Finding Help for Suicidal Thoughts

Sadness woman talking by smartphone

Every 11 minutes someone dies by suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

Suicidal thoughts are not something to be ashamed of. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)12.2 million adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million made a plan, and 1.2 million attempted suicide in the past year.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Your situation and mental health can get better. Thoughts can become actions, so it's important to choose good ones.

Finding Help for Suicidal Thoughts

To get the help you need, it's important to reach out and talk to someone about what you're going through. Acknowledging and talking openly about suicide doesn't make it worse. In fact, research shows talking can reduce suicidal thoughts, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health.

Here are ways you can reach out for help:

Talk to your doctor

Your primary care doctor can screen you for any health conditions that may contribute to suicidal thoughts. Nine physical conditions are linked to risk of death by suicide, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. These are:

  • Back pain.
  • Brain injury.
  • Cancer.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Migraine.
  • Sleep disorders.

Your doctor also can screen you for depression and other mental health disorders that can increase your risk of suicide. And they can refer you to a licensed mental health professional for treatment, if needed.

Get professional mental health help

Mental health professionals include psychologists, psychiatrists, and behavioral health therapists like licensed clinical social workers or professional counselors. They can help you talk through and process what you're feeling and experiencing.

A therapist also can help you develop healthy coping skills for stress, depression, and living with chronic medical conditions. You can find a qualified therapist through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)'s online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator.

Sometimes, therapy isn't enough. In this case, your treatment plan can also include lifestyle changes and prescription medication, such as anti-depressants.

Join a support group

There are support groups that can help. For example, trauma (such as the death of a loved one or a serious illness) can trigger feelings of depression and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Speaking and sharing with others who have had similar experiences can provide comfort and guidance. If you're struggling with addiction, pain, or another serious mental or physical condition, ask your doctor to recommend a related support group.

A family history of suicide also can increase your own risk of suicide. Don't ignore past traumatic events – whether they occurred recently or years ago. Instead, consider joining a suicide bereavement support group. You can find one online through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Build a support network

Confiding in trusted friends, family, and community members can help you unload your thoughts and decrease emotional overwhelm. Strengthening and expanding your social circle also can help you feel less isolated. Relationships with friends and family are important when managing suicidal thoughts and behavior.

You can connect with people in your community by taking up a new hobby or volunteering. Connecting with others on social media also can help you feel a sense of belonging and share experiences. It's also a good place to find people with similar interests so you feel less lonely.

Suicide Prevention Hotlines

If you're in crisis, it's important to get help right away. You do not need to be in the middle of a potentially life-threatening situation to ask for counseling. There is no problem that is too small to reach out for help.

There are many suicide prevention hotlines to help someone dealing with emotional difficulties or thinking about suicide. Trained counselors are available for free, 24/7, to get you through the crisis and provide additional support. Thoughts of suicide and self-harm can feel isolating, but it is important to remember that you are never alone.

Suicide prevention hotlines include:

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly National Suicide Prevention Lifeline): Call 988 or chat online at Services are also available in Spanish at 1-888-628-9454 and for those who are deaf or hard of hearing through online chat and text telephone (TTY).

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 or chat online.

Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

The Trevor Project Lifeline: A special service for LGBTQIA+ youth. Call 1-866-488-7386, text START to 678-678, or chat online.