Dr. Beth Marnix
10 Strategies to Cope with Suicidal Thoughts
Updated: May 31
If you or your loved one are having suicidal thoughts, the Lifeline is available 24/7 across the United States. The Lifeline has trained crisis workers who will listen, provide support, and resources.
Call: 1-800-273-8255 or Chat
If you or your loved one is having suicidal thoughts and do not think that you can be safe or are in immediate danger, please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room
Many people experience suicidal thoughts throughout their lifetime. Some people will experience thoughts during a short period, intermittently, or chronically throughout their life. Some of these thoughts may be, "I wish I weren't alive", "I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up", to "I want to die." Some people may have suicidal thoughts and not act on these thoughts. Suicidal thoughts usually occur when people feel so overwhelmed by life or life experiences and feel as if they are unable to cope and feeling helpless and hopeless.
You may be feeling helpless, hopeless, alone, overwhelmed and/or frightened. You may not know what to do or who to turn to to try and cope.
If you are in crisis and/or thinking and planning to act on your thoughts, do one of the following:
Go to your nearest emergency room
Call a suicide hotline. In the U.S,: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
The following is a list of 10 Strategies to Cope with Suicidal thoughts, if you are not in an emergency.
1. Talk to Someone
Experiencing suicidal thoughts can feel very lonely and isolating. You may be feeling like no one understands and no one will listen or be there for you. Sometimes holding all of these thoughts and feelings inside make them grow bigger. Talking to someone that you trust and sharing your thoughts and feelings can provide relief and they can also provide support. If you do not have someone to talk to or they are not available, reach out to a hotline for support. For a list of various support hotlines, view our resource page.
2. Create a Distraction Kit
Put together a box of items that you enjoy and that can provide distraction and soothing from the current thoughts and feelings. Some ideas are: pictures (e.g., of loved ones, favorite places, and/or animals), soothing objects (e.g., smooth stone, favorite scented lotion, soft fuzzy blanket), a list of your favorite songs to go listen to, book of puzzles, positive affirmations, motivational quotes, and insights learned in therapy.
3. Make a Plan for Your Future
What are you looking forward to? Write down plans that excite you and research those plans. Maybe it is a trip or a new hobby/activity.
4. Write your Thoughts and Feelings in a Journal
Remember that the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing are temporary; they will pass. Writing down your thoughts and feelings is one way to get them out of your head and helps to create distance from the pain.
5. Listen to a Playlist of your Favorite Songs
You know that song that always puts a smile on your face? How about that one that reminds of you a favorite memory? Or the one that you sing at the top of your lungs to. Create a playlist of these songs and then listen to them when you are in a tough place.
6. Watch Funny Video Clips
Doing something to evoke the opposite emotion of what you are experiencing now can be helpful in starting to shift your mood and your thoughts. Pull up video clips that make you laugh or one of your favorite comedy movies or comedians. Can't think of anything in the moment? Some of my favorites are silly animal videos, (The sounds French Bulldogs make sometimes!) and Kids Say the Darndest Things.
7. Cuddle with Your Pet
Take some time and focus on your furry friend. Spending time cuddling, petting, and playing will improve your mood and your bond.
8. 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1
Go through this exercise to bring you back to the here and the now:
Say out loud 5 things you can see and really look and observe them
Touch 4 things by you and really feel the textures and sensations
Say out loud 3 things you can hear and listen and observe the sounds
Identify 2 things you can smell and spend a few moments with it
Bring your awareness to 1 thing you can taste, even if it is subtle
9. Identify Your Reasons for Living
Write a list of what, who, and why you are living. Are there people
who are important to you and you are important to them? Your lovable
pet(s)? Goals you want to accomplish? Places you want to visit?
10. Write a Gratitude List
What are the things that you appreciate and are thankful for in your life? Take some moments to reflect and write a list. You can even keep adding to your list throughout the days, months, and years ahead. When tough days happen, read back and reflect on things you wrote before. Stumped about what to write on your gratitude list? Think of the small things... are you grateful for a warm cup of coffee? The sunshine streaming through your window? A pretty plant? A special person in your life? An accomplishment? A skill you have? Something you have learned? A special memory?
Lastly, if you are not already, I recommend seeking out professional support. A therapist and/or psychiatric provider are well versed in supporting and treating underlying concerns that contribute to suicidal thoughts.
We have highly trained mental health therapists who are ready to help, reach out today.