How to Manage Suicidal Thoughts
If you are having suicidal thoughts, it is crucial to seek help from trained mental health professionals who can help you feel better and manage your suicidal thoughts so they don’t get worse and lead to suicidal behaviors or a suicide attempt—and so you can start to feel better.
There are people ready to help you at any time of day.
- Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
- If you feel unsafe right now, text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
- If this is a medical emergency or there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.
Build Your Support Network
We all need and deserve a strong support network, but it’s especially important if you are having suicidal thoughts. You can ask for help from friends, adults you trust, and mental health professionals such as a therapist, psychiatrist, or school counselor.
Get Professional Help
Once you have professionals to help you, you can assess your risks and develop a treatment plan together.
Figure Out the Sources of Suicidal Thoughts
Finding the source of suicidal thoughts or feelings can be tough, and can sometimes bring up other difficult issues to work through. Together with a therapist or counselor, try asking yourself questions like:
- “When is the first time I can remember feeling like this?”
- “Do I want to end my life, or do I no longer want to be in pain and ending my life is the only way I can think of to stop feeling it?”
- “Was there an event or change in my life before I started feeling like this?”
- “Do I feel worse after a particular trigger? Is this trigger a person, an experience, or a certain topic?” These questions can help you figure out how to reduce stress or avoid situations that trigger suicidal thoughts.
- “Do these thoughts come and go or are they always there and getting worse?”
- “Is there anything that makes me feel better or forget about my suicidal thoughts?” This question can help you explore coping strategies you can use when you are having suicidal thoughts.
Create a Safety Plan
A safety plan includes a list of your support people, resources such as hotlines and text lines you can reach out to, affirmations you can use when you are struggling, and ways to reframe your thoughts to find hope in moments you feel unsafe.
Restrict Your Access to Things You Could Use to Hurt Yourself
While you are in treatment for suicidal thoughts or behaviors, it is important to restrict access to dangerous substances or tools that can be used to attempt suicide or hurt yourself. If you need help doing this, ask a person you trust to remove or restrict your access to things like knives, firearms, and alcohol. For medications prescribed by a doctor, ask someone you trust to store them for you in a secure place and to supervise you when you take your medication.
Reduce Your Stress
Once you have a better idea of the stressors or triggers that cause you to have suicidal thoughts, it’s important to find new ways to reduce your stress and cope with negative feelings. Some recommended ways:
- Keep a social schedule. Have regular activities with people in your social circle, like weekly phone calls, coffee dates, study groups, or group exercise classes.
- Try a new hobby. Creative hobbies such as painting, drawing, writing, or singing can help you express your feelings in a new way.
- Keep a journal. Use a journal to write down your thoughts and feelings, both the negative and positive.
- Exercise. Move your body in fun ways to release “feel good” chemicals. Try not to judge your fitness level, just find a way to move your body that’s fun for you (e.g., dance, walk, do a YouTube fitness video, or go to the gym).
- Use breathing exercises to release stress and ground you in the present moment.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness meditation focuses your attention on your breath and remaining present, and it can help lower your anxiety levels.
- Spend time outdoors. Walk or sit in nature (e.g., backyards, parks, or green spaces).
- Engage your senses. Focusing on what you can see, smell, taste, hear, and touch can help you stay in the moment. Look at art you think is beautiful, listen to music you enjoy, use soaps that smell good, cuddle with blankets or soft stuffed animals, and keep your favorite snacks handy. All these experiences can bring you out of your head and into the present moment where you are safe.
- Make a “coping kit” for difficult days. Include foods and other items that give you comfort. Add photos of your friends and loved ones to look at and kind notes to yourself to read when you are struggling.