Try to remember that thoughts about taking your life are just thoughts...
you don't have to act on them,
nor will you always have these thoughts
Why do people want to end their lives?
Sometimes living can be very painful, and problems can seem overwhelming. At some point, many people think about suicide but do not plan or act on it. However, for others, the thought of suicide might begin to seem like a real alternative to a problem or situation that appears hopeless.
Situations that might contribute to a feeling of hopelessness include:
- Family problems
- Sexual, physical or mental abuse
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression
- The death of a loved one
- School or work problems
- Unemployment or being unemployed for a long time
- Feeling like you don’t belong anywhere
- Any problem that seems hopeless
Is deliberate self-harm the same as wanting to end your life?
Wanting to end your life is not necessarily the same as deliberate self-harm. Deliberate self-harm, such as cutting or burning oneself, is often a tactic used to cope with difficult or painful feelings. However, most people who engage in deliberate self-harm don’t wish to die. To learn more, visit our article on Deliberate Self-Harm.
I'm feeling suicidal. What do I do?
Everyone goes through tough times and experiences feelings of hopelessness. It is a very common thing that many of us share, but can be afraid to admit to. You don’t have to be ruled by this feeling, though. One way of alleviating the pressure of suicidal thoughts is by creating your own “tool-kit” of strategies to cope with these feelings, or a safety plan.
You can download and print the Youth ERA Crisis and Safety Planning booklet below for easy reference in case you’re going through a crisis. As we go through the article, you can fill in the appropriate blanks in the booklet or grab a sheet of paper and make your own crisis plan.
When your thoughts are becoming overwhelming, it’s important to find a way to stay safe. Some of these ways might be to physically remove yourself from whatever triggered the thoughts, or to distract your mind from the suicidal ideation altogether.
Take these actions when your negative feelings start to surface. Many people report that by postponing a decision to die, they found that their lives changed. They were able to get the support they needed and could move on to a better, happier place.
Separate Yourself from what is activating you
One of the first things you should do if you’re having suicidal thoughts is to remove yourself from whatever is triggering, or activating, your thoughts as best as you can.
We have a few options:
- Leave the activating situation. If you’ve just had a triggering altercation with someone, find someplace safe you can go to. A safe place might be your room, a friend’s house, an old fort you used to play in, or maybe curled up in the backseat of your car. Remove yourself from the environment as best as you can. Afterward is when you can tap into your coping strategies.
- Avoid the trigger. If you’re near a bridge or balcony and overcome by suicidal thoughts, walk away and use another route to get where you need to go. If it’s a person that activates you, find ways to reduce the time spent around them as much as possible.
- Ask for help. Being with others when you feel you can’t trust yourself is a great way to stay safe. Although this is can be one of the hardest options, there are people that want to support you and help you through this. Talk to a friend, trusted adult, crisis helpline, or professional that can connect you with the proper resources.
To explore other options of staying safe, check out our article Staying Safe.
identify your triggers
Circumstances & People. Yes, 100%, people can be triggers.
- Ask to have your space respected and that you need to leave to cool down.
- Get some space and distract yourself (see below).
- Set boundaries with the people that are triggering your suicidal thoughts. If it’s your parents or guardians, you may have to learn how to cope until you can properly move out to create a physical boundary with them. If you are being abused, you can always call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD or talk to another trusted adult.
- If it’s work-related, find a way to get out of your current location, talk to your Human Resources department about your concerns, or find another employer. Life is too short to allow a job, or the people there, to make us want to throw it all away.
- If it regards your identity, there’s not a lot you can change about who you are on a fundamental level. Find support online, via a therapist, or through people of your community to help you come up with ways of finding peace without hurting yourself.
- If you’re close to a balcony or bridge and it’s triggering you, find the inner strength to leave the area safely. If necessary, plan new routes to take that don’t involve bridges or other triggering paths.
- Does going home make you feel suicidal and unsafe? Are you being abused? You deserve to feel safe at home. Tell someone (preferably an adult) what is going on so you can get some outside help. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
- Sometimes suicidal thoughts can become really bad when you’re driving. Do you notice that?
- Do some places automatically stir up thoughts of suicide? How can you avoid them in the future?
- If you have weapons, drugs or other tools that you are tempted to use to hurt yourself, find a way to get them out of your reach. Perhaps that means giving it to your friend to hold onto. Maybe that means having a vulnerable conversation with your family about separating yourself from those items. If it’s not around, you’ll be less tempted to use it.
- If you have to take medication but are afraid of abusing it, try putting your pills into a weekly pill box and putting the rest of the bottle in a hard to reach area (the longer it takes to get to, the more time you have to change your mind) or give it to your parents to hang onto until you need it again.
safety plan action items
- Make a list of triggers. Perhaps they’re specific people or places, or maybe they’re conversations or graphic images. Keep tabs on them and write them down.
