The 3-Day Rule and Suicide

Photo by Eliazar Parra Cardenas, Creative Commons.

Many people who attempt suicide do so impulsively. Extremely impulsively.

One study of people who attempted suicide found that 48% thought of suicide for fewer than 10 minutes before making the suicide attempt.

The haste with which many people die by suicide is staggering. Had they waited a little longer, then the intense impulse to act on suicidal thoughts might have passed. 

This brings me to the 3-day rule. I’ve heard about this rule anecdotally and read about it here and there on blogs and other websites. One writer summed it up quite well in a post that is no  longer online:

“For me I have a 3 day rule. With most big decisions that will affect my life, I give myself 3 days. If I still think it is the best choice for me after 3 days, then I go with it. Yes even with suicide…

If even for one moment you feel a smidge of joy or like life is actually worth living, you have to start the 3 days again. Again time many times brings clarity.”

The author, Ali McCollum, also states, “Spoiler… death by my own hand has yet to feel like the right choice for 3 straight days.”

Keep On Keeping On

Creative Commons photo.

The old adage “one day at a time” holds true here. With suicidal thoughts, however, the mantra may be “one hour at a time,” or “one minute at a time.”

Even “one moment at a time” can be difficult.

If you hold off for three days, chances are you will not feel 100% intent on dying that entire time. And maybe you will even feel hope, or pleasure, or some other reason to live. 

If your suicidal thoughts are so intense that even waiting 3 days seems impossible, please get help immediately. Call 911 (or, if you are outside the U.S., whatever the emergency number is in your country). Or go to an emergency room. Or call someone who will help you stay safe.

Really? Suicidal Thoughts Stop After 3 Days?

Keep in mind that I’m not talking about all suicidal thoughts. It would be foolish to say that suicidal thoughts tend to pass in 3 days. Some people think of suicide for weeks and months, even years.

What I am referring to is the profound intent to act on suicidal thoughts. If someone is on the verge of suicide, those 3 days can mean the difference between life and death.

Suicidal thoughts might persist, but the impulse to act on them can change many times over three days.

To quote the late psychologist Edwin Shneidman, one of the pioneers in suicidology:  

“The acute suicidal crisis (or period of high and dangerous lethality) is an interval of relatively short duration – to be counted, typically, in hours or days, not usually in months or years. An individual is at a peak of self-destructiveness for a brief time and is either helped, cools off, or is dead.”

Naturally, my hope is that you are helped or cool off. 

What If 3 Days Go By and Suicide Still Beckons?

Creative Commons photo by Alan L

Time does not heal all wounds, especially not quickly. The 3-day rule aside, I do not mean to imply that you should end your life if you still feel acutely suicidal after three days.

In some ways, 3 days is a long time. A lot can happen. Feelings can change. Perspective can change.

Getting a good night’s sleep during those 3 days, or talking with a friend or suicide hotline, or simply surfing the waves of moods, can weaken the suicidal impulse.

In other ways, 3 days is hardly a blip on the radar screen of an entire life. If after 3 days you still are intent on dying, please get help.

Reach out to others, whether someone you know or a stranger at hotline or online. For a list of places where you can get help anonymously, you can start here.

What Next?

Creative Commons photo by Nana B. Agyei

Even if you follow the 3-day rule and no longer feel adamantly that suicide is your only option, the suicidal thoughts might still persist or revisit.

Ultimately, to survive suicide’s assault, more is needed than waiting.

You might need to uncover reasons for living. Tapping into hope and rediscovering pleasure can also help.

More than anything, talking back to suicidal thoughts and learning to cope with them can fortify you in your fight against suicidal forces.

A Good Starting Place

The 3-day rule is a good place to start. Not only can it save your life, it can also show you with amazing clarity that suicidal thoughts can waver in their intensity.

Those 3 days can demonstrate that at least the strength of suicidal thoughts, if not suicidal thoughts themselves, can be temporary.

Suicidal thoughts can change, as can you, your mood, and your life.

Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, is the author of “Helping the Suicidal Person: Tips and Techniques for Professionals,” a psychotherapist and consultant, and an associate professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work.

© 2014 Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, All Rights Reserved. Written for

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Living one day at a time (/3 days) works, yes, but it’s no kind of life worth living. It’s been my reality for too long. I have social anxiety and I can’t walk down the street and look a stranger in the eyes, and of course I’ve never had a relationship due to this. Never travelled, began a career, published a kind of creative output, or anything. I haven’t felt joy in a few years.
    I hope the other poor souls who read the article can find peace in this life

    [This comment was edited to follow the Comments Policy. – SF]

  2. A random 6th grader says:

    I’m just a kid (11) and my mom freaked out when she got a call from the school, maybe they saw me cutting my hand all bloody, or maybe they watched me rub my skin off with a plastic spork. Anyway, she sent me to a therapist and that made it SO much worse. I’ve been crying myself to sleep every night. I told my friends but they now see it as a thing of the past. I often think nobody cares, Kill yourself, I DARE you. (that’s what I say to myself.) Can someone please just, just tell me everything is gonna be ok?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Random 6th grader,

      I’m so sorry you’re hurting badly. Please talk to somebody about how you’re feeling, especially about your mind telling you to kill yourself. That’s not only painful, but also dangerous. Tell them, too, how you’re sad and crying all the time. You need help, and if this therapist isn’t a good fit for you, somebody else is. It sounds like your mom really cares and is trying, so she’d probably want to know both how much you’re hurting and how your mind is telling you to kill yourself. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or use the Crisis Textline at 741741 (just text “Help,” but there might be a wait). But also, please tell an adult in your day to day life, if not your mom, then another family member, a teacher, a school counselor, or anyone else you know and trust.

      I do think everything will be OK, but the hard part is you don’t know when. And waiting for that day to come is hard. Just know, it will come. In the meantime, can you tell your mom about the therapy or are you worried she’ll freak out? It’s ironic, because yesterday somebody posted a comment that their mother won’t take them seriously and get them therapy. It’s all relative, right? Many people freak out or don’t take it seriously enough, and then some are able to find that sweet spot of calm concern. Like I said, your mom seems like she really wants to help you and get you help, so maybe show her this exchange here.

