Life can be really challenging. And sometimes, if we are sensitive or feeling overwhelmed by life, we consider giving up.
*If you or someone else is in a crisis or immediate danger, call emergency services, go to your nearest A&E, or call the Samaritans on 116 123.
It doesn’t make you bad, strange, worthless, or a monster to have suicidal thoughts. It just makes you a person going through a really hard time whose brain responds to stress with negative thinking. Sometimes extremely negative. And that's okay.
The problem comes if you let the thoughts win. If you fail to see that you are not your thoughts, and you do not have to act on them, or let your thoughts make you feel ashamed when you have done nothing wrong.
When we actually share our suicidal thinking with someone we trust, voicing them out loud, they lose their power. And we realise we don’t have to believe in what we think. That we are so much more than the distorted voices parading through our heads.
So if you can, do talk to someone before your suicidal thoughts get out of hand. A friend you trust, a family member, a school counsellor. Reach out. You'd be surprised how many people understand, or are happy to help.
What if it’s the middle of the night? Or you really have no one to talk to? And you really need the thoughts to stop? Here are steps to try.
1. Call a mental health help line.
There is no reason at all to feel strange about this. Help lines are set up for this very reason, to help people who feel suicidal. And the people on the other end of the line are trained listeners who are happy to speak to you. Please refer to our list of help lines here in the UK.
2. Get moving.
Research shows that exercise is very powerful for shifting moods. And by moving our attention to our body we take a break from our thoughts, which can be the shift away from negative thinking we need. Walk around the block, or dance around the living room with as much energy as you can, for as long as you can. Or even just jump up and down and shake your limbs.
3. Write it out.
Take some paper and promise yourself you will rip up whatever you write to allow yourself to feel safe. Then write out everything. All the ways you feel, no matter how ‘crazy’ you think it is, all the things you want to say to people. Don’t dwell on what comes out. It doesn't have to be readable or make sense -- the idea is simply to move the heavy feeling inside.
4. Do some mindfulness.
This is a tool now used by many therapists. It’s really easy to learn (read our guide to mindfulness). By putting your attention on your breath and your body instead of your mind, you again create that gap that means your thoughts can lose their grip.
5. Hold ice.
An idea stemming from dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), this is used by people who suffer from self-harming. The idea is that the strong sensation of the ice distracts you from your thoughts. Of course do put the ice in a bag or towel, you don’t want to burn yourself.
6. Write a list of surprises.
Make a list of all the good things that have happened in your life you didn't expect. Include small things. Perhaps you didn't expect to pass your driving test, you didn't expect to act in the school play, you didn't expect to like eating vegetables one day. The point is to remind yourself that good surprises happen. You have to stick around to see and experience them.
7. Then record moments you mattered.
Suicidal thoughts happen because the voice in our head tells us we are useless and worthless. And yet that is always far from the truth. Think about all the things you've done lately to help or connect with others, no matter how small. Did you smile at a stranger? Carry someone's bag? Tell someone you cared? Create a piece of art that someone else enjoyed? Take care of an animal that was really happy to be around you?
8. Book a session with a counsellor.
Sometimes we just need to know that there is change ahead. And one small action step towards better self care can lessen our suicidal thoughts. If that step might be finding and booking a counsellor, give it a go.