Suicidal feelings can range from being preoccupied by abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you, to thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life. (See our information on suicidal feelings).
The type of suicidal feelings people have varies person to person, in particular in terms of:
- how intense they are - suicidal feelings are more overwhelming for some people than others. They can build up gradually or be intense from the start. They can be more or less severe at different times and may change quickly
- how long they last - suicidal feelings sometimes pass quickly, but may still be very intense. They may come and go, or last for a long time
Can you tell if someone feels suicidal?
Many people find it very hard to talk about suicidal feelings - this can be because they are worried about how others will react or because they cannot find the words. They might hide how they are feeling and convince friends or family that they are coping.
The NHS Choices website has a list of warning signs that you could notice, but there might not be any signs or you might not be able to tell. Correctly interpreting how someone else is feeling can be difficult so it's very important not to blame yourself if you aren't able to spot the signs that someone is feeling suicidal.
I wish other people would understand that I don't want these feelings, I didn't ask for these feelings... and I want them to go away... but it isn't that simple. I try and explain to my friends that it's like there is a huge, thick, black cloud following you around... it doesn't matter what you're doing, how good your life appears or how 'ok' you seem.
Who is at risk of suicide?
Anyone can have suicidal feelings, whatever their background or situation in life. Suicidal feelings have a wide range of possible causes. (See our information on suicidal feelings for more about possible causes). They can be a symptom of an existing mental health problem or episode of mental distress, or sometimes a side effect of psychiatric or other medication. When someone is feeling suicidal it is important to be aware of any medications they are taking which might be causing or aggravating these feelings.
To find out more about side effects of specific medications talk to your GP or contact NHS direct on 111 (for England) or 0845 46 47 (for Wales).
Some people can say why they feel suicidal, but in other instances there may not be a clear reason, or they may be unable to talk about what they are feeling or experiencing.
If someone feels suicidal, their feelings may become more intense if they:
- drink alcohol
- use street drugs
- have sleep problems
(See our information on recreational drugs and alcohol and sleep problems.)
My own thoughts are driven by the desire to want this pain and suffering that I feel inside to cease. I feel my husband and children are better off without me. I feel worthless and undeserving of their love and affection. I don't see the person they do.
Groups known to be at risk
Studies show that some groups experience higher rates of suicide than others. Statistics show that men, for example, and people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer (LGBTQ) are more likely to take their own lives. People can also be more vulnerable to suicide if:
- they have attempted suicide before - if someone has previously tried to end their life, there is a greater than average chance they may try to do so again in future
- they have self-harmed in the past - self-harm isn't the same as feeling suicidal, but statistics show that someone who has self-harmed will also be more at risk of suicide
- they have lost someone to suicide - people who have been bereaved by suicide are also more at risk of taking their own lives
This information was published in January 2017. We will revise it in 2020.