What is suicide?
Suicide, taking your own life, is a tragic reaction to stressful life situations — and all the more tragic because suicide can be prevented. Whether you’re considering suicide or know someone who feels suicidal, learn suicide warning signs and how to reach out for immediate help and professional treatment. You may save a life — your own or someone else’s.
It may seem like there’s no way to solve your problems and that suicide is the only way to end the pain. But you can take steps to stay safe — and start enjoying your life again.
How common is suicide?
Over one million people die by suicide worldwide each year. The global suicide rate is 16 per 100,000 population. On average, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world. 1.8% of worldwide deaths are suicides. Global suicide rates have increased 60% in the past 45 years. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of suicide?
The common symptoms of suicide are:
- Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
- Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
Warning signs aren’t always obvious, and they may vary from person to person. Some people make their intentions clear, while others keep suicidal thoughts and feelings secret.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
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 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.
What causes suicide?
Suicidal thoughts have many causes. Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can’t cope when you’re faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don’t have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out.
There also may be a genetic link to suicide. People who complete suicide or who have suicidal thoughts or behavior are more likely to have a family history of suicide.
What increases my risk for suicide?
Although attempted suicide is more frequent for women, men are more likely than women to complete suicide because they typically use more-effective methods, such as a firearm.
You may be at risk of suicide if you:
- Feel hopeless, worthless, agitated, socially isolated or lonely
- Experience a stressful life event, such as the loss of a loved one, military service, a breakup, or financial or legal problems
- Have a substance abuse problem — alcohol and drug abuse can worsen thoughts of suicide and make you feel reckless or impulsive enough to act on your thoughts
- Have suicidal thoughts and have access to firearms in your home
- Have an underlying psychiatric disorder, such as major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder
- Have a family history of mental disorders, substance abuse, suicide, or violence, including physical or sexual abuse
- Have a medical condition that can be linked to depression and suicidal thinking, such as chronic disease, chronic pain or terminal illness
- Are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender with an unsupportive family or in a hostile environment
- Attempted suicide before
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is suicide diagnosed?
Your health care provider may be able to determine whether you are at a high risk for suicide based on your symptoms, personal history, and family history.
Your health care provider will want to know when your symptoms started and how often you experience them. They will also ask you about any past or current medical problems and about certain conditions that may run in your family. This can help them determine possible explanations for your symptoms and which tests will be needed to make a diagnosis.
Assessments may include:
- Mental health conditions: In many cases, thoughts of suicide are caused by an underlying mental health disorder. If your health care provider suspects that a mental health disorder is contributing to suicidal thoughts, they will refer you to a mental health professional. This person can provide an accurate diagnosis and determine an effective treatment plan for your particular condition.
- Substance abuse: Alcohol or drug abuse can often contribute to suicidal thinking and acts of suicide. It’s important to tell your health care provider about any problems you may be having with alcohol or drug use, such as binge drinking or using drugs on daily basis. If substance abuse is causing you to have suicidal thoughts, then you will likely need to enroll in an alcohol or rehabilitation program.
- Medications: The use of certain prescription or over-the-counter drugs can also trigger thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior. Make sure to tell your health care provider about any medications you’re currently taking to see if they could be contributing to your symptoms.
How is suicide treated?
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your suicidal thoughts and behavior. In most cases, however, treatment consists of talk therapy and medication.
Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, is one possible treatment method for lowering your risk of committing suicide. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that’s often used for people who are having thoughts of suicide. It teaches you how to work through stressful life events and emotions that may be contributing to your suicidal thoughts and behavior. CBT can also help you replace negative beliefs with positive ones and regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life.
If talk therapy isn’t enough to successfully lower your risk, then you may be prescribed medication that can ease symptoms caused by certain physical and mental health conditions. Treating the underlying cause of symptoms can help reduce the frequency of suicidal thoughts. You be prescribed one or more of the following types of medication:
- Antipsychotic medications
- Anti-anxiety medications
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage suicide?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with suicide:
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs: Abstaining from using alcohol and drugs is critical, as these substances can increase the frequency of suicidal thoughts.
- Exercising regularly: Exercising at least three times per week, especially outdoors and in moderate sunlight, can also help. Physical activity stimulates the production of certain brain chemicals that make you feel happier and more relaxed.
- Sleeping well: It’s also important to get at least six to eight hours of sleep each night. Talk to your health care provider if you’re having trouble sleeping.
To help prevent suicidal thoughts, you should:
- Talk to someone. You should never try to manage suicidal feelings entirely on your own. Getting professional help and support from loved ones can make it easier to overcome any challenges that are causing suicidal thoughts or behavior. There are also numerous organizations and support groups that can help you cope with suicidal thoughts and recognize that suicide isn’t the right way to deal with stressful life events. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is another great resource. They have trained staff available to speak to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Take medications as directed. You should never change your dosage or stop taking your medications unless your health care provider tells you to do so. Your suicidal feelings may return and you may develop withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking your medications. If you are experiencing negative side effects from the medication you’re currently taking, speak with your health care provider about switching to another one.
- Never skip an appointment. It’s important to attend all your therapy sessions and health care provider’s appointments. Sticking with your treatment plan is the best way to overcome suicidal thoughts and behavior.
- Pay attention to warning signs. Work with your health care provider or therapist to learn about the possible triggers for your suicidal feelings. This will help you recognize the signs of danger early on and decide what steps to take ahead of time. It can also be beneficial to tell family members and friends about the warning signs so they can know when you may need help.
- Eliminate access to lethal methods of suicide. Get rid of any firearms, knives, or dangerous medications if you worry that you might act on suicidal thoughts.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: December 14, 2017 | Last Modified: December 6, 2019
Suicide and suicidal thoughts. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/suicide/symptoms-causes/syc-20378048. Accessed December 13, 2017.
What is suicide and suicidal behavior? https://www.healthline.com/health/suicide-and-suicidal-behavior#Overview1. Accessed December 13, 2017.