Will I Be Committed to a Mental Hospital if I Tell a Therapist about my Suicidal Thoughts?

Print Friendly

Helsingør Psychiatric Hospital. Photo used with permission from JDS Architects.

You may be seriously considering suicide and yet not want to tell a therapist, because you fear landing in a mental hospital.

If you go to a therapist or psychiatrist and tell them you are seriously thinking of killing yourself, that does not necessarily mean you will be hospitalized. Hospitals are very strict these days about who they admit, and insurance companies are equally strict about covering a hospital stay. Some people joke that it is harder to get into a mental hospital than Harvard University.

Who Gets Hospitalized


Suicidal thoughts are not usually enough to warrant psychiatric hospitalization for adults. Instead, you would need to be in imminent danger (or in some states substantial danger) of trying to kill yourself. This generally means you are intent on acting very soon on your suicidal wishes. Perhaps you already have a plan on how you would kill yourself, you have whatever you need to carry out that plan, and you have some intent to follow through on that plan very soon.

If so, then yes, hospitalization would almost certainly be necessary. If you do not consent to be hospitalized (that is, you will not voluntarily admit yourself), then yes, a mental health professional would need to intervene to get you to a safe place. The reason for this is that serious suicidal intent is almost always temporary, as long as the person stays alive. Consider that even among people who attempt suicide and survive, more than 90% do not go on to die by suicide.

So, if you are thinking of killing yourself but do not intend to act on those thoughts any time soon, then a mental health professional most likely will not try to have you hospitalized. Instead, they will work to understand your reasons for wanting to die, to help you feel better, and to build up your coping skills.

If you a serious danger to yourself, however, then every effort will be made to keep you safe until the crisis passes and you are safe to be out on your own again.

Children and Adolescents

At many psychiatric hospitals, the standards for hospital admission tend to be more relaxed for children and adolescents. The younger a person is, the more alarming it can be that they would consider suicide. And children and adolescents are more impulsive than adults. So what I wrote above about strict criteria for hospitalization may not apply to young patients, because of the extra caution that they warrant. 

If You Do Need Hospitalization…

What are your fears of being hospitalized? Would you really rather die than go to a psychiatric hospital? If so, why?

Doctor In Discussion With Nurse At Nurses Station

Perhaps you fear being locked away for good, or at least for a long time. Most people do not stay in a mental hospital more than a few days, even if they come in with serious suicidal thoughts. Once upon a time, a great deal of patients did remain hospitalized for months and even years. Those days ended in the 1990s, when it became apparent that many hospitals were keeping patients longer than necessary for the sole purpose of collecting insurance money.

Perhaps you think mental hospitals are like that in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or other Hollywood movies. But these days, hospitals do not use straitjackets on patients. In fact, they are not supposed to use restraints unless a patient is out of control and potentially violent. There are no bars on the windows unless it is a very old building. And nobody is forced to take “shock therapy,” more technically called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). (Some people choose to receive ECT. It is a much safer, more humane procedure than it used to be, though it still can have dangerous side effects.)

If You are Admitted to a Psychiatric Hospital

Doctor psychiatric patient interviewThere are some important things to know about what happens in a psychiatric hospital. If you are admitted, a nurse or therapist will interview you about your problems, thoughts and feelings, and symptoms. You will be asked to turn over anything that could be used to try to hurt or kill yourself. This includes things like shoelaces, sharp items (called “sharps”), and belts. You will be evaluated to see if medication might help you. Depending on the hospital, you may participate in individual and group psychotherapy. You may have a room to yourself, or you may share.

There are definitely things that are scary about being in a psychiatric hospital. Staying with strangers, some of whom may have more serious problems than you, is frightening. Just as happens in any hospital, you do not have much privacy.

The unit is locked, and that can feel confining. You cannot come and go as you please. If you are very dangerous to yourself, you might have someone checking on you every 15 minutes or fewer, or even shadowing you.

All of these measures are to keep you safe from yourself. Suicides occur even in psychiatric hospitals, so every effort is made to protect you.

Someday, even if it is hard to imagine now, you may even be thankful that you were protected in this way.


© Copyright 2013 Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, All Rights Reserved. Written for www.speakingofsuicide.com


Photos purchased from Fotolia.com


Related Posts

Comments are welcome!

91 Reader Comments

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. Amanda says:

    I am 16 and I have thoughts of killing someone, anyone, I just wanna see the fear in their face, I wanna see all the fears and everything I’ve gone through in my life all on their face for just a second. If I tell my physiologist about this will I be admitted to the mental hospital ?

    • Alex Jude says:

      I sure hope so.For your safety as well as others. I, as many people do carry a legal concealed weapon. I would hate to ever have to use it in self defense. But I would. Seek help please.

  2. Rhiannon says:

    I’m so fricken scared going back to hospital tomorrow. I’m telling him the truth on how I lied about not feeling suicidal anymore just to get out of hospital but in fact I am still feeling suicidal and am scared he will throw me back in the mental health ward as I’m only on leave. I’m so scared and don’t know what to expect :-(

  3. Joe says:

    Nothing in my life is working. I’m alone in everything I do. I don’t really want to die but can’t help but feel that I and everyone else would just be better off if I was gone. I am a constant drain on my aging parents’ money, I drive away anyone who appears to care about me, sometimes in very mean ways, I contribute nothing to society, my drug use is getting more and more serious. If I had enough money on me right now, I would go buy 2 grams of H and a handful of Xanax and hope to just go to sleep and never wake up. Every morning when I do wake up, I’m even more depressed that I didn’t die in my sleep. I’ve been trying to get the materials together for a helium hood setup but I can’t afford it. I’m so pathetic I can’t even afford to kill myself.

    My last birthday I went to a movie alone, went to dinner alone, and then sat in my car in the parking lot of the restaurant, alone, for 3 hours because I didn’t want to go home so early. I wanted my parents to think I was out having fun. Most nights I sit in the car in a parking lot so my parents think I’m out with my friends. I don’t have one single person that is an actual friend. I have drug buddies. I have a few acquaintances. But anyone who was a friend I pushed away long ago.

    I’m going to be 38 years old in 2 months. I’m unemployed and have been for almost 10 years and have lived with my parents since 2000. I haven’t had a serious relationship with a girl ever. I repeat, I have NEVER had a girlfriend in my entire life. I tried, but every girl I have ever fallen didn’t like me like that. I fat, I’m a nerd. I haven’t had sex in 12 years and that was with a hooker. I can’t remember the last time I was hugged or even touched by someone. I don’t even know if I want to have to sex anymore.

    I can’t keep my thoughts straights. I get these huge short bursts of motivation followed by long periods of depression and no energy. I start a million projects and never finish any of them, adding to my feelings of failure and worthlessness. I try to talk to my mom and 2 minutes into my story I’m off on a tangent and lost the original train of thought. I can’t sleep. I sit in bed and rehash every mistake I ever made in my entire life. I’m talking about sitting in bed at 4am, at age 37, and feeling ashamed of something that happened in 5th grade. Ashamed and embarrassed to the point I hide my head under the pillow and can feel myself blushing! There are things I won’t admit to myself, how could I ever talk to a therapist? There are 2 things I’ve done in my life that are so shameful that I have almost totally blocked them out from my memory. I know they happened, and I remember the gist of it, but I’ve blocked out the details of those 2 nights because I just can’t handle fully reliving them in my mind. How could I every be honest with a therapist if I can’t be honest with myself?

    I’m afraid to talk to a therapist because I think I’ll tell them something and they will tell me I’m bats**t insane and have me committed in a straitjacket and padded room, doped up on lithium until I don’t even exist anymore.
    I don’t know what to do and I can’t talk to anyone about it. I need help and I have no where to go.
    What do I do? Someone please help me… No one can help me… I just wish I didn’t have to wake up ever again. Nothing brings me joy, Things I used to LOVE to do, things that excited me, hold no value to me anymore. If I was addicted to opiates, if I didn’t get dopesick without them, I would never leave my house. I would never get out of bed.

    I can’t cope anymore. I’ve been killing time in my life for 20 years. Killing time until what? Death! And it is taking forever. I’ve been passive aggressively killing myself since I was 16. Smoking like a chimney, eating garbage, never exercising. I am 37 and I have NO teeth. Full dentures top and bottom. How would I ever go on a date with a girl? How could I ever kiss a girl? I think she would know instantly… I don’t keep my hair cut or give a f**k how I dress. I hate everything I have become, I hate everything I do.

