Suicidal Depression

Estimated reading time: 33 minute(s)

Global statistics suggest that up to 5 percent of adults suffer from depression, a psychiatric disorder characterized by feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and sadness. Despite having intense effects on life and overall quality of life, many people successfully keep the symptoms under control with medication and self-care strategies. However, one particular symptom that may be harder to manage and very risky if neglected is suicidal thoughts.

Read Also About Depression Relapse

While suicide remains a common symptom of many mental health conditions, it commonly hits people with underlying depression. [1] Commonly known as suicidal depression, the condition defines a state in which a person with underlying depression becomes suicidal. Such circumstances warrant urgent attention and treatment to save a life.

What is Suicidal Depression?

As indicated by name, suicidal depression combines two different conditions, i.e., depression and suicidal tendencies. It defines a state where a person with underlying depressive disorder suddenly feels like harming themselves to the extent that may prove fatal. Following are some common symptoms of depression in most people:

  • Anxiety
  • Intense feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and sadness
  • Sleep disorders, such as sleeping too much or too little
  • Losing interest in everyday hobbies and interest
  • Excessive fatigue

When these symptoms remain uncontrolled, a person with depression may feel like their life no longer serves any purpose and may seriously start considering ending it.

Can Depression Lead to Suicide?

A lot of people develop fleeting thoughts of suicide at some potentially difficult point in life. However, they can easily counter these negative thoughts with positive ones with self-help and support from loved ones. This cognitive flexibility to beat suicidal thoughts and divert them toward a more positive mindset takes a hit with depression. Depression is also known to alter the pattern of feeling and thinking so that those who suffer cannot find a way out of their current state of mind or think of a future where they feel much better and emotionally stable.

People with underlying depression not only brood over their current situation but all the mistakes and setbacks they have faced in life, in addition to adverse childhood experiences and relationship failures. The negativity associated with these events severely weighs them down, making it difficult to keep a positive mindset. Additionally, having depression also greatly magnifies a person’s pain perceptions. With so much going on in daily life, a person with underlying depression may start seeking suicide as the only way to escape the mental and physical suffering.

Depressed and Suicidal Thought: Warnings to Look Out For

It can be difficult to find out when a person is contemplating suicide. However, there are certain things to look out for that may signify a severe deterioration in a person’s mental health. For someone suspecting suicidal depression in a loved one, it is imperative to be highly vigilant while looking out for changes in their behavior or overall state of mind.

Following are some warning suicidal signs of depression to watch out for:

  • High levels of agitation or anxiety
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family members
  • Buying any means to commit suicide, such as too many pills or knives
  • Experiencing despair or a high level of hopelessness about life
  • A significant mood shift, which may even include unusual calmness
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol
  • Suddenly withdrawing from all types of social interactions
  • Talking about, researching, or writing about suicide or death

It is imperative to keep in mind that having other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and alcohol or drug abuse, can make a person more vulnerable to developing signs of depression and suicide at once.

Depression and Suicide: Self-Tips to Keep the Situation Under Control

Remember that depression is a highly treatment condition, and many options are there to help people suffering from it, especially alongside suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know with a background of depression suddenly starts feeling suicidal, keep the following tips in mind:

Immediately call a suicide hotline.

Many suicide hotlines and chat rooms are available for people to connect with during times of crisis. Most of these services are free and can connect vulnerable people with counselors who are willing to listen to their feelings and discuss them in a safe environment. The best thing about these hotlines and chat rooms is they are completely anonymous, which means that a person connecting with them does not need to provide their details. The aim of counselors on the other side of these suicide hotlines is to listen to a person with suicidal depression, determine their suicidal risk, and help them develop a safety plan.

Ensure that your environment is safe.

Try making your space as safe as possible by removing any items that may tempt you or a loved one to induce self-damage. These items may include guns, knives, and pills. If making an environment safe is impossible, consider removing yourself or a loved one from the scenario and go somewhere much safer, preferably where other people can provide support.

Take help from a family member or friend, ensure you are direct with them, and clearly explain what they can do for you. Avoid assuming others will know what you need or want, as it is not always true.

Avoid using drugs or alcohol.

While it may seem tempting for someone with underlying depression and suicide tendencies to use drugs or alcohol to numb emotional pain, doing so can be a bad idea in the long run. These substances can significantly intensify the feelings of hopelessness and sadness while making the overall situation much worse. Additionally, drugs and alcohol also lower inhibitions, making a person more likely to act on their suicidal tendencies.

So, instead of trying to self-medicate with substances, consider practicing self-care. Invest in eating healthily, exercise regularly, and ensure that you get enough sleep every night. These activities may seem normal, but they can significantly help a person feel much better.

