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Suicidal thoughts

When life gets very hard, painful emotions feel prolonged and overwhelming; a person may fantasise or talk about wishing it was over or that they didn't wake up. This does not mean they intend to end their life, but should be taken seriously.

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What are suicidal thoughts?

Different people have different thought processes around suicide. Sometimes people report that these feelings build during a difficult period in life. At other times, suicidal thoughts and feelings come and go. It is important to know, however, that these feelings are not uncommon.

It is also important to note that evidence shows that talking about suicide does not make a person more likely to end their own life. Nor does it mean that a person is not serious, or ‘attention-seeking’.

At what age do suicidal thoughts start? 

These thoughts do not normally occur in children though they become more common in teenagers.

Suicidal thoughts and feelings can also appear in adulthood. There may be a ‘trigger’ event, or there may not.

How long do suicidal thoughts last?

Everyone’s experiences are different. Whilst it is possible to feel that one will never be happy, with support and understanding most people who have felt suicidal go on to live long and fruitful lives.

The important thing is to let someone know and to begin the process of talking to someone about them. 

How many people have suicidal thoughts? 

Many people have suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives. Much fewer people act on these thoughts. 

What causes suicidal thoughts?

Suicidal feelings can affect anyone, of any age, gender or background, at any time.

Some people can point to a particular event that made them contemplate suicide. For others, they may have been feeling increasingly hopeless and worthless for some time as the result of a combination of factors.

What are the risk factors for suicidal thoughts?

There are too many to list, but stress, depression and other mental health problems are typical.

What treatment and support is available for people who are having suicidal thoughts?

The two main approaches to help people with suicidal thoughts are talking therapy and medication.

Therapy for suicidal thoughts

For talk therapy, contact one of our experts. Problem Shared therapists are skilled and experienced at providing support to people who are coping with suicidal thoughts and feelings, no matter what the client’s age or circumstances. 

Medication to manage suicidal thoughts

Medicines do not specifically treat suicidal thoughts but can help with the underlying issues a person may be suffering from, which lead to thoughts of suicide. A GP will discuss these medications. It is important to remember that sometimes the medicines themselves, whether they be antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilisers, can have the side effect of making suicidal thoughts stronger in the short term. 

In case of emergency

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of harm, please call 999. 

Other resources about suicide prevention


Papyrus is a charity that aims to reduce death by suicide amongst young people. It provides advice for parents, young people and people who look after young people who are at high risk or have threatened to end their own lives.

The Mix

This charity provides a free 24-hour text service for young people in crisis, including those coping with suicidal thoughts and feelings. To contact the service, text THEMIX to 85258.


For people in distress or despair, especially for people experiencing suicidal thoughts, Samaritans is open 24 hours a day by phone (116 123) and email (

Click here to see practitioners who specialise in suicidal thoughts.