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Managing Symptoms of Depression

Suicidal Thoughts, Plans, Attempts

Thoughts of death, suicide, or even suicide attempts can be common if you are depressed. The frequency and intensity of thoughts about suicide can be wide-ranging from believing that friends and family would be better off if you were dead, to frequent thoughts about committing suicide, to detailed plans about how you would actually carry out the act of suicide. People who are less severely suicidal may have short, but regular (a few times a week) thoughts of suicide. A person who is more severely suicidal may have made specific plans, collected materials (i.e., pills, gun, rope), and decided upon a day and location for the suicide attempt.

The motivation for a person to want to kill him- or herself may not be for the desire to actually die. It may be due to the wish to give up in the face of what seems for the person to be overwhelming obstacles, or the desire to end the emotional pain that seems to have no end.

What does NOT help suicidal thoughts:

  • Keeping the thoughts to yourself and not sharing them with another person, particularly someone who can help. This can include family, friends, clergy, your doctor, or a mental health professional.
  • Not working with a mental health professional to address suicidal thoughts and other depressive symptoms.
  • Making plans for a suicide attempt.
  • Gathering items for a suicide attempt.

What can help improve suicidal thoughts:

  • Recognizing that depression causes you to have thoughts of suicide It is not some character flaw or “failure” on your part. When you are not depressed, you may not have such problems with thoughts of suicide.
  • If you are having suicidal thoughts, making plans for an attempt, or you have intentions for a suicide attempt, it is extremely important that you seek help immediately. You should call 911, speak with your doctor, speak with a mental health professional, or go directly to your local hospital emergency room.
  • If you are currently working with a mental health professional for your depressive symptoms, call him or her and discuss your suicidal thoughts or plans.
  • If you aren’t currently seeing a therapist, please do so. A good therapist can help you understand and manage suicidal thoughts, as well as address other symptoms of depression.

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This page was last updated on May 23, 2010

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