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Coping with Suicidality

Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 27th 2016

First Things First: Get Effective Help RIGHT NOW If You're Suicidal

hospital doorsOur coverage of suicide, the taking of one's own life, is divided into three articles. The first article is intended to educate readers about the nature of suicide, the number of people who commit suicide each year, their typical characteristics and issues, and some societal recommendations for the prevention of suicide (if this is the type of information you are looking for please click here). The third article is designed for friends and family members who are interested in helping someone that they love (if you are interested in reading this information now, please click here). The article you are reading now is designed for people who are currently dealing with their own suicidal feelings and thoughts or who have done so in the past. While this article contains a number of tips and strategies for dealing with suicidal thoughts and feelings, it is NOT a substitute for the caring, compassionate, assistance you can get from talking to a live person who is trained to help you. Right now, if you are seriously suicidal - if you know that you will harm yourself unless something happens very shortly to stop you from doing so - PLEASE:

  • Go to the nearest emergency room and tell the admitting staff there that you are "acutely suicidal". Your use of the term "acute" tells the people you're speaking with that you are in danger of committing suicide right now, and that they need to act immediately to help keep you safe.
  • If you cannot get yourself safely to the emergency room by any other method, call the emergency operator and ask for assistance. Again, tell the operator that you are acutely suicidal and require immediate help. Stay on the phone with the operator, no matter how long it takes, until help arrives.

Please get help right now. You are not thinking clearly right now. Suicide is not an effective way to reduce pain or cope with issues that are stressful.  Your suicide will have a negative effect on those you leave behind. Your family and friends will almost certainly suffer your loss, and the closer and more dependent they are upon you, the more deeply and permanently will be their suffering. Why not give yourself the chance to try some ways that we know can help to decrease pain and stress and stick around to see what that feels like?

A likely outcome of reaching out for help is that you will be brought into the hospital as a psychiatric patient for a few days, until your immediate crisis passes. Few people find the idea of going into the hospital to be an entirely pleasant prospect, but that is always the case for whatever condition you might find yourself with, isn't it? You go to the hospital when you are sick - at risk of dying. If you are really acutely suicidal and have no other reliable means of keeping yourself safe, getting yourself to the hospital before you act can mean the difference between living and dying.

Remember, mental health professionals are specifically trained to help keep suicidal people safe. They will not think you are weird for having these types of thoughts and feelings. With their help, finding ways to live a satisfying life and avoiding the tragedy of suicide can become real possibilities for you again - even if you can't see how this can be possible right now.

If you are still reading (and not on the phone with an emergency operator), we'll take it as a sign that you are not acutely suicidal right now. Though you may not be in crisis this moment, you may be in significant emotional pain nevertheless, and seeking information about how to best deal with that pain. Please continue reading; we hope that the strategies we describe are helpful to you.

This article may bring up additional concerns and questions for you. If you are not acutely suicidal, but still need and want someone to discuss your feelings and thoughts with, please call a crisis line. You can find one in your country by using the dropdown box located here - If, while reading this article, you notice that your suicidal feelings and thoughts become more intense, and that you are no longer able to keep yourself safe, please (as we discussed above) go the nearest emergency room or call the emergency operator immediately.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Embarrassed - Hopeless - Apr 13th 2014

I feel like i should get help, but i'm too embarrassed. My parents think i'm pathetic and they don't believe my cries for help. I don;t even know what i would talk about if i did get help. I don't know why i feel this way.

a way of coping with depression - - Oct 30th 2012

 speaking as someone who has had abreakdown i can tell you that you can recover you are not cured but you learn to cope  when life overwhelms you it takes work it is not easy but when you control these thoughts that you have you feel stronger because you are its master and not the other way around i use distraction sometimes i give in to my thoughtsat other times and sometimes i let it wash over me whatever seems right the time there is no quick fix and it is an on going process but somehow  through experience it works thankyou for reading this

no hospitals - - Sep 16th 2011

hospitals will just drug you up....especially if you have no insurance and end of at a state mental health are definitely a second class citizen......our country has no compassion for people without insurance or money.....some of us just ended up this way and at one point had insurance, jobs etc.......we take better care of the rest of the world than our own people in the united states......i worked all my life now unemployment and dealing with severe depression and cannot get any help.     wow its hurtful

i am sorry - - Sep 13th 2010

i am there i am hurting. ive got enough meds to end it, but i just wanna sleep and not wake up.

Suicide is not good thing... - Robert Willson - May 5th 2010

If you are going to commit a sucide then think about your parents and your family.If this is not possible then think what are your actions if you will go to your lord.If you have sufficient good actions then it is better to end life instead of suffering here day and night.

question - - May 4th 2010

If a person lets their family members know that they may complete suicide one day, can those family members have you committed?

what!!! - - Apr 29th 2010


helpful - - Mar 26th 2010

That's helpful somehow.

Not helpful - - Nov 11th 2009

I wish I could see how this advice is helpful, but I do not. You state "Suicide is not an effective way to reduce pain or cope with issues that are stressful. Killing yourself is not simply ending your pain or ending's ending your life." 

If life is what is causing pain, how can ending it not end the pain? Unless one subscribes to superstition and a magical afterlife, this is an irrational statement. Rationality is what a depressed person needs, most of all.

"However, it is not debatable that your suicide will have a negative effect on those you leave behind. Your family and friends will almost certainly suffer your loss, and the closer and more dependent they are upon you, the more deeply and permanently will be their suffering."

That statement is irrefutable, but not helpful. If the load of caring for and supporting "family and friends" is part of the source of depression, knowing this is only adding fuel to the depression. I hate my life, I hate being the sole support of a spouse who will not help herself, and the pressure of both of those makes me hate my life even more.

If a person can find a physician who is caring and useful, it's a miracle. More typically, we find doctors who suggest we heal ourselves and give us medications that are no more useful than placebos; or are much worse than the disease.

feedback - - Aug 6th 2009

do not trust anyone, especially hospitals

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