    Sorry to ramble on, its what I do…

    • Deanna says:

      There are people out there who wouldn’t care if you have teeth or not. There are people out there who will not care about your weight. Nobody is the same, and nobody is different. I believe one of these days you can be smiling with a real reason behind it, not because i don’t understand, but because i believe in you. There is somebody out there who will be willing to listen to you, and somebody who will understand. Somebody who will help you and will not be reluctunt to do so. I think you may need to tell somebody, see a doctor. Yes, even doctors don’t always understand. But sometimes no matter what they say, you have to stand up. Somebody has to listen to you. You deserve more. You have a voice and it needs to be heard. Waiting lists to see a therapist can be long. And a person may or may not think that they were worth waiting for. A therapist can sometimes say the same thing over and over again every time you visit and it can be as though it isn’t helping whatsoever. I don’t think mental care hospitals are the way they once were. Of course, not every doctor or nurse their has the job because they truly care about patients. Some doctors can treat you just like other people do. But there are ones who will care, who do care and they will do everything they need to in order to help you. No matter how long it takes or how long your stay is there, if it actually helps you, i believe its worth it. There is no normal. You may not be able to stand it but i don’t think its bad for a 30 some year old to still be living with his parents. And just because you may have never been in a serious relationship, isn’t to say you never will. You do not need somebody to be happy. It lies within yourself. I hope you are able to be happy one of these days. Please stay strong. I support you.

    • dave says:

      Hi Joe. That sounds horrible for you and reading your story I see you are focusing on so many negatives with shame and self loathing asking for help, but then stating “nothing can help me”. Listing the problems, but not noting how lucky you are to have parents who sound as though they love and support you and i expect would be devastated if you took your life. They are one of your protective factors
      This is fairly classic stuff and similar to what I continue to be tortured with.
      I don’t know what if anything you had in mind when you asked for help, but there are some basic things you should try. See a doc to ask for a trial of ssri antidepressants. Talking treatments. Some may be available free through phone lines where you may not need to give your identity. Samaritans are a listening service but may ‘signpost’ you to other organisations. Funny you should mention lithium as it’s pretty much the only drug shown to reduce suicide in clinical trials.
      You write well and sound intelligent, have a car and could fo some useful work. This would help take you away from those destructive ruminations
      Try and regain some self respect and bring some structure into your life; eat decent food at regular times, get out of bed at the same time each day. Do some walks. Try for voluntary work. Try and identify what you enjoy or what makes you feel happy. Think back to the happy occasions, not just the bad ones.
      There is no instant answer for you, but you need to find where you fit in and, what helps your mood
      ? Try drug services counselling.
      Never give up
      Dave (doctor)

    • dave says:

      Just another thought Joe It may be worth checking, to understand yourself better, to see if you have Aspergers or HFA . I have this as probably does Bill Gates, Doc House and Einstein. It’s really common and may explain the social difficulties you have had. If you get a diagnosis you may get access to some support services. ? Worth a try.
      Also ?? Bipolar ; now a very trendy diagnosis; Brad Pitt, Jim Carey, Lady Gaga.
      Also why not try listing out your strengths – education, computer literate, knowledge of addiction to name but a few. Can you visualise a possible happy life for yourself in a few years time? If so, maybe you could keep that in mind.

  4. Emma says:

    I am 15 and suffer from depression, ADD, and anxiety. I am taking new meds all the time and it messes with my mood. Since I got out of a hospital I got worse. I started cutting even more and have even more severe suicidal thoughts. The only person in my family who cares about me is my dad, so I don’t want to upset him if I die. What do I do?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hello Emma,

      How awful to be going through all that you describe. Please tell your father! And also please tell your psychiatrist, family physician, or whoever else is prescribing your medication. It is well known that antidepressants can increase suicidal thoughts in young people; see the post Do Antidepressants Cause Suicide?

      If you want to talk to someone immediately about what you are going through and do not yet want to tell your father, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 (TALK). Better yet, if you are having severe suicidal ideation right now, please call 911 for immediate help staying safe, if you are in the U.S. If you live elsewhere, please call your area’s emergency number.

      Please feel free to drop by and let us know how you are doing, Emma!

    • Deanna says:

      I wont tell you to simply go back again. Anything can have an outcome. And that outcome can be for better or worse. I do believe you can be happy. Not because i don’t understand, but because i believe in you. And i also believe that one of these days you can be smiling with a real reason behind it. I could tell you to help yourself. To tell someone. But not everybody will have a ‘positive’ reaction to the way you feel. And helping yourself may not always be ‘enough’. Does your father know about how you feel even after going to hospital?

  5. Terry says:

    I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for 25 years. Now I’m off my Meds. I was taking 20mg celexa and been on different benzos for 20 years. Now I am at rock bottom with no way out it looks like. I’ve not been out of the house in 6 months. I’m at wits end now and since I’ve gotten off my Meds my health has gone down. Is it wrong to have to take Meds now the rest of my life and people say not to take Valium now for anxiety even tho doctors put me on them 20 years ago. I stay lost all the time on what to do and just want to give up. I’m 53 now and Dont want to be in this misery anymore. What to do?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      How awful to be so isolated and in so much pain. What would make it wrong to take meds the rest of your life? Whatever answer you consider needs to be in the context of a discussion with your physician as well as a consideration of this question, too: Is it wrong to take medications that can abate your suffering?

      Regarding Valium, is this something you can discuss with your doctor? I would trust my physician’s opinion over the opinions of well meaning friends and family.

      Here’s a link to an article that discuss long-term medication: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1911177/

      Please also consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 (TALK) or check out the Resources page here http://www.speakingofsuicide.com/resources/#immediatehelp for a list of resources available by phone, text, chat or email.

      Good luck to you!

  6. Dan says:

    So because I am 20 they are more likely to force me in. This is scary to me because I cut myself. The worst thing is I d know way I do it ninety percent of the time. I do know however that I will out of anger occasionally lately because I ruined a chance with a girl because of my anxiety. I however do not know if I am depressed or not.

    • Rhiannon says:

      Thanks guys for the replies. I got admitted on wed day and it is now Friday 12:45pm and I am on weekend leave with a whole pile of tablets which is gonna knock me around and make me tired :-( I hate the mental health ward. You get some very rude staff there

  7. Rhiannon says:

    I’m going to the doctors tomorrow and I’m telling him about my constant self harm and severe suicide thoughts. I am from Australia. I am scared that I will be admitted as I was last time about 3-4 years ago. This is happening tomorrow. I am sooo scared. What should I expect?

    • Anonymous says:

      Depends how you answer the docs questions, what you want and what they make of you. The doc will want to cover their backs and be safe, so if you tell him the high risk stuff and behave dramatically, you may be admitted, but this doesn’t often happen. Have a look at this
      Best to think through what you actually want from your visit tomorrow and discuss it with a friend if possible. You will be able to guide the process and be in control if you wish, but if you really feel very unsafe and don’t trust yourself to stay alive, close supervision as an inpatient may be appropriate. You know already what happens with admission and have probably decided whether in retrospect it was appropriate before 3 years ago. There is no instant magic answer to change your thinking, although time is usually helpful and now you are older and wiser and know more about what happens.
      Try and work out from your previous experience what things are most helpful for you. Think what was happening in your life when you have not felt suicidal and is there any way of getting your head back to that more settled feeling. Is there something that settles you ? meditation or distraction (but avoid alcohol). If you wind yourself up into a state of high anxiety, you will not present well and are more likely to cause concern with the docs, but remember you are the one who can be in control of the whole situation. You have presumably made the appointment because you want help and you can get out of it what you want.
      I hope and pray you can find some good thoughts, some happiness, something to look forward to and move away from self harm. Maybe try “ego strengthening exercises”, mindfulness meditation etc. You know you want to feel better or you wouldn’t have posted!

    • dave says:

      That sounds better anyway and you must have good support to be given weekend leave so soon. Keep your strength up I hope you find a good strategy for the future.

    • Rhiannon says:

      Thanks Dave, I have to go back on Monday at 11am on the dot to find out if I need to stay or if I can be fully discharge on certain circumstances. I hate that place even being home I still don’t feel fully free as I know I’m not discharged yet I only got the weekend leave and have to keep my phone on me 24/7

    • Alex Jude says:

      I hear you. Im on a 24/7 “stay in touch with us” now. I don’t feel like a danger to my self but the so called professionals think otherwise . I hate it.. Take care my friend. Alex the suicide watch patient.

