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
Take these steps before your appointment:
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along if possible — someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Are my suicidal thoughts most likely linked to an underlying mental or physical health problem?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes?
- Will I need any tests for possible underlying conditions?
- Do I need immediate treatment of some kind? What will that involve?
- What are the alternatives to the approach that you're suggesting?
- I have these other mental or physical health problems. How can I best manage them together?
- Is there anything special I should do to stay safe and feel better?
- Should I see a psychiatrist? Will my insurance cover it?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment when you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. To save time, be ready to answer them.
- When did you first begin having suicidal thoughts?
- Have your suicidal thoughts been continuous or occasional?
- Have you ever tried to commit suicide?
- Do you have a plan to kill yourself now?
- If you have a plan, does it involve a specific method, place or time?
- Have you made any preparations, such as gathering pills, changing your will or writing suicide notes?
- Do you feel like you can control your impulses when you feel reckless or like killing or hurting yourself?
- Do you have friends or family members you can talk to or go to for help?
- What are your feelings about the future? Do you have any hope that things will improve?
- Do you drink alcohol, and if so, how much and how often?
- What medications do you take?
- Do you use illegal drugs?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your suicidal thoughts?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your suicidal thoughts?
What you can do in the meantime
If you've scheduled an appointment and can't see your doctor immediately, make sure you stay safe. Contact family members, friends or other people you trust to help you. If you feel you're in danger of hurting yourself or attempting suicide, call 911 or get emergency help immediately.
Jun. 09, 2012
- Schreiber J, et al. Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed March 13, 2012.
- Kennebeck S, et al. Evaluation and management of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed March 13, 2012.
- Warning signs of suicide. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=0519ec1a-d73a-8d90-7d2e9e2456182d66. Accessed April 30, 2012.
- Understanding suicide: Fact sheet 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pub/Suicide_factsheet.html. Accessed Feb. 2, 2010.
- Logan J, et al. Characteristics of perpetrators in homicide-followed-by-suicide incidents: National Violent Death Reporting System — 17 US States, 2003-2005. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2008;169:9.
- When you fear someone may take their life. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?page_id=F2F25092-7E90-9BD4-C4658F1D2B5D19A0. Accessed March 22, 2012.
- Kolla BP, et al. The base rates and factors associated with reported access to firearms in psychiatric inpatients. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2011;2:191.
- Durkee T, et al. Internet pathways in suicidality: A review of the evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2011;10:3938.
- McDowell AK, et al. Practical suicide-risk management for the busy primary care physician. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2011;8:792.
- Kennebeck S, et al. Epidemiology and risk factors for suicidal behavior in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed March 13, 2012.
- Simon G. Effect of antidepressants on suicide risk in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index. Accessed March 13, 2012.
- Harvey SB, et al. Physical activity and common mental disorders. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2010;197:357.
- Webb RT, et al. Suicide risk in primary care patients with major physical diseases. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2012;69:256.
- Revisions to product labeling. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273. Accessed May 30, 2012.
- Suicide: Taking care of yourself and your family after an attempt (Family guide). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Issue_Spotlights&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=24452. Accessed April 30, 2012.
- Suicide: Taking care of yourself after an attempt (Consumer guide). The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Issue_Spotlights&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=24452. Accessed April 30, 2012.
- Bostwick JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 28, 2012.