- What are your warning signs? If your suicidal thoughts always seem to get worse when your stress levels are higher, make note of that. List any other behaviors or thoughts you have that would signal to you that you may need to get help or tend to your mental health more diligently.
- Notice the patterns. Do your suicidal thoughts come up mostly in the winter months? Do they start up when you go to school? Every time you’re driving?
Coping with Suicidal Thoughts | trigger warning | Hitomi Mochizuki
Coping with Thoughts of Suicide
So, you’re having suicidal thoughts. Now what? Acknowledge them. The more you push thoughts away, the stronger they can become. They are an alarm going off in your mind and body telling you that something isn’t right and something needs to change. That’s okay. Things can always change.
After acknowledging them, recognize why you don’t need to follow through with them. Make a list of affirmations (even if you don’t fully believe them yet) of how you want to feel and think, and read or say them to yourself when things get hard.
Some suggestions might be:
- I am stronger than the thoughts in my mind
- I am worthy of life and love
- I deserve a chance to make a change in my life
- I am unique and offer a perspective no one else has
- This is hard and I can get through this
- I am valuable
- I am strong
- I am loved
- I am getting better every day
- I love and respect myself
- I choose life
While it may feel like you have to act now, try to postpone your decision to end your life and go through some coping methods that work for you.
Focus on Self-Care
- write down your feelings -
Writing down your feelings or keeping a journal can be a great way of understanding how you’re reacting to a particular situation. It can also help you think about alternative solutions to the problems you’re facing.
- express yourself -
“Vent art” is a way to let out your feelings in a constructive way. This may include drawing, painting, sculpting, wire-wrapping, digital art, poetry, wood burning, writing stories or songs, and dancing. Whatever creative outlet you gravitate towards can be a way to distract your mind from the incessant suicidal thoughts.
- set small goals -
Sometimes people set goals that are almost unachievable, and then they feel worse when they can’t reach those goals. Try to set goals that are achievable for you, even if they’re on a day-to-day or hour-to-hour basis. And remember to reward yourself for reaching these goals, too!
- exercise & eat well -
Even though you might not feel like it, exercising and eating well can help when you are feeling down. Biological factors, as well as social factors, influence how you feel and how you think about yourself and the world around you. Exercise helps stimulate hormones like endorphins, which help you feel better about yourself and your life. If you haven’t done a lot of exercises before, it might be a good idea to focus on simply moving your body more. A 15-minute walk is a good place to start.
- avoid drugs & alcohol -
Try not to use drugs or alcohol in the hopes that they will make you feel better. The high you get from drugs and alcohol is usually temporary, and the after effects often make the problems worse. Also, if you’re already struggling with a mental illness, drugs and alcohol can worsen symptoms. If you’re using them to escape, you may want to consider some alternatives like watching a favorite show, reading a book, or playing a video game.
Sometimes, the best thing for ourselves is to get out minds off track and onto something else. This can give us a break to regulate our emotions better and come to a calmer place.
You might want to try:
- bingeing on Netflix
- playing a game on your phone or console of choice
- watching youtube videos
- calling or texting a bunch of friends
- chatting online
- making art
- reading a book or manga
- listening to music
- playing an instrument
- carving wood or a bar of soap
- taking a bath
- shooting some hoops
- looking up memes
- riding your bike
- walking in nature
- following along to a makeup tutorial
- watch stand-up comedy online
Grounding is when you center your mind and awareness into the present moment. It can be especially useful if your thoughts are overwhelming you and you need to come back to baseline.
One proven way to ground yourself is the 5-4-3-2-1 method—5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
The great thing about this method is that you can do it anywhere, at anytime, and generally it’s pretty inconspicuous–in case you’re worried about coping while you’re in public.
safety plan action items
- Make a list of coping methods. If you like to use specific coping methods at different times, write those next to the triggers you identified in the last step.
- Write down positive affirmations you can turn to when your mind is turning against you
Reaching Out to Someone
who can I reach out to?
Although it might seem like a bigger challenge than ending your life, it is important to reach out to others who might help you find alternative ways to solve a problem and to feel less alone in what you’re going through. The fact that you’re reading this may be enough to prove to yourself that on some level you do want help, and maybe you really only want to stop experiencing so much pain.
