Feeling overwhelmed –
helping you stay safe
About this leaflet
Several people have helped to put this leaflet
together. Some of us are professionally qualified, some of us
have lived through times of great distress
We all want to make sure that you know what help
you can get to stay safe and how you can get it.
We know that you may feel completely helpless -
we’re just glad that you have taken the time to read this. In spite
of feeling that you have no control over your life, there may be
some things that you – and other people - can do to make things
better. There will be people who really do want to help. You may
know them already, like your family and friends, or they may be
professionals who you have not met yet.
When things go wrong
Bad things happen to all of us – but it can be
hard to talk about them. Other people may find it difficult to
help. They find it hard to know what to say to someone you know who
is going through it.
When things go wrong, each of us reacts in a
different way. You could feel numbed, agitated or shocked. You
may find yourself overwhelmed by your feelings - or cut off from
It can feel really lonely when you are
distressed. We hope that the information in this leaflet can help
you to feel less alone, in spite of in your troubles.
A life worth living
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when bad things
happen. There may not be a simple answer or the pain may seem just
too much to bear. You may even have thoughts that your life is
just not worth living. This might be the time to get some help.
Suicidal thoughts are quite common but we tend
not to talk about them. It can be embarrassing or frightening to
tell someone else about such private thoughts.
And most people with suicidal thoughts manage to
keep themselves safe. Being honest with yourself is the first step
in keeping yourself safe. If you are reading this leaflet, it could
be helpful for you to share your worries and distress with someone
It is never too late to take action, even if the
situation seems hopeless.
Can anyone understand me?
It can be hard to share private thoughts and
feelings. But if you do, it can help, and can be a real way of
getting through a bad time. However you feel, and however
personal it seems, other people will have gone through similar
things and so really can understand something of what you are going
Finding someone you can trust is the first step.
You may have someone in mind already. Talking and being listened to
can help you to get things clearer in your mind and feel more
Sometimes it can be easier to talk things over
with someone who does not know you. It might be hard to believe
that someone you haven't met before cares about you and your
situation, but there are people who do care and want to listen.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself
in any way, we would encourage you to:
- tell a trusted friend or relative
- make an appointment to see your GP (family
- contact one of the organisations listed on the
- go to the Emergency Department (previously
called A&E) in your local hospital.
For young people under 18 especially those under 16
It is important to find support from an adult you can talk to
and trust. Please don't feel that you have to cope with all your
problems alone. Most young people will turn to their parents or
carers. If you feel you need support from outside your immediate
family, please think about speaking to another relative, your
teacher, school counselor, school nurse, youth worker or social
worker (if you have one).
You can help yourself in many ways. You can
start by making a ‘safety plan’ for yourself. This is a plan to
help you keep safe - it will work best if you put it together
yourself and choose the kind of support that you think will be
Only you can find your own reasons for living.
If you find it hard to see any future at all, it may be time for
you to think about allowing someone to help you get through this
Making a ‘Safety Plan’
A safety plan can help organise your thoughts,
so you get the right support at the times you need it. Make a
simple list of the things you can do for yourself and the people
who you would like to support you. It’s easier if we know who we
can talk to before we need
them. You may want to ask someone else to help you put it together.
You may find it helpful to include reminders of the good things in
your life and things to look forward to in the future.
A safety plan could include:
- Activities: take part in sports or go for a
walk; listen to music that makes you feel happy, play an
instrument, ‘air drums’; write your feelings down; look after a
pet, walk a friend's dog; do something to help someone else –
nothing feels quite as good as knowing we have a purpose in
- Names of supportive family and friends.
- Keep a reminder of the people and things you
love on your mobile or in your pocket, wallet or purse; some people
like to carry photos of people or animals they care about.
- Professional support.
- Voluntary support organisations (see
- Things to do if your suicidal thoughts are
getting stronger or you can’t ignore them.
- Keep this leaflet in a safe place. You never
know when you, or someone you care about, might need it.
My Safety Plan
Helpful suggestions to think about
- Thousands of people are overwhelmed every day …
but find ways to get through these intense feelings - like them, you can get through it.
- You just have to cope with one day at a
- Your distress can be a sign that you need to
change something in your life.
Support organisations for people who are distressed,
are experiencing suicidal thoughts or who self-harm and their
Anything you tell them will be completely
confidential. The volunteers are ordinary people who won't judge
you. Some of the most popular organisations are listed below.
You may contact as many or as few as you like - it's up to you and
it's OK to contact more than one.
HOPELineUK: Tel: 0800 068 41 41 (Mon
to Fri 10am - 5pm and 7pm - 10pn & Weekends 2pm - 5pm). PAPYRUS
aims to prevent young people taking their own lives. A
professionally staffed helpline provides support, practical advice
and information both to young people worried about themselves, and
to anyone concerned that a young person may harm themselves.
PAPYRUS has a range of helpful resources including HOPELineUK
contact cards or call 01925 572444 or Fax 01925 240502 for a sample
Tel: 116 123 (24/7); email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A 24/7 helpline service which gives you a safe
space where you can talk about what is happening, how you are
feeling, and how to find your own way forward. Samaritans
volunteers are ordinary people from all walks of life who
understand that there are sometimes things that you just cannot
talk about to the people around you. They know that very often,
with some time and space, people are able to find their own
solution within themselves.
Specialist help for people who self-harm
A forum and resources for those who self-harm
and their families, and for professionals who support them. Tips on
what to do or say and what not to do or say if you are supporting
someone who self-harms. Advice on the use of distractions if a
person is trying not to self-harm.
Connected: Tel: 080 8808 4994 (1pm to 11pm)
Offers help by telephone and email for young
people (under 25) who self-harm.
TheSite.org offers information and support to
all the UK's 16-25 year-olds. It includes specific support and
advice about self-harm.
Internet Self-Harm Support Community. It also
provides support for any emotional problems, in addition to
Support specifically designed for children and young
with children and young people across the UK to stop bullying. We
help young people to support each other.
If you are worried about anything, it could be
something big or something small, don't bottle it up. It can really
help if you talk to someone. If there is something on your mind,
ChildLine is here for you.
Website for for young people aged 11 to 19
affected by self harm. E: email@example.com
YoungMinds is committed to improving the emotional wellbeing and
mental health of children and young people, they have lots of
Other sources of support
A safe, online, anonymous service for people
over the age of 16. Get the support of others who feel like you,
24/7, and learn ways to feel better and how to get on top of your
own troubles. Keep safe through the 24/7 support of trained Wall
Helpline (Wales): Tel: 0800 132 737
A 24/7 service offering free emotional support
and information/literature on mental health and related matters to
people in Wales. Text 'help' to 81066.
Against Living Miserably: Tel: 0800 585858
Offers help via the website and a helpline for
men aged 15-35 who are feeling depressed or down. Callers are
offered support and information. Calls are free, confidential and
anonymous. The helpline is open from 5pm - midnight, Sat, Sun, Mon
and Tues, every week of the year. London callers may also call 0808
Care: Helpline: 0844 477 9400; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alliance: Tel: 0207 407 7584
Information, support and understanding for
people who suffer with depression, and for relatives who want to
help. Self-help groups, information, and raising awareness for
depression. Email: email@example.com.
A national mutual support group for people
suffering from depression. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Helpline: 0800 7 373 515
Call free and at anytime to talk to someone in
Mind: Infoline: 0300
123 3393 (Mon-Fri 9am - 6pm)
Provides information in a range of topics
including types of mental distress, where to get help and advocacy.
They are able to provide details of help and support for people in
their own area. Email: email@example.com
Debtline: Tel: 0808 808 4000
Free confidential and independent advice on
how to deal with debt problems.
Direct: Tel: 0845 46 47
For health advice and reassurance, 24 hours a
day, 365 days a year.
SANE: SANEline: 0845
767 8000 (6pm - 11pm)
Emotional support and specialist information
to anyone affected by mental illness, including families, friends
and carers. SANE offers 1:1 support via helpline and email services
and peer support via an online Support Forum where people share
their feelings and experiences of mental illness, as well as
exchanging information about treatment and support options.
StepChange Debt Charity: Freephone: 0800 138
Free online support service providing anonymous and practical
advice about money matters and debt.
Survivors of Bereavement by
Suicide (SOBS): Helpline: 0300 222 5065 (9am -
Details of UK patient support organisations,
self-help groups, health and disease information providers, etc...
Each entry is cross-referenced and details are checked
Endorsed by the Royal College of General
Practitioners and the Royal College of Nursing
This leaflet was produced by the Royal College
of Psychiatrists' Public Education Editorial Board.
Dr Philip Timms
Main Authors: Dr Alys
Cole-King, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist/Open Minds Alliance CIC
with comments from Professor Stephen Platt, Dr Gil Green (STORM),
Dr Chris Manning and Martin Seager College of Medicine Mental
Health Advisory Board and Dr Philip Timms, with contributions
from RCGP/RCPsych Mental Health Forum.
This leaflet reflects the best available evidence at the time of
© January 2016. Due for review: January 2019
Royal College of Psychiatrists.
This leaflet may be downloaded, printed out, photocopied and
distributed free of charge as long as the Royal College of
Psychiatrists is properly credited and no profit gained from its
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