    • Alex Jude says:

      Well, FKB. called my sheriff’s department on me. Im thankful that they were concerned but, It put another hindrance on my career and employment potential. Im glad to be responding right now but, still depressed as Hell. Alex.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hi Alex, I am sad to hear about your depression. I don’t understand your email, though. What is FKB?

    • Rhiannon says:

      They wanted to admit for 1 more week but they realised I was so scared about staying they let me go home but I have to come back tomorrow and Friday. I told them I didn’t feel suicidal anymore but in fact I still do but I won’t tell them that as I don’t want to be stuck there

    • dave says:

      Hi Rhiannon. That’s fine not to have admit some suicidal thoughts as long as you have some protective factors eg family and also that you feel you can manage safely. It’s a bit of a game to play about admission, but not admitting to suicidal thoughts will allow them to legitimately keep you out of hospital. Keep safe though and let them know if you’re not coping.

  8. Steve J says:

    I lived my life having uncontrollable seizures because of Epilepsy. Each day was normal to me. After 40 years I was able to have an operation, brain surgery, to stop seizures. This is because medical things that are done now could not be done 10 years ago. I spent my life waiting for seizures, to brace myself for whatever could happen and make sure I took my medications of course. After the operation the seizures stopped and I felt like I was freed and was happy. It didn’t last but a couple of months. I started realizing how much I missed out on in life. Because of the seizures I had kept to myself, and now realizing that I had no family, a wife, a son or daughter or even any real friends. It was too late to try and start learning a career. It is easy for people to say go to school or start a family at the age of 47. You see the costs are one thing but starting all over by myself is not that easy. I went into depression quickly, feeling lost and alone. I took care of myself my whole adult life but it was different now. I had to learn how to live just like everyone else. I could only compare myself with others who had careers and families making things worse. I started seeing a psychologist for depression. He said for me it was like I was a baby having to start life all over again. This has been going on for three years now. I do drive now but the kind of work I can get is for younger ages. A lot of physical work with no thinking needed. I cant seem to get jobs my age because of the lack of experience. I don’t seem to fit in with the people where I work. I also still cant make friends, especially people my age. While I am almost 50 now, it is the way I feel inside because of starting all over I feel younger but I appear older to others. There seem to be so many “roadblocks” that keep me from adjusting to a new “normal” life with no time to spare that I just want to give up. The therapist that I’ve been seeing for three years refuses to give up on me. I do appreciate that, I just wish I could feel the same way. Lately, I been thinking more that it would just be easier to die. It’s not like I will effect anyone else’s life. All I do is worry about things and I cant see things getting better. I’ve come to believe that each day like this is normal and will continue, nothing to look forward to and no one to be with. I know this is depression, but I still feel the same way. I do feel alone and at the same time know there are others feeling the same way out there. Maybe it would help if I somehow knew things can get better.

    • dave says:

      There’s no doubt it may get better but finding that place where you’re fit in will be difficult and the more time goes on the more you will be hard wired with these feelings. If you can visualise a future which is acceptable you’re halfway there and will be able to make happen . Otherwise it’s the usual stuff – try medication, ect, exercise, lifestyle improvements, joining groups, socialising, diet, volunteering, meditation. However despite all of this it may not change and you are left with coming to terms with this – acceptance and commitment therapy. And if that’s not any good you’re left with yourself and those that love you ?church or your religion may help. It sound like you may have quite a few things left to try. Good luck

    • Steve Jackson says:

      Thanks for your comments Dave, but my “story” was getting so long that I left things out. I take five medications for Epilepsy and depression. I try different things (like going to school two years ago to learn graphic design, I was always an artist). I was told at a young age by teachers to continue art in college, it was not possible then. When I tried after the operation I didn’t fit in, things were all done by computer and I was lost. I ended up quitting and owing money. I did some landscaping starting with my own yard. It changed the looks and stood out to others who stopped and gave me compliments. I did do work for others but it didn’t last. People could not afford it or only hired professionals. These two things are just a couple of examples. I get my hopes up and then feel like I have failed again. Then I lose interests. It keeps me from trying anything else knowing that I will fail again. I do talk to people but only in a short conversation. I feel like I have nothing to say when they ask what I did or have done in the past. I feel like I am complaining when I talk about my past. I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me. For a while I exercised and starting eating better, but then asked myself why I was doing it. Do I really want to live longer? It is easy for me to talk with people, yet people my age already have a career and a family and not interested in really getting to know me, besides I do hide my depression from them. I wonder if I meet someone I really like would I just drive them away? I know if I go for a walk or just get outside I do feel better. When I sit at home alone I end up thinking to much. It’s like I need someone to give me a push. It does get hard for me to even get up sometimes. I’m not sure of any groups I could go to. I already tell myself that I would be sitting behind talking to no one. My doctor tells me to do or try one thing at a time but with so much on my mind, what I’ve missed, where to go, what to try and at the same time how far behind in life I am, it is easier to just give up. (Most of my family died at a young age because of cancer(s) and high blood pressure). I compare the time I have left to my family members. My doctors have told me that I am in better health and appear to be in my late 30’s because of the years of walking to get around when I had seizures. Of course I have a problem of trusting what I hear. Since I lived alone most of my life I didn’t believe what I was told by almost anyone. That is another one of my problems, trust. Failing at things people tell me to do just adds to it. It just seems to be too much to take on and accomplish at the same time. If I could tell anyone at a younger age, no matter what they are dealing with, just do not be alone. Don’t hide from others thinking it is the best thing to do.

  9. martyn c says:

    I have told mental health if they discharge me I would take a overdose they still discharged me so I took a overdose and they trying to discharge me again is this legal as I will just take a overdose again

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Martyn, I’m sorry you’ve gone through such a hard time. It’s been a week since you posted your comment, so perhaps you are in a better place now.

      I can’t tell you whether the hospital’s actions are legal or not. Perhaps there is a patient advocate or ombudsmen who can help?

      If you are looking for extra support when you get home, or whenever, please check out the Resources page on this site: http://www.speakingofsuicide.com/resources/#immediatehelp

  10. Me says:

    Does it cost a lot of money to be in one of these places? Does insurance cover all of it??

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hi “Me,”

      Yes, healthy insurance usually covers most of the costs, and yes, it can cost a lot of money to be in a psychiatric hospital in the U.S., depending on where you go and how long you are there. For people who do not have much money, there are various ways that they can get help for little to no money, such as going to public hospitals (which typically are VERY hard to get admitted to, because resources are scarce) or enrolling in Medicaid, as examples.

  11. Tom says:

    The problem with myself is that I get too scared that I might commit suicide in the future, whether it be 10 or 20 years and I do NOT want to but there are situations that have made me feel very depressed based on events and the problem is that I can just simply stop my medication for blood pressure and insulin for diabetes which if I don’t take, it will have severe consequences or do what I did years ago which will be deadly for me. I have to encourage myself to think positive and not let people put me down. From reading other posts, I get scared that if I’m committed to a mental health unit and the way the users on here are making it sound how mental health units are hell, that if that happens to me, it might make me stop my life support meds. If a mental health unit treats me like crap, its basically like them saying to me… once you’re discharged, get rid of yourself with unspoken words.

    I have traveled all over the world, and try to do activities to keep me occupied, but sometimes, I do get depressed on the trips where I’ve even had thoughts but ya know, I do come around. I am currently on a antidepressant, but sometimes, someone can just push the wrong button on me and make my mind go a different direction to where I want to hurt myself. For example, I was threatened to be beat up just for defending myself. It made me feel so worthless, I really thought of hurting myself.

    A few years ago on a trip to Europe, while on a cruise ship, I got threatened by a passenger and it just frightened me so bad, It made me have those thoughts and I just wanted to get off in a country and poison myself, but the situation got better as the cruise ship followed the procedures on the threat and felt much better. I’m just to quick to act.

    Right now, I feel fine and NOT suicidal, but I do get the thoughts and I wish I wouldn’t.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Tom, thanks for your insightful comment. It sounds like sometimes suicidal thoughts overtake you, unbidden, and they understandably frighten you. It is a good sign that you wish the thoughts would stop. If they come again, please consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 (TALK).

      I found myself thinking of two things while reading your comment. One, I wonder if you have received any psychotherapy or even read many psychology-type books on healing depression, in addition to the medication you take. Because of your motivation to approach problems differently, you might really benefit from therapy or self-help. Both can result in long-lasting change.

      I also want to address the negative comments that others here make about psychiatric hospitals. Keep in mind that people who are happy with services, whether at a restaurant, hairdresser or a psychiatric hospital, are a lot less likely to comment if their experience is normal or even good.

      Keep in mind, too, that if somebody spent time in a psychiatric hospital, benefited from the treatment they received there, and moved to a place in their mind where they no longer felt suicidal, then they are not likely to come to a website for people dealing with issues related to suicide.

      I don’t mean to discount the negative comments here. People have raised serious and troubling issues about how psychiatric hospitalization, especially against one’s will, can be traumatic. And yes, it could be devastating to go to a psychiatric hospital and receive inferior care. Hospitalization can make some people feel worse.

      To me, this is like surgery to save a life. Sometimes surgery works, and the person recovers. Sometimes it produces greater injuries. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Still, millions of people choose surgery for life-threatening conditions.

      If someone is in serious danger of suicide – if a life is at stake – it seems worthwhile to work toward safety and recovery, even if (and especially if) at some point it becomes necessary to stay a brief time in a psychiatric hospital.

  12. Tom says:

    It’s always a blessing when a person is suicidal that they tell someone and that person either calls the cops and convinces them to get help because they care. If the person who is suicidal really wanted to carry on with their plan, they would just do it. I myself am a suicide survivor and had a near death experience and I regret doing what I did because it was over something very stupid and I rather not tell what I did, but I was in the hospital for 2 weeks in the ICU all because somebody called my house to tell them that they thought I was having a stroke. A Psychiatrist did talk to me and I told her that I am no longer suicidal and It was a terrible mistake I made and I did not have to be evaluated once she saw I was no longer suicidal.

    What I don’t understand about the mental health unit is that some do not care to help the patient and just warehouse them there. Do they realize that after the patient is discharged, that patient is more at risk of committing suicide because now, the mental health unit just upset the patient even more. Taking dangerous items away obviously makes sense, but what matters more is what happens after discharge. Does Medication necessarily help?

  13. Alex says:

    Once again, I get denied employment due to my past mental health issues. My 4.0 GPA. means nothing, My EMS skills are worthless because of a situation that happened YEARS ago. This makes me come to the realization that as important as seeking help is, when it’s needed, it comes with a price. So, my advice to any medical professionals is… Keep it under your hat, don’t talk to anyone if you are having issues if you want to keep your job, move forward or advance in your field. It’s not going to happen for you. The same for military, keep any PTSD issues covert. Your security clearance is over, sad but true.
    I don’t give this advice lightly. I know only too well the importance of seeking mental health help. And I know only too well the price that comes with it. I am saddened with this realization.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Alex, I’m so sorry to hear about your continued struggles. Have you consulted an attorney? Employers in the U.S. are not allowed to ask about health conditions during the interview process. And if they do, you are allowed to decline to answer. If you are not being hired solely on the basis of past psychiatric treatment, the law is being violated. Please see http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/jobapplicant.html for more information.

      For the sake of others reading comments here, I want to challenge your sense that getting mental health treatment will stop everyone from getting a job or advancing in the field. That simply is not true. I know of a great many successful professionals in the medical field (and other fields, including the military) who received mental health treatment without any negative effects on their career. Of course there are exceptions, and you seem to be one of them. But the fact is, you can’t know just from looking at someone whether they have received mental health treatment. So you don’t know how many people out there have such treatment and are thriving.

      Again, I’m really sorry about your struggles and wish that you were not getting turned down by prospective employers. But…I think it does a disservice to tell somebody who is hurting so badly that they want to end their life that getting help will only hurt them. It can help. It often does.

      Alex, please do consider consulting an attorney. Employers should not be asking about your mental health history in an interview for an EMS position!

  14. TiredClinicalStudent says:

    I have been reading this article quite a bit lately and I have a question: what do you do if psychiatric care is what is making you suicidal?

    I ask because my partner recently got sectioned for the fourth time under particularly violent circumstances. she attended the ER with suicidal ideation and when the nurses saw her previous history she was wrestled to the floor made to strip and then forcibly medicated.

    so now she is in the hospital and the doctors are curious about her triggers. While she has anxieties about issues like work and family she told me that she particularly finds psychiatric treatment particularly troubling. medications are a big part of this as she suffers from serious side effects and finds the constant swapping of medications grueling and it played a significant role in her last two hospitalizations.

    so now we are in a catch-22. she won’t be released until she stops having suicidal ideations but the care she is receiving is encouraging her suicidal thoughts.

    • dave says:

      I know the feeling. I think the best option is for her to play the role of a recovered patient, even if she isn’t. That will both help her get discharged from hospital and also there will be the “fake it till you make it” effect which should actually help her recovery. Otherwise she will be controlled by the psychiatric system!

  15. Jon says:

    I’ve been reading the comments to this article and I find it a bit curious: why are so many people commenting on the fact that their involuntary stay was horrid? Is the fact that they are commenting at all actually a good sign? It means they did not go through with suicide after all.

    The reason I’m looking at these topics is that I feel like I should visit a psychiatrist. I mainly want to go to find something to make me do things. I have an issue with never actually doing things and hating things such as work. It’s difficult to say whether it would interfere with my normal life, as my life hasn’t really been very unusual and different. It could be because of the same reasons. I’m a bit afraid that I might not want to be completely honest with the psychiatrist – I have some pretty unusual thoughts about the world and myself. I do not place much value in my own life, but I realize that instinctual reflexes will try to make me stay alive as much as possible. Anyways, I’m rambling, I’m afraid of telling everything to a psychiatrist because it’s a bit embarrassing (I can deal with that) and scary. It’s scary because there is such a thing as involuntary commitment.

    The problems comes from the fact that involuntary commitment is literally my greatest “rational fear”. What I mean by “rational fear” is that if I think of all the things I am afraid of the most in a logical sense, things I would not want happening to me, it would be involuntary commitment. Torture would be up there too, but it does not come close to #1. The reason for that is that torture is considered to be a bad thing. Society condemns torture, but it doesn’t do that to involuntary commitment. It is considered a good thing, yet I can easily see where it would be the same as torture.

    I realize that the likelihood of it happening are minuscule, but whether something seems dangerous to me isn’t based purely on the likelihood of happening. I have to also take into account the magnitude of the effect that such an event would have (eg the chance of winning the lottery is small, but the magnitude of the event is so large that to a lot of people it seems worth playing).

    The reason as to why I think involuntary commitment is bad is because it is involuntary. There is no other process which removes a person’s (my) rights without due process. You can argue that there is due process in involuntary commitment, but in reality it’s just the word of two physicians. Ones that often know each other or even agree with each other. There are cases where this is done in error, there are also cases where this is done maliciously – eg Gustl Mollath in Germany. Psychiatrists are just people, the likelihood that one of them could be annoyed and become vindictive exists. There is also the risk that what they (and other people) believe is right differs from what I believe. I, for instance, think suicide in certain cases (that aren’t extreme) is legitimate. Of course the reasoning should have sound logic, and the reasoning should probably be explained to someone and another person at another time (like a month later) just to make sure this isn’t a spur of the moment thing, but I do believe that it is legitimate. I do not know of any other person in real life who shares this belief with me. In fact, I would not want almost anybody that I know in real life making psychiatric decisions for me – I do not believe they would be thinking of what *I* would want, but rather what *they* would want.

    So all of this puts me in a conundrum: if I don’t ever contact a psychiatrist the chances of me ever being committed involuntarily are close to nil – probably many orders of magnitude lower than if I did. It is by far the biggest fear I have, because I am not exactly normal and don’t adhere to norms. I probably have a mountain of issues, just like everyone else, so this issue seems like a risk. Of course, my current plans do involve seeing a psychiatrist, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I am making a mistake with this. One that can never be taken back.

    How do I deal with the fear of a psychiatrist due to involuntary commitment? It’s not a fear I can just conquer because the likelihood of it ever happening is so low a trip or two there won’t really ease my fears. I also feel that bringing this up with a psychiatrist at any point in person is a very bad idea.

    Thank you for your time!

    Oh, one final thing: what about the 10% that did go on to commit suicide again? Wasn’t their freedom literally violated and they were forced to comply with threat of violence? Is that really an okay thing in our society?

    • Alex says:

      Why do you fear going to see a Psychiatrist? If you are having thoughts of self harm then go see a Dr., Call 911.Talk to a friend or family. If you think you are going to be IVC’ed. for having thoughts out side of the norm, don’t worry about it. Unless you are currently suicidal and have a plan of suicide you have a slim to none chance of being detained against your will. The only advice I can offer to you, not knowing you, is, seek help if you feel you need it. Peace. Alex

    • dave says:

      Ideally it sounds like you need to consult a professional with whom you can feel confident will act in your best interests to achieve the outcome you desire and that you remain in control. Addressing issues like motivation is not easy and if you want to try antidepressants, you will need to consult a doctor (family practitioner or psychiatrist). I suspect psychological techniques would be a good starting place though, so it may be that a psychologist or alternative practitioner would have something more useful to offer than a psychiatrist. Goal setting, planning, visualisation, small chunking, lifestyle improvement, time management, diet exercise etc if you haven’t already pursued these techniques. They are without side effects, may be more effective than medication, will boost your ego if you are successful and you can be confident you will remain in control to avoid admission.

    • Jon says:

      Alex, I explained the reasoning why I fear it – they simply hold too much power. There is no other aspect where it is legally possible for this kind of abuse (and misunderstanding) to occur. You say that I shouldn’t worry about it, but that’s what I’m literally asking about. What you just said is akin to “Hey, I have depressioon.” “Just get over it, stop being depressed.” I feel that the fear is completely rational and that many people just either don’t know the possibility and ease of such a process or trust law enforcement and doctors way too much to see this happening, or a combination of the two. And, again, it doesn’t matter that the likelihood is low – the magnitude of such actions is so vast that it simply ranks it at a high position in the list of worries.

      dave, the particular issues don’t matter here. I simply brought them up for background information. All the things you mentioned don’t work. They simply don’t work because to start doing them you actually need to put in the effort to start doing them and I simply don’t have such effort to give. But again, the exact details don’t matter.

      I’m interested in how to deal with this fear, rather than the other problems. This fear won’t go away regardless of any of these other issues, because to me it’s a completely rational fear – it is a complete oversight in the law and how human rights factor into it.

  16. name says:

    I heard these before, I believed it. But, now I know the reality: you are secluded, because of “procedure”. Intentionaly false diagnosis. yes, there are bars at windows. there are guards ready to seclude you if you are angry eaven you have a normal reason for it. Psychiatric drugs work like all drugs: they make you imposible to respond and they don’t resolve the symptom. antipsychotics are, in fact, tranquilizers. I realized soon that the only way to escape is to be “compliant” to admit that you have a serious mental illnes and the treatment is wonderful. find another way, never go to a psy.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree I will never go to another hell hole again talk to friend and family somebody who knows and has your best interests at heart

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      “Anonymous,” I’m sorry that your experience was negative. It must have been pretty awful for you to consider the hospital a “hell hole.”

      Your suggestion to talk to friends and family is good, but it might not be enough if someone is in a highly dangerous suicidal state of mind. Keeping a dangerously suicidal person safe can be too big of a job for friends or family.

      How do friends and family their suicidal loved one from acting on suicidal thoughts? They can’t be expected to remove all potential suicide methods from a home, watch their loved one 24/7, physically overtake their loved one if the suicidal person decides to attempt suicide in their presence, keep the suicidal person from leaving the house, etc.

      I write about the limitations that people face when trying to help a suicidal person in this post: “You Can’t Do Everything: Limitations in Helping a Suicidal Person.”

      As I note in the post, even psychiatric hospitals cannot ensure the safety of a suicidal person. But, if the suicidal person truly is dangerously and imminently suicidal, hospitals have more resources to ensure the safety of suicidal people than lay people do. At least a hospital can keep its doors locked, have staff monitor the person 24/7, and keep the environment free of knives, shoelaces, razor blades, scissors, belts, scarves, blow dryers, hanging rods, and other commonplace instruments of death.

  17. Ben F says:

    I was at the hospital for 5 days, and it wasn’t an enjoyable stay, but I made it through OK. I’m very angry with the doctor who did it to me. And also, I have a story to tell about why I ended up there.
    Everyday in the summer, my grand-aunt took me to her house. We did everything together. Went everywhere. To stores, to restaurants, etc. And then, my world changed. She sold the house. The house I had spent my whole childhood at. So I cut myself many times, and had serious suicidal thoughts, so I was sent to the hospital.
    I had spent many years at that house, and she was forced to sell it. I know there are people out there with worse problems than me, but still, I am currently very sad.

  18. Mari says:

    Yes, I would rather die than be incarcerated without any rights. To be forced to take drugs, etc…yes. It is for this reason that I may cancel an appointment, I would really like to keep, to see a psychiatrist about PTSD. That which stops from getting help is the desire to continue to live. I came so close to killing myself about a week ago that I am still reeling, but at least I have some understanding of the trigger now…(PTSD).

    The PTSD is due strictly to those in the medical profession. One lie, on the part of any practioner and I am gone. Lock me up, and I will die. I cannot stand being locked in…I must always be allowed my freedom. I intend to die anyway. Have the means, the plan, just waiting for the right time, and in truth I would only go to this appointment because I need to stay alive for a few more months. Once my sons are alright…I can go.
    Not long now…No one is ever going to hurt me again, no one will ever have the opportunity, to lie, humiliate,degrade,and physically hurt me again…EVER

    As professionals you will always choose to believe other professionals, no matter how ridiculous it may be. I am working to place the business of medicine where it belongs…in the criminal courts. You are monsters of the highest degree. No compassion, no empathy, just arrogance, status-seeking, egoists,who care nothing at all for the patient…just yourselves and your peers. One day the power that you bear will come back to haunt you I guarantee it.

    • dave says:

      Please think why you have chosen to write these things. Clearly you are very angry with the medics but it sounds like you have turned this onto yourself. Would you be considering suicide for revenge? From your comments it sounds like it will have little impact on them, but the effect on your children would be enormous and life long. It must be horrible to be living in so much mental pain, but if you can keep on keeping on using non medical techniques such as meditation spiritual and exercise that will really show them.
      I pray you have the strength to keep going until you find the way to be more settled for you and all your family.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Well said, Dave. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful comments in the service of helping out people in pain, not only the author of the above comment but also the many people who share similar thoughts and feelings.

    • Alex says:

      Hi Mari, I read your post. I too have PSTD. From an assault. My nightmares haunt me often. I would say that my hospital stay was not pleasant but it did help me to recover. I was put on medications that did more harm than help. However, I am here to respond to you because of that unpleasant stay. My original introduction to the mental health system was from being prescribed SSRI. meds from a simple broken arm. Later that year, I was beat up in NYC and left for dead. Back to the hospital again. All I can say is if you feel the need to seek help then do so. Its not a pleasant experience but, Its a better option than self-destruction or worse. I do feel empathy for your situation. Please take care of your self. Peace. Alex.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Alex, thank you for reaching out to Mari and sharing your experience. I think you summed up well what many people have told me about their hospital experience: “It’s not a pleasant experience but it’s a better option than self destruction or worse.”

      No doubt hospitalization has been harmful to some people and helpful to others (and both helpful and harmful, too, to still others). I have known people who, like you, found that hospitalization did help them to recover, and I have known people who still struggle to recover from their hospital experiences.

      That said, I am happy to report that, of the people I know who have been in a psychiatric hospital, the majority were helped in some way by the experience.

    • Kid says:

      This is just horrific.
      God its kill yourself or have the institution do it for you. Fuck
      Hope you can find something worth living for

  19. Anonymous says:

    What happens if you feel you will benefit from a psychiatric stay – even if briefly, but you do not have the money to do so? Will you be burdened with debt after your stay? Will you be denied access unless you are taken in as an involuntarily committed patient?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      “Anonymous,” those are good questions, and I can’t answer for every location. In the U.S., hospitals are not allowed to turn people away if they are experiencing a medical (including psychiatric) emergency. So a hospital would need to either provide you with the care you need or arrange for you to receive it elsewhere (and transfer you by ambulance), assuming that you need inpatient hospitalization due to a psychiatric emergency.

      Would you be burdened with debt? It depends on several things – whether you are admitted to a public or private hospital, whether the private hospital you’re admitted to has a charity program that covers some hospitalizations, whether you have any insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, etc.

      I know costs are a huge concern, and debt is no small thing. Even so, your life and your mental health are more valuable than money. I hope you will do what is needed for you to stay safe and to recover!

  20. I told my therapist and he threw me away. Ill never pay back the $3000+ the hospital charged me. Worst of all they could have cared less about me when I was there. All they did was write in note books. BE WARNED MENTAL HOSPITALS ARE MENTAL PRISONS!!!!

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Matthew, I’m sorry your experience wasn’t helpful. As I’ve said elsewhere on this site, hospitalization has helped some people, hurt others, and both helped and hurt still others. I suppose it’s like many medical procedures. Even the most effective medical procedures do not help everyone and harm some people.

      On top of that, some hospitals are better than others. Some merely provide a locked environment with medical supervision, while others provide individual therapy, group therapy, 12-step groups, and more.

    • The boy in the striped pajamas says:

      They plop you in rooms of 15 different people, in front of ONE therapist, and they discuss (briefly) ONE coping skill. One coping skill? 15 people? over a million problems in the room total. That is not effective, what that is would be covering their asses so it can be “helping” you. “oh we don’t know, coping skills are different for everyone. That’s like going to an ER and giving everybody medication to treat Chlamydia. how does that help everybody else? They treated us like criminals. We were treated like a prison. we were thrown away by a society that went to war over the gassing of “our kind” along with Jews, homosexuals, and political prisoners. They would still go to war over locking up Jews or homosexuals or enemies of the state. But it’s STILL okay to lock up “our kind”. It’s wrong for us to do with OUR lives what we want? it’s wrong for us to decide we do not wish to live any more? But the SAME people don’t give a flying f*ck about us while we’re in there or when we get out. They call cops to have us cuffed, thrown in backs of cars, and dragged to remote camps where we are thrown away like yesterday’s trash. They applaud the cop who captured you. They applaud the psychiatric doctor (who makes money off of capturing you). They applaud the guard who beats you senseless and treats you like a subhuman (who gets paid to do so by the way). And they condemn you for wanting to do with your life what you want to do. They condemn you for wanting to die. if I had a tv and I no longer wanted it, and I own a shotgun, and i wish to use it for target practice i have every right to destroy the tv. Does the TV still work? who knows, i didn’t specify, but what if it did? Could it serve purpose to someone else? yes. Would it be the socially moral thing to do to give it away as opposed to destroy it? yes. But am i REQUIRED to give up the tv? no. But I don’t want it? Tough. Since when did the phrase “I’m done with this” become a legally binding statement? if I wish to destroy the TV because i think it would look cool or because it’s taking up space on my wall I get to do just that. You don’t have to agree with me or understand why i choose to do what I do, but you do have to respect that and not interfere with MY choice. A person’s life is no different.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      “The boy in the striped pajamas,”

      You have good company. I often get emails and comments on this site from people who argue fiercely that people should be able to end their life without any interference from others. People are very passionate about this topic, as are you, and it is an affront to many that they can be deprived of their civil rights and hospitalized against their will if they take an action to end the life that belongs uniquely to them.

      The arguments are compelling. Of those who oppose intervening to prevent a suicide, I wonder what their views are on why, then, society does take such actions. Given the constant exposure I have to arguments against stopping a person’s suicide, I sometimes wonder myself. It’s one thing to want someone to live, and it’s another to enact laws and policies that prevent people from dying by suicide.

      My own stance is that the suicidal person often is not rational, due to mental illness, substance use, trauma, or simply the heat of the moment, a stance that is supported by a large and growing body of research that shows that most people who survive a suicidal crisis do not go on to die by suicide. The crisis passed. The person stayed alive, and many such people, even people who suffered a loss of vision or limbs or functioning in their suicide attempt, are grateful that they did stay alive.

      But I also wonder about the effects of suicide on society. Any time somebody dies by suicide, the loss is a wound to all of society in some respect or other – grieving loved ones who now, by virtue of having lost a loved one to suicide, are statistically at greater risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors themselves; strangers who will be deprived of the person’s talents and skills; bystanders who were traumatized by witnessing the act or its aftermath. Perhaps, too, it is an insult to society, in the same way that not eating a meal can insult the chef. “Here, I have this feast of life before me, and I choose to leave it.” And what of the other people who stay? Are they foolish?

      Those are simply my musings. There are of course religious aspects, as well. Some people, based on religion, view life as sacred, and thus the loss of life should be prevented when possible.

      Are these reasons enough to warrant robbing someone of the right to freedom and self-determination?

      For me, the effects of suicide on society are not nearly as compelling as the loss of life for someone who we know, based on the experiences of legions of others, might well have come to appreciate being alive. The odds are that they would have forged a life worth living, and then, yes, added meaning and value not only to their life but to the lives of those around them. Perhaps not, but who knows who will be among the few who do not regain a will, even desire, to live?

  21. JJ says:


    I just had a question. If I tell my therapist that I’m suicidal and that I have a plan, is there any way to get treated without being hospitalized, or will they have me admitted because of the plan and intent?



    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      J.J., I don’t know the specifics of your situation so I will answer generally. And, generally, suicidal thoughts and a plan are not sufficient, by themselves, to warrant hospitalization. There also needs to be the intent to act soon, in fact quite soon, on those thoughts and plan.

      Of course, when anyone speaks in generalities, there are many situations that don’t apply. Someone with suicidal thoughts and a plan, but without the intent to act soon, might still warrant hospitalization if other factors are present, such as psychosis or inability to function.

      I have had quite a few clients who had suicidal thoughts and very detailed planning around how they would die by suicide, yet who did not need to be hospitalized. They did not have the intention to immediately carry out their plan (it was more like, “This is what I can do when and if the time comes….”) and they were able to collaborate with me on how to stay safe.

      Keep in mind that criteria for involuntary commitment tend to be quite stringent. The same applies, in many cities, to voluntary admission. Even people who are suicidal and want to be admitted to a hospital often are turned away. So I hope that fears of hospitalization will not stop you from seeking help.

      My best to you, and I am sorry you are dealing with suicidal thoughts! I hope other posts on this site can be of help to you, as well. Also please keep in mind the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is open 24/7. The number is 800.273.TALK (8255).

  22. doc dave says:

    But there’s not good evidence that hospital admission saves lives. As a doctor I believe it’s more about showing care to avoid litigation. Despite suicide watch and removal of dangerous items / ligature points, a determined person will have little difficulty with suicide or more commonly act well to get discharged and then peform the deed. Starting medication, ect and or intense psychotherapy seem legitimate reasons for admission, but inpatient suicides still occur.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Doc Dave, you are absolutely right about the limitations of hospitals. I address this briefly in my post about limitations in helping suicide people, which you can find here. Specifically, I write:

      “Even inside locked psychiatric hospital units, even when patients are under constant supervision, some patients die by suicide. That is staggering. It is also illuminating. If mental health professionals and psychiatric hospitals cannot prevent all suicides, then how can friends and family be expected to do so?”

      And I agree with you about hospitalization often serving solely to protect the mental health professional from liability. In fact, I think many professionals (and clients, family, friends, etc.) place excess hope in hospitalization, as if it will cure suicidality in 3 days or less.

      Finally, I don’t think there’s *any* evidence that hospitalization saves lives, but I am not entirely sure. There definitely is not, as you said, good evidence. The problem is, how does one really study this? We can’t randomize dangerously suicidal people into a no-treatment group, or even into an uncontrolled environment.

      These are all points I intend, at some point, to write about more in the future. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and adding to the discussion.

  23. Jes says:

    i’ve been feeling very Suicidal lately and my parents know that i have been cutting and stuff but i’m just really sick of crying so much over school problems and personal problems i really just want to tell my mum that i want to go to hospital and get help because i don’t feel safe at home anymore due to recent things that i have experianced. I hate being at home i really do all i can think about is family fights and something else i do not feel like saying i just really want to leave or run away but i know it would be better going to hospital insted of killing myself/running away but i just don’t know how to tell my mum or how she would react, she is amazing and helpful but when she found out about me cutting she started crying so me telling her that i want to kill myself and that i have recently tried it and that i need help i’m scared because i don’t know how she would react someone please help and give advice please! i really don’t want to seem attention seeking but i just don’t know what to do anymore.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Jes, PLEASE tell your mother! Even if she gets upset, that’s a small price to pay for you to stay alive and get better.

      My advice is to show her this comment that you posted. That way, you don’t need to build up the courage to tell directly.

      It also might be helpful for your mom to read this post, 10 Reasons Teens Avoid Telling Parents about Suicidal Thoughts. That post also links to other posts with information about how parents can best respond to a suicidal child.

      Again, please tell your mom. She needs to be able to get you the help you need, but she can’t do that if she doesn’t know how much you need the help.

    • Kid says:

      Ha I feel like I’m in the same situation

  24. JeanPaul says:

    Having worked with many mental health professionals over the years, my advice is:
    1. do seek help
    2. Be VERY careful who you seek it from.

    I have worked with wonderful therapists who I credit with saving my life. I have also worked with psychiatrists who were verbally abusive, dishonest and negligent. My experience has generally been that psychiatrists range from contemptuous to abusive, while most psychologists range from from good natured but stupid to wonderful. I would say that if you need help, find a psychiatrist to get medication and then talk to them as little as possible, find a therapist and let them heal you.

    And don’t wait until you are already suicidal to get help. I waited too long for support and landed in a hospital. That got me well (though I relapsed), but it was traumatic. It’s better than dying, but really not a good time.

    Get help NOW! Before it’s too late.

    Another warning for those seeking help… There is no quick fix. Depression isn’t like the flu. You don’t get better. It’s more like diabetes. You can manage it and live a full successful life, but it will never go away.

    • Alex Jude says:

      Hi Jean. Very true whom you speak to in regarded to mental health. Emergency department doctors are great for a broken bone or stitches but they should not write a prescription for SSRI medications. Or, your walk in mental health community center is over worked,under staffed,under paid and to be honest an entry level career position. I have found that a friend, teacher,or clergy is a better starting point. This web site is a better option then most community mental health facilities have to offer. Some people really need medication but talk therapy is often more helpful.Anyway, Im not an expert on the topic but I’ve had my up’s and downs. Right now im on a downward curve. Peace, Alex.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Jean Paul, you make very good points. Mental health providers range on a continuum, from the very bad to very good. I wish the “very bad” were not out there, but every profession has them, including, sadly, the helping professions.

      I feel sad when I hear someone say, “I went to a therapist once and he/she was awful, so I’ll never try that again.”

      For those reading this who have had a bad experience with a therapist, psychiatrist, psychiatric hospital, or psychiatric medication, if you are suicidal or otherwise in need of help, please try again. As Jean Paul said, the earlier you get help, the better.

      I promise you, there are good mental health treatments and providers out there, even amid the bad.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      P.S. Jean Paul, I agree with you that, for many people, depression is a chronic illness that can be managed but not cured. But there are some very fortunate people out there who have had depression and who got better without ever relapsing. And there are people who go many, many years before relapsing.

      For those who do struggle with depression repeatedly, it definitely is possible to still live a full, successful life, as you put it. The keys seem to be healthy living (good sleep hygiene and regular exercise, in particular) and, for some people, a consistent regimen of antidepressants, even after the depressive episode has ended.

  25. Alex Jude says:

    Hi: I never had any mental health issues until I was put on psychotropic drugs for pain management, for a broken arm. Given the problems with opioids, it seemed like a good idea as I didn’t want to deal with any dependency problems. I didn’t do well on them,I complained to my Dr. only to be told that my body would get used to them. I didn’t. I started having major mood swings, It got to the point that I was hospitalized in behavioral health. I did sign my self in under the threat of being IVC. I was over medicated while inside and my actions were thought to be suicidal so I was put into seclusion. Your right when you say they don’t use straitjackets anymore. They use chemical restraints. A week or so later, I was discharged but still prescribed benzodiazepines. This caused more problems to the point of psychosis and suicidal ideation. Back to behavioral health. I was fortunate enough to find a good Psychiatrist . He took me off of the benzodiazepines and now, I am back to my old self. However, this history of hospitalization haunts me. I have a 3.5 GPA. in Human service and EMS. It is all but useless as any job I apply for with the state rejects me for my psychiatric. record. I don’t like to say it but I have come to the conclusion that it is better to not even talk about your own mental health issues. It seems no different than a criminal record. I would love to hear any feed back you may have on this situation. Alex.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hello Alex, I am so sorry to hear about your experience. It sounds traumatic on many different levels. How fortunate that you found a good psychiatrist who was able to recognize and relieve the side effects you were experiencing.

      I am confused about your mental health treatment history preventing you from getting job offers. Such information is confidential, protected health information. No employer has the right to know of any of your health treatment, psychiatric or otherwise. And no one is supposed to be able to discriminate on the basis of a health condition, regardless. There may be exceptions (such as airline pilots, who need to demonstrate they are mentally fit for the job) but these are very rare.

      Confidentiality in the U.S. is protected by HIPAA, among other statutes. What you describe above violates the law on multiple counts, both in terms of robbing you of privacy and of discriminating against you. I suggest you consult a lawyer!

    • Alex Jude says:

      Thanks for the response. The problem I am having is with the application questions about mental health history. If I don’t answer truthfully, I am omitting information. If i do answer truthfully i get passed over. I thought HIPAA laws would cover me but it doesn’t seem to. It is a background clearance issue. I do feel that seeking psychiatric help when needed is a good and healthy thing to do but, in the real world, some things are best left covert. Still confused, Alex.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hi Alex, I am really sorry to hear that you are being discriminated against in this way. I know some professions do have a justification for checking mental health history. (I suspect, for example, the Secret Service would be one.)

      It is already hard enough for people with mental health problems to get the help they need. The threat of job discrimination just makes it harder.

  26. jess says:

    I feel that I need “help” or therapy. I’ve attempted suicide multiple times throughout my life and I’m only 14. I’ve thought about death starting from a young age. My best friend is always telling me I should seek therapy but my parents don’t think it’s necessary and they say I’m not allowed to talk about death or think suicidal thoughts. I want help but my parents won’t allow me to get any

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Jess, it is painful to read that your parents won’t allow you to get professional help or to talk about death or to think of suicide. From your comment, it’s clear that you want help. And people can’t usually just “turn off” suicidal thoughts. (If only it were that easy!) We can’t control what thoughts visit us or intrude, only how we respond to them.

      So please, get help! Tell a teacher that you are thinking of suicide and want professional help. Tell a school counselor. Tell a friend’s parent. Tell a minister or other religious leader. Tell anyone you can who might be able to get you help.

      If you are in the U.S., I encourage you to call a hotline. The National Suicide Prevention Hopeline can be reached at 1.800.273.TALK (8255). There are other hotlines, too; please see various resources listed on this site at http://www.speakingofsuicide.com/resources/#immediatehelp

      Here’s the deal, Jess. If someone calls a hotline while actively suicidal, a hotline is likely to call the police. Often, the police will take the person to an emergency room for an evaluation. Depending on whether other adults are able to connect you with mental health services, this may be the only way that you can get connected with professional help.

      You are doing an excellent job reaching out for help by posting here. I hope that you will receive such help soon!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Im not suicidal but I feel if you are a certain age you should be able to take your own life if there are major reasons for it

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Permitting suicide, whether among older adults or people with terminal or painful physical illness, definitely is a much-discussed and controversial topic. Many support allowing people to end their lives, whether under the guise of “assisted suicide,” “hastened death,” “aid in dying,” or something else. This is something I intend to write more about…eventually!

    • Mari says:

      One thing you must realize when taking your own life. It is the people you leave behind who must live without you, the grief, the horror, and guilt…could I have done something else, should I have been there then, would such-and-such have stopped them…and betrayal, such a terrible sense of betrayal. My older brother was the only one who ever seemed to care about me…when he shot himself I felt completely abandoned, and questioned all those years that he, at least, tried to be there for me…suicide must always be done with others in mind. Unless an obvious illness, or disease is at play, it should always be done as though by accident. May sound tough, but if you think about…and I don’t walking in front of a car or train…please do no traumatize others. When you choose to die, plan carefully….

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Mari, you rightly say that others are affected by a loved one’s suicide. Your solution is to camouflage the suicide so that loved ones don’t have to blame themselves or feel abandoned. These are important points.

      But your solution might not be a solution, after all. As Cara Anna writes on her excellent blog, talkingaboutsuicide.com, no method is foolproof. She writes of “botched suicide attempts”:

      “Some people _ how many? _ go into their suicide attempt assuming it will work and instead emerge with a body that is long or permanently damaged. People have been paralyzed. They have damaged their livers with pills. They have faced months or years of reconstructive surgery or physical rehabilitation. Hospital bills alone have reshaped their lives.” (Click here for the full post.)

      It is not possible to protect loved ones by attempting or dying by suicide. They will be hurt no matter what. My hope for those who are suicidal is that they be able to protect themselves.

  28. Justin says:

    I’m 18 and I’m having suicidal thoughts more and more often and am having a stronger urge to act on them. What will happen if I say that I’m feeling this way. My friend was about to attempt suicide a year ago when he was 17 but stopped and called the suicide hotline and then the police since he was in danger. Well he was put in a bahvioral complex for two weeks and then put in a safety plan and antidepressants. I was wondering what happens since I’m no longer an adolescent.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hi Justin, I’m sorry you’re having not only suicidal thoughts, but also urges to act on them. Whether you would be committed to a hospital depends on how severe your suicidal thinking is. Generally speaking, you’d need to say that you intend to attempt suicide within a short period of time. It depends where you live, but many states permit involuntary commitment only when a person be in imminent danger of suicide or harm to others.

      That said, you didn’t make clear whether you want to enter a psychiatric hospital. The admissions criteria for voluntary admission tend to be more lax than those for involuntary commitment, because with commitment, a person’s civil rights are suspended and the person is deprived of liberty against his or her will. Still, admissions criteria vary by hospital.

      I hope that information is helpful. I will add that admissions criteria for adolescents and adults aren’t really different from each other, but some hospitals appear to be more liberal in admitting adolescents, because the impulsivity of that age group makes them more vulnerable to acting on suicidal thoughts.

      Good luck to you!

    • Mari says:

      Please beware that most places can have you committed without your consent…if this is done, not only can you not leave, but they can force you to take drugs you do not want, and often do not need.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      This is true, but with some qualifiers. People who are involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital cannot leave on their own accord, but there are protections built into the system to protect patients from being hospitalized longer than necessary. These protections vary by state in the U.S. To learn more, you can do a Google search with these terms: involuntary commitment “patient rights”. Results come up for different states. You can also insert your state’s name into the search for more specific information.

      As for forced medication, laws exist to protect patients from taking medications against their will except in emergency situations. What is an emergency to one person might not be an emergency to another, but in general, emergency medication is considered necessary if a person will immediately hurt himself or herself, or others, without medication. Otherwise, in most if not all states, a court order is necessary to force someone to take medication against his or her will. You can learn more by doing a Google search with these terms: involuntary commitment “emergency medication”.

  29. thomsen says:

    same with me I want to commit suicide I have a good life I’m just tired of life and find no reason to go on

  30. Atra says:

    Don’t seek therapy. If you’re forced to see a mental health professional, don’t tell them the truth. They can and do commit you, and while I can’t speak for every “looney bin,” my experience in them can be summed up as “torture chamber” – at least 100 times worse than anything I saw on TV. I will never seek help again. I will suffer in silence until I finally just fall off. It’s better than going back to one of those places. From that day forward, I will only tell lies to medical professionals who ask about my mental state, because I can’t trust them.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Very sad response, Atra. I’m sorry you have had such negative experiences. This is precisely why I hate when a therapist overreacts – people who need help are less likely, if likely at all, to seek help again.

      For you and for others who read your comment, I will say this: There ARE mental health professionals who use hospitalization as an absolute last resort; some do not ever commit someone to a hospital involuntarily, for precisely the reasons you described.

      I will also go out on a limb and say, for those who do want hospitalization or end up hospitalized, there are hospitals that are not torture chambers. Each is different. I know people who have been greatly helped by hospitalization. Sadly, I also know people who have been greatly hurt.

      Sometimes when someone is making the ultimate life or death decision, they feel a profound need to talk about it. They might talk with friends, and they might be fortunate to have friends who can truly listen without judgment or pat advice. They might, on the other hand, have friends who react in ways that are hurtful: “How could you want to die? Don’t you know how selfish you are to hurt people like that?” “You just want attention.” “You need to get over this.”

      A mental health professional who is skilled at working with suicidal individuals – and who does NOT overreact, freak out, or otherwise resort to hospitalization unnecessarily – can be helpful to a person who is dealing with suicidal urges.

      The professional can listen and empathize without judgment or alarm, help the client go over pros and cons of suicide (yes, there clearly are benefits to explore), and explore with the client his or her ambivalence. Those are first steps. The clinician can also work toward helping the client to heal the wounds or illness that make suicide appealing, to rediscover meaning and value in life, to want to live again, and to come up with coping methods for safety and growth.

      None of this can happen if therapists have made people too afraid to seek their help.

      So please, if you are a therapist reading this, consider the great harm that can come from seeking commitment for a client without it being absolutely necessary – and keep in mind that it is absolutely necessary very, very rarely!

    • Atra says:

      Yes. I went seeking therapy after I spent years with rape-related PTSD symptoms that made maintaining a romantic relationship difficult, which then led to depression. Everyone I knew encouraged me to seek therapy, which I thought to be laughable – I always considered therapy to be a pseudoscience that does nothing for people with an IQ higher than their shoe size. But I wasn’t getting better on my own, so I thought, “What’s the worst that can happen?” When they asked if I’d thought of suicide, I answer truthfully, yes. When they asked how I would do it, I told them. When they asked if I wanted to do die, I again answered truthfully, yes, but I was too much of a wimp to actually do it. Their next response was to have four men force me into a vehicle against my will, take me someplace I didn’t want to be, and then have four more men strip search me before locking me away in a tiny stinking dirty cigarette-smoke-filled prison with no warmth, no food, none of my prescription medication for back pain, violent patients, violent night staff, no access to a phone despite signs posted all over saying I have that right, and sedatives waiting to go up my rectum if I got loud, like they did with everyone else. I don’t know which class taught these psychiatrists to have rape victims strip searched by four men and then forced into a hostile environment and kept in line under threat of anal violation, but I do know that I’m never being truthful to anyone with the authority to have me committed ever again. I might have been too much of a wuss to commit suicide before, but now knowing what it’s like is all the motivation I need to carry it out. If I ever find myself in that position again, I will bash my face into the ground until I’m dead or unable to know I exist anymore. I would rather die than go back to one. I don’t know if these psychiatrists/therapists know what the nuthouses are like they send patients to, but they’re outrageously negligent if they don’t, and outrageously stupid if they do. When it comes to mental health, honesty is the enemy. Best to just live with it until I can’t, and then I won’t.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hi Atra, thank you for sharing your experience. It is heartbreaking. You went to a therapist for help and received the opposite: loss of liberty, fear, further abuse. Your experience at the hospital sounds horrifying. Please be assured that most hospitals do not operate that way.

      If ever you do need help again for suicidal thoughts, I hope you will consider that many therapists encourage hospitalization only when absolutely necessary to maintain safety, and that, even when hospitalization is necessary, it can, in many instances, be a helpful experience. I am so sorry that your experience was harmful instead.

      EDITED: Dec. 26, 2014

    • Mari says:

      As to your reply Stacey…you call it sad. I call it criminal, and by knowing these things are happening you are as criminal as they are, and as abusive.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Mari, I think you misunderstand my position. I am deeply pained by the injustices that occur at (some) psychiatric hospitals. I do not advocate involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital unless it is necessary to protect someone who is in imminent danger of dying by suicide or killing another person (or people).

  31. YVONNE says:

    i tried to commit suicide last month. i still want to commit suicide i am so tired with my life, i hate myself, i hate going anywhere, i hate dealing with the public but i still have to work to pay for my medicle insurance, i use to work full time with the public but now i am down to 3 day’s a week…and it is so hard for me to do that. i just want to be alone, no one around me. and not have to go anywhere that has a crowd… it suck’s i dont know what to do, i can no longer handle working and dealing with the public, or anything or anyone, but i cant stop working, because i have to pay my medicle insurance to go to my doctor’s. without them to talk to and get medication to help me with my bipolar nos, with severe depression and anixity and pannic attack’s. so i dont try and commit suicide again, but i think about it all the time, but this time i want to make sure it work’s.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Yvonne, I am so sorry you are hurting so badly. I hope that you continue to get help. Also, if you are in the U.S., you no longer need to get health insurance through your job. Because of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), you can get insurance on the exchange. This liberates a lot of people who had been shackled to their job purely to avoid losing their insurance.

      I have published a list of resources for people who are thinking about suicide here. It contains resources for getting help via hotlines, email, chat rooms online, and other websites. Please check them out. You never know what or who might help turn things around for you.

      p.s. I edited your comment to avoid giving graphic details about your attempt method and its aftermath. This material can trigger others who are seriously considering suicide or have already made an attempt.