If you are having difficulty talking about what you’re going through, you can start with sentences like “Right now, I’m feeling…”; “I think it started when…”; “I’ve been feeling this for a while…”; or ”Lately school/work has been…”
Where you can get support:
- People you trust. You can talk to a family member, friend, counselor, teacher, religious leader, or anyone that you feel comfortable with. If that person doesn’t believe you or doesn’t want to listen, keep trying until someone else does. Sometimes, people don’t react well at first because they don’t know how to handle what you just told them. Although it might be hard, this isn’t your fault. Don’t give up!
- A Drop-In Center. Youth Era has several Drop-in Centers for youth to find peer support, build leadership skills, meet new people, and achieve their goals. Click here to find a Drop near you.
- Use technology to your advantage. Talk Life, Vent, Tumblr, Reddit, Whisper, and Discord may be a good place to anonymously share your thoughts while getting support from others. notOK is an app that sends a message to your support group saying you’re not okay and in need of support.
- Talk to a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, or other mental health professional. Psychiatrists are mental health professionals who have special training in mental illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, and suicide. Clinical psychologists and mental health counselors have similar training but don’t administer medication like psychiatrists can. You might be able to find a psychiatrist or psychologist through your medical doctor, your local community health center, or local psychiatry and psychology associations.
- Call a crisis helpline. If you’re having difficulty talking to people you know about how you’re feeling, call a crisis line.
Lines for Life offers the Suicide Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or their Youthline (1-877-968-8491) and are both anonymous, free 24-hour helplines. They also offer texting and online chat options if speaking on the phone is too uncomfortable or you’re otherwise unable to do so. If it’s your first time calling a helpline, check out our article on What To Know When Calling A Helpline.
For more resources and helplines, check out our Crisis Support Resources or click on the boxes below.
Lines for Life is an Oregon-based organization working in the prevention, intervention, and advocacy for suicide, substance abuse, and mental illness. They also host a helpline that is open 24/7/365 where you can speak to highly-trained crisis intervention specialists. Lines for Life Suicide Lifeline and YouthLine after hours is answered by the same adult volunteers and staff that take calls for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
SUICIDE LIFELINE – For those going through a crisis and those concerned for them
Call 1-800-273-8255 (24/7/365)
Text 273TALK to 839863 (8 a.m. to 11 p.m. PST daily)
ALCOHOL & DRUG HELPLINE – For individuals and family members seeking crisis intervention, treatment referral, and chemical-dependency information
Call 1-800-923-4357 (24/7/365)
Text RecoveryNow to 839863 (8 a.m. to 11 p.m. PST daily)
MILITARY HELPLINE – Support for service members, veterans, and their families
Call 1-888-457-4838 (24/7/365)
Text MIL1 to 839863 (8 a.m. to 11 p.m. PST daily)
YOUTHLINE – Support for youth in crisis or when needing help
Text teen2teen to 839863
Email at YouthL@LinesforLife.org
Chat online here
Teens are available to chat with you from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. PST daily, all other times are with adults It’s free and it’s confidential. If there are concerns that you or someone else is in imminent danger, they’ll let you know they’re concerned and ask for your name and address. They will continue to support you but will contact local police and EMS if they believe you won’t be able to keep yourself safe. That being said, Lines for Life aims to be as least invasive as possible and works to support you first and foremost.
Boys Town Your Life Your Voice offers crisis support and resources for handling tough situations.
The Crisis Text Line offers free, confidential crisis support via text 24/7. Whether you’re feeling suicidal or having a hard time managing strong emotions, a trained volunteer will connect with you and provide support.
- Text HOME to 741741 (24/7/365)
Teen Line allows you to speak with another teen for support and offers resources online that are relevant to teens.
Text TEEN to 839863
The Trans Lifeline is a suicide hotline for trans-identified individuals. The calls are taken by other trans people and can be used whether or not you’re in crisis.
Available 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. PST. Volunteers may be available during off hours.
The Trevor Project is dedicated to providing crisis counseling for those in the LGBTQ+ community that are considering suicide. All lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people are welcome to call.
- Call 1-866-488-7386 (24/7/365)
Text START to 678678 (24/7/365)
- Standard text messaging rates apply
Chat online here
Designed to work best on a computer
Wait time can vary—use the Lifeline or text option if urgent
Safety Plan Action Items
- Identify your support group. Who can you go to for support in the middle of the night or whenever things get really bad? Write their name and contact info into your safety plan. This could be your therapist, family members, or friends.
- Write down some helplines. Check out our massive list of crisis support resources here and write some down that you could call in case no one from your support group is able to help you.
Information for this article:
Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com
About Youth Era
Youth Era is a nonprofit that works with teens and young adults to become happy, successful, and contributing adults members of their communities. The organization creates solutions for communities across the country that look beyond short-term assistance for the few and toward sustainable support for the many. To learn more, visit www.youthera.org.