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A guide for young people Suicidal feelings

If you’re feeling so down that you can’t see a way out, you are not alone. Lots of people have felt like this and – with help – managed to get through it. However bad you are feeling right now, there is a lot of help out there for you.

If you need urgent help

If you are feeling suicidal right now, know that there are people out there who can support you to get through this.

Use our YoungMinds Textline by texting ‘YM’ to 85258 to get help. You can also call Childline to speak to someone about how you are feeling.

If you are at immediate risk or harm, please call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

  • YoungMinds Textline

    Text YM to 85258

    Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

    All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

    Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
    9am - midnight, 365 days a year

What are suicidal feelings?

It is a normal part of life to feel down and sad sometimes.

But if those feelings have become very deep and intense, and you don’t know what to do about them, you might think the only solution is to end your life. But there is hope for you, and you can get through this.

How common are suicidal feelings?

You’re not the only one who feels this way – many people feel suicidal at some time in their lives. In fact, according to Papyrus, it is estimated that one in four young people experience suicidal thoughts at some point.

What’s important for you to know is that there are lots of ways of dealing with these feelings and overcoming them. It’s possible to come out the other side and feel okay again.

There is support out there, and with the right support, you can work through these feelings - as I have experienced myself a couple of times.
Lucas, 19

What causes suicidal feelings?

medium shot of a girl with curly hair wrapping her arms to her girlfriend talking to her while they are sitting in a park

You might experience suicidal feelings if you:

  • are depressed or have another mental illness
  • struggle with low self-esteem
  • use drugs or alcohol, especially when you’re upset
  • feel anxious about pressures you face today or in the future
  • feel under pressure from family or your peers
  • feel alone and as if nobody cares about you
  • have experienced a traumatic event, or a difficult life experience

Suicidal feelings can in rare cases be a side effect of certain mental health medications.

If you start to experience suicidal feelings soon after starting medication for your mental health, speak to your GP, psychiatrist or pharmacist immediately.

They can build up over time

Suicidal feelings can build up over time, or they can develop suddenly. Although we know there is a link between depression and thoughts of suicide, suicidal feelings are not always linked to depression. Some people may even have these thoughts when it feels as though life is otherwise going well.

Self-harm

Research shows that young people who take their own life are more likely to have a history of self-harm, but self-harm is not necessarily a sign of suicidal feelings.

Suicidal feelings can get in the way of everything else – so much that you might find it hard to believe that you can feel better. But you can, however tough things feel right now. Whatever the reasons may be that you feel suicidal, they are valid and you deserve help.

Just know that sometimes we want a bad period of life to end rather than life itself.
C.K, 21

Warning signs of suicidal feelings

close up of a girl with a curly hair and wearing black jacket looking in front of the camera with group of young people on the background

It may not always be easy to spot when you are having suicidal feelings, especially if they have been building up over a long time.

Here are some warning signs of suicidal feelings:

  • always talking or thinking about death
  • deep depression and sadness
  • losing interest in daily life
  • having increasing trouble sleeping and eating
  • feeling helpless or worthless
  • self-harming
  • feeling angry and that things can't change

If you experience any of the symptoms above, please don’t suffer in silence. You deserve help, and you will find that life is worth living.

What to do about feeling suicidal

Tips for now

Have you hurt yourself, or do you think you might be about to hurt yourself? Call 999 now or go to A&E now.

  • Take the first step and talk to someone you trust. If you’ve been thinking about ending your life, it’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, like a family member, friend, or teacher.
  • If you don’t feel like you can speak to anyone you know, there are confidential helplines like the Samaritans, and safe online forums like The Mix, where you can get support from trained people who care and want you to feel better.

 

 

  • Sometimes talking to someone about your mental health can feel difficult or uncomfortable and you may not always get the reaction you want. But if this is the case, don’t let one bad experience put you off. Your feelings are valid and there are people who want to listen to you and help.
  • Use a grounding technique. If you have a self-soothe box or a safety plan that you have already made, have a look at that and see what you can do to ground yourself. If not, try to focus on your breathing. Have a look at this breathing technique from our blogger Georgie or just concentrate on taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Focus on your senses. Try to concentrate on what you can see, smell, hear, feel and taste. Say these things out loud. This can help distract you if the thoughts are difficult to cope with.
Once I started talking, it wasn't as scary as I initially thought.
C.K, 21
close up of a girl with long hair and one hand on chin listening to a person in front of her

Tips for the long term

  • Think about things in your life that might be making you feel stressed. Is there anything going on that is leading you to view suicide as a solution, such as bullying or problems at school? Is there anything you can do to improve the situation or ask someone you trust like a parent or teacher to help? You may find that if you address any problems like this, the thoughts of suicide become less frequent or stop altogether.
  • Speak to your GP and find out how to get help. This can be really daunting, but your GP will have heard from lots of people who are feeling like you are now. They will know what support and services are available in your local area, and they can help you decide if medication like antidepressants might help you.
  • Make a safety plan. For more information on what a safety plan is, how it can help, and how to create one, have a look at this guide from Childline.
  • Make a self-soothe box. For more about what a self-soothe box is, how it can help when you’re experiencing really intense emotions, and how to make one, read this blog from our blogger Eve.

