Most of us will feel that life has become overwhelming and we are not coping. However, these thoughts and feelings shift relatively quickly and we feel we can manage again. Suicidal thoughts are not normally part of this. They are extreme thoughts and feelings. It is common to experience suicidal thoughts in conjunction with certain mental health problems, such as depression, bipolar, psychosis, schizophrenia or personality disorders.
It is important to remember that there are treatments available which can help you with these thoughts and feelings. In times of crisis please go straight to your local A&E.
Our treatment approach for suicidal feelings
Nightingale Hospital approach to treating suicidal thoughts and accompanying mental health problems combines individualised programmes with treatments based on current clinical evidence. You may attend as an outpatient, day patient or inpatient.
Counselling will focus on immediate difficulties and help with problem-solving skills. Psychotherapy will support you to come to terms with difficult memories, feelings and fears. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) will explore practical ways to deal with your suicidal thoughts and replacing them with more realistic and helpful ones.
Medication can also be effective to help you cope with suicidal feelings.
Why do people feel suicidal?
It may appear that suicide or an attempt at suicide is an impulsive act, especially if a person is misusing alcohol or drugs, or responding to a sudden crisis. Although thinking about suicide is quite common, and may occur whatever your age, gender or sexuality, you will be more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and feelings if you feel incapable of solving the difficulties in your life. These may include:
- Isolation or loneliness
- The breakdown of an important relationship
- Being bullied at work, home or at school
- Experiencing bereavement or other loss
- Work problems, unemployment or poor job prospects
- Adjusting to a big change such as retirement or redundancy
- Debt problems
- Being in prison
- Pregnancy, childbirth or postnatal depression
- Cultural pressures
- Long-term physical pain or illness
- Doubts about your sexual or gender identity
- Facing discrimination
- History of sexual or physical abuse
How can I help myself with my suicidal feelings?
Learn distress tolerance skills
These can help you survive when in crisis and support your ongoing mental health. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) gives lots of suggestions for accepting distress, soothing yourself and beginning to think more clearly.
Telephone helplines and online discussion groups
If you believe that family and friends don’t understand it can be a good idea to phone a helpline e.g. Samaritans and talk to someone who has been trained to listen to people who have suicidal feelings. The person listening to you will give you the time and space to talk in confidence without judging you. They will not tell you what to do; they will help you think through what to do for yourself. Keep the number handy so that you aren’t hunting around for it in a crisis. NHS and mental health charity online discussions groups can help you to learn practical ways of managing your crisis from others who have been through a similar experience. Be very careful of non-regulated sites.
Regular exercise like walking, running and swimming will lift your mood and make it easier for you to sleep better. Yoga and meditation can energise you and help to reduce tension. Food also influences your mood. When you are less anxious, your appetite may return and you could begin to eat healthier foods. If you have been misusing alcohol and drugs, cutting down will make your mind clearer and better able to focus on how to help yourself.
You might like to write down your thoughts, feelings and achievements in a diary. Over time, this can give you fresh insight and increase your ability to respond to your difficulties differently. Alternatively, creating artworks based on your feelings can also be a powerful tool. Learn from others – reading about how other people have managed difficult times is usually inspiring. Self-help books can suggest ways to improve your self-esteem and take you through practical problem-solving exercises.
Some practical tips
Remove any means of hurting yourself – this is important while you learn how to cope with suicidal thougts. For example, make sure that you have only small quantities of medication in the house; if you are no longer driving carefully, hand over your car keys to a friend.
- Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones View profile
- Dr Morwenna Opie View profile
- Dr Sean Cross View profile
- Dr Bijal Chheda-Varma View profile