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What is Suicidal Ideation?

Two white women sit on a couch, the older of the two has a concerned look on her face as she holds the hand of the younger woman

Suicidal ideation is the technical term for having suicidal thoughts or actions involving self-harm. In today’s world suicide and self-harm rates have been increasing at an alarming rate. Over 800 000 people worldwide have been affected over 2020. These numbers are increasing each year and it’s important to know when and how you should get help.

Suicidal ideation is a topic that is both delicate and underrepresented in today’s world. The truth of the matter is, most people chalk things down to feeling sad and try to move on. The problem is that it can get worse without intervention or help. Things like anxiety and depression can result from neglect.

Suicidal Ideation exists on a spectrum, with passive being on the lower end and active on the higher. But what is passive and active suicidal ideation?

Passive Suicidal Ideation

Passive suicidal ideation is the idea of suicide. Thoughts of taking your own life without actively going through with it.

If you’ve ever had thoughts of what the world would be like without you, you would be normal. Most people end up having negative thoughts like this, and you’re not alone. The risk rises when you can’t stop those thoughts and their negative effects on your everyday life. This is when doctors categorize negative thoughts into passive suicidal ideation. 

Is Passive Suicidal Ideation Dangerous?

Negative thoughts like not wanting to live can be dangerous. People who are diagnosed with passive suicidal ideation have higher levels of anxiety, depression, and unhealthy emotional regulations. 

While passive means to not take action, it doesn’t mean it can’t go over that line. Professionals say that although it’s low risk, it doesn’t mean it isn’t risky and that people suffering from it, should seek help.

Active Suicidal Ideation

People that are diagnosed with active suicidal ideation, usually intend on dying by suicide. This is when passive thoughts turn to physical self-harm, and negative thoughts become a reality. Active ideation is categorized as high risk by professionals. Both active and passive forms are dangerous to your mental health, however active is decidedly more risky on a physical level and should seek institution or professional assistance. 

Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

Negative thoughts are always with us, especially during these times of isolation. Many people feel alone, and find it hard to communicate their issues. This makes it difficult to see symptoms within people around us. However, these are noteworthy signs to see in yourself or in any other person who may be struggling:

  • Social withdrawal
  • Vocalizing negative thoughts
  • Sleeping late / Staying in bed
  • Lack of sleep
  • Not exercising or lack of physical activity
  • Abusing alcohol or excessive use of drugs
  • Self-harm
  • Emotional instability
  • High states of anxiety
  • Depression

A man looks out the window with a sad look on his face

Warning Signs for Suicide Ideation

Having a list of symptoms helps us to notice any negative behavior within ourselves and friends/family. The problem is, not everyone is open to sharing information and symptoms can then be difficult to point out. Keeping in mind that it varies from person to person, it isn’t always clear to see who might be struggling and who isn’t.

Even if they are not open with their emotions some noticeable physical changes can be observed such as:

  • Drug use
  • Excessive alcohol usage
  • Hygiene
  • Black rings under eyes 

If they are open, these would be emotional tells:

  • Tired mood
  • Sad behavior
  • Reckless attitude towards themselves
  • Self hatred

Should these warning signs be noticed in you or your loved ones, try to be an open ear for them to talk to, and try to get the help you/they need. 

Risk Factors for Active & Passive Suicide Ideation

Risk factors for suicidal ideation can vary between active and passive. Passive risks include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social Isolation
  • Progressing to active

Passive risks are more likely to be psychological, and affect your everyday life. Anxiety and depression should seek professional help. If left unchecked negative thoughts may progress to active suicidal ideation.

Active suicide ideation has risks that affect physical and mental levels of any person going through it. Active sets a whole new level of risks involving:

  • Physical self harm
  • Planning suicide methods
  • Attempting or acting out planned ways to end your life
  • Having little to no regard for health and safety
  • Failed attempts at suicide (Disabled etc.)
  • Suicide.

Diagnosing Suicidal Ideation

Everyone experiencing depression may not have tendencies to commit suicide. This makes it difficult to diagnose someone who may or may not have suicidal ideation. It is therefore safer for professionals  to diagnose you than to self-diagnose. Doctors will more than likely ask you questions like:

  • Do you or your family suffer from depression?
  • Are you taking any medications?
  • Have you had thoughts for committing suicide?
  • How long have you felt this way?

It is important to answer these questions as honestly as you can. These questions plus any others that doctors may ask, can be crucial to understanding if and where you are on the spectrum.

Treatments for Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation has many ways to be treated. This is because many different types of people experience suicidal ideation differently and on different levels of the spectrum. The way to start treatment is the same for everyone, it begins by recognizing the issue, and seeking professional help. 

Your doctor will start by assessing your levels of anxiety, depression and how severe your case is. They may prescribe medication to balance out your personal levels of anxiety and depression. This will more than likely come with a plan for treatment with a psychologist.

Another way to get treatment is through joining support groups dedicated to helping share emotions in a safe environment. There is nothing more comforting to know, that you are not alone, and these groups are dedicated to help you on your journey to wellness.

If your risk is high, more serious treatment will be recommended. At this stage your doctor will recommend you to stay at an inpatient facility. At this facility, you can be cared for and watched over till you are well again.

How ILC Can Help You

At ILC we are dedicated to your safety and mental well-being. We believe that patient care is top priority and provide many options for an array of mental health concerns including suicidal ideation. Our mental health programs are designed to help you, and your loved ones. We offer integrative and holistic therapies to cover all of your needs, and provide treatment from professionals who care.


How Can We Make a Difference?

If there is one thing to takeaway from this, is that mental health in every human being is important. If you, or anyone you know needs help, get them the help they need, by being an open ear or finding someone who will listen. Check in on people who have been having bad days or seem lower than usual, you never know what that may mean to someone who is struggling. Always remember, that you are not alone.

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