What will happen if I tell a doctor or teacher that I feel suicidal?

What treatment is there?

Having suicidal feelings can be really scary, but support is available and you can get through it. Your doctor may suggest:

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • other forms of therapy, such as creative therapy
  • medication

The important thing is to find what feels right for you. Your doctor, therapist or counsellor can help you with this.

Confidentiality

Anything you tell a doctor, counsellor or therapist is confidential, meaning they won’t tell anyone else unless you agree otherwise. This includes if you tell them you are having suicidal thoughts.

But, your therapist or counsellor may have to tell someone if they think you or someone else might not be safe. Usually they will try to let you know first. It is very unlikely that they would tell your parent(s) or guardian(s) something you have told them, but they may encourage you to do so.

If you tell a doctor that you are having suicidal feelings, they may refer you to hospital, or to a mental health service. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to stay in hospital; it’s just so that you can get the right help.

For tips on talking to your doctor and more information on confidentiality, have a look at our page on how to speak to your GP about mental health.

Supporting a friend who is feeling suicidal

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How can I tell if a friend is feeling suicidal?

Unfortunately, there is no simple list of signs that someone might be struggling with suicidal feelings, but here are some signs that may indicate someone is struggling with these thoughts:

  • changes in behaviour, e.g. becoming more withdrawn or losing interest in things they normally enjoy
  • talking about death a lot, or mentioning that they feel “hopeless”, have “had enough” or that loved ones would be "better off without me”
  • taking risks with their health, e.g. increased use of drugs or alcohol, or suddenly taking part in dangerous activities
  • being suddenly calm after a period of distress
If you are worried that a loved one may be struggling with suicidal feelings, it’s okay to ask directly. It may feel uncomfortable, but asking about it won’t cause it to happen.
medium shot of a girl with curly hair wrapping her arms to her girlfriend talking to her while they are sitting in a park

How to support a friend who is feeling suicidal

  • Listen without judgement, stay calm and don’t overreact.
  • Be aware it’s not your job to take away the pain or make it better. All you can do is be there, even if you don’t know what to say (which is okay!).
  • Try not to downplay what they tell you or brush it off as a “phase”. Do your best to see things from their perspective.
  • Encourage them to open up and help them identify a trusted adult (such as a teacher) they could talk to and who can help them find support. Some young people may be reluctant to talk to a parent in case they ‘freak out’ or because the parents themselves struggles with mental health problems. In that case, a teacher or family friend may feel more appropriate for them to speak to.
  • Help them build up a wider support network so they know who to contact 24/7 if they’re struggling, such as The Samaritans, Childline or the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger.
  • Make sure you talk to someone too. If you’re trying to support a friend who’s been thinking about suicide, that information can be a heavy burden to carry alone, so share your feelings with someone you trust.
If you are worried that a loved one may be struggling with suicidal feelings, it’s okay to ask directly. It may feel uncomfortable, but asking about it won’t cause it to happen.

Does telling an adult that my friend is suicidal make me a bad friend?

It can be really difficult to know what to do if your friend tells you they are struggling with suicidal feelings but asks you not to tell anybody. You may feel like it’s too much responsibility but that telling an adult would make you a bad friend. But if your friend needs more support than you can offer, it can be a good idea to tell a trusted adult.


It is not your responsibility to solve your friend’s problems on your own. They may be angry with you at first if you tell an adult what they told you, but if you are doing it in their best interest they will eventually see that.

Supporting a friend with their mental health

What can I do if my friend doesn’t want to talk about it?

Some people may find it difficult to talk about their emotions, especially if they are experiencing suicidal feelings. It can be really hard to watch a friend struggling and not know what to do. It may leave you feeling powerless and frustrated. But if they don’t feel able to talk about the thoughts they are experiencing, sometimes it’s enough just to sit with them and let them know you are there for them.

Some people may feel more comfortable talking to someone else, such as a family member or teacher, or they may prefer to speak to someone via a helpline. It is really important that they talk to someone, so it can help to talk to them about who they might feel comfortable speaking to. We have a list of helplines they can use below.

Getting help

Where to get help

If you are feeling suicidal right now, you are not alone and there is help out there. Here are places that can help you. 

  • YoungMinds Textline

    Text YM to 85258

    Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

    All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

    Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
    9am - midnight, 365 days a year
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

    Provides support to anyone in the UK who is feeling down and needs to talk or find information.

    Free webchat service available.

    Information about the helpline and how it works available here.

    Opening times:
    5pm - midnight, 365 days a year
  • Papyrus

    Offers confidential advice and support for young people struggling with suicidal thoughts.

    Its helpline service - HOPELINEUK - is available to anybody under the age of 35 experiencing suicidal thoughts, or anybody concerned that a young person could be thinking of suicide.

    Opening times:
    9am – midnight, 365 days a year
  • The Mix

    Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

    Email support available via their online contact form.

    Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

    Free short-term counselling service available.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, seven days a week