How to keep yourself safe when you experience suicidal thoughts

19 March 2018

Sarah Carter, Psychotherapist in Student Support and Wellbeing explains how you can keep yourself safe if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.

White water lily

People sometimes feel suicidal when they experience extreme psychological pain and think they can’t cope with it. This pain can come from a variety of sources, such as feeling socially isolated; experiencing problems in relationships; struggling academically; or feeling like a let-down in some way.

Financial difficulties or physical illness can also cause stress, and there can be strong feeling of hopelessness and an inability to see any solution to the current problems.

Depression, alcohol or drug misuse, or self-harm, can make it particularly difficult to manage suicidal thoughts.

If you are having frequent thoughts about suicide, have a wish to die, or have made a suicide plan, then you are likely to be at serious risk of suicide.  Anyone who has previously attempted suicide is particularly at risk.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from suicide is to prepare a written safety plan that you can use when you need it.

The Safety Plan

Write down and answer for yourself the following questions:

How can I reduce the risk of me acting on my suicidal thoughts?

For example, give any medicines I’ve accumulated to someone I trust or to a pharmacist.

What ways of coping do I have (what’s worked in the past)?

For example, distract myself by keeping busy or stay around other people.

What will I do to help calm and soothe myself?

For example, have a bath or shower, take a walk, listen to music.

What will I tell myself as an alternative to the suicidal thoughts?

For example, this is temporary and will pass.

If the suicidal feelings persist, who can I call?

For example, my friend 'X' (include their telephone number), Dr. 'Y' (include their telephone number), the 24 hour Samaritans helpline (telephone number: 116 123), the overnight Nightline service (telephone number:  0207 631 0101).

If after this I’m still feeling suicidal and out of control, I will go to A&E or call 999.

Read through your safety plan several times so that you’ve got it in mind. Keep it somewhere where you’ll easily find it.

If you are currently feeling seriously suicidal but are not in immediate danger then contact your GP for an urgent appointment. If your GP surgery isn't open, call the free NHS out-of-hours medical line on 111 and they will help you access the right services.

If you are in immediate danger of suicide, go directly to the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department of your local hospital to get help (University College Hospital is the nearest A&E department to UCL’s main campus) or if you are unable to do so call 999.

Further crisis support information can be found on the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing website.

Please note that Student Support and Wellbeing does not offer an emergency service.

If you are concerned another student is in immediate danger, take them to A&E or phone 999. Don’t make yourself responsible as a friend – get help.

Sarah Carter, Psychotherapist, UCL Student Psychological Services, Student Support and Wellbeing