Suicidal Thoughts

Definitions of Suicide and Suicidal Ideation

Suicide Death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior.

Suicide attempt A non-fatal self-directed potentially injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior. A suicide attempt may or may not result in injury.

Suicidal ideation Thinking about, considering, or planning for suicide.

The Warning Signs of Suicide

The following behaviors may indicate that a person is having suicidal thoughts. This list can be a useful resource, but keep in mind there may be other indicators that a person is contemplating suicide.
  • Talking about killing or harming one’s self
  • Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
  • An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
  • Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
  • Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
  • Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
  • Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out”
  • A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy

Risk Factors for Suicide

  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or other)

When To Get Help

If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, get help right now: 

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.

If you’re feeling suicidal, but you aren’t immediately thinking of hurting yourself:

  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community
  • Call a suicide crisis center hotline
  • Make an appointment with your doctor, other health care provider or mental health provider

Suicidal thinking doesn’t get better on its own — so get help.