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Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts

If you need help RIGHT NOW, Freephone National Helpline 116 123 (callers from Rep of Ireland and the UK) for free helpline & face to face counselling support or Pieta House 1800 247 247

There are times in life when we might feel totally, hopeless, helpless, overwhelmed with emotional pain. It can seem like there is no other way out of our problems, we've run out of ideas, possible solutions. Our problems seem unfixable. The pain feels like it will never end. We believe we've run out of options, and suicide is the only answer left.

Maybe the suicidal thoughts come to mind, you might have mixed feelings about them. They're frightening and confusing. For some people, suicide may be a way of getting back at others, or showing them how much pain you're in. But after suicide, you won't be there to see that they feel guilty, or finally understand your pain.

Feelings will pass. Depression feels permanent, but it's transient. Things will change. Depression comes and it goes. It is a temporary crisis, an attempt to stop the inner pain. You will get through this tunnel and come out the other side. Over 90% of people who survive a potentially lethal suicide attempt, do not go on to kill themselves.

Depression and pain distort our thinking. It can seem like we're wearing very dark tinted 'gloomy specs'. Everything looks different to how it really is.

Thoughts are thoughts - not necessarily how things are, although it certainly feels like the thoughts are true. Thoughts affect the way we feel, and thoughts and feelings affect the way we react, what we do. Suicidal thoughts can result when we experience too much pain, without having enough resources to cope.

We therefore have two ways to get us through this horrible time:

  • Reduce our pain - felt both emotionally and physically

  • Increase our coping resources



  • Do something that will help you feel better, right now

  • Perhaps collect items into an emergency bag or box so that when you feel overwhelmingly distressed, you can go to your bag or box and find something that will help you cope and/or feel better. Collect together items that are meaningful, or those you know will be helpful. Include items that will help soothe all your senses

  • Vision: photo album, DVD, book or magazine, a picture of a beautiful safe place (or use safe place imagery ), a reminder for a funny or inspiring YouTube video, a walk or sit in the park or garden, guided meditation

  • Hearing: soothing or inspiring music on CD or mp3 player, recordings of a friends voice, reminder of phone numbers to ring, a talking book, self help or calming mp3.

  • Smell or taste: oils, fruity snack or treat, favourite perfume, a sachet of coffee or ready prepared cake mix.

  • Touch: soft woolly socks or blanket, teddy bear, comforter or grounding object, hand or foot lotion, massage oil, warm bubble bath, nail varnish, make-up

Use all five senses to find things that will soothe you


Focus your attention on looking at something nice, nature, a painting, watching a favourite programme or movie


Listen to a favourite piece of music, sounds of nature, sing


Really notice smells - favourite soap, food, essential oil


Use sensation of taste to focus your attention. Eat mindfully - savouring each moment


Wear soft comforting socks, stroke a pet, give yourself a hand massage

A useful reminder, using the 5 senses, to help you shift focus of attention and ground you into the present moment:

5 things I can see

4 things I can hear

3 things I can touch

2 things I can smell or taste

1 breath. Then continue to just notice your breathing and the sensations of breathing in your belly

Avoid drugs and alcohol

  • Whilst it seems like they help for a while, they will make your problems worse.

Ask yourself:

  • Are these thoughts facts or my opinion?

  • What has helped me feel better in the past?

  • What can I do right now that will help me feel better?

  • What gives my life meaning? What are my goals, dreams or life values? E.g. Family, friends, pets, helping others, faith, spirituality, community life, connecting with nature.

Tell yourself:

  • Positive self-talk: “I can get through this - I've done it before” “I'm stronger than I think I am” “This will pass” “I can do this”

  • I've coped this far, I can get through the next .... (day, hour, 10 minutes)

  • Things will look better in time.

  • Depression is temporary - this will pass.

  • Depression is distorting my thinking - these thoughts are the voice of depression. They are not facts. I don't have to act on them.

  • The vast majority of people get better from depression. I will look back and be pleased that I chose to live.


Take one step at a time

  • Take things a little at a time. Set out to get through the next day, the next week or month, perhaps the next hour or even less. Tell yourself: "I've got through so far, I can get through the next hour".

Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques help to bring us back to the here and now, with an awareness of our own bodies. They are strategies that help us to be in the present moment, in reality, rather than in our current distress.

Practise them, and learn what works best for you - whether it's a mental strategy like telling yourself you're safe now, or maybe doing something more physical. The aim is to turn your focus of attention away from the past or current distress, and into the here and now of reality and safety.

Tell yourself you are having are feeling bad but the feelings will pass. Notice what is right now

Look around the room, notice the colours, the people, the shapes of things. Make it more real.

Listen to and really notice the sounds around you: the traffic, voices, washing machine, music etc.

