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Supporting someone who feels suicidal

Explains how to support someone who feels suicidal, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

What are suicidal feelings?

Suicidal feelings can mean having abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you. Or it can mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life. See our pages on suicidal feelings for more information.

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 Samaritans website also has a helpful page for anyone worried that someone they know is feeling suicidal. This page includes a list of warning signs that you may notice, although 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.

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 page on causes of suicidal feelings to learn more.

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. People may also experience suicidal feelings because of traumatic life events. 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 111 in England or NHS 111 Wales in Wales.

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.

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 pages on recreational drugs and alcohol and sleep problems for more information.

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.

This information was published in July 2020.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

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