Keep Exploring

For Anyone With Suicidal Thoughts: Coping Skills & Ways to Ask for Help

Coping Skills, Crisis, Therapist Guide
4 min read

To start, you are not alone, you are not a burden and your pain is valid. 

It's important to break your silence and let a loved one or medical provider know your thoughts or plan. 

How to Ask For Help If You're Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts

It is hard to tell someone you are thinking of ending your life-your voice is important and you deserve to be heard. If you cannot find a way to say you need help try these opening phrases to someone in your life: 

  • I have been feeling so sad and overwhelmed lately
  • I don't know how to keep going
  • I can't seem to find a way forward
  • I am so tired of how things are

How to Create Safety For Yourself

Create a safety plan. Here are things to consider, and actions to take: 

  • Who can you call when you need to talk? Write down their names. This can even be the line for Suicide Prevention. Have these numbers programmed in your phone: 

  • Identify a plan of distraction (funny videos, upbeat playlist, audiobooks) and prep them for easy access

  • Engage in a coping skill. A helpful grouping of skill to remember is "TIPP". These can be utilized when you are in crisis by engaging some of your automatic systems. You can them one at a time or mix them up. 

    Deciding to act on suicidal thoughts is intensely emotional, and these skills bring those emotions down, allowing space to make a different decision. TIPP skills are: 
    • Temperature- Take a cold shower, or splash your face with ice water. This technique works as it activates our parasympathetic nervous system and slows our heart rate. This means we stall panic, and our emotions slow. 

    • Intense Exercise- Run as hard as you can as long as you can, drop and do push-ups until you can't do any more. When you have intense emotions, such as the strong desire to diem the intense exercise both responds to our body's need to respond with an intense physical response as well as triggers a release of dopamine, also known as "the feel-good hormone". 

    • Paced Breathing- Breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, out for four, hold for four. This skill takes concentration to count and hold which requires you to take a break from suicidal thoughts and engages the parasympathetic nervous system and brings our emotional distress down.

    • Paired Muscle Relaxation- Tense your muscles on a deep in-breath and then release them on a long out-breath, one muscle group at a time. This also requires some concentration and an engagement of the parasympathetic system. **This is a good skill to practice when not in crisis so that it becomes an automatic process when struggling. 

  • If you are in imminent risk call 911 or walk into the emergency room

Additional Information: 

If you do have a plan of killing yourself,  limit your access to the things that are a part of that plan. For example, if you are planning on taking too many medications measure out what you need for the week and give the rest to a trusted person. If you are thinking of using a weapon, remove it from the house. Harder access can give you the time you need to decide that you can tolerate the pain long enough to ask for help.  

Free Resources: 
National Suicide Hotline - 988
The Trevor Project Crisis & Suicide Prevention Services -  1-866-488-7386


About the author: Dr. Yolanda Robinson is a primary clinician and founder of a not for profit organization focused on providing access to quality mental health including consultation for organizations on supporting their clients and staff. Yolanda received her Masters in Social Work from NYU and Doctorate in Clinical Social Work from the University of Tennessee. Learn more about Yolanda, or connect directly, by visiting her Frame profile here.