      Fore you, these articles also might be helpful:

      Talking Back to Suicidal Thoughts

      Coping Statements for Suicidal Thoughts

      Are You Thinking of Killing Yourself?

      I hope you’re able to feel some relief and hope soon. This must be a scary time. You said you’re “just a kid,” but the pain you’re feeling is hard for anybody, of any age. Please stay, and wait, and find out what your life holds for you.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know what you mean about ‘everything going to be OK’ exactly, however, I can say there are things that you can learn to do which helps to get through it (without killing yourself) – that it is possible to eventually not cry yourself to sleep every night. Others have had this and have made it alive and happy.

      Often people with suicidal thoughts don’t really want to kill themselves- they just have trouble coping with what life is at this moment. I feel the trick to this is change the balance and find more coping skills.

      One of those things is learning mindfulness. Mindfulness helps one control one’s thinking but learning how to let go of thoughts ‘when thoughts become thinking’. I personally believe suicidal thoughts are con-artists and thieves. They make you think that you have control and only let you see that one path forward. Umm…. and choose a different saying. That thought can come into your head but then just choose to go with something else- something positive.

      I believe in talking to others and seeking help. The reason I believe it is that when one is stuck in those thoughts, well, it can be like a ‘bug in a cup’. Think of it like an ant running around the bottom of a coffee mug. It is doing the same thing again and again, seeing the same stuff. If someone else comes along and tilts the mug on the side then the ant can run out. Others can help change perspective. (This came from a guy- a suicidologist, Paul Quinnett- in a book which talked about this

      I do believe people- including kids, teens, adults- can learn skills of emotional regulation which can help. One can also learn self-compassion is way, way better than self-judgment.

      Alot of people have these ways of thinking called ‘cognitive distortions’. It is screwed up thinking. One can learn to recognize and find ways to combat them. ( )

      I know- there is a lot there. I give you that because there are many ways to learn how to cope better which can make the outlook much better. When the outlook is better, life tends to be better.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hello, I don’t know if it gets better. But like others have said you learn how to cope better. I personally have used a lot of TIPP techniques. You can find out more here –

      Sometimes the skills we learn to help us cope dont always work. Sometimes some work better than others, and sometimes for certain situations some work better. This includes therapy / therapists. I am so sorry it has been worse for you since starting therapy. I hope if you are open to it you find someone who can be your partner in healing.
      Always remember you know yourself best, no one else is an expert on who you are inside and out. So trust that, trust that you can work on these skills, and read resources to help you manage these lows. Life may not feel beautiful right now, but it is. Your life is something beautiful. I hope you will share that with the world like you have here.
      I was in a similar space when I was your age. I didnt think I would live to see 18. Now I am 28 years old and I’m training to help kids like you. It gets better. I am sending you so much love, and so much light. You are stronger than you feel.

    • Ma Anderson says:

      Random 6th Grader I hug your heart and share those words you deserve and desire to hear “Everything Is Gonna Be Ok” It has been months since you requested to be soothed. I pray your mind has joined with more peace since writing your comment in January and I Bless Your Life’s Daily Walk With Strength To Keep Taking Daily Steps to Move Away From Self Hurt of Past. I don’t dare you to do so, I agree with you to do these steps and live, Love Ma Anderson

    • Desiree Zeleznikar says:

      This breaks my heart. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Eleven year old’s should never have these deep dark thoughts. I am so sorry~

  3. David Crichton says:

    So how come I’ve been convicted for asking for help? And nearly killed

    And there’s no media interest in this

  4. Broken Heart says:

    The emptiness is so vast that you can never fill it ,everything I throw into disappears into the abyss I lay here on my bed lost,confused,lonely and heartbroken to millions of pieces how the love of my life can just walk away from a marriage of 26 year and 10years of our relationship before that ,I know nothing else ,too old for anything else and it just seems to me that I have no purpose in life anymore, I have failed and I’m so so tired

    • Gretchen says:

      I wanted to reach out to you and let you know that I can sympathize and empathize with your situation and your feelings. After 20 years of marriage, I found out in the same year, that my mother had Alzheimer’s, my husband had been cheating on me, and that he was trying to sue me for half of my mother’s estate (she wasn’t even dead yet!!). This was six years ago; I navigated figuring out memory care placement for Mom all alone (I’m an “only”), and threw myself into online dating after filing for divorce. I wound up getting arrested for being a drunken mess after catching a boyfriend out with another woman, I quit my good job out of despair. I curbed my crazy dating because I think I was just trying to have some fun which really did not help me in the long run. I needed to heal. My mother died three years ago, and now my Dad’s health is failing. He is alone and only has hired help which is a lot of drama to navigate. I also feel like “throwing in the towel” and giving up ….often!! I am also his only child…so here I go again with the role-reversal and parenting the parent who really was a crappy parent in the first place. But, I regained my professional license, put my resume out there, and have interviews set up for the next few weeks. My son is my main reason for living; he’s 21 and a wonderful, smart, caring, and handsome man. I’m so proud that I helped create him. Do you have children and/or other family members such as siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles? Reach out to them and connect. I know it’s tough and a struggle to even make the effort, yet it has helped me. All I have is a few cousins, one aunt/uncle, and then another 3rd cousin. I have gone 3-4 days wearing the same clothes and not leaving my house for nearly a week. I know what depression and despair feel like. I also volunteer and have met a few nice people that way; it helps to think outside of myself and think about others who are less fortunate than me. Tomorrow I have promised myself to put up a few more pieces of art on my walls, take my five mile walk/trot around the neighborhood, and continue listening to my audio book. I have a few pieces of furniture in mind that I’d like to purchase. I’m depressed about travel restrictions over the last few years, but I’ll keep looking. Maybe I’ll get one of the jobs from the interviews. Your family and friends love you and care…and I care. I have tried out a few churches in my area; nothing really “stuck”, but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying. I have an appointment for some botox and filler on friday for a “freshen up”…it’s a luxury I can afford, and I deserve it. Perhaps you can make a hair appointment and get your nails done? You deserve it. I also bought myself a few nice pieces of jewelry and some nice watches. Just for me; not to show off or impress anyone but myself. Again, i care about you and there are many others you know that care. This too shall pass; I promise. To Hell with the husband who walked out; you most likely would have wound up having to nurse him in his old age; let someone else do that!

  5. David Crichton says:

    Reached the end of the line now I think. 6 years not 3 days. The next proposal is looking at vagus nerve stimulation as I have been through about 40 medicines. Anyone had a VNS implant for suicidal ideation?? I do not want to die, but living is very difficult

    • Ro'Haaz says:

      I am with you. Of course I do not want to die, but right now I have no life and I am suffering beyond my tolerance level.

      So, that leaves me two options. No life and constant horrible pain … or … no life, no pain. I don’t want to die, but I cant do this anymore, so what alternative is there? Suffer three more days?

      The three day rule is based on the fact that within three days something will make you smile, you will experience a glimmer of joy, and you will find yourself speaking of the future.

      In the next three days, I will suffer, I will fall, I might cry, I will be alone with my pain. I called the hotline begging for reason enough to keep going forward, soaked in agony … they offered none.

      Today she just wanted to hear if I had a plan or not so she could hang up and either send the police so they can cart me off to the hospital, or so she can carve another notch in her headset.

      There is no hope and the future is only holde non stop torture, both physically and mentally

  6. Maxwell says:

    This technique, as described by the author, is very disingenuous.

    The depressed patient states their objective: “I want to die,” to which the medical professional proposes the deal “Give it three days, and then…” which rather implies that permission to commit suicide may be granted.

    However, at no point does Dr Stacey suggest that such permission should be granted. It doesn’t matter how many 3-day, 3-week, 3-month, 3-year cycles are performed, the outcome will always be the same – relief (permission to end the patient’s misery) will never be granted. What was the point of the deal? If the patient hasn’t miraculous recovered from suicidal thoughts after three days, all you can give them is “see these resources for more effective treatments.” Why not just tell them that from the start?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Marcus. The 3-day rule is not intended to serve as medical advice. That’s why in the article I advise people to get help!

  7. Jodes says:

    Just one good moment does not make 3 days of excruciating cluster headaches worth living. I promise you.

  8. David Crichton says:

    At least this is a largely honest site, where post from those of us with major serious suicidal thoughts are not removed.
    Firstly there is no point in emergency ambulance as virtually all of us will have had the thoughts for a long time and an ambulance is likely to be humiliating and make matters worse
    Hospital is also humiliating and they have no useful treatments for most of us, but we get admitted to help the crisis line staff, not to help us.
    Maybe long term living with suicidal worthlessness could be helpful, however I just find more things that I realise I have failed at and regrets.
    And the police convicted me for being suicidal “malicious communication; implied suicide threat” Similar seems to be happening to Bryan Harvey E 17

    • Ro'Haaz says:

      Honest sight? You cannot judge the site alone, if you call the hotline because you just want to talk, if you give them the response they want, they WILL send the police to your house. They say otherwise, but they cannot be trusted.

      Next time the physical and emotional pain leaves me with no other logical course of action (sometimes suicide just makes sense) I sure as hell will not go here or call the number for help. In a situation like this, trust is important, but these people will con you lie to you, and trick you.

      If they really cared they would be honest, but instead you are there for nothing more than bragging rights.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone still read these? I swear if I don’t get my tax refund soon I’ll hurt myself.

    • David Crichton says:

      Waiting for a tax return sounds easy to me but in uk about 100,000 have had invoices from Hmrc for sums averaging £100,000 from up to 20 years ago under new tax investigation. Some have suicided

  10. Ncrbrts says:

    I follow the three day rule. Often, it is exhausting and my feelings do not change at the end of them, they are just a little bit *less*. Right now, I have just set yet another 3 day rule. But the older I get, the more tired I become.

  11. Van says:

    Why do people talk about those we leave behind? I’ve busted my ass to have a six figure income, have a house, family and all the stuff I dreamed of. My family uses me for my bank account, and have clearly displayed that I mean nothing to them. I’m too old to start over. I’ve too many scars to keep talking this out. There’s no joy, no higher meaning to life. I’m a lump of self-aware carbon floating on a rock around the universe; I’m nothing. I’m not going to kill myself, I just today realized how insignificant I am on the small scale that is my life.

    [This comment was edited, per the Comments Policy. – SF]

    • Shauna says:

      Hi, I just saw your comment and I wanted to see if you were ok. I wanted to say I am sorry you are struggling and feel used.
      I have suffered from anxiety and depression so I Understand.
      My husband left me for a year to pursue his 150k plus job in Indonesia so I understand from both perspectives
      Being left behind with all the burdens of caring for a home and my terminally ill dog. Still recovering from taking care of my terminally ill mom’and Trying to survive cancer myself.
      When I find myself feeling like you do I have to tell myself not to allow those people who render me as insignificant To have that much control over my emotions. I try to think of that one person where God is using me to make a difference in their life. Right now it’s my 84 year old dad, but it could be a stranger you smile at and acknowledge who might be feeling the exact way you are and you just gave them hope to survive. Sometimes finding the way out of the darkness and hopelessness is a gesture that shakes us up a little by looking outside ourselves.
      I hope you are having some better days.

  12. :) says:

    Honestly I’m only 21 but I’ve had my fair share of past suicidal attempts. One almost successful and left me with a body full of scars and emotional pain. More pain than when I was physically abused by my father. Or maybe my scars were a reminder of that pain and the fact that I had to continue seeing him for the rest of my life. I had just come to somewhat of an acceptance for my body and my self worth and image and to look past some scars on my body. Being a black female, it’s hard in today’s society. Now i recently suffered another accident, causing more big scars on my face. I just got comfortable looking at my previous scars, but my my face is mangled. My body is mangled. The goals that i had for myself, the ones my father and mother wanted me to make so that I can continue wanting to live, is pointless. I was doing it to make them happy. But I’m not happy. I can’t now. I’m planning an attempt that I thought of long ago, but was too coward to do it.

  13. cups says:

    Things waiting three days doesn’t solve:

    – A history of abuse, and related lifelong PTSD
    – A lack of support system, or in many cases, an actively destructive family
    – Poverty and associated cyclic stress and limited choices that come from having no money, no home, no food, and no job
    – Having a chronic, painful illness that impedes daily tasks and relationships

    Medication and therapy won’t solve those problems, either. Those are money-based solutions to problems that can’t be solved with money. Therapy assumes that the mental illness is a product of disordered thinking, but in many cases, it is a rational result of an inescapable set of circumstances that have destroyed a person’s chance to ever lead a peaceful, safe, healthy life. It is unfair to put the onus on the patient, when the patient has often exhausted all coping techniques and resources already, and is cognizant of the fact that feeling better is not the same as living a better life.

    What are these people to do?

  14. Ben says:

    Knowing what I do, it always seems like a risky venture to send a suicidal individual to the hospital.

    I sought inpatient care for myself, in concert with my therapist, a number of times over my life. On each occassion, I was scheduled for a voluntary admission. I drove myself to the hospital, walked into the ER with a suitcase of clean clothes and a Harry-Potter-type book in-hand, and waited quietly to be admitted.

    Unfortunately, even as compliant and easy-going as I am about such admissions, I was seriously abused both physically and emotionally by staff on a number of occassions. I also witnessed the abuse of other patients. We daily experinced serious violations of our Patient Rights, those very rights posted on the walls of every psych hospital. Patients are often even denied phone privileges and phone books, so they are not able to call the police or an attorney to seek protection. How cruel to incarcerate a depressed and suicidal individual ‘for his own good’, only to then abuse him!

    I will never forget the time I saw a nurse pull down the trowsers of a calm, rational patient – right in public, in a co-ed environment! – and inject him with an anti-psychotic he clearly did not need. How could I ever forget seeing that poor catatonic woman dragged naked down the hall on a sheet?

    Truly, I must say, psych hospitals are not safe places, and they are often inhabited by power-hungry staff. ER staff members who handle psych admissions are also not to be trusted.

    Given that, in almost every case, I felt more suicidal upon discharge than upon admission, I really cannot recommend inpatient psych care. Once there, you are a prisoner to be treated as they will, and you effectively have no rights.

  15. Rob says:

    I have become such a horrible person. There is no hope and there is nothing about me that deserves to live.

    Every attempt of kindness or encouragement has only made what I am worse. I have hurt my wife in horrible ways and I have become so evil that I dont even see it.

    I have worked so hard at being what she has demanded that, instead I end up hurting her to the point that I make her feel, what my deluded mind thinks is positive or neutral is actually a mean or vindictive attack on her.

    I suffer from non stop intense chronic pain that doctor after doctor cannot ease and I feel everything that I am, even when I think I am being kind or loving, turns out I am actually being a monster.

    I cannot find any reason to continue because I obviously am unable to change what I am.

    • Me says:

      I live(d) This! Massive doses MSCONTIN and MSIR for 15 of 18 years.
      I had No Idea of the way I was while I thought a loving father and husband of 30 years.
      SEEING this for the 1st time, is staggering!!!
      The morphine was killing me. I found relief with R.F.S.
      Jail cold turkey made me quit Not By Choice.
      11 1/2 years later I TAKE ZERO PAIN MEDS, yet I smoke marijuana.
      I’ve lost everything and everyone that meant anything, everything… My World!
      I barely survive yet do.
      Many associated say I’m the most chill, easy going person they know. Many compliments from everyone BUT the 4 people who matter all, my (ex)wife and children who describe me as a “monster”?!?
      I’ve had Enough.
      The “3 day” concept I do recognize, as I do find Any aspect or reason of joy to be sufficient to ease my mind. Though, even during good times I ask JESUS Christ to “end this existence”.
      Is this next Christmas my LAST CHRISTMAS?!
      I’ve been “red flagged” twice by the V.A.
      I’m so tired of being alone!

  16. David says:

    It’s been 6 years now I’ve been fighting suicidal thoughts every waking minute of every day.
    It started with a major financial loss due to bad advice, then my career ended and I had accidents 2 cycling and 1 car over 4 years . All were serious and I am now very disabled.
    Then I was arrested for asking for help with suicidal thoughts -prosecuted for “malicious communication”
    Now my wife has had enough and wants to live separately.
    3 days ?? I wish it was

    • Small says:

      You sound like a braver person than me. I wish you all the best of luck in the world. You deserve some. Just know that if a stranger cares enough to write to you on the internet then you probably have people in real life who would miss you. If I could I would give you a hug.

      • David says:

        I certainly do, but I feel guilty for being a burden to them.

        This site has real people talking about real problems

        Often there is NO answer, but now trying mindfulness again

  17. Stephen Pietrowski says:

    Control of a long term problem that has become automatic to multiple stressors is a lie. It has become a biological reaction to over whelming stressors that one feels powerless over .

  18. Julia C says:

    I have had vivid imagery of stabbing myself, jumping off a building, swimming out to sea that I’m glad I haven’t acted on it like my dearest mother

  19. Taylor says:

    I’ve had suicidal thoughts for the past month. Every single day. It’s hard to smile anymore. So should I just end it? There’s no purpose to my life.

    • Stephen Pietrowski says:

      List purposes that make you feel , wonder, awe , presence.
      Do by history of . Forget this moment , look by history. Whom would experience you giving them the ultimate duck you to them . What do you love. List this stuff down . Add and subtract as needed. Talk re to trusted others. Talk re to your higher powers , sacredness. I have survived suicidal ideation since 18 , now almost 69. Be the power to get thru these 24 hours. Meds and therapy help some . Do not isolate.

  20. A suicide thoughts survivor says:

    I had suicidal thoughts 10 years ago, but I didn’t attempt suicide. I remember them as if it was yesterday because I thought I was crazy and I was frightened. The thoughts came every day at around 10 am more like impulses to act and lasted around 15 minutes. I couldn’t stop them, no matter what I tried (logic, religion, sometimes I stayed in bed and tried not to move). I was scared about them and they were very powerful, so for around a month every evening I prepared tea in a big pot (around 2 liters of tea, I used some tea that tasted like fruit, I think strawberry, but I don’t remember what kind of fruit it was), put it on the table and drank it when I had the thoughts. I might have fooled my brain that I was poisoning myself because I got relief after impulsively drinking those 2 litres of tea.
    I made my rented flat an anti-suicide environment by storing dangerous chemicals (like detergents) in a locked closet.
    I also stayed away from the balcony and imposed myself to stay away 5 meters from the subway line and only go closer when the metro had its doors open, to make sure I don’t throw myself in front of the train.
    After a month, I went to the doctor and got antidepressant (Prozac) and 10 sessions (1-2 hours each)of anti-suicide counselling and I didn’t have those thoughts anymore. I went to the doctor because I was scared that I might act on those impulses someday and I didn’t want to die.

  21. Andy L says:

    I cant get rid of my suicidal thought

  22. Aristotle Waven says:

    Undoubtedly waiting is a good thing when applied to suicide, although there are those who have a more rational philosophical desire to die not based out of immediacy or some sort of life crisis. Perhaps a six month, or year long waiting period would work for such people; giving those with an honest desire to die a true choice, rather than simply a visit to a psych ward. It would also have the benefit of driving more patients towards “help” similar to that presented on a site such as this, even if the “help” presented is unwanted and unnecessary, it could save some on the fence pertaining to future life goals / etc.
    However, the question would need to be asked whether those following this life-affirming philosophy would allow those with a long-term desire to die their ultimate wish, given the bias presented on this sites, and in general on sites such as this. Could a psychiatrist allow for those deemed “healthy” who simply have had enough of life to end it, or will the psych assume that one who wishes to end his or her life is unhealthy simply based out of a desire to die?

  23. Angela says:

    I didn’t even think about it 3 seconds. Something happened, I ripped the sleves off the sweater, and took everything pill and liquid form of what I could find in the house. Then went to school. That was the second time. First time same thing. Incident happened, took a whole lot of aspirins. Would have taken many more had my sister or fought me for them. Later I was in so much pain I wished I was dead. No one but my sister knew the first time. The second time my friend figured it out because I gave her a Christmas present early. Off to the hospital. When I got home my step father said let him know next time and he’d tell me how to do it right. I said tell me now. I couldn’t stand to live with him one more second.

  24. Austin P says:

    Currently 12 days past the Suicide thought,and yet life is still fucked up.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      I’m sorry you’re having what sound like very big challenges. The idea behind the 3-day rule isn’t that life gets better after 3 days. I wish! Instead, it’s that our feelings and impulses fluctuate so much across 3 days that we should start the clock over whenever suicidal thoughts lessen. Not when suicidal thoughts disappear, because they might never disappear, but when they lessen.

      Of course, suicidal thoughts might not in fact lessen, in which case more intense help is needed. Please be sure to read the section toward the end of the article, “What If 3 Days Go By and Suicide Still Beckons?”

      Good luck to you! As always, if you want to talk with someone by phone, email, text, or online chat, check out the Resources page for a list of places where you can do that.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Interesting, ’cause I’ve been suicidal for 30 years, since age 8. I’ve researched every method extensively starting around age 21. Over the course of 15 years, I’ve planned everything to the tee, written my notes, tied up loose ends, made sure I have the proper end of life documents in place, final wishes laid out, and have gone so far as to acquire a peaceful and painless method and have it in a safe deposit box for when I decide I’ve had enough suffering. Also in the past 15 years, I’ve tried every treatment under the sun, to no avail. I wholeheartedly believed up until this last year that I’d overcome my treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, BDD, GAD, and BPD. Now I see and accept that many people – especially those with multiple comorbid disorders – don’t get better and they are condemned to a lifelong, uphill struggle. After doing that already for 39 years, I don’t think I’ll be committing to many more. I think you could call me anything but impulsive in my suicidality. And, in all my years of participating in suicide forums, I can tell you, there are many, many, MANY more like me. Some suicides are impulsive, but not all of them, and the fact is, you probably can’t tell the difference in many cases.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Anonymous, those are great points. Most suicides aren’t impulsive. I think the spirit behind the 3-day rule is that suicidal ideation fluctuates. Even when it’s strong, there usually are moments of doubt or even relief that then reset the clock, so to speak.

      I’m sorry about your setback and about how much suicide calls out to you. I hope you’ll check out the Resources page for places where you can talk to someone by phone, text, email, or online chat.

  26. christy says:

    I feel like reading this makes sense’s when those 3-day periods comes often. you may have reason to start all over again..which means you did get a blink of hope; but is it ever enough? It just continues in circles.That hello pain and nobody to turn to gets old very fast and even if not suicidal can wear you down to a point where you just don’t care anymore. At least that is my experience of it.

  27. luc says:

    3 Days? I’ve been suicidal for at least 8 years. You’re not talking about people who want to commit suicide, you’re talking about people who don’t know how to deal with specific emotions. For permanently suicidal people, it’s not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when”.

    • Austin P says:


    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      I apologize for not seeing your comment earlier. Even if you don’t see this, for the sake of others who might come upon this I want to clarify that there’s no expectation that suicidal thoughts will go away in 3 days. Rather, the idea behind the 3-day rule is that the intensity of suicidal thoughts is (usually) in constant flux. Whenever the intensity wanes even a little, the 3-day clock should start over as a means to prolong time … and the hope for change.

      It’s awful and painful that you’ve felt suicidal for 8 years. During all those years, I imagine that the strength of your suicidal thoughts has been more intense at some times than others. And that variation is what the 3-day rule exploits.

    • Anonymous says:


    • karen says:

      My son has attempted suicide 5x in the last 6 months. It was a drastic change. He was a promising student athlete who was very social. I don’t know how to help him. He’s back in a psychiatric unit waiting for placement in residential treatment which he hates and breaks my heart. I want him home, but I don’t know how to keep him safe. I don’t see the triggers. He has tried Intensive Outpatient program and after 10 days of completing this program, he overdosed and ended up in ICU. Please help me understand the difference between permanently suicidal people and the ones who doesn’t know how to deal with specific emotions.

  28. Jess says:

    Hey guys, I’m Jessica, I’m 19, and I want to help, I know I’m young and may not understand everything you as an individual are going through but I want to listen and help in any way I can, even if it’s just being there for you or your friend in dark times. I don’t judge, I won’t belittle what you’re going through, because it’s all real to you and I understand that.
    A little about me, I come from an abusive family, I’ve been in many relationships, some were good, one was physically abusive and one was emotionally and mentally abusive. Ive been engaged, happy, hopeful, and then one day he up and left me in the middle of Indiana 2,300 miles away from my family and went home to his mom. I’ve been sexually assaulted, had my best friend commit suicide, and just recently overcame a kind of anorexia/bulimia. Now I don’t say all this to get your sympathy, maybe I can grab the attention of a fellow sufferer and help. Anyway, please, if you need support or a listening ear, email
    I’d love to hear from you,

  29. celia says:

    I’ve thought about suicide this year over my fiancé leaving me and getting married to another woman. But I have had friends to help me with it and I recently reconnected with my other ex boyfriend who is much sweeter to me and we are going to start dating again so I do feel that things are looking up.

  30. Chris says:

    I am 37 years old and have dealt with suicidal thought since I was fourteen and over the last twenty plus years it seems like its only gotten worse and worse and it feels like it will only continue to get worse, everyone always says cheer up things will get better you’ll see, but things never get better they either stay the same or just get worse n worse, all i’ve ever wanted was JUST to be happy but more n more it looks like that’s never gonna happen and i’m destined to keep suffering, my thoughts run so deep at times that there’s nothing that can make them go away but more pain, pain has been the one constant thing in my life, if anyone spent a day inside my head they’d all wonder how I’ve survived thus far and yes there are good times and good memories but the bad times and horrible memories of my past outweigh the good, and i’ve thought long and hard about the effects my death would have on those around me and that’s probably the only reason i’m still alive, I am already looked at as the crazy loser living in a hole, I don’t wanna be remembered as the crazy loser who offed himself, nobody understands what its like to have to live with the thoughts I have on a daily basis, I look around me and I see nearly everyone getting everything they want in life and more and they still walk around like the world owes them more, while me I work my ass off and just keep slipping lower and lower down the ladder of despair, and it feels like every time i’m starting to get happy some higher power sees me and says “Chris is happy, oh no we cant have that” and poof just like that the depression returns and I keep everything bottled up inside because if I let out my feelings everyone’s gonna look at me like he’s crazy and we don’t need him around us, that’s probably why half of my friends and even family members don’t talk to me and feel that they’re better off without me in their lives and I don’t blame them they’re right, this has been a lifelong struggle to keep moving forward when something’s always there to pull me backwards, no matter how hard I fight and pull I still end up back in my dark place surrounded by hatred and the voices who want me to end it all, I don’t wanna die but at the same time I don’t wanna live with this mental anguish anymore either, there’s so much that goes on inside my head that no one knows about and never will no about. It just gets harder and harder to keep trying win when all you know is LOSING.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:


      I am sorry you are hurting so badly, and for so long. I am wondering if you’re receiving professional help. It might help you, at least, to call a hotline or seek some other kind of help. For starters, please check out the resources on this site, at

      Also, you might find this post helpful, if you haven’t read it already: Are You Thinking of Killing Yourself?

    • Anonymous says:

      I thought I was alone I’m 27 and feel the same way I tried twice to kill myself failed every time just like I failed everything else I’m sick of life why do the good people suffer while the wicked enjoy life

    • Miki M says:

      I feel like I just read my own writing. I know that place in the head, there’s no way out and it’s so hard to even imagine you ever smiled in your life. I have isolated myself from my children and I’m now in the midst of rewriting my Living Will so they can’t bring me back. I don’t want to die either but the mental pain is now gaining the upper hand after a battle of 22 years.

  31. Canam Girl says:

    Here is what I wrote sitting in my Psychiatrists office the day before I attempted suicide:
    What Happens
    What happens when you run out of tools, run out of coping skills, run out of ways to keep from falling into the black hole, the darkness, then what, where do you turn, who do you turn to? I believe there will be that time, I will have used up all my knowledge, my skills, everything that helped me from sinking into the dark abyss. We know that the natural tendency is to isolate, to withdraw, to shut down, what happens then? Will I have enough reserve to reach out, or will that be used up, and I quit, I give up the battle, finally, to lose the war. Will it have been because I didn’t try, I don’t believe so, I believe that I have tried. I have done everything that I know to win the war, to defeat the enemy. What if my tool box is empty, no more instruments to use. Will that black hole suck me down and swallow me up? We need to be able to replenish that tool box, to add to it so you never run out of ways and means to live, to survive. Where do those tools come from, how do we purchase them? There needs to be more resources for us out there: yes there are many but what happens if the appointments are unavailable, the distress line not equipped to deal with the issue at hand, where do we turn? Do we lose? I don’t want to lose, but maybe I have no choice. I want a choice, I have reached out for those choices but they don’t respond. I feel alone, all alone, nowhere to turn, I feel lost, it feels hopeless, I am finished, it is over.

    Yes I did survive, but it is so difficult even today, every day, minute, second, how does one get through the pain, turmoil and hurt?

  32. … what if no amount of reaching out brings lasting relief?

    when I first contemplated suicide, I thought about it for days on end. I reached out. I asked for help. I was told by a few providers that this would be a life-long struggle. I fought that assessment for SO long…
    I take the strong urges moment by moment. I think it through, I contemplate the impact of my death on everyone and everything in my life. I reach out, I’ve put myself inpatient more than once to prevent acting on taking my life. but it’s still always there. The docs were right all those years ago: I’m hopeless. I will have to live with this forever. One went so far as to assert he was sure I was one of those people who would die by suicide.

    It’s no longer a 3-day wait for me, because the intense urge to die doesn’t dissipate in three days. Now it’s a week or more… And it always cycles back around. I get that life is not always awful (in fact, I have many wonderful moments that bring a lot of joy), but when it is, it’s unbearable. And nothing truely helps in a lasting way. I react poorly to most psychotropic meds (they actually increase my impulsivity), behavioral therapies all seem really triggering (I’ve faithfully attempted DBT over 7 distinct times, each time landing inpatient multiple times during each round of DBT because of severe, fast decompensation). The only thing I’ve found helps at all (intensive, residential trauma treatment with a heavy individual therapy component) is financially and practically out of reach (I actually don;t even think a program like that even exists). I don’t really know if it could make a meaningful impact in the long-run anyway though, since I’ve only ever had short-term access to intensive trauma treamtent.

    So, what then? Is there research out there (or treatment) that effectively mitigates chronic suicidal ideation? DBT is great in theory, but it’s not something that works for me. Meds also make things worse. Supportive therapy and trauma therapy is good, but it wears out the providers really fast. ECT is not something I would ever consider (the potential side-effects do not in any way out-weigh the potential benefits for me)…

    I had a conversation with my mom today about suicide. I tried to explain that I’m not so much intent on killing myself, but if I wound up dead, I would be fine with that. The prospect of living potentially 60+ more years cycling through horribly intense depression is very scary. It’s like knowing you have to go through intnesive chemo and radiation for cancer multiple times every year for the rest of your life, with no prospects at ever truely recovering from the cancer. Sure there are good times in between the bouts, but you are guaranteed to feel like crud several times every year, forever… and it’s not just “eh, I feel pretty crappy this week. I might stay home from work.” it’s more like “omg, even existing physically hurts, why does the air make my skin feel like it’s searing off and all my cells are exploding one by one while all my muscles charlie-horse at once?!” (and it all lasts for several weeks to months at the same intensity)…

    While I would work my butt off trying to get help for someone if they were suicidal, I would also understand if they just didn’t want the intervention. It’s all well and good to say suicidal crisis is fleeting and hope is possible. It may well be for a lot of people, but there are also people for whom it’s very much a permanent thing. The professional side of me is on-board with suicide prevention, but the personal side of me totally understands the decision. It’s not automatiacally illogical, impulsive, or irrational…

    sorry. I’m not totally sure I know what I want to convey with all this, or why I am bothering to respond here. sorry…

    • jhon franck says:

      I feel that as uncomfortable as it might feel, “it’s not automatically illogical, impulsive, or irrational… In the case of my loved one, it was not illogical or impulsive, but it was shortsighted as is the nature of depression’s pain. J.

      • VidaBella24 says:

        ” it was not illogical or impulsive, but it was shortsighted as is the nature of depression’s pain. ”
        Exactly that is why I am still holding on, though I am an emotional wreck at this time, I know that “This too shall pass.” which is the only way I am holding on. I’m heading toward sixty and have had suicidal thoughts since I was about 13 or 14 years old. I never acted on them until I was in my forties and even I might not have acted, it may have just been a threat, but an ambulance was called and off I was sent to the hospital. There they told me unless I accepted and admitted that I attempted suicide, I would not be allowed to go home. So, I did as told, so I could go home. I was a stay at home mom, I found a job worked a physical job until I hurt myself, then changed to an office job that I worked about 12 years. The first few years were awesome and then the supervisor retired and the new supervisor was like no one I’ve ever met. While most people seem to keep their emotions in check hers seemed to be all out in the open, from happy to sad, to angry to illogically angry. She’s brilliant, funny and I kind of like her, still, even though I feel I was bullied by her and that the last couple years I was treading water trying to keep my extremely well paying job. It got to the point that I couldn’t do it any more, I couldn’t cope as I was certain she and the boss were trying to get me to leave my job, by taking away my responsibilities. She wouldn’t listen when I needed help or advise on doing certain things and I couldn’t do my job because of my anxiety which caused me to delay and procrastinate some of my work which had deadlines because I didn’t want to talk to her about it. So I left and hoped the physical ailments that I were suffering from her bullying would go away. I did well the first few months, I had saved some money because I suspected that I would either be let go or need to quit. Now I am out of money, trying not to use credit and suddenly have a spouse who is going through a health crisis and may end up on disability because of it. Me, ha ha ha ha, I am spiraling down into what feels like madness. I do my best in forcing myself out of bed in the morning, doing the basics and just coping. I can’t reach out to family. My mom just called and I mentioned what is going on and suddenly it became a competition. I stayed calm, probably because of the medications I am on and made an excuse to get off the phone. I love my family but I don’t feel I am what they want (or need?) me to be and I don’t have the stamina or strength to continue coping. I don’t want to die, yet sometimes it seems simpler then having to put back on the my coping mask. I’ve been shattered by all those who expect more from me then I can give and I am scared to show my doctor and psychologist the real me that I live with daily. It’s scary to be truthful and scary not to be truthful. I’m going on, I just want to be out of everyone’s way. I feel like a nuisances, an annoyance and like no one has ever really liked me, only put up with me and tried to hurt me.

  33. Anonymous says:

    It’s why keeping firearms secured is so important because they can be used so quickly impulsively and effectively. PLEASE make sure no one can have access to your firearms; the devastation left behind from not doing this is unspeakably horrible and unending.

  34. Rethink says:

    I wanted to simply mention this is a decent article. I think this one might offer some of the better advice I have seen on this site. Impulse decisions can be rough. I do think though there are some very rational processes that can go on from someone who wants to end things. Sometimes, what it would take to make life worthwhile is so far out of reach, and the environment surrounding environment is doing nothing to help. This isn’t a bad approach. I just think many of these articles are putting too much on the person already suffering already overburdened and not enough on those who claim they want to help prevent the attempt. This article is a good start.

    • jhon franck says:

      I don’t think the article does too much on the side they focus on, but I am in agreement, those who claim to want to help fail miserably the suffering individual. J.

  35. Anonymous says:

    What about a three week rule? What if somebody had been thinking of committing suicide for three weeks or more, looking for the perfect time and day? If they had planning for that long, are they then allowed to end their life?

  36. Wendy says:

    I attempted suicide in 2012. I took 2 days to write letters to certain people and on the 3rd day I overdosed. For some reason I was not allowed to leave this world but the thoughts of suicide are still present today. I have been battling suicidal thoughts since a very young age. I really don’t know if they will ever go away…

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hi Wendy, I am sad to hear about your suicide attempt and your ongoing suicidal thoughts. This is not uncommon. Many people have “chronic” thoughts of suicide. The challenge does not lie in eliminating them, which simply may not be possible. Thoughts come without our invitation. The true challenge lies in responding to them in a way that disarms them of their power. This can include talking back to suicidal thoughts, or mindfully observing them, or taking “opposite action,” or whatever works!

      Good luck to you!

  37. AliMoonGoddess says:

    Great words of wisdom! Hopefully those 3 days heal and help to bring clarity. I know it has for me.

    Thanks for writing this.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      You’re welcome, and thank YOU for the excellent writing that you did about the 3-day rule (and that I quoted above)! You described the 3-day rule very eloquently.

      It’s great that this rule has helped you, though I know it’s not great to have needed it. May you continue to get through your 3 days.

  38. Pearl Bowden says:

    Really glad to have come across this article. As a person who has dealt with suicidal thoughts/acts and self harm all of her life, I have experienced both (thoughts disappear within 3 days and not to disappear after 3 days). I have attempted suicide with one success where my heart stopped for 90 seconds and through CPR I was revived in 2002. Unfortunately my last true attempt was in February of this year but here I still am reaching the age of 40 ONLY by God’s Grace for me. This is my personal view of this life. I unfortunately still struggle with depression and thoughts of worthlessness but I now focus on my 2 sons like never before, who remind me why i choose to Iive.
    I wish I would have had information like this so easily accessible when I was 11, 13, and 14. 3 others dates that altered my life. But I finally realize that my life must have purpose. I am reminded of this any time I shared my story.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Pearl. I am excited to think of how many people your words will inspire.

      It is sad that you have suffered so much. May this suffering give your life meaning both in the way you reach out to others and touch them, and in the way that you can treat yourself with more compassion as you struggle with depression and thoughts of worthlessness.

      Good luck to you!

  39. Genevieve says:

    Dear Stacey,

    I know this is sort of off topic but these 3 questions do interest me.

    1) Does anyone owe anyone else his or her life?

    2) Does anyone have a duty to suffer for anyone else’s benefit (or to forestall anyone else’s prospective suffering)?

    3) Does the mere fact (i.e. imposition) of being born render each one of us a slave — to family, to community, to the species?

    It seems to me that, in the absence of answering any of the above in the affirmative, there’s nothing more selfish, and therefore more hypocritical, than stigmatizing suicide as “a selfish act.”

    Even if it is, so what? Unless the ‘collateral damage’ of killing oneself is premeditated & also irreparable (which it very rarely is), so what? ‘The world’, after all, could stand to be relieved — freely by self-selection — of as many desperately miserable people as possible; gratitude rather than scorn (or taboo-fear) being the more appropriate, more civilized response.

    Perhaps killing oneself is simply an act of self-defense against ‘involuntary self-torment’. If so, reparable collateral damage is a reasonable trade-off (risk), no?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Genevieve, those are excellent questions. I don’t make the same conclusions you do (i.e., that the world “could stand to be relieved…of as many desperately miserable people as possible”). But I do agree with you that there are serious problems with condemning suicide as “selfish.”

      Many, perhaps most, people who seriously consider suicide feel that they are a burden to others. The suicidal person thinks, however misguidedly, that their suicide will provide relief for those who are burdened. That is hardly selfish.

      Rather than condemn suicide as selfish, we as a society could save a lot more lives by reaching out to suicidal people with compassion and understanding, not judgment.

    • M says:

      I am inclined to agree. My cousin committed suicide. When he was 29. He had suffered for years with bizarre thoughts. His family was cruel. I was not angry when he killed himself. I did not think it was selfish. He had a right to choose how he lived or did not live his life. He was in unbearable pain and there was little anyone could do to help him. I miss him but I understand why he did what he did. I am in my mid fifties and have dealt with suicidal thoughts most of my life. I have sat with my “tools” and ultimately decided that the decision was foolish. One day it won’t be a foolish decision. Who are we to decide how someone should exit this world?

      • Carl says:

        Dam right why is suicide a selfish act that is so hurtful. Sometimes in simple society suicide ie elderly choosing to starve to death in order to save someone else is honourable.
        But if you have no family no meaningful relationship an unhappy life what’s the problem with committing suicide. After all we live in a world where its about meaning and happiness but if you haven’t either and all life is suffering and pointless then what’s the problem with suicide

    • Gretchen says:

      Yes, I would say that every person Does have the duty to think about loved ones, children, and family who will of course be affected by a suicide. Yes, every person has the responsibility to consider the trauma it would cause whoever might find your dead body and have to clean it up. Yes, every person has the duty to think about what the survivors/family will have to endure by cleaning up your paperwork and finances should you make that decision. I often think that either the suicidal person cannot think all these matters through, or else they do know and Hope that trauma, hurt, and guilt is inflicted on both responders and loved ones.

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