Cancer and its treatment can be hard to get through and many people need some extra help and support. You are not alone and there is help available. While it is normal for people facing serious illness to have an occasional wish to die, only a small number of people with cancer can feel so overwhelmed or despairing that they might actually make a plan to end their lives.
Depression, despair or hopelessness, or feeling alone in the world can lead to thoughts of suicide. Physical symptoms such as uncontrolled pain are also highly associated with depression or suicidal thoughts. It is important to discuss these thoughts, feelings and symptoms with your doctor and/or someone you trust like a family member or friend, a member of the clergy or your health care team. This is especially true if these thoughts increase in frequency and intensity and you begin formulating a plan about taking your own life. We say this because studies have shown that those suicidal thoughts and feelings are helped by treating the underlying depression that might be contributing to your feelings of despair.
If you find yourself seriously thinking about suicide here are some steps you can take:
- Have you found yourself thinking that life is not worth living or living “this way”—meaning facing serious illness, pain or suffering? Many patients with cancer have a fleeting thought about suicide such as “I might do something if it gets bad enough” or “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone…” A passing thought on occasion is not unusual but it can be stressful and add to your anxiety about your situation.
- If you have a plan or intend to hurt yourself, please let your doctor or mental health professional know. If you are seriously considering taking your own life—especially if you have a family history of suicide or a history of suicide attempts, depression or substance abuse, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room. This is different from a fleeting thought and may indicate that you could benefit from immediate counseling and possibly medication to help you through this difficult time.
- 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at, a free, 24-hour suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress
- Call 911
- Go to the nearest hospital emergency room