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Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts are where a person has thoughts about intentionally ending their life. If you have been experiencing thoughts of suicide, it’s important not to ignore this and to seek support.  

Common thoughts that precede suicidal behaviours are:
  • ‘life will never get any different or better’ 
  • ‘it’s all just hopeless/pointless’ 
  • ‘the world is better off without me’ 
  • ‘I can’t go on any more’  
Problems that lead to suicidal thinking are often a mix of individual and social factors.
  • Thoughts may develop slowly as the pressures and hurts of many years wear down a person’s self-esteem. As life becomes more distressing and difficult to bear, the thought of not being alive any longer may grow more appealing.  
  • Alternatively, you may experience impulsive and intense thoughts of suicide for a short amount of time, usually triggered by a specific event or incident.  

People in crisis often feel powerless because the events and pressures in their life seem to be beyond their control, except taking their own lives. Often there is a belief that suicide is ‘the only option’; this is always untrue. There is an idea that suicide brings relief from pain but relief is a feeling that can only be experienced by being alive. Often there is a wish to escape a situation that seems impossible to handle or they need relief from an unbearable state of mind. Sometimes a suicide attempt is a way to convey desperate feelings to others. 

There will be many people who have to deal with the consequences of suicide who will be deeply affected by it. Research shows that many of those who have made serious suicide attempts and survived have ultimately felt deeply relieved to have not ended their life. 

Moving out of feeling suicidal

It is important to know that, whatever the source of your distress or depression, it is possible to feel differently, to feel better than suicidal. 

It is essential to let others know how you feel and what you are thinking about. Although you may consider you are thinking rationally, there will be other options and considerations. 

Emotional pain often seeming invisible to others, however a well-selected person (perhaps a trusted friend/ family member, help line, wellbeing support services or a GP) can be helpful to talk with and can make a difference between choosing to live or die. 

Suicide can only occur where there is both opportunity and means available. If you are aware of suicidal tendencies, it’s important that you proactively ensure both do not occur simultaneously, i.e.: 

  • Remove any means or items that you feel unsafe with. 
  • Stay around trusted people.  
  • Do not indulge in drugs or alcohol that prevent clear thinking.  
  • Stop any risk-taking behaviour. 
  • Identify a safety plan and follow it. Apps like ‘Staying Alive’ can provide a template for this. 
  • Identify distraction techniques. 
  • Commit to telephoning someone, for instance the Samaritans, who are available 24/7. 
  • Perhaps consider making a list of all the reasons why you have kept yourself alive until now. This may show you that you also have a will to survive.  
  • Have a brief consultation with a wellbeing adviser at wellbeing support services who can arrange the appropriate support.  

You may be feeling ‘committed’ to ending your life at some point, however the fact that you are reading this means there is a part of you that is unsure and it is that part that must be listened to and respected. Staying alive and keeping going despite these thoughts shows the extent of your inner strength and ability to cope with unboreable times, not your failure.  

Will admitting I have suicidal thoughts affect my university course?

Students often believe that if they reach out for support, their department will be informed and they will not be allowed to continue with their course. This is not the case. Whilst the university has a duty of care to all of its students, admitting you are struggling or are experiencing suicidal thoughts does not mean you will be ‘kicked off your course’. Speaking to wellbeing support services about this will allow us to provide you with additional confidential support in order to remove stressors, improve life situations, help you to maintain and overall, make a recovery and continue with your course. If you are still unsure about seeking support through university, your GP must provide confidential advice and support, so please see your GP.  

The only time a health professional may break this confidentiality would be if you are at immediate risk of loss of life and there is nothing else that can be done to keep you safe. In these rare circumstances, you would be kept fully informed about any information shared with appropriate others. Your GP may, for example, make a referral to the mental health crisis team who would provide more intensive and urgent support. There may be no need for your department to be aware at all. You may choose to inform them to look at your study options, including getting mitigating circumstances, extensions or taking a period of temporary withdrawal to return to study at another point.  

Getting support

Immediate support: If you have taken any steps to end your life, inform someone around you and phone 999 for an ambulance or get yourself to a casualty ward. Specially trained nurses can be made available who can give some clear medical information and, if required, organise some mental health support for you. 

  • For an urgent mental health assessment contact the Crisis and Resolution Home Treatment Team on 0300 200 0011.  
  • For more information see our emergency contacts page 

General support: Often suicidal thoughts are linked with depression which could be treated by anti-depressant medication and/or talking therapies. Discuss this with your GP. Suicidal feelings are a result of pain exceeding the resources for coping and it is possible to both reduce the pain and increase coping resources to regain balance. 

Supporting someone elsewho is suicidal can be demanding and difficult – ensure you get support and share the task. Talking with someone who is suicidal can reduce their feelings of isolation and give an opportunity to share their distress thus reducing the risk of suicide. 

However, it’s important that you are getting a break from this and that you are not being depended on. If someone is not able to maintain their safety without you, you are feeling overwhelmed at the amount of support they are asking of you or you feel in any way out of your depth, it’s time to involve mental health professionals and take a step back to look after your own wellbeing. You can still be a supportive person whilst maintaining your own boundaries.  

For more information:

 Self-help references 

The following references are available from the University Library either in hard copy, CD or ebooks. Most are readily available to buy either in bookshops or over the internet. There are also a limited number of books in the Learning Grid and the Bio-med Grid. 

How to help someone who is suicidal 

Hill and Gorman 


A Special Scar 



Please see list of other self-help references. 

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