Depression and low mood

In this video, an expert describes the various levels of depression, the early warning signs and the treatments available.

Media last reviewed: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016


Many people who self-harm do not want to kill themselves. Self-harming can be a kind of "survival strategy", providing a person with a way of coping with overwhelming emotions.

However, self-harming is usually a sign that a person needs immediate help and support.

Read about self-harm for more information and advice.

Suicide is the act of intentionally ending your life.

If you are reading this because you have, or have had, thoughts about taking your own life, it's important you ask someone for help. It's probably difficult for you to see at this time, but you're not alone and not beyond help.  

Many people who have had suicidal thoughts say they were so overwhelmed by negative feelings they felt they had no other option. However, with support and treatment they were able to allow the negative feelings to pass.

Getting help

If you are feeling suicidal, there are people you can talk to who want to help:

  • speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust as they may be able to help you calm down and find some breathing space
  • call the Samaritans 24-hour support service on 08457 90 90 90
  • go to, or call, your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department and tell the staff how you are feeling
  • contact NHS 111
  • make an urgent appointment to see your GP

Read more about getting help if you're feeling suicidal.

Worried someone else is suicidal

If you are worried that someone you know may be considering suicide, try to encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. Listening is the best way to help. Try to avoid offering solutions and try not to judge. 

If they have previously been diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as depression, you can speak to a member of their care team for help and advice.

Read more about suicide warning signs and how you can help someone with suicidal thoughts.

Why do some people take their own life?

There is no single reason why someone may try to take their own life, but certain things can increase the risk. 

A person may be more likely to have suicidal thoughts if they have a mental health condition, such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Misusing alcohol or drugs and having poor job security can also make a person more vulnerable.

It is not always possible to prevent suicidal thoughts, but keeping your mind healthy with regular exercise, healthy eating and maintaining friendships can help you cope better with stressful or upsetting situations.

Read more about the causes of suicide and preventing suicide.

Page last reviewed: 15/11/2012

Next review due: 15/11/2014


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The 20 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

skyscraper822 said on 19 November 2014

I am suffering from Polycystic Ovary syndrome and I have hirsutism and because of this I have body hair and period problems, sometimes I get upset so upset that I cry for no reason and end up getting all red and anyone can tell that I've been crying! Sometimes I feel like jumping off the window or cutting myself its soooooo stressful I am so stressed! I think I don't have much hair on my head than I have on my body! It's so annoying!!!!!!!!!! I need help to get rid of my body hair and excess fat!

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exiledone said on 13 November 2014

This article is quite frankly a waste of time. Even if anyone takes you seriously, services are limited and short term, people are unqualified and uncaring, and when you need them further down the line they abandon you.

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User843481 said on 13 October 2014

I think I can fairly confidently speak on behalf of others (as well as myself) in saying that suicidal people don't want pain. We don't want to die, because if a tonne of bricks was about to fall on our heads, we'd probably jump out the way. We want the agony to stop. When we are alive, "living" is our only option and sometimes we reach a conclusion that it is just far too much to bear. Often, an escape (and death is the only real escape) seems like a relief from what is minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day torture. This is understandable. Life is so hard for so many people and add onto that years spent struggling with a mental health condition and the psychopathic NHS and I think those with a wish to escape could be forgiven.
I feel strongly that there should be much better provisions for those in crisis, better training for MH professionals, social, practical, and spiritual needs addressed. We shouldn't be the ones being pushed further towards the edge. Those being paid to support us need to have decent resources to provide and refer to genuinely helpful services (that simply do not exist) Drugs should be used minimally. Nowadays if you're lucky you can get a nice GP as I do, the rest is a case of make do and mend.

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peace dream said on 06 October 2014

I found that no one cares if I wanted to take my life. I found that I was actually that worthless to doctors and mental health that it caused even more depression. I was sexually abused in childhood and had an isolated upbringing, was always alone but I survived, although was on a death wish. I got to a stage where having seen my partner die of cancer, my father recently die in a very uncaring ward, the stress of looking after my mother who is very demanding and suffering emotional and bullying abuse where my neighbours have said really wicked things to me and threatened to kill me because I feed wildlife in my own private garden. I saw a counsellor who was not supportive and my GP was also very uncaring. I was referred too for oncology tests but I did not do the tests because it was a risky operation. I am healthy and fit but although never smoked I now have started drinking wine for the first time as it helps me to withdraw. I asked to deregister from my surgery and the manager did that without asking me why yet knew I was severely depressed. They ignored my letters and me completly. It was as if I was not there and was totally worthless. In a way I am an untouchable. I can take my life and no one would stop me. No one would care. I am still on a death wish but am forced to live because I care for my mother. However, living in a world like this is a world I cannot wait to get out of if I am to one day find total peace. The samaritians do not help, they allow you to take your life.

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Rob Waugh said on 30 August 2014

what stops me is my son tried(22years old) 2 years ago and ended up with brain damage and not dead. Him doing that, my mother passing away shortly before he did it and then my dog getting terminally ill (my best friend) has pushed me right to the edge, then I think of the impact my son has had on all of his friends and family that is what stops me. so please think first, all I want is for the pain to stop but not inflict it on others.

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Paul148 said on 10 August 2014

I have suicidal thoughts every day. Antidepressants don't make a difference and give me side effects. All the doctor can do is give me pills. I don't have much of a future, just downhill all the way.

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PROPATRIANOSTRA said on 07 April 2014

If one arrives at the 'crisis' it is probably the result of a cumulative and oppressive series of events. The decision to actually apply your decision would require intervention by an empathetic expert capable of providing decisive responses. I have found the establishment response is lethargic and disinterested, perhaps edging towards promoting one's demise. Nobody really cares about the individual. This NHS site provides little decisive response.

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zeroutility said on 07 April 2014

I would agree that as you get older especially if you are physically ill as well the NHS becomes inadequate and irrelevant. It fails on so many occasions it cannot be trusted. With a severe physically illness I realised a long time ago control was an issue so a undertook a self imposed course of systemic densitization to death.
Dealing with pain came with the condition.
Does this make me mentally ill. On the contrary it enable me to deal with a situation where my life may have zero utility in a realistic way.
I would be the first to admit its not ideal, removing that barrier makes it too easy just to drift into death (omission rather than commission). Maybe with a more effective supportive NHS this would not be necessary but over the years I have maintained the mindset to keep this possibility open and sometimes it has caused misunderstandings with the NHS

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sullen_Charlie said on 12 March 2014

I'm both simultaneously relieved and disheartened by the amount of people whose experiences are similar to my own. On both occasions of being admitted to my local crisis team I have either been waved away with drugs and sleeping pills or given questionable on the spot psychotherapy. During my last trip to the hospital I was not only cornered by a so-called mental health specialist and asked repeatedly and belligerently whether I wanted to live or die because 'if I wanted to die I wouldn't have come to the crisis team'. This antagonistic approach confused me greatly as I thought, as a suicidal person, that was the place I should have gone to. Additionally in warning me against the dangers of self harm as an adolescent I was told not only the most effective tools for self harm, but also shown the exact location that would lead to my bleeding to death. It seems as if the majority of mental healthcare specialists I have encountered are either sadists or wholly unqualified for their positions of care over vulnerable people. I continue to suffer from depression, anxiety, and struggle with self harming and suicidal thoughts and frankly I am saddened that I have very little remaining faith in my local teams being able to help me.

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User843481 said on 09 February 2014

What an absolute joke. The majority of people who turn up to A&E have tortured themselves about going there, feel deeply ashamed and are already sitting on the brink. Where is the empathy, compassion, and understanding? Because i haven't seen it. I have had a few nurses here and there who seemed to be concerned and genuinely want to make you comfortable in A&E the rest treat you like an irritant. I have a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and am terrified of being sectioned again on the basis of my diagnosis and history but i often feel like i am not safe and have nowhere to turn to. The crisis team are beyond incompetent in my opinion and there is very little that the few disinterested doctors i have seen in A&E can actually do, save throwing drugs at you and telling you to get in contact with your doctor or MH team. Hello? Do they not have any common sense that suicidal people need care and support? All i see and have experienced is fobbing off and delegation. It's ludicrous and sickening quite frankly that we have no comprehensive and genuinely caring mental health care. People are left to suffer and rely on the police, who are out of their depths.

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surf772 said on 08 February 2014

This information is useless. My GP says I "don't look like someone who wants to kill themselves" and A&E call me manipulative and send me away with a different story each time. The crisis team called me a "bad person" for being suicidal and said it was my fault. Then they tell me to go back to A&E who insult me some more and ask why I'm there when I could see my GP. My family and terminally ill partner are picking up their slack and they absolutely should not have to, but the NHS just see that as an excuse to ignore the problem. Disgusting.

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Effie132 said on 04 February 2014

I am disgusted with how people who are desperate and suicidal are treated within the NHS. I have had mental health problems for 20 years and my life has been a constant struggle. Treatment and understanding from the NHS was much better when I was first diagnosed years ago.

Now if I am in a crisis, self harm or feel suicidal. A&E staff have told me I am taking up their beds, putting it on, or they are not a designated place of safety. I have found the police more understanding when as a last resort I have contacted them.

My Mental Health Team are ill equipped and do not provide a duty of care. My GP is rude and dismissive. The Samaritans are a fantastic organisation, but sometimes it is not enough and it is disgusting the NHS rely on volunteers. Some people do not have friends or family to talk. There are no places of safety to go to and I have great concerns about the new triage service being introduced with the police, as I am sure the mental health nurses visiting suicidal people will just assess them as not being at risk. As they have with me in the past when I have clearly not been safe to be on my own. Shameful no other illness would be treated like this

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surf772 said on 24 January 2014

Telling people to go to their GP is a joke. I was escorted home from uni and an emergency appointment made by my lecturers because they found out I was planning to kill myself. They have known me for 3 years and would never have done that lightly. The doctor said there wasn't a problem because I hadn't done anything yet and don't 'look like someone who will commit suicide'
I wasn't making a scene and was closed off about my feelings (obviously I was, I'd been sent there, not gone willingly because I personally wanted help) so he just insisted I couldn't possibly want to do it. I couldn't follow through with it because a family member has been staying with me (they should not even have to) but had I been alone and had the resources, that really would have crushed any small chance I had of changing my mind. I already felt ashamed about my feelings and even more so after that.

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ABC282 said on 22 August 2013

I took my cousin to A&E, they have had alcohol issues, had recently been attacked and was completely incoherent. They repeatedly told me they had only just been stopped from killing themselves in the couple of days prior and had a plan for how to overdose. I told the doctors all this and was told 'they aren't suicidal, we've not seen any signs' yet everything I had talked to them that day they told me they wanted to kill themselves/ die. They got discharged and thankfully I had very nice police officers there who helped me say I didn't feel I could cope taking them in, but I felt very pressurised and unsupported by the hospital. I was literally crying for help and saying I had major concerns about my cousin's mental condition and what they might do and my concerns were swept away (mainly I think because they were intoxicated). It was a very stressful experience for me and without the police I'm not sure what I would have done

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yorksha said on 30 July 2013

I hope someone reads all these postings from within the "NHS" . I have read so many and so many seem familiar horror stories. Just what is going on. It needs sorting Now, not in 5 years time- Now. I pay my stamp duty and Why should I have to wait for a Healthcare system what simply cant deliver. I would also suggest some mental health staff have more training- Im not calling all mental health staff as i have seen some fantastic staff in the past but recently its gone down the utter. Mental health and physical pains in my head are just anxiety apparently. Shame !!!!

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laywer13 said on 15 July 2013

Im just wondering, what feelings does anyone have about the IHTT service that is provided, I'm under them just now and have mixed up emotions about them, some of the people are good but others aren't , any others views would be appreciated. Thanks

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11tufty said on 09 June 2013

Depression is a deeply personal thing. Its difficult to share these emotions when they are so personal and sometimes irrational. Its something i have had to learn to live with. Im 52 and at times medication and talking helps but it always comes back. I hate it. Its selfish and soul destroying.some stressful events make it worse but it tends to be the little drip drip drip ones not life changing ones. I think about dying but that is selfish too. I have family but they dont understand the struggle day to day living is. Life is like a stage for me and sometimes i get so tired of acting. I didnt choose to be like this i was made to be like this and constantly fighting it is so tiring. Its a lonely place to be.

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Jerryward284 said on 26 May 2013

I cant agree with these comments enough There is no help for anyone esprcailly middle aged white males. Everyone else there is a special help line. Not for me. Only samaritans who say they cant give advice.

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Jerryward284 said on 26 May 2013

I cant agree with those comments below enough. there is no support for anyone.

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caela said on 13 May 2013

@derpinda You are so right. Some of the help on here is so impractical. It sounds logical, but in practice fails. If I ever feel really low, it's usually at night when I'm alone and there is no-one to talk to. The only option I have is to call the Samaritans, a charity who should not have to pick up the slack of the NHS on an 0845 number which I can't call from my mobile. Or I could go into A&E and sit in a waiting room for hours before chatting to someone who will either stare at me like I'm wasting their time or ask questions I won't want to answer. I don't think people understand the fear any person has going to hospital, let alone explaining there's nothing physically wrong with you but you're having a nervous breakdown. It takes more than most people have to be able to do that, especially when they don't know what to expect.

As for speaking to friends- who is going to call their friend at 4am and say 'hey I know you're sleeping but I'm a crazy person and I wanna cut myself to shreds so how about you come down here and pick up the pieces?' Like no-one is going to do that especially in a fragile state when they can't even verbalise their feelings.

I've told my GP I'm suicidal so many times. I've asked and asked and asked for help. I've seen different dr's at different clinics. I've tried therapy and people know I'm depressed. Even if people don't think that someone is at serious risk, they must appreciate that they are suffering. Even if you don't kill yourself or try to, it's not nice wanting to do it and thinking about it all the time. The only NHS treatments I have been offered so far is medication and a gym referral. These are complimentary therapies and more should be done. It's disgraceful how I've been treated by the NHS with regards to my mental health problems and then most advice is set out to make you feel guilty and responsible for not getting help when there simply isn't the help there to get. Sort it out!

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