Suicidal thoughts

If you’ve taken steps to end your life or don’t feel you can keep yourself safe, call 999 or go to A&E immediately. You can also call Samaritans free on 116 123 or email them at [email protected]. They’re available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Whoever you are and whatever you’re facing, they won’t judge you or tell you what to do. They’re here to listen so you don’t have to face it alone.

In the UK in 2019, 6524 people took their own lives. Men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide. Women are more likely to report suicidal thoughts.

Men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 50 to 54 have the highest suicide rates in England and Wales.

What does it mean to be suicidal?

Suicidal feelings can be confusing, frightening and complicated. They can range from having general thoughts about not wanting to be here to making a plan about how and when you could end your life. You might feel less like you want to die, and more that you want the pain to stop.

You might feel:

  • hopeless or trapped
  • tearful, anxious or overwhelmed by negative thoughts
  • desperate
  • tempted to do risky or reckless things because you don’t care what happens to you
  • like you want to avoid other people

What can make someone want to end their life?

Suicide is complex and there is no single explanation of why people die by suicide. There are many different risk factors, including:

  • previous suicide attempts, or previous self-harm. Many people who self-harm don’t want to die. However, research shows that people who self harm are at higher risk of attempting or dying by suicide
  • being unemployed
  • having a physical health problem, including chronic pain
  • living alone
  • being dependent on alcohol or drugs
  • having mental health problems

There may not be an obvious reason why someone feels suicidal. But whatever the cause, there is help available.

What can I do if I feel suicidal?

If you have seriously harmed yourself, or you don’t feel that you can keep yourself safe right now, call 999 or go straight to A&E. 

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and need support, you can:

  • call your GP and ask for an emergency appointment
  • call NHS 111 for out-of-hours help 
  • contact your mental health crisis team if you have one

Our crisis care page has more information on who can help.

There are many free helplines available.

  • Samaritans offers a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week support service. Call them free on 116 123. You can also email [email protected]
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) has a helpline (5pm to midnight) and webchat for anyone who’s having a tough time and needs to talk.
  • Papyrus supports people under 35 who have thoughts of suicide and others who are concerned about them. You can call their HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email [email protected]. They’re open every day from 9am to midnight.

Samaritans has practical tips on dealing with suicidal feelings.

How can I help someone if I’m worried they’re suicidal?

Simple actions can help support someone who is suicidal or recovering from an attempt to take their life.

Just asking someone if they’re suicidal can help. Asking directly about suicide gives someone permission to open up and lets them know they’re not a burden. If someone feels suicidal, it can be a huge relief to talk about how they feel.

If a friend does share their suicidal feelings with you, it’s usually best to listen and respond with open questions, rather than advice or opinions. You don’t have to solve their problems: just offer support and encourage them to talk, if you can.

It can feel difficult to start these conversations. Samaritans has tips on how to be a good listener. Mind also has information on supporting someone who feels suicidal.

Your friend may also need help with practical things, such as calling their GP, contacting family and friends, or simply watching TV with them or doing an activity together. You could also help them make a safety plan when they feel able to. In a crisis, this can help them remember ways to cope and people to contact. You can download a safety plan here.

It’s important to know when to get professional support for someone you’re supporting. You could suggest they contact one of the organisations listed above in the ‘What can I do if I’m feeling suicidal?’ section.

There are limits to the support you can provide as a friend and you need to take care of yourself. Give yourself time to rest and process what they’ve told you or what’s happened. It’s ok to decide you can’t help someone or need to step back for a while. Try to help them create a support network of other friends, relatives and mental health professionals who can help them too.

Further information and resources

Maytree offers free residential stays in London for people who are feeling suicidal.

Support After Suicide offers practical and emotional support for people bereaved or affected by suicide.

* Last updated: 3 August 2021