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Updated : August 1, 2022 5 mins read

Suicidal thoughts

Updated : August 1, 2022 5 mins read

It’s important to remember…

The information that we put together in these pages are for informational purposes and should never be used as medical advice or instead of advice given to you from a health professional.

If you have any concerns about your mental health then you should always speak to a mental health professional or your GP.

We do our very best to put together information that gives you a good understanding of mental health issues and what can help but it is not intended as medical advice and we do not take responsibility that it is accurate or up to date at the time of reading.

Suicide is ending your own life on purpose. Experiencing suicidal thoughts is when you think about ending your life but you don’t necessarily act on it. You might also hear it being called suicidal ideation.

It can be scary and confusing having thoughts about ending your life.

Thoughts of suicide can happen when you’re struggling to cope with difficult feelings or experiences.

It is less about wanting to die and more about not being able to go on as you are, especially if you can’t see things improving or if you think that friends and family would be better without you.

Although it might feel like it, you are not alone. It is thought that around 1 in 4 young people experience suicidal thoughts at some point in their life.

Just because you’re having these thoughts does not mean that you’re going to take your own life. Many people who experience suicidal thoughts don’t act on them, often these thoughts are a way of you coping with what’s going on in your life. With the right support you can understand why you’re having suicidal thoughts and feelings and get help to address what is causing them.

The Samaritans found out that lots of young people who experience suicidal thoughts felt isolated from others around them. Loneliness can have a massive impact on mental health, feeling you’re alone in the world can make it harder to speak to someone about how you’re feeling.

It might be hard right now to see a way out of how you’re feeling, but with the right help and support you can manage these thoughts and things can get better for you. Using the information on this page to find out more about why you might be experiencing suicidal thoughts and maybe reaching out to one of the helplines is a great place to start.

What causes suicidal thoughts?

Below is a list of some of the common causes of suicidal thoughts. You’ll see that there are many things that can trigger them, if you have experienced one or some of these examples it is understandable that you are finding things difficult at the minute.

It’s important to remember that many people who have thoughts about suicide don’t act on them. With support you can get through this difficult time.

  • Family conflict
  • Having close family members who have mental health problems
  • Having a mental health issue
  • Experiencing abuse or trauma
  • Going through a difficult situation
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Feeling isolated from friends and family
  • Losing someone you care about
  • Being bullied
  • Feeling under pressure from family or friends
  • Having low self esteem, feeling you’re not good enough
  • Having doubts about your gender or sexuality

Some types of antidepressants have the side effect of suicidal thoughts. If you have recently been put on medication for your mental health and then suicidal thoughts have started or become worse you should speak to your GP.

Signs of suicidal thoughts

Having suicidal thoughts can be overwhelming.

They might start quickly which can be alarming, for other people they might build up over time gradually getting worse. This can make it harder to spot suicidal thoughts if you’ve become so used to having them.

Some of the warning signs of suicidal thoughts can include:

  • Thinking or talking a lot about death or dying
  • Feeling numb or that you can’t feel anything
  • Losing interest in things you normally enjoy
  • Feeling like things are never going to get better
  • Starting to give away your belongings
  • Feeling helpless or that you’re not good enough
  • Being angry at the world or yourself for not being able to change
  • Trouble sleeping at night
  • Losing interest in eating
  • Thinking about or making plans about how your life would end
  • Feeling like your head is a mess and you’re losing control
  • Self harm

You might only recognise one of these warning signs in yourself, or just a few. You might not feel you recognise any of them but still be worried about having thoughts to end your life.

How you’re feeling right now is real to you and there are people who care and want to help you to feel better. There is no number of signs to wait for before telling someone.

Even if you’re not sure, it is always best to speak to someone about how you’re feeling.

Self harm and suicidal thoughts

Self harm is closely linked to suicide, research tells us that young people who take their own life are more likely to have self harmed.

If you self harm, it does not mean that you will automatically have suicidal thoughts.

You can also experience suicidal thoughts and never self harm.

Self harm is a way of coping with difficult or distressing emotions, for some young people if these emotions continue to build or become too overwhelming they may start to have thoughts about suicide.

It is okay if self harm is your way of coping right now, but there are better ways to cope with how you’re feeling that isn’t hurting yourself. When you are ready, take a look at our ‘self harm’ page to find out how you can talk to someone about it.

Get Help now

If you feel you are going to hurt yourself call 999 immediately

Help you can get quickly* if you need to talk about suicidal thoughts:

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Webchat: Childline Counsellor Chat

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space (Scotland only service)

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

*sometimes you may have to wait in a queue to be connected to someone

Support for suicidal thoughts

You can get support for suicidal thoughts in different ways, you might be worried that talking about your thoughts will mean you will have to go to hospital.

Going to hospital happens if there is a high concern for your safety or welfare and people want to keep you safe. In many cases, this doesn’t happen because most of the time the best support can come from your family and yourself.