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Mental Health Now factsheet: suicidal crisis

What is suicidal crisis?

A suicidal crisis is when someone is considering suicide. They may be having thoughts about suicide or doing things related to suicide.

Suicide is a big mental health issue which can affect anyone. Over three times as many people die each year because of suicide compared to road traffic accidents in the UK. Many more people experience suicidal thoughts. 

Warning signs

Warning signs can include: 
  • Talking about suicide plans or an intent to kill themselves
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Accessing ways to kill themselves, such as pills, weapons, rope
  • Hopelessness, depressed, no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Rage, anger, or seeking revenge
  • Talking or writing about death
  • Taking deadly risks, seemingly without thinking
  • Putting affairs in order, such as writing a will, saying goodbye, giving away possessions
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities usually interested in
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Anxiety, or sleeping too much or too little
  • Dramatic changes in mood, including a sudden improvement in depressed mood 
     
A person may show none or only a few of these signs and still be at risk. 

Treatment and recovery

Suicide is preventable and most suicidal crises are temporary. Most suicidal people don’t want to die, but rather they do not want to live with the pain they experience any longer or want to escape their problems. 

After the crisis has passed, longer term recovery may include getting treatment for an underlying disorder, such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, or alcohol and substance misuse. The person may need support to address other problems they are experiencing such as with relationships, employment, or finances. Creating a support plan of the actions that can keep the person safe is a useful tool. 

Supporting people with thoughts of suicide in the workplace

If you are concerned the person may be at risk of suicide, and it is safe to do so, you should approach them and have a conversation about your concerns. Ask them directly and show them somebody cares. Assess how high the risk of suicide is by asking about the current plan. If a suicide attempt seems imminent take the person to a GP, or dial 999, or take the person to A&E, or call Samaritans 116 123. Try to address any immediate dangers, and don’t leave the person alone. 

Be supportive and understanding. Talk to the person about how they are thinking and feeling. Listen with empathy and without expressing judgement. Let them know that suicidal thoughts are common and need not be acted upon. 

Work with the person to ensure their safety. Find out whether the person has adequate social support and is aware of sources of help, including contact numbers they can call if feeling suicidal. Talk about strategies the person can use to help themselves feel better in a moment of crisis. 

Where to find out more