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Suicide: What Should I Do if I'm Suicidal?

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

emergency room signIf you are presently assembling the means to your own death, the time to go to the hospital so as to prevent yourself from killing yourself is now. As mentioned several times already in this article, you require immediate psychiatric care if you are feeling acutely suicidal. You need a safe environment to be in for a while where you can be protected from acting upon suicidal urges. You may also benefit from medication to calm you, help you sleep or to serve as an anti-depressant. Most acute suicidal urges pass, or at least decrease in urgency, after a period of time has gone by. If you can hold out and not act, there is a very good likelihood that you will shortly feel better. It is much easier to hold out and not attempt suicide if you are hospitalized in an environment designed to keep you safe, than if you are out and about in your normal environment.

If you do not have pre-existing arrangements set up already with a therapist or doctor, you can also get the care and safe environment you need by going to a local Emergency Room (ER). Please go to the hospital immediately if you are acutely suicidal. Recruit a friend to take you to the hospital if you cannot get yourself there safely. As a last resort, you should call the emergency operator who can dispatch an ambulance or police officers to your location. This can be a rather expensive way to get there, but if it is the only reasonable way to get yourself to the hospital, then don't let the expense get in your way.

It may cross your mind to call an emergency telephone crisis line such as those mentioned below. This is a good idea if you are just feeling vaguely suicidal and want human contact with someone who can help you work through your thoughts. If you are acutely and dangerously suicidal, however, calling a crisis line is not the best thing to do, as it will distract you from getting the hands-on assistance you need. In such a case, you really need the safe environment that only a hospital can provide. Get yourself to the emergency room, or if there is no cheaper alternative, call the emergency operator for assistance.

If you are confident that you are not an immediate suicide risk, you may not require hospitalization. Nevertheless, you should still seek out professional mental health care for your condition, which is still life-threatening and rather serious. There is a good chance that you are depressed, or may have some other psychiatric condition that would benefit from proper treatment. You will almost certainly benefit from having a mental health professional with whom you can confide, who can provide you with a more objective third-party perspective on your difficulties, who can help monitor your ongoing suicide risk, and who can help teach you better coping methods than you are presently able to use in addressing your concerns.

Even if you start calling for appointments today, it can take time to be seen by psychiatrists and psychotherapists. Appointment schedules may be full for weeks in advance. If this is the case, ask the receptionist if you can have the next available appointment, and to call you if any cancellations occur.

It is also a good idea to stress the urgent nature of your need. While you are waiting for an appointment (and between appointments as you require) you can reach out to the various telephone crisis lines. If you are in the United States, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are in another country, you can find links to your local support lines on The Samaritans website ( Teenagers may also call Covenant House's NineLine at 1-800-999-9999. Participating in online support group communities may also be a good idea.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

hospital was not good... but.... - - Nov 28th 2012

Hi, I went into hospital about three years back, not really sure why I suddenly ended up there as had been further down the suicidal path at earlier times - I guess it was just the different doctor who never saw me before and panic set in for them so I was bundled off to hospital. It was full of proper nutters. I never wanted to go back there again... however, it did mean that all methods of finishing things were removed for long enough for me to get through that stage so in that sense it was good... and I am currently thinking it might be  a good place for me to go again... which is why I have ended up on this site reading this stuff....

Obviously it was a short term fix for the symptoms (suicidal ideation) and hasn't really resolved the underlying cause (depression and anxiety - and my own diagnosis of ptsd)

Hospital is a lesser among other options - Person - Apr 11th 2010

I was in the psych ward for 4 days once for suicidal urges (I also had a plan, the supplies, the ability.  still do)

Sorry to say but in the long run it only made things worse for me.  

An outpatient program helped some.  Medications are a toss up.  Herbal supplements sometimes help people.  The right counselor to talk to weekly is going to do a lot more than being locked in a ward.  And don't put up with a jerk, there's anough nice counselors out there.

I guess the point is that can't just trust one "professional", u have to look for solutions on your own too.

ER Hospital experience - - Nov 9th 2009

I have been hospitalize twice due to suicidal thoughts/actions.   It was frankly worthless trying to talk to a doctor you dont know in a 15 minute time span.  Then I  was forced to participate in daily grroup sessions that were completely geared to substance abuse.  It wasnt my issue, I couldnt participate and felt miserable being there.  Fortunately my husband was able to take me home after 4 days of this hell.  Visiting a psych. AFTER I was released resulted in nothing more than an increase in medications.

Hospitals - Allan N Schwartz - Dec 21st 2008

While I am not here to defend hospitals I do feel compelled to point out that many hospitals are understaffed, underpaid and under pressure with huge numbers of patients. Frankly, part of the problem has to do with insurance companies who reimburse hospitals according to an arbitrary number that they call "Length of Stay." If anyone is hospitalized for an illness longer than "length of stay" allows the hospital is not reimbursed. The result is just what you experienced.

Having said this, I must also point out that not all hopitals and staffs are the same. Some are excellent regardless of their pressures. Also, the hospital is a lot safer place to be when you or anyone feels suicidal than being out in the world alone. Many lives have been saved thanks to the hospitals.

It is important that psychotherapy and medication be continued after the hospital so that you and anyone in your situation, can learn to feel better and never need the hospital again.

As to the writer who stated that doctors and mental health workers have no idea what it feels like to be depressed and suicidal, I can only say that mental health workers of all types are subject to and experience all the depression, loss and anguish that everyone else does. It's just that, hopefully, they have learned to deal with things better than patients and can pass on their learnings to patients.

Dr. Schwartz

NOt helpful... - unkown not listed - Dec 20th 2008

this is absolutely not helpfuly at all to any of this issue. shouldnt you be talking more about what you have or what you could loose if you go through with something like this?? or the fact that maybe you feel you dont really want anything that you have now? anything of that sort cross your mind? im sick and tired of doctors thinking they know everything but have you felt the way no i dont believe you havent so what makes you think you can help others who experience it ? apologizies for being rude but then again im not because i find it a bunch of bulls*it.. 

Hospitals - - Nov 13th 2007
I have dealt with suicidal thoughts and self injury since I was a teenager. I cut daily and have attempted suicide twice. Ive heard it said alot that hospitalization is one option if you are prsently suicidal but every case is different I was hospitalized last year for 6 days and it was hell. I felt worse there than I did before. I was made to feel like my life wasnt important enough to help because it wasnt that serious. The facility was understaffed and most of the doctors and nurses didnt understand why I had thought about committing suicide in the first place. This year I have come close to trying again and the thought again for mental health workers was to put me in a hospital. I told them never again every body is different and I dont want to go through that again I felt like I didnt matter there. Hospitals are not always an option for some.

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