Coping With Suicidal Thoughts With PTSD

depressed man with hands on face
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Information presented in this article may be triggering to some people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Each year, more than 44,000 people in the United States commit suicide. Research shows that people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, are at a higher risk to attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts. The reasons for this are divided into studies on PTSD and suicide. It may be the PTSD itself causes a higher risk for suicidal thoughts or suicide or it may be that other existing psychiatric conditions, such as depression or anxiety, increase the risk.

Tips for Dealing With Suicidal Thoughts and PTSD

Given this, if you've experienced a traumatic event or have PTSD, it's important to be alert for suicidal thoughts and develop ways of coping with them. Catching and addressing these thoughts early on can prevent them from spiraling into a suicide attempt.

There are several coping strategies that can help defuse suicidal thoughts, but don't wait for a crisis situation to try them. Look them over now and come up with a plan for the next time you experience suicidal thoughts. It's ideal if you can work with a therapist in developing such a plan.

Here are some suggestions to cope with suicidal thoughts.

Stay Away From Weapons

A suicide attempt will be more likely to occur if you have the means readily available to you, such as guns, knives, or other weapons, or unnecessary medications in your home. Remove these from your environment; take steps to remove your access (locking the items and giving someone the key) or go somewhere you won't have access to those means.

There’s no single cause of depression, according to research. Brain chemistry, hormones, genetics, life experiences and physical health can all play a role.

Go Someplace Safe

Identify several places you can go where you would be less likely to hurt yourself, such as public places like the mall, a coffee shop or restaurant, a busy park, a community center, or a gym.

Once there, immerse yourself in that environment. Pay attention and be mindful of all the sights and sounds around you. Doing this will help put some distance between you and your suicidal thoughts.

Talk to Someone Supportive

Social support can be a wonderful way of coping when you're in a crisis. Call a family member or friend. Let them know you need someone to talk to and would like their support. Change your environment by asking them if you can spend some time with them.

Talk to Your Therapist

Some therapists have ways for their patients to contact them outside of the session if they're in crisis. If you have a therapist and you have a system like this in place, you should contact your therapist when you're experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Your therapist can help you assess the seriousness of the situation, as well as assist you in coming up with ways of coping with those thoughts.

Challenge Suicidal Thoughts

When people feel down and depressed, it's common to have thoughts that are consistent with those moods. As our moods change, so will our thoughts. Therefore, even though things may feel hopeless, this may just be a consequence of your mood and not necessarily how things really are.

Use self-monitoring to identify hopeless thoughts and challenge them.

Is it not possible that your mood might change? Is there really no hope for the future? Have you felt like this before, and if so, did things eventually get better? Ask yourself questions like these to challenge your thoughts of hopelessness.

Be Mindful of Your Thoughts

Another way of coping with suicidal thoughts is with mindfulness. Take a step back from your thoughts and watch them. Imagine your thoughts as clouds drifting across the sky.

Try not to look at your thoughts as good or bad, but simply as thoughts or objects in your mind. Taking a mindful approach to thoughts of suicide or hopelessness can defuse them, limiting the power they have over your actions and mood.

Manage Your Mood

A number of coping strategies can be helpful in managing your mood. For example, expressive writing or self-soothing coping strategies may help lessen the intensity of your sadness or anxiety.

By improving your mood, you may also improve your thoughts, reducing your risk of suicide.

Go to the Emergency Room

If these coping strategies aren’t working to lessen suicidal thoughts, call the police or a mental health crisis line, or go to your local emergency room. This can be scary, but it's most important for you to stay safe and alive.

Find a Therapist If You Don't Have One

Finally, if you don't have a therapist and are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it's important to get a psychiatric evaluation, as well as a therapist.

Suicidal thoughts are a sign that you may some immediate need help with your symptoms. You can find PTSD treatment providers in your area through the National Center for PTSD.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide Statistics.

  2. Reisman M. PTSD Treatment for Veterans: What’s Working, What’s New, and What’s NextPharmacy and Therapeutics. 2016;41(10):623-634.

  3. Heinz AJ, Cohen NL, Holleran L, Alvarez JA, Bonn-Miller MO. Firearm Ownership Among Military Veterans With PTSD: A Profile of Demographic and Psychosocial Correlates. Mil Med. 2016;181(10):1207-1211. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-15-00552

  4. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression.

By Matthew Tull, PhD
Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder.