Helping yourself when feeling overwhelmed and suicidal

Having suicidal thoughts can be a response to feeling overwhelmed, as if your life is out of your control; that it will never get better.

You might think that your family and friends would be better off without you, but it is important to remember that suicidal feelings dissipate.

Experiencing these thoughts does not mean you need to act on them.


How to help yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed and suicidal

The following is a list of things that other people have found helpful when feeling overwhelmed to the point of wanting to harm or kill themselves. You might find it useful to experiment with some of these ideas and keep a list of the ones you’ve found helpful so you can refer back to them when you need to.

  • Think about another time where you might have faced a similarly stressful time in your life and what you did to cope. Can you do the same things now?
  • Think or write about the last time you felt a little better than you do now
  • Stay focused on the present, as worrying about whether things will ever improve often just leads to feeling more overwhelmed. You can do this by breaking up your day and planning a short activity that will distract you, and then plan your next activity once you’ve finished that one. Some examples of activities other people find helpful:
    • Listening to music that can improve your mood
    • Having a bath
    • Sitting outside or going for a short walk
    • Spending time with your loved ones
    • Watching a favourite DVD, television program or video
    • Drawing/sketching/painting
    • Writing
    • Reconnecting with areas of your life that give you a sense of meaning e.g. spirituality, social service, your vocation
    • Taking some time out to treat yourself to a small thing you ordinarily enjoy and savour it.
  • Take care of your physical health
    • While it isn’t easy when you’re feeling so overwhelmed, eating well, maintaining a daily routine and keeping active can all help you feel more able to keep on top of things.
  • Relaxation techniques
    • Learn about other relaxation and coping techniques. There are a range of relaxation techniques that people find useful to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed. You can learn more about these by searching the internet for reputable websites and visiting your local library or bookshop. Some examples of other relaxation techniques are:
      • Body scans Also known as ‘progressive muscle relaxation’. Lie down or recline in a chair. Taking slow breaths, and beginning with your feet, tense the muscles for 10 seconds and then release them for 15 seconds. Work your way up the different muscle groupings of your body.
      • Breathing exercises Find a comfortable position, and either close your eyes or focus on something in the room. Begin by taking a slow breath in through your nose, hold that breath, and then slowly release the breath out through your mouth. Once you’ve exhaled hold your breath again, then repeat this process until you feel a little calmer. You may find it easier to concentrate on this by counting slowly up to 3.
      • Mindfulness Rather than trying to stop your upsetting thoughts and feelings, try to acknowledge and accept them without judging them. Also know that you experience a range of thoughts and feelings beyond those you are having now, each state is temporary and will pass.


In an emergency

If you are in immediate danger, or concerned for your safety in any way:

  • Call 000 and request an ambulance. Stay on the line, speak clearly, and be ready to answer the operator’s questions
  • Visit your local hospital’s emergency department.


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Further reading if you are feeling suicidal