The mental and emotional suffering that comes with depression is no less painful or dangerous than physical pain.

Man at therapy session

Sometimes it gets to the point where life looks pretty bleak

Thoughts of ending our lives to end the pain are fairly common among people who battle depression. Depression can be an overpowering illness that makes us think and act in ways we normally wouldn’t.

In times of crisis – whether that means you’re no longer able to care for yourself, are thinking of hurting yourself, or hurting someone else – it’s critical to reach out and get support.

Just as you wouldn’t hesitate to go to the doctor or the hospital if you broke a bone or were in severe physical pain, don’t wait to reach out if you’re in danger of harming yourself or others.

men talking about depression

What counts as an emergency?

An emergency is any situation in which our lives (or someone else’s) is at immediate risk.

This can include:

  • Thinking about ending our life or putting ourselves in grave danger.
  • Being unable to care for ourselves (not getting enough to eat and drink) and putting our health in serious jeopardy.
  • Taking a dangerous combination of medications and/or alcohol.
  • Thinking about hurting others.

In these kinds of cases, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency telephone number, 112 in most European nations, or 000 in Australia) or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

If you don’t feel in immediate danger but still need someone to talk to, you can call a health/crisis line for support and guidance, talk to a friend or family member, or call your family doctor.

Get immediate support

Put your worries aside

Some guys think calling 9-1-1 or going to a hospital is a signal that all is lost. But going to a hospital is the smartest thing to do if your depression is severe and overwhelming. Getting crisis support shouldn’t be construed as failure, but rather as getting the right support at the right time.

Calling 9-1-1

If you need immediate support, but can’t make it to the hospital on your own, call 9-1-1.  Here’s what you can say:

  • “I am battling depression, and I can’t stop thinking about ending my life. I don’t feel safe. Can you send someone to take me to the hospital?”
  • They will ask about the situation and where you are so they can send help and won’t let you off the phone until help arrives.

If you feel more comfortable calling someone you know, you can say:

  • “I am battling depression and it’s too much. I am thinking about ending my life. Can you call 9-1-1 for me or help me get to a hospital?”

Going to the emergency room

Once you get to the emergency room, here’s what to expect: (Watch Josh’s Tip Video: Reach Out, Going to the ER).

Present at hospital triage

What you can say:

  • “I’m feeling very depressed and am fearful for my safety.”
  • “I’ve been having suicidal thoughts and I’m worried about acting on them.”

Follow standard hospital procedures

This includes filling out forms, a quick screening by a nurse, and waiting to see a doctor, which can be anywhere from one to several hours depending on how busy the hospital is. If you wait a long time, just be assured that you are in a safe place.

Meet the doctor

You will meet with an emergency room doctor and a psychiatric nurse and/or on-call psychiatrist for assessment. Your admittance to hospital often depends on how much space the hospital has. Unless you have a clear plan to harm yourself or others and are at immediate risk to act on such plans, you may not be admitted. If you have a family doctor, they may try to contact them to ask for more information.  It’s really important to be honest and let them know how you are feeling and what you are thinking.

Admitted to inpatient services

If admitted, our steps from here can vary widely depending on where we live, whether or not our visit was voluntary (for example, after an attempted drug-overdose a person will be incapacitated and not capable of providing consent), and what space is available in hospital. Most hospitals that offer inpatient services have specific acute crisis wards, but in practice they will fit you in wherever possible.

Hospital stays can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the speed of your recovery.  Learn more about emergency and inpatient services.

Referred to additional outpatient resources

If not deemed a threat to ourselves or others, we will not be admitted to hospital and instead will be referred to other outside resources. In this case, it’s important to follow up with the referred supports, and also with a family doctor.

Manage Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts are common with depression. There are going to be ups and downs along the path to getting better, and at times we may lose hope, but with the proper supports we can beat depression. Here are a few things to keep in mind to minimize risk of acting on and get help with suicidal thoughts.

Don’t dismiss suicidal thoughts

Suicidal thoughts usually start as fantasies about escaping life and getting away from it all. If depression really pulls our mood down, these thoughts can increase to the point where we might actually think it’s a logical thing to do. If you find yourself having such thoughts more frequently, reach out to others for support.

Make sure you’re safe

This is a simple but important step. Don’t take extra risks by having weapons or unnecessary medications around. If you’re feeling unsafe, ask a friend or family member to help you move these or other potentially dangerous things somewhere else.

Avoid things that trigger suicidal thoughts

If you feel unsafe, make note of the situation and remove yourself from it. This may be a specific place, web site, show, movie, or book that discusses suicide without framing it in terms of hope and recovery.