What to do if you feel immediately suicidal
- Tell someone how you feel
- Ask them to stay with you until you get help
- Call a medical professional and tell them it is an emergency
- Call your local hospital and ask for the Mental Health Team
- Go to your GP or emergency department
- Call a crisis helpline — they’re listed at the end of this article
- Call 000
What to do during a crisis
Put your safety plan into action
If you haven’t already made a safety plan, there’s advice on how to make one later in this article.
Delay taking action
Your suicidal thoughts do not have to become a reality. Promise yourself you’ll wait at least 24 hours before acting, to give you time to get help. Focus on getting through today, not the rest of your life.
Make your environment safe
Remove objects you could use to hurt yourself, like pills, knives, or razors. Ask a someone you trust to look after them. If you can’t do that, go to a place where you are safe.
Avoid drugs and alcohol
They can make emotions more volatile, affect your judgment, make you feel more hopeless and greatly increase your risk of hurting yourself impulsively.
Share with someone you trust
It could be a friend, family member, medical professional, member of your spiritual group, teacher, or helpline counsellor. Just talking can release a lot of the pressure and help you find a way to cope.
Soothe and distract yourself
Even if few things bring you pleasure at the moment, force yourself to do the things you used to enjoy and focus your attention there. Here are some suggestions:
- Use your senses: look at calming things, listen to your favourite music, smell your favourite possessions, touch pleasing textures, savour each mouthful of your favourite food
- Do breathing or relaxation exercises — try Smiling Mind or some of the YouTube videos or apps available
- Have a warm bath or shower
- Exercise, stretch, walk around the block, do yoga
- Do some gardening, DIY or household chores
- Visit a busy park or the beach
- Read a book or a magazine, do a jigsaw, Sudoku or crossword
- Paint, draw, write, knit, play music, bake
- Read or join a discussion on the SANE Forums
- Learn something new on the internet
- Help someone else, or visit someone
- Play with a pet
Write positive things down
List the things in your life you value, no matter how small. These may include family, friends or pets, spiritual beliefs, everyday pleasures or favourite memories. Keep the list on you, and read it if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Write down your goals
You may have always wanted to travel to a particular place, read a specific book, own a pet, move to another place, start a hobby, volunteer, go back to school, or start a family. Write those goals down.
What to do once the crisis has passed
Get ongoing help
Experiencing extreme emotional pain can be a traumatizing experience. Psychological treatments can help, as can medication and support, or a combination of the three. Ask your GP where to start.
Identify your triggers
Triggers are thoughts, moods, behaviour or situations that lead to despair and suicidal thoughts. They might include alcohol, relationship stress or an anniversary of a loss. Knowing them before they happen will help you feel in control and get help early.
Make a safety plan
A safety plan is a set of steps you can follow during a crisis. Stick it on your fridge, your bedroom door, keep it on your phone. The phone app beyondnow can help with a safety plan, or you can use our example:
My safety plan
- Triggers I should avoid are: [list them]
- Delay any suicide attempt by at least 24 hours
- Make my environment safe or go to these places where I feel safe: [list them]
- Use my Soothe & Distract activities [list them]
- Make a list of positive things and goals
- Call [people I trust] on [phone numbers]
- Get some sleep
- Call my healthcare professional on [phone number], or the crisis line on [phone number]
- Go to the nearest Emergency Room which is at [address]
- Call 000 for an ambulance
Schedule your days
This can include getting out of bed, showering, walking around the block, making a healthy meal. Stick to your schedule as much as possible, especially when your feelings seem out of control.
Develop new interests
Find new hobbies, volunteer activities, or work that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. When you’re doing things you find fulfilling, you’ll feel better about yourself and further from despair.
Take care of your self
Eat healthily and get regular sleep. Exercise really helps, as it releases endorphins, relieves stress and promotes emotional well-being.
Build your social network
Get together with others, even if you don't feel like it at first. Surround yourself with positive influences and good people. The more you’re invested in other people and your community, the more you’ll stay positive and on the recovery track.
Manage your stress
Find healthy ways to keep stress down. Use your Soothe & Distract strategies, exercise, meditate, practise simple breathing exercises, challenge self-defeating thoughts.
Come back to this article when you’re at your lowest, or print it out and keep it with you, or put it on the fridge where you can easily access it. Whatever works best for you, to help you get through this.
- Emergency Services: 000
- Crisis Assessment Team (CAT) or Psychiatric Emergency Team (PET) at local major hospital
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au
Information and advice on mental illness
Tanya Peisley is SANE's Help Centre Senior Advisor.