What might suicidal thoughts feel like?

Any one of us can experience suicidal thoughts regardless of our past experiences, support network or circumstances in life.

Suicidal thoughts can feel scary and overwhelming for many people.

These experiences can be different for each of us and for some they may be very intense, can build gradually or we might experience fleeting thoughts.

You might experience:

  • Feelings that others would be better off without you
  • Feeling unable to see any other way forwards in your circumstances
  • Feeling a sense of indifference about whether you live or die
  • Not having any plans to harm yourself but engaging in risk-taking activities or feeling a sense of relief at the thought of ending things
  • Having thought about plans to end your life
  • Confusion about why you feel suicidal and unsure how to cope with these thoughts

Sometimes, suicidal thoughts can also occur alongside other mental health challenges or as a response to distressing life events.

At other times, it may be difficult for us to pinpoint why we may be feeling this way, or it may be difficult to articulate how we feel to those around us whilst still trying to understand it ourselves.

Creating a safety plan

If you are feeling suicidal, it can be helpful to create a safety and support plan for yourself. This can include:

  • Details of your support network and contacts. You could also reach out to those around you and have a conversation with them about how they can best support you when needed, whether this is helping you with practical tasks such as medical appointments or simply being there to listen.
  • A list of important professional numbers to contact if you are feeling suicidal:
    • You can speak to your GP to explore what support is available
    • You can contact the Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123
    • In an emergency if you feel at risk, you can contact 999 or present at any A&E to be supported by a mental health professional. You may also be able to contact your local NHS Community Mental Health Team (CMHT).
  • A self-care toolkit. Consider what kind of activities may help you to soothe yourself when emotions are heightened. Examples could include journaling and writing down your thoughts, listening to music, doing some gentle movement, or trying to practice some grounding exercises. Here are some examples of some grounding exercises below that can help bring you into the present moment:
    • Feeling your feet into the floor
    • Moving your body – try stretching different muscle groups, pushing your weight against a wall or jumping up and down if possible
    • Placing your hand over your heart to feel connected to your body
    • Put your hands in water – how it feels on your fingertips, palms, and the backs of your hands. Does it feel the same in each part of your hand? Any difference between lukewarm water and cold water?
    • The butterfly hug – cross your arms over your body so that the opposite hands are on your shoulders and rub down your arms for up to five minutes – this may feel helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed
    • The 5 senses exercise – if you are feeling overwhelmed, it can be helpful to name something you can see/taste/touch/hear/smell in that immediate moment to help you to stay present

In the longer term, it may also be helpful to explore how counselling and other types of therapy could be helpful to you, to be able to gain deeper insight into your feelings, and explore ways to move forwards, with the help of a therapist.

Sometimes a need for counselling or other types of specialist therapy may be indicated, and it can be helpful to book an appointment with your GP to discuss this and explore the different routes for support.

If you are supporting someone else who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is also important to take time to look after your own wellbeing.

If you feel it would be helpful to discuss things further, you can contact CIC’s AdviceLine on 0800 085 1376 and our experienced clinicians will be here to support and guide you to identify the best way forwards.