either act on suicidal thoughts, or to do something harmful unintentionally. Oftentimes, we also feel worse after the effects of the substance have worn off, and if you are taking medication for your mental health (as well as some other types of medication), they can interact in ways that are unsafe. 

You can also put together a safety plan and/or a hope box. 

Safety plan 

A safety plan is a collation of information for yourself and others to use when you don’t feel safe in yourself. There is no set way for how this should look, what’s important is that it is something that is helpful for you. Consider sharing your safety plan with people close to you so that they can help you to use it should the need arise. 

Think about the support you might need or have needed in the past when you were in crisis, and make a list of things that can help. It might help to include some of the following: 

  • Names and contact information of people who can help 
  • Coping mechanisms that you know have worked for you in the past 
  • Steps you can take to make your immediate environment safe 
  • A list of safe places you can go to if needs be (and how to get there) 
  • A list of good things in your life 
  • A list of things to look forward to 

These may seem like obvious pieces of information, and ones that right now you can think of off the top of your head. However, in times of distress, sometimes our minds can’t recall this information as easily, or we may not be able to communicate the information to those around us who are trying to help. 

Hope box 

A hope box is a box of things that can help you to feel better when you are struggling with your mental health. It can be used in conjunction with a safety plan, and as part of your general self-care plan as well. Again, there is no set way for how this should look, nor is there any limit to what you should include in your hope box. What’s important is that the things in there are chosen because they help you to feel better. Some ideas include the following: 

  • Music 
  • Distractions like colouring or other crafts 
  • Reminders of positive things or times 
  • Photos 
  • A copy of your crisis plan 
  • Your favourite sweets, food or drink 

Sometimes the things that can help us the most are those that make us use our senses, as our senses are closely linked to memories, and triggering happy or positive memories can help us to feel better. If you like, you can include things about the future, like a list of plan you are looking forward to, or a list of nice things the people in your life have said about you. 

Remember, if you are feeling suicidal:

  1. Get help
  2. Keep yourself safe
  3. take steps to ground yourself

24 hours support and a listening ear is always available:

  1. Text HELLO to 50808
  2. Contact Samaritans on 116 123
  3. Visit the USI website for a list of supports