Notice your body, the boundary of your skin, how your clothes feel on your skin, movement in your hair as you move your head, really feel the chair or floor supporting you - how that feels in your feet, your legs, your body.

Stand up and put your feet firmly on the ground

Move about: stretch, stamp your feet, jump up and down, dance, run on the spot, rub your arms and legs, clap your hands, walk, remind yourself where you are right now.

Breathe mindfully: breathe deeply down to your belly; put your hand there (just above your navel) and breathe so that your hand gets pushed up and down. Imagine you have a balloon in your tummy, inflating it as you breathe in, and deflating as you breathe out. When we get scared, we breathe too quickly and shallowly and our body begins to panic because we're not getting enough oxygen. This causes dizziness, shakiness and more panic. Breathing slower and deeper will stop the panic. Rub your arms and legs. If you have lost a sense of your body, rub your arms and legs so you can feel where your body starts and ends, the boundary of you. Wrap yourself in a blanket and feel it around you.

Walk, and really think about walking - mindfully. Notice the way your body moves, how your feet move and feel as you walk, notice your leg muscles, and the way your arms feel as they swing. Notice the movement in your hair, and the sensation of moving air on your skin. Notice the sensations of breathing as you walk.

Describe (and say out loud if appropriate) what you are doing right now, in great detail. Or describe doing a routine activity.

Try to think about different things, almost like playing mental games, for example: count backwards in 7s from 100, think of 10 different animals, 10 blue things, one animal or country for each letter of the alphabet, say the alphabet slowly, say the alphabet backwards etc.

Ask yourself questions in order to bring yourself into the present. Write down your own questions, for example:

  • Where am I, right now?

  • What day is it?

  • What year is it?

  • How old am I?

  • Where do I live?

When you feel ready, you might want to write down about your expereience, and how you got through it. This will help to remind you that you did get through it, and can again.


Do something else, and focus your attention fully on what you're doing, e.g.

  • Gardening

  • Household chores

  • Physical exercise - walk, run, cycle, dance

  • Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique)

  • Reading - magazine, self help book

  • Television

  • Seek out a supportive discussion forum on the internet

  • Learn something new on the internet

  • Help someone else

  • Go to the park, the beach - pay attention to nature

  • Visit someone

  • Music

  • Stroke a pet

  • DIY

  • Feed the birds

  • Sudoku or crossword

  • Do something creative: painting, writing, knitting, play a musical instrument, make a collage, bake a cake, cook a meal, arrange some flowers, make a website or blog

STOP Method

  1. Stop. Take some deep breaths. Be aware of any tensions in your body

  2. Observe: get in touch with your feelings – fear, anxious, depressed and discover the thoughts that go with them – I am useless; there is no point

  3. Name the thoughts for what they are - as over reactions to a problem, as an unhelpful part of yourself, as not the real you. Replace the thought with more factual thoughts. Yes I have made mistakes but I have a lot of successes; I have much to give.

  4. Divert your energies onto your hopes, interests and talents

Talk to someone - now!

  • A friend or family member

  • The National Helpline 116123 or Pieta House 1800 247 247

  • A health professional

  • Go somewhere you'll feel safe - be with other people

  • Go to the local Accident & Emergency department

  • Call the local emergency number (E.g. 999)


Take action!

  • We can only change our situations by changing something about the way we think, or what we do

Plan activity and routine

  • Plan activites to achieve, connect with others & enjoy (ACE)

  • Get into a daily routine and stick with it - get up at the same time each day, go to bed at the same time, plan an activity each morning, afternoon and evening

  • Do things you enjoy, or used to enjoy, or you think you might enjoy

  • Set realistic goals

  • Write down your goals and your weekly/daily timetable

Look after yourself

  • Eat healthily, balance sleep, treat physical or mental health problems, avoid drugs and alcohol, get regular exercise

Systematically work through a problem

  • Work through a problem

  • Get help from an appropriate person or agency (E.g. Citizens Information Office)

Maintain or improve relationships

  • Connect and be with others

  • Call, text, email - friends or family

  • Create new contacts - join a local support group or an online discussion forum

  • Repair relationship

Lower your expectations

  • Sometimes life can feel like we're struggling to drive or cycle up a long and steep hill, in top gear. The motor just can't get us there. It works really hard, but it's impossible to get up that steep hill in top gear. We need to change down a gear or two. Changing down gives the motor more torque, and is much better able to drive those wheels up that hill, albeit a bit slower.

  • We often try to struggle on in top gear, expecting so much of ourselves, of others, of life itself. Sometimes we need to change down a gear. Slow it down, reduce the struggle. Carry on, but in a lower gear.

Write a daily diary or journal

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