If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts and is in immediate danger, please call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Don’t leave the person alone until help arrives.
For help and support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
If you have thoughts of suicide, this guide is designed to help you recognise your warning signs, find the right support, and keep safe. It has information for managing life if you have experienced a suicide attempt. There is also advice for families and friends.
For quick reference please visit our factsheets:
Everyone has different needs and experiences. This guide can’t cover all options, and the advice provided is of a general nature. Please contact a GP or mental health professional for more specific and tailored advice.
Knowing when something isn’t right
Many people experience suicidal thoughts at some point in their life.
Suicidal thoughts can come and go, and might be mild or more intense. They may seem to come out of nowhere, but they often follow a time of gradual change in how you feel or things you do.
Here are some examples of warning signs that something might not be right. Take a look and note down anything that might be relevant for you when you start to have suicidal feelings:
Things that might trigger suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Almost anything can lead to thoughts of suicide – there isn’t always a clear trigger.
Stressful events can be a can make life difficult for anyone. For some people, this stress may lead to thoughts of suicide.
Some things might cause a lot of intense stress at once. Other things might cause ongoing stress – maybe not all at once, but can cause feelings of hopelessness over time.
Have any of these happened in your life recently?
Sometimes events that are usually seen as positives can also be stressful – such as the birth of a child, or a new job or relationship.
I’ve recognised something isn’t right – now what?
Sometimes, suicidal thoughts might be mild, or pass quickly. Though it might be distressing to experience them, they might not be a cause for concern. Even so, it can still be a good idea to keep an eye on them, and implement some of the strategies in this guide as a preventative measure.
However, if your thoughts are distressing, frequent, or difficult to ignore, it is a sign that you need to take action to look after yourself and stay safe.
Things might feel hopeless. Most people who experience suicidal thoughts do not actually take their own lives, but some people cannot see any other way out of the distress they feel.
Feeling suicidal means feeling more pain than you feel that you can cope with at the time.
People can, and do, get through this.
With help, you can feel better and keep yourself safe.
If you are having suicidal thoughts and are in immediate danger, please call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. For help and support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
Read through the sections below to learn about how to:
However, this is a very important time to reach out to others.
That’s why it’s worth the effort to try and get a support network in place before times of crisis – to help get through a period of suicidal feelings.
If you become suicidal, people in your community, plus treatment and support services, can help get you through this period.
People you trust
Is there someone in your life who you trust, and you can talk to about how you’re feeling?
A safe person can offer valuable support – whether it’s practical support or advice, having someone to talk to and listen, or distract you from how you’re feeling. This person might be a family member or a friend.
If you know someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, check out Section 7 below for advice on how to help.
There are many professionals who can support you if you are feeling suicidal.
A GP is a great starting point to talk to about how you’re feeling. GPs can also provide referrals to mental health professionals for more specialist support.
Health professionals can help you manage distress, listen to and respond to your concerns, and be supportive and respectful.
Talking to a suitably qualified person about suicidal feelings can help you work out the best ways of managing them.
For further information on different kind of mental health professionals, please see our Treatments for mental health issues guide.
Peer support is when people give or receive support based on shared experiences of mental health concerns, such as suicidal thoughts. It involves connecting with people who have been through similar experiences to you.
Peer support provides mental health benefits through empathy, acceptance, and skill-sharing that comes from having similar experiences.
Peer support can be informal or formal. Organisations like SANE can help connect you with peers. Check out our Peer Support factsheet for more information.
Community, financial, and employment support
Getting help is not just about seeking mental health support. Suicidal thoughts can sometimes affect the way people are able to get on with their everyday lives, too.
You might benefit from a range of activities or services that help with areas of your life, such as:
A safety plan can help you cope ahead – meaning you have a plan ahead of time, and know what to do. A lot of the information in this guide will help you fill out and personalise a safety plan.
You can create your own safety plan with the Beyond Now safety planning app or website. You can do this alone, with a family member or friend, or with a trusted health professional.
A safety plan involves filling out sections on:
As part of your safety plan, it’s a great idea to think of things that you can do to help you manage feelings of distress. In the moment, you might not feel like doing these, or think they won’t help. But it’s often worth trying them – you might get some benefits.
