This information guide is intended for people with mild-to-moderate symptoms.  If you, or someone you know, needs support with mental health problems, in the first instance you should contact your GP. If required, your GP can then refer you to Mental Health Services in your local areas. If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment. It is important to know that support is available.


If you, or someone you know, needs urgent help or is in crisis, call NHS 24 on 111. If you just need to talk with someone, there is help available. The Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call them on 116 123 (freephone) or email: jo@samaritans.org. Breathing Space offers a confidential phone line for anyone in Scotland feeling low, anxious or depressed. You can call free on 0800 83 85 87.

Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide is the act of intentionally taking your own life.

Suicidal feelings can mean having thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you. Or it can mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.

If you are feeling suicidal, you might be scared or confused by these feelings. You may find the feelings overwhelming.

But you are not alone. Many people think about suicide at some point in their lifetime.

For Immediate Help

If you're feeling overwhelmed by thoughts of not wanting to live or you're having urges to attempt suicide, get help now. You may be worried about telling someone, it’s important to open up to someone you trust.

  • If you are at immediate risk of suicide call 999 for help.
  • Contact your GP for support
  • Samaritans 116 123 (24hrs/day)
  • Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87 (Mon–Thurs: 6 pm–2 am, Fri: 6 pm–Mon 6 am)
  • SHOUT: Crisis text line 85258 (24 hours, everyday)
  • For online support and resources visit: Staying Safe from Suicidal Thoughts


Types of Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts can also be referred to as suicidal ideation. Both mean you are thinking about wanting to take your own life. However, there are two kinds of suicidal ideation: passive and active.

Passive Suicidal Ideation

This occurs when you wish you were dead or that you could die, but you don't actually have any plans to commit suicide.

Active Suicidal Ideation

This is when you are not only thinking about suicide but you are having the intent to commit suicide, including planning how to do it.


Warning signs that you or a loved one are thinking about or contemplating suicide include:

  • Isolating yourself from your loved ones
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Giving away possessions
  • An increase in substance use or misuse
  • Increased mood swings, anger, rage, and/or irritability
  • Engaging in risk-taking behaviour like using drugs or having unprotected sex
  • Accessing the means to kill yourself, such as medication, drugs, or a firearm
  • Acting as if you're saying goodbye to people
  • Feeling extremely anxious


Suicidal thoughts have many causes. Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can't cope when you're faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don't have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out.

There also may be a genetic link to suicide. People who complete suicide or who have suicidal thoughts or behaviour are more likely to have a family history of suicide.

Many different factors can contribute to suicidal ideation. Often these thoughts strike when you're feeling hopeless and out of control in your life and/or like it has no meaning or purpose.

These feelings may be due to circumstances like relationship problems, trauma, substance use, a crisis of some sort, pressure at work, a physical health issue, or financial difficulties. Having any mental health disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or anxiety can also contribute.6

There are a variety of risk factors for suicidal ideation and suicide, including

  • Having attempted suicide in the past
  • Having a mental health disorder
  • Feeling hopeless, isolated, and/or lonely
  • Not being married
  • Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender
  • Having served in the military
  • Having a chronic physical illness like cancer, diabetes, or a terminal disease
  • Having chronic pain
  • Having a traumatic brain injury
  • Having a family history of suicide
  • Having a drug or alcohol use disorder
  • Having experienced childhood abuse or trauma
  • Living in a rural area
  • Having access to firearms

Self-Help Resources

If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts it's important to know that you're not alone. You might want to try different methods of calming yourself down. There are some specific strategies that a crisis team might try to use with you to manage and minimize any symptoms you might be experiencing.

Coping techniques are simple exercises that try to accept, address and reduce the things you are experiencing.

If you are finding it difficult to focus or are unsure how to manage your day, writing down what you'll do next might help you feel more in control of the situation. Try Mind's Getting Through the Next Few Hours.

If you are feeling anxious or scared there are many things you can do to help yourself cope. Try Mind's Relaxing and Calming Exercises.

Some people experience thoughts that are frightening or alarming. They could be about suicide, harming yourself, harming others, or hearing voices. Try Minds Coping with Scary Thoughts Exercise

If your Life is at Risk Right Now

A life buoy at sea

If you feel like you might attempt suicide, or may have seriously harmed yourself, you need urgent medical help. Please:

  • Call 999 for an ambulance
  • Go straight to A&E, if you can
  • Call your local crisis team on NHS 111. If you can't do this by yourself, ask someone to help you.

Mental health emergencies are serious. You're not wasting anyone's time.

Last reviewed: 17/11/2023

Next review date: 15/03/2024

Approved By: NHSGGC MH Supported Self-Management App Editorial Group

Reviewer name(s): NHSGGC MH Supported Self-Management App Editorial Group .