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've attempted suicide and you're injured:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Have someone else call if you're not alone.
If you're not injured, but you're at immediate risk of harming yourself:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number.
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press "1" to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
At the emergency room, you'll be treated for any injuries. The doctor will ask you questions and may examine you, looking for recent or past signs of attempted suicide. 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.
If you have suicidal thoughts, but aren't in a crisis situation, you may need outpatient treatment. This treatment may include:
- Psychotherapy. In psychotherapy, also called psychological counseling or talk therapy, you explore the issues that make you feel suicidal and learn skills to help manage emotions more effectively. You and your therapist can work together to develop a treatment plan and goals.
- Medications. Antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, anti-anxiety medications and other medications for mental illness can help reduce symptoms, which can help you feel less suicidal.
- Addiction treatment. Treatment for drug or alcohol addiction can include detoxification, addiction treatment programs and self-help group meetings.
- Family support and education. Your loved ones can be both a source of support and conflict. Involving them in treatment can help them understand what you're going through, give them better coping skills, and improve family communication and relationships.
Helping a loved one
If you have a loved one who has attempted suicide, or if you think your loved one may be in danger of doing so, get emergency help.
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 can even offer to go along.
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, take care of yourself by getting support from family, friends, organizations and professionals.
Aug. 28, 2015
- Schreiber J, et al. Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- Kennebeck S, et al. Evaluation and management of suicidal behavior in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 10, 2015.
- Suicide warning signs. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/suicide-warning-signs. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- Understanding suicide: Fact sheet 2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/Suicide_factsheet.html. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- The relationship between bullying and suicide: What we know and what it means for schools. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- Suicide in America: Frequently asked questions. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-in-america/index.shtml. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- Moreland CS, et al. Effect of antidepressants on suicide risk in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 10, 2015.
- Kennebeck S, et al. Suicidal behavior in children and adolescents: Epidemiology and risk factors. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 10, 2015.
- Panczak R, et al. Homicide-suicides compared to homicides and suicides: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Forensic Science International. 2013;233:28.
- Oliffe JL, et al. Men, masculinities, and murder-suicide. American Journal of Men's Health. In press. Accessed April 10, 2015.
- Connecting the dots: An overview of the links among multiple forms of violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/connecting_dots.html. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- Revisions to product labeling. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM096273. Accessed April 10, 2015.
- Suicide: Taking care of yourself and your family after an attempt (Family guide). National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Issue_Spotlights&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=24452. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- Suicide: Taking care of yourself after an attempt (Individual guide). National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Issue_Spotlights&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=24452. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- Palmer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 7, 2015.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 11, 2015.