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Suicidal Thoughts

Sad woman with hands over face | Healthier Me TodayA majority of people will experience suicidal thoughts at some point. Stress, physical and mental health challenges can leave you feeling helpless. They only become a problem when these thoughts become chronic. Suicidal thoughts or ideations refer to a mental condition where one contemplates or plans to commit suicide. These thoughts range from having a fleeting suicide consideration to coming up with a plan of how to do it. Suicidal thoughts don’t include the actual act of suicide. According to the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, suicide is among the leading causes of preventable deaths. Suicide claims about 38,000 lives every year. There are so many reasons why one may contemplate taking their own life. Mental disorders like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder increase that risk. Suicide is preventable and treatment options are effective. However, this will only work if you know what to look for and what measures to take.

Types of Suicidal Thoughts

The thought of someone you know or a loved one taking their life is uncomfortable to contemplate. Suicidal thoughts are however very real. There are two types of suicidal ideations. 

Passive Suicide Ideation

This is when a person desires to die but is not planning on doing it. Passive suicidal ideations involve fantasizing about dying. A person may fantasize about dying in a fatal accident, when sleeping, or in a violent attack. Passive suicidal ideations are still harmful. The fact that the person is fantasizing about death means that they may put themselves in harm’s way. The transition from there to active suicidal ideation can be slow or sudden.

Active Suicide Ideation

This is when one has thoughts about committing suicide and has come up with a plan to do it. At this stage, they’ve already moved from fantasizing about death to actively considering dying. They will exhibit specific warning signs that people sometimes choose to ignore. They may start saying goodbye to friends and relatