Suicide and suicidal thoughts
Suicide and suicidal thoughts
Suicide, taking your own life, is a tragic reaction to stressful life situations — and all the more tragic because suicide can be prevented. Whether you're considering suicide or know someone who feels suicidal, learn suicide warning signs and how to reach out for immediate help and professional treatment. You may save a life — your own or someone else's.
It may seem like there's no way to solve your problems and that suicide is the only way to end the pain. But you can take steps to stay safe — and start enjoying your life again.
Suicide warning signs or suicidal thoughts include:
Warning signs aren't always obvious, and they may vary from person to person. Some people make their intentions clear, while others keep suicidal thoughts and feelings secret.
When to see a doctor
If you're feeling suicidal, but you aren't immediately thinking of hurting yourself:
Suicidal thinking doesn't get better on its own — so get help.
Suicidal thoughts have numerous causes. Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can't cope when you're faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don't have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out.
There may also be a genetic link to suicide. People who complete suicide or who have suicidal thoughts or behavior are more likely to have a family history of suicide. While more research is needed to fully understand a possible genetic component, it's thought that there may be a genetic link to impulsive behavior that could contribute to suicidal tendencies.
Although suicide attempts are more frequent for women, men are more likely than women to complete suicide because they typically use more effective methods, such as a firearm.
You may be at risk of suicide if you:
Children and teenagers
Murder and suicide
Starting antidepressants and increased suicide risk
However, the link between antidepressants and suicidal thinking isn't clear — and not taking an antidepressant when it's needed also increases the risk of suicide. To be safe, anyone who starts taking an antidepressant should be watched closely for signs of suicidal thinking. If you — or someone you know — has suicidal thoughts when taking an antidepressant, immediately contact your doctor or get emergency help.
Suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide take an emotional toll, both for those who want to take their own life and for their loved ones. For instance, you may be so consumed by suicidal thoughts that you can't function in your daily life. And while many suicide attempts are impulsive acts during a moment of crisis, they can leave you with permanent serious or debilitating injuries, such as organ failure or brain damage.
For those left behind after a suicide — people known as survivors of suicide — grief, anger, depression and guilt are common.
Preparing for your appointment
When you call your primary care doctor to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a psychiatrist. If you're in danger of committing suicide, your doctor may have you get emergency help at the hospital.
What you can do
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment when you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may do a physical exam, tests and in-depth questioning about your mental and physical health to help determine what may be causing your suicidal thinking and to determine the best treatment.
Mental health conditions
Alcohol and drugs
In some people, certain prescription or over-the-counter drugs can cause suicidal feelings. Tell your doctor about any medications you take to see whether they could be linked to your suicidal thinking.
Children and teenagers
Treatments and drugs
Treatment of suicidal thoughts and behavior depends on your specific situation, including your level of suicide risk and what underlying problems may be causing your suicidal thoughts or behavior.
If you're not injured, but you're at immediate risk of harming yourself:
At the emergency room, you'll be treated for any injuries. The doctor will ask you a number of questions and may examine you, looking for recent or past signs of suicide attempts. Depending on your state of mind, you may need medications to calm you or to ease symptoms of an underlying mental illness, such as depression.
Your doctor may want you to stay in the hospital long enough to make sure any treatments are working, that you'll be safe when you leave and that you'll get the follow-up treatment you need.
Helping a loved one with suicidal thoughts
If you have a loved one you think may be considering suicide, have an open and honest discussion about your concerns. You may not be able to force someone to seek professional care, but you can offer encouragement and support. You can also help your loved one find a qualified doctor or mental health provider and make an appointment. You may even be able to go to an appointment with him or her.
Supporting a loved one who is chronically suicidal can be stressful and exhausting. You may be afraid and feel guilty and helpless. Take advantage of resources about suicide and suicide prevention so that you have information and tools to take action when needed. Also, be sure to take care of yourself by getting support from family, friends, organizations and professionals.
Lifestyle and home remedies
There's no substitute for professional help when it comes to treating suicidal thinking and preventing suicide. However, there are a few things that may reduce suicide risk:
Coping and support
Don't try to manage suicidal thoughts or behavior entirely on your own. You need professional help and support to overcome the problems linked to suicidal thinking. In addition:
To help keep yourself from feeling suicidal:
Last Updated: 2012-06-09
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