The point of these activities is to help you cope in the short term. Everyone is different, so some of these ideas will work for you and others might not be appropriate.
Activities can be distracting – taking your mind off how you’re feeling. For example:
Other activities can be soothing or relaxing – they can help you manage the physical symptoms of anxiety and distress, through soothing your body. For example:
If you are worried about your safety right now
If you’re feeling suicidal, but not in danger right now
With the right strategies, you should start to feel better and be able to keep yourself safe.
Until then, there are things you can do to relieve some of the distress and reduce the desire to end your life:
Understanding different crisis services
For a general guide around the Australian mental health system, check out our guide.
If you are feeling suicidal, you might visit a hospital emergency department. Health professionals will provide an assessment, and may assist you with safety planning and provide referrals. In some cases, they might recommend a stay at a hospital to provide you with mental health support, and help keep you safe.
If you have harmed yourself, you should be taken to a hospital Emergency Department as soon as possible for medical treatment.
Crisis and Safe Haven cafés
Some cities in Australia have Crisis or Safe Haven Cafés, which have been set up as an alternative to emergency departments and other crisis services. They are an alternative, non-clinical resource for people who are suicidal or experiencing acute distress.
Crisis support teams
Crisis teams – sometimes called Crisis Assessment and Treatment Teams (CATT) or Psychiatric Emergency Teams (PET) – are responsible for helping people when they are experiencing a mental health crisis. Most Community Mental Health Services have a crisis team available 24-hours-a-day. Crisis Teams can assess people in their own home or at a clinic, and may arrange treatment and support options, including admission to hospital if appropriate.
If you are unwilling to seek help and someone else - like a family member or health professional - is worried you are at risk of harming yourself, then you may be treated as an involuntary patient. It’s possible to be treated involuntarily either in hospital or while living at home. In either case, you are legally required to access treatment because otherwise your situation would be life-threatening. To learn more about your rights, contact or visit the website of Independent Mental Health Advocacy, your state’s Office of the Public Advocate, or your state’s consumer peak body.
Some people might only experience suicidal thoughts once or twice, and they might pass quickly. For others, suicidal distress can be ongoing, and something to manage in the long-term.
There are lots of activities and strategies that help you manage, or reduce, suicidal thoughts in the long-term.
Getting professional support
You don’t have to manage suicidal thoughts alone. If you aren’t already linked with a mental health professional, it’s a good idea to do so. Especially if you are experiencing stressful life experiences, or having other troubles with your mental health.
Check out our Guide for more information about how to navigate the system.
Keeping a routine
Having a good routine helps you feel balanced and purposeful. It makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning if you have an idea of what you will you be doing – if there is something to look forward to and achieve that means something to you, however small.
Enjoying what you do can give you the motivation to keep going and to develop a sense of purpose and of identity.
Getting back into a routine after a period of feeling suicidal can be a challenge. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid over-doing it at first. Try to be active and do things you enjoy, but not so much that you feel stressed. Also, allow some flexibility in your routine – it doesn’t have to be strict.
Stay in touch
Feeling isolated and lonely can contribute towards suicidal thoughts. It’s a great idea to keep social, and maintain contact with others, even though you might not feel like it at the time. This can be face-to-face or virtually, and with people you know in real life or online.
Find interests that suit you
The more you enjoy something, the easier it will be to stick to a good routine. Spend some time thinking about what really interests you, or trying out something you always meant to do – it can make a big difference to how you feel about your life.
Don’t allow new activities to get boring – remember variety is the spice of life. For example, have some things you do on your own (like yoga or listening to music) and others you do with other people (like walking in the park or going to see a movie).
Doing something to help others, such as volunteer work, can also be a useful way of distracting yourself from feeling down.
Be kind to yourself
Try to be a friend to yourself. Remind yourself about positive things about yourself, however small. Try not to fall into the trap of being critical of yourself all the time, and going over and over negative things in your mind. Try to catch yourself if you are doing this, and practice reframing your thoughts in a more neutral or positive way.
Work out which situations make you feel stressed and try to avoid them, minimise them, or work around them. For example, if you tend to feel stressed or lonely at the weekend, you could plan to do more relaxing or sociable things on these days.
Talk over how you feel with a family member, friend, or health professional – sometimes, things can seem a lot easier after you’ve spoken about them.
Being physically active, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy food can make a big difference to how you feel. This doesn’t mean going to the gym every day or eating a ‘perfect’ diet – simply going for a walk a few times a week, and regularly eating fruits and vegetables, can make a big difference. For further information, please see our Healthy Living guide.
Recovering from a suicide attempt is a major challenge, but one you can use to help yourself. With support, a plan and good advice, you can learn to move on from an attempt, and feel better able to deal with any suicidal feelings you may have in the future.
Here are some tips for getting back on track after a suicide attempt.
Revise your safety plan
Coming through a suicide attempt can give you a vivid lesson in what needs to happen if you become suicidal again. Use this lesson to review – or create – a safety plan.
Before someone becomes suicidal they often experience a similar pattern of symptoms – warning signs that form their so-called ‘relapse signature’. Ask yourself, were there any warning signs before the attempt, which might occur again in the future?
If you or others can learn to recognise these signs, you can tell your support network so that action can be taken before things get any worse.
Reflect on small achievements
While it may be tempting to feel that you have taken a turn for the worse, take time to reflect on any progress you have made. For example, some people might have multiple suicide attempts in their lives, but over time feel more confident contacting a safe person, or strengthening their coping strategies.
The period after a suicide attempt can be a good time to re-examine your goals. For example, major life changes – like starting a demanding new job – can lead to stress or low mood; it might be time to cut back on responsibilities at work.
Another example: some people stop taking medication because of side-effects, leading to a relapse. A goal might be to talk to a doctor about addressing side effects.
Don’t blame yourself
Feeling guilty about a suicide attempt is common and understandable. However, dwelling on feelings of blame and guilt doesn’t help anyone. It’s a great idea to try to reframe these thoughts, and instead aim to focus on the present and the future.
Here are some tips for family and friends who might be supporting someone who is suicidal.
Talking about suicide does not increase the risk of someone taking their own life. It’s okay to let them know you’re concerned, and to ask about their thoughts and feelings.
The first step is to ask clearly and directly. Often people close to the person with suicidal thoughts will notice something is not quite right, or their gut feeling is telling them something. Rather than assume, it's important to clearly ask "I've noticed you haven't been quite the same lately. Are you having thoughts of suicide?"
People who are suicidal often put on a brave face to cover how they feel. That is why it is important to reassure them that you value their honesty and that you will listen and not judge them, regardless of how they are feeling.
If the answer is yes - the next step is to listen non-judgementally, and to show them you are there to help.
When people are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is common for them to feel disconnected from others.
It is important to acknowledge their fears, anxiety, or other emotions, even if you are struggling to understand why they feel that way.
Emphasise that having suicidal thoughts is not something to be ashamed of. Many people go through this experience.
Try to understand what led them to feel this way. Saying things like “That sounds really tough” can show that you are listening and trying to understand what they are going through.
Try not to jump straight into problem solving or convince them they shouldn’t have suicidal thoughts. This can feel dismissive.
Offer practical help
When people are suicidal they can often feel helpless. They might also feel unwilling to get support.
Offering to assist someone in seeking professional help – by making an appointment or driving them there, for example – can make it seem that little bit easier to get help. With their consent, you might also be able to get involved in any treatment they are accessing.
Calling a helpline can be helpful, too. You can call a helpline on their behalf, or for yourself – to get advice, or to debrief. You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
It is also a good idea to get involved in safety planning – whether it’s helping them to create a safety plan, or to have a copy on hand.
There are other ways you can help, aside from encouraging professional help. For example, setting aside time for a regular activity with them, and encouraging them to come along even if they’re not feeling motivated.
Find support for yourself
When people feel suicidal, it is often very distressing for family and friends too.
For further information, please see our Guide for Families, Friends and Carers.
Discourage guilt after a suicide attempt
It’s common for people to feel guilt after a suicide attempt, especially about the distress they may have caused others. Encourage the person to put these feelings aside as much as possible, and focus on the present and the future.
Choose from a range of support services, including counselling, peer support, online groups and events, 24/7 community forums, and online information and resources.