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Let’s talk about depression and suicide

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Symptoms of depressionTreatmentSuicidal thoughtsAsking for helpSupporting othersAfter a suicide attemptAfter losing someoneSummary
Depression is a common mental health condition that can cause very low moods. One symptom of depression is suicidal thoughts, but it’s not the only reason these thoughts may occur.
Medically reviewed by Lori Lawrenz, PsyD
Written by Uxshely Carcamo
Updated on

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Depression is a risk factor for suicide, and healthcare professionals can help.

Additionally, by knowing the signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts in yourself and others, you can take seek or offer support and help take steps to prevent death from suicide.

Symptoms of depression

A person with their back to the camera and their arms by their sides with another person's two hands on their back giving them a hug when talking about depression and suicide
French Anderson Ltd/Stocksy United

Depression is a mental illness that can make your moods very low and cause a loss of interest in things you usually enjoy.

Around one in six people will experience depression at some point. You may have depression if you feel at least five of these symptoms almost every day for at least 2 weeks:

  • a depressed or low mood
  • a loss of interest in most or all activities
  • appetite changes, resulting in weight loss or weight gain
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
  • loss of energy
  • feelings of worthlessness and self-guilt
  • suicidal thoughts
  • difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or thinking
  • restlessness and racing thoughts or more sluggish thoughts

It is important to contact a doctor or healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms as soon as possible. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, speaking with a trusted family member or friend can be a positive first step.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or self-harm, please seek support:

While you wait for help to arrive, stay with someone that feels safe to be around. If you are with a person in crisis, remove any weapons or substances that could cause harm.

Treatment for depression

Your doctor may suggest some of these treatment options for depression:

  • Medication: They may recommend antidepressant medication such as sertraline (Zoloft) or venlafaxine (Effexor).
  • Talk therapy: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests talking therapy can help you work through any difficult day-to-day circumstances and help improve your mood.
  • Lifestyle adaptations: Research notes that exercise and getting enough sleep can help with depression. The NIMH also suggests that avoiding alcohol, recreational drugs, and smoking can also improve your mood.

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About suicidal thoughts or ideation

There are subtle differences between suicidal thoughts and suicide ideation.

Suicidal thoughts

Suicidal thoughts are any thoughts about ending your own life. The thoughts could be abstract or involve specific plans to end your life. In 2021, around 12.3 million adults in the United States had serious thoughts of suicide.

Suicide ideation

Suicidal ideation describes any thoughts, reflections, or wishes around death or suicide, and 1 in 7 young adults will have some type of suicidal ideation at some time in their life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says suicide often links with depression and alcohol use. But depression and alcohol use aren’t the only causes of suicidal thoughts or ideation. The thoughts and ideas can also come suddenly during stressful or difficult times.

Some common causes of suicidal thoughts and ideation include:

  • mental health conditions
  • bullying or discrimination
  • losing a loved one
  • long-term illness or pain
  • big life changes
  • money or housing difficulties
  • addiction, alcohol use, or recreational drug and alcohol misuse
  • loneliness

Asking for help

It’s not always easy to ask for support, and you show a lot of strength in doing so.

Help is always available. If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, text the Crisis Text Line, or check out this list of resources.

If you are not in crisis, reach out to someone you trust or a doctor or mental health professional.

Supporting someone else with depression or suicidal ideation

You can support someone with depression by listening to them and suggesting they seek help from a therapist, doctor, or medical professional.

If you are worried that a loved one is at risk of suicide, you can look out for suicide warning signs like:

  • increased alcohol or substance use
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • describing themselves as a burden
  • becoming more isolated or anxious
  • trying to access items to enact their suicide plans
  • increased rage or anger
  • mood swings
  • hopelessness
  • posting or talking about wanting to die
  • sharing plans for suicide.

You may also notice an improved mood or calmness in someone once they’ve made the decision to end their life. This can be due to the feeling of relief at having made their decision.

Therefore, it can help to look out for any changes in the behavior or mood of loved ones that may have been having difficulties with their thoughts.

If you are worried that a loved one may be thinking about self-harm or suicide, it is important to ask them directly. You can:

  • Ask if they’re considering hurting themselves or others.
  • Keep them safe by reducing or removing access to lethal items or places. 
  • Be there. Listen. Acknowledge their pain and feelings.
  • Encourage them to reach out. They can call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • Stay in touch and follow up with them after the crisis.

Life after a suicide attempt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate there were 1.2 million suicide attempts in 2021. A previous suicide attempt increases your risk of death by suicide. So, it is important to seek support after a suicide attempt.

Actions you can put in place include:

  • having regular contact with a doctor or healthcare team
  • regularly seeing a therapist
  • keeping in close contact with loved ones
  • learning problem-solving skills and different tools to resolve conflict

Life after losing someone to suicide

Life after losing someone to suicide can be very difficult. 

If you have lost someone to suicide, you may experience many complex and difficult emotions. The American Psychological Association advises to:

  • Accept what you are feeling, whatever it may be. There are no wrong ways to feel.
  • If you have one, look to your support network. If not, consider researching local support groups.
  • Be kind to yourself, and make time for self-care.
  • Consider speaking to a trained and qualified mental health practitioner.

It can help to speak with a doctor and get mental health support during this difficult time.


Many people experience depression and suicidal thoughts, and it is important to know that you are not alone. Help and support are always available, 24 hours per day.

With the right help, care, and treatment, you can work through whatever you are going through. You can feel better, and you can absolutely get back to enjoying your life. Don’t give up. Call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, text the Crisis Text Line at 741741, or check out more suicide resources.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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