Suicidal Thinking

If a suicide attempt has been made call 911 immediately.  I you or someone you know has ongoing thoughts of death or suicide call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to a hospital emergency room.

 If you or someone you know is living with depression or bipolar disorder, you understand all too well that the symptoms may include feelings of sadness and hopelessness. These feelings can also include thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Whether we have suicidal thoughts ourselves, or know a severely depressed person who does, there are ways that we can respond with strength and courage.

The most important thing to remember about suicidal thoughts is that they are symptoms of a treatable illness associated with fluctuations in the body's and brain's chemistry. They are not character flaws or signs of personal weakness, nor are they conditions that will just go away on their own. Depression and the depressive phase of bipolar disorder may cause symptoms such as the following:

  • intense sadness

  • hopelessness

  • lethargy

  • loss of appetite

  • disruption of sleep

  • decreased ability to perform usual tasks

  • loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities

Taken together, these symptoms may lead someone to consider suicide. However, with proper treatment, the majority of people do feel better and regain hope. Recovery is possible!

During severe depression, the systems that regulate emotion become disturbed. People in the middle of a severe depression often think only of things that are dark and sad. Physicians refer to this as "selective memory"—only remembering the bad times or the disappointments in life. This type of thinking is a symptom of the illness; it does not define who the person is. And with proper treatment, the individual will start to remember the good times and develop a more positive outlook

Having Suicidal Thoughts?

If you have begun to think of suicide, it's important to recognize these thoughts for what they are: expressions of a treatable, medical illness. Don't let embarrassment stand in the way of vital communication with your physician, family, or friends. Take immediate action and talk to somebody today. Remember, suicide is a permanent solution to a problem that is temporary.

When people don't understand the facts about suicide and depressive illnesses, they may respond in ways that can cut off communication and worsen their feelings. That's why it's important to find someone you trust and can talk with honestly and openly. It's also why your mental health professional is an important resource in helping you—and your family.

What You Can Do to Fight Suicidal Thoughts

Keep a journal to write down your thoughts. Each day, write about your hopes for the future and the people you value in your life. Read what you've written when you need to remind yourself why your own life is important.

Go out with friends and family. When we are well, we enjoy spending time with friends and family. When we're depressed, it becomes more difficult, but it is still very important. It may help you feel better to visit, or allow visits from, family and friends who are caring and can understand.

Avoid drugs and alcohol. Most deaths by suicide result from sudden, uncontrolled impulses. Since drugs and alcohol contribute to such impulses, it's essential to avoid them. Drugs and alcohol also interfere with the effectiveness of medications prescribed for depression.

Learn to recognize your earliest warning signs of a suicidal episode. There are often subtle warning signs your body will give you when an episode is developing. As you learn to manage your illness, you'll learn how to be sensitive to them. They are signals to treat yourself with the utmost care, instead of becoming ashamed or angry with yourself.