If you have been thinking about taking your own life or have tried to harm yourself, please read on...

Why do you feel like this?

Lots of young people feel suicidal at some point in their lives. Thousands go into hospital each year having tried to harm themselves. Many more than this attempt to take their own lives - and nobody ever gets to know about it.

The good news is that most recover and never try again. A small number, however, do go on to kill themselves - in the UK about 1,600 young people under the age of 35 each year die because of suicide.

This is why feeling suicidal can be dangerous and needs to be talked about.

Suicidal thoughts can come into your head…

a) for no reason at all
This is very frightening and sometimes happens because certain chemicals in the brain are not working properly. You may be depressed. Depression is a common mental illness. Some people have thoughts of suicide when depressed. Your doctor will be able to help you deal with depression.

b) because something has happened that has upset you a great deal

for example:

  • splitting up with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • being bullied
  • feeling ashamed of something you've done
  • feeling ashamed of something that was not your fault
  • someone close to you has died
  • not getting the exam results you wanted
  • feeling confused about your sexuality
  • feeling you can't live up to other people's expectations
  • problems at home

c) because something physical is affecting you

for example:

  • you have been using drugs or drinking heavily
  • a drug that the doctor has prescribed is causing side-effects
  • previous head injury, even years ago, may result in hypopituitarism
    • Hypopituitarism (underactive pituitary gland) – can lead to feeling low, depressed, uncontrollable weight gain, loss of sex drive, and suicidal feelings. A blood test can help diagnose this.

d) when someone close to you has either attempted or actually taken their own life

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What kind of person feels like this?

It can happen to anybody.

It's hard to generalise, but many young people who think about taking their own lives

  • are very sensitive to failure or criticism

  • set themselves targets which are difficult to achieve

  • cannot cope well with disappointment

  • find it difficult to admit to having problems and don't know how to solve them

  • find it hard to tell others how they are feeling

They often feel worthless, feel hopeless about the future, or believe that no one cares about them, even that the world would be a better place without them.

Other people may be seeing someone who, on the outside...

  • is angry and hostile

  • or has become very quiet and withdrawn

  • is the life and soul of the party

  • seems no different from usual

...but they have no idea how you are feeling inside.

Strange as it may sound, many young people don't actually want to die, but are looking for an answer to their problems, an end to their pain and despair - and suicide can seem to be the only way out.

When this state of mind has been reached, it is impossible to think straight (although you will believe that you're thinking clearly) and things can get totally out of proportion.

How do you know if you've got depression?

Just like physical illness, mental health problems can range from mild to serious. Most people who suffer a bout of psychological illness will go on to make a complete recovery.

Anxiety and depression are very common and both can be successfully treated. Depression, however, can kill - if suicidal thoughts get the better of you.

You may be feeling:

  • tired all the time
  • sad and miserable
  • can't be bothered to do things
  • inadequate
  • tearful
  • anxious
  • panicky
  • agitated
  • scared people will laugh at you
  • that you've let people down
  • that you're going mad
  • like shit!

Perhaps you've:

  • lost interest in food
  • found it difficult to concentrate
  • lost your confidence
  • lost interest in other things too - hobbies, sport, your appearance
  • stopped going out with friends

You may be doing something to physically hurt yourself in order to dull the mental pain. Self-harm can take many forms and is used by some people as a way of coping.

If you think you could be depressed you must go to see your doctor who will know what to do to help.

What happens if you go ahead with suicide?

Sometimes the person who attempts suicide does not die but damages their body so badly that full recovery is impossible.

If you take your own life, there is no turning back, no second chance. Death is final.

It can be extremely traumatic for the person who finds your body. Something they will never forget.

The effect of suicide on family and friends can be overwhelming. Of all the different ways of dying, suicide is the most difficult to deal with for those who are left behind - whether they are parents, children, partners, brothers, sisters, friends or even acquaintances.

You won't be around to help other people who may be feeling just as bad as you have done.

You have prevented other people from helping you - for ever.

So what can you do about it?

1. Share it

Tell someone else how you are feeling - a member of your family, your doctor, a teacher, school nurse, college counsellor, friend, someone from your church ….. If the person you are telling doesn't seem to understand, don't be put off - tell someone else. Phone the PAPYRUS helpline HOPELineUK 0800 068 41 41. Our staff are there to help. Your call is confidential and you don't have to disclose your identity.

If you reach a suicidal crisis where the desire to kill yourself is overwhelming, you must tell someone. Ask them to keep you company until the feelings pass.

If you find it difficult to talk, write it down - send a letter, an email or a text.

Use the internet wisely by going only on websites that give positive help and hope for the future. Be very careful when speaking to people in chatrooms - you may be encouraged to go ahead and take your own life.

2. Deal with bad thoughts

Thinking bad thoughts about yourself all the time (especially about killing yourself) makes you feel worse. You might be thinking that you're a failure or nobody likes you or that nothing will get better. There might be some thoughts that are very private to you.

Tell someone you trust about your bad thoughts. Saying them out loud for the first time is scary but they will become less frightening the more you speak about them.

Try to recognise when your bad thoughts are likely to come and prepare for them. Try to find something that will get rid of them or will make you think about them less often. You could try being active, being with people or doing something you enjoy (even though you might not feel like it).

Think about the good things you've done today - instead of the bad things. Some people find that it helps to imagine having a great time with their favourite band or football team or movie star. Or it could be eating your favourite meal or lying on a beach in the sun....

Just thinking about your bad thoughts a bit less often can be a great achievement. It can help you realise that you are starting to win the battle.

3. Get specialist help

Don't be afraid of going to see a specialist such as a counsellor or psychiatrist. You may want to take someone with you for company. Your family and friends can be very important in helping you get through this - think about allowing them to get involved in your treatment. There are some very good 'talking treatments' which work really well, especially if you go in the early days of feeling unwell. If you are not able to relate to the person you are seeing - ask to see someone else.

Listen to the advice you are being given and act on it.

Try to get help with the problems that may be causing your depression. Our helpline staff can give you contact numbers for many national and local sources of additional help.

4. Understand your medication

If you have been given medication (tablets) to help with your suicidal feelings, make sure you understand how long it takes before they start having an effect. If they don't seem to be working, tell your doctor so they can try something else. Don't stop taking them because you feel better or because you are having side effects. Get advice from your doctor first. You can also talk to the pharmacist about your medication.

5. Steer clear of alcohol and drugs

Although at first they give you a lift, they can make depressed people feel even worse in the long run. Under their influence you may do things or make decisions you would not normally make. Using alcohol and / or other drugs - including cannabis - can actually make some people suicidal.

6. Don't take risks

You may be feeling ambivalent about whether you live or die. In this frame of mind people sometimes take chances and do things on purpose which put their lives at risk, for example; driving the car in a way that could kill you (or someone else) or not taking an essential medication. Don't be pressured by other people into doing risky things either.

Be aware of the danger of making an impulsive, spur of the moment decision to kill yourself. This is more likely if something upsetting happens which you feel is the 'last straw', if you are angry or if you;ve been drinking or taking drugs.

Don't listen to sad music when you're really down. Playing it over and over again can compound suicidal feelings.

7. Take positive action

It may require huge effort but start looking after yourself with regular meals and plenty of exercise. Get out into the daylight and try to stay out of bed until night time. Find something to do which gives some structure to your day.

Make a list, with phone numbers, of people and / or organisations you can turn to for help in a crisis. Store the numbers in your mobile.

The PAPYRUS helpline HOPELineUK 0800 068 41 41 is there to help you. We know that some people find it difficult to pick up the phone. Please call - you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Don't expect to feel OK all at once

Just knowing that life is slowly getting better means there is light at the end of the tunnel.

This information is available in booklet form - see Publications: Thinking of Ending It All? Or download it here