Hopelessness may lead you to think about suicide. Learn how to stay safe, get through a crisis and find treatment.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

When life does not seem worth living anymore, it may seem that the only way to find relief is through suicide. When you're feeling this way, it may be hard to believe that you have other options.

Take a moment to step back and separate your emotions from your actions. When you feel depressed and think there's no hope, it's much harder to make reasonable decisions. But problems that bring on suicidal feelings can be treated.

It may not be easy, and you might not feel better overnight. Eventually, though, the sense of hopelessness — and thoughts of taking your life — will lift.

If you think you may hurt yourself or take your life, get help right away by taking one of these actions:

  • Call a mental health specialist.
  • Contact a suicide hotline.
    • In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, every day. Or use the Lifeline Chat. Services are free and private.
    • U.S. veterans or service members who are in crisis can call 988 and then press "1" for the Veterans Crisis Line. Or text 838255. Or chat online.
    • The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in the U.S. has a Spanish-language phone line at 1-888-628-9454 (toll-free).
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Seek help from your doctor or another health care professional.
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.

Do not try to manage suicidal thoughts or behavior on your own. You need professional help and support to overcome the problems linked to thoughts about taking your life.

Your doctor or mental health professional can help you learn different ways to cope and solve problems. Consider talking about these coping strategies with people who know you well, such as family members or trusted friends.

You may be urged to do things you do not feel like doing, such as talking with friends when you'd rather stay in your bedroom all day. It will get easier to do these things as they become habits.

Create a written plan of action or a "safety plan" with your mental health professional. You can refer to this plan when you're thinking about suicide or are in a crisis. A safety plan includes what makes you think about suicide and how you can cope with those thoughts. Learn to spot your warning signs early, so you can put your plan into action.

Your plan is a checklist of activities and actions you promise to do to stay safe when you have thoughts of suicide, such as:

  • Contact your doctor, therapist or crisis center to help you cope with thoughts of taking your life.
  • Call a supportive family member or friend who can help you cope with your suicidal thoughts.
  • Try specific healthy and enjoyable activities when negative thoughts start to intrude.
  • Review why your life is valuable and the reasons to live.

Even if the immediate crisis passes, see a doctor or mental health professional. This will help you get the right treatment for suicidal thoughts and depression so that you do not always have to be in crisis mode.

As part of your plan, take these steps:

  • Follow your treatment plan. Commit to taking your medicine as prescribed and attending all treatment sessions and appointments.
  • Keep a list of contact names and numbers available. Include your doctors, therapists and crisis centers that can help you cope with thoughts of taking your life. Include friends or loved ones who agree to be available as part of your safety plan.
  • Remove possible means of killing yourself. This may include ridding your home of guns, razors, or other objects you could use to hurt or kill yourself. If possible, give your medicines to someone who can keep them for you and help you take them as prescribed.
  • Schedule daily activities. Activities that calm and comfort you can make a difference — such as listening to music, watching a funny movie or visiting a park. Or try something different. Because physical activity and exercise may reduce depression symptoms, think about walking, jogging, swimming, gardening or trying a new activity.
  • Get together with others. Create your support network by reaching out to friends, family and people who care about you and are there when you need them. Try to be social, even if you do not feel like it. This will help keep you from becoming isolated.
  • Join a support group. Joining a support group can help you cope with suicidal thoughts and help you learn that there are many options in your life other than suicide.
  • Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Rather than numb painful feelings, alcohol and drugs can increase suicidal thoughts and the chance you'll harm yourself. Alcohol and drugs can make you more impulsive and more likely to act on feelings to harm yourself.
  • Avoid risky websites on the internet. Stay away from chatrooms, social media sites or websites that may urge suicide as a way to solve your problems.
  • Write about your thoughts and feelings. Consider writing about the things in your life that you value and appreciate, no matter how small they may seem at the time.

The hopelessness you feel as you consider suicide may be the side effect of a very hard situation or an illness that can be treated. This emotion can be so overpowering that it clouds your judgment and leads you to believe that taking your life is the best, or only, option. But with help, you can change how you think about your situation:

  • Keep in mind that suicidal feelings are temporary. With the right treatment, you can learn how to help yourself feel better about life again. Asking others for support can help you see that you have other options and give you hope about the future.
  • Create a list of your reasons to live. This list can include being alive for your pet, your children, a favorite relative or best friend, or something that you enjoy doing at work or at home. It does not matter what the list includes, but finding a sense of purpose in your life can make a difference.

By getting proper treatment and using effective coping strategies, you can learn to manage or rid yourself of suicidal thoughts and create a more satisfying life.

June 13, 2023