Work on Problem Solving

If you believe that a certain life situation is triggering your depression and the consequent suicidal thinking, consider spending some time on problem-solving. Ask yourself what makes you feel like you are and devise strategies to resolve or change the current situation. For instance, a person who feels depressed because of losing a job can find someone to look over their resume or hire a life coach to get their life back on track. Another solution in such circumstances would be to enroll in job skills training to become more appealing to potential employers.

Reminisce in good times.

When you are feeling sad and suicidal, it is easy to skip all positive things in life as they get pushed to the back of your mind. In such circumstances, it is imperative to recall all good things occasionally through various techniques, such as a gratitude journal. Get a journal and remember to write all the positive things that happened to you throughout the day and the ones you are thankful for. While this technique may not resolve suicidal depression entirely, it can certainly help remove negativity from the mind.

Try seeking human contact.

For someone with depression and suicide ideation, the first inclination is to isolate themselves from everyone else and cut down all types of contact with others. However, experts recommend doing the opposite and engaging in human contact as much as possible. This does not necessarily mean visiting a friend but may also include activities where human interaction is possible, such as shopping or walking. Such activities can distract a person from their negative thoughts and put them in a situation where they cannot easily act on their suicidal tendencies.

Talk to someone you trust.

Finding someone to confide in and express feelings without fearing judgment can be greatly helpful. A person who listens to another person’s feelings when they are depressed and are having suicidal thoughts can gain their trust and boost their recovery. Remember that not everyone around you will understand suicidal depression, so ensure that the person you choose is willing to be compassionate and offer help.

Use distraction

Some people require distraction to ease their underlying suicidal feelings stemming from depression. To help make the critical times seem easy, make a crisis plan to follow when things become hard or too risky. For instance, you may consider visiting a friend or calling a loved one when you feel depressed and suicidal. Alternatively, read a book or shower to distract your mind and think positively.

Treating Suicidal Depression Through Professional Therapies

Now that you know what causes suicidal depression and how to manage it with everyday tips, it is imperative to know the professional options for people who cannot keep their symptoms under control. Following are some therapy options to consider in such cases:

Electroconvulsive Therapy

Also known as ECT, electroconvulsive therapy involves the application of an electric pulse on the scalp to trigger a seizure. Considered a last resort, ECT can cause side effects, such as muscle aches and headaches. However, some studies advise using it sooner due to the profound benefits it may bring to the patients. According to researchers, ECT can not only put depression into remission but also reduce the risk of a relapse. In cases where suicidal thoughts are present, patients respond quickly to ECT.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Also known as TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation involves stimulation of a certain brain area using magnetic pulses. The procedure is less invasive than an ECT and is associated with fewer adverse effects. Like ECT, TMS is more suitable for people who have not responded to antidepressants and need something stronger for their suicidal depression.

Studies indicate that people who receive TMS sessions undergo significant improvements in their depressive systems, and the remission rate in such populations is between 30 and 40 percent. [2] Receiving maintenance TMS can also reduce the risk of having a relapse.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Also known as VNS, vagus nerve stimulation is also known as a pacemaker for the brain. This procedure is more invasive than both TMS and ECT and involves the implantation of a pulse generator under the skin of the chest. Studies have found that people treated with VNS significantly improve their overall well-being and life quality with up to 50 percent symptom reduction. [3]


How does depression lead to suicidal thoughts?

Depression can make life seem hopeless, frustrating, gloomy, and difficult to live, making a person think death is the only escape. Such people often have additional risk factors that contribute to their suicidal risk, such as the following:

  • Poor physical health
  • A family history of suicidal depression
  • Hanging out with people with suicidal tendencies
  • A history of traumatic events in the past 

How can you prevent suicidal depression? 

Early detection and management are critical in treating depression while reducing the risk of consequences, including suicide. Seeking mental health treatment and support, both from professionals and loved ones, can cause a significant improvement in overall mental health. However, remember to seek help for suicidal thoughts that remain outside the context of clinical depression. The important thing is to seek help without any delay.

Are there any protective factors that save a depressed person from suicide?

The following things may protect a person from developing suicidal thoughts:

  • Connection to the community
  • Healthy lifestyle habits
  • Access to medical care and treatment
  • Support from family and friends
  • Holding spiritual beliefs that value life while discouraging suicide
  • Having strong problem-solving skills


1 Brådvik L. Suicide risk and mental disorders. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2018 Sep;15(9):2028.

2 George MS, Taylor JJ, Short EB. The expanding evidence base for rTMS treatment of depression. Current opinion in psychiatry. 2013 Jan;26(1):13.

3 Conway CR, Kumar A, Xiong W, Bunker M, Aaronson ST, Rush AJ. Chronic vagus nerve stimulation significantly improves quality of life in treatment-resistant major depression. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 21;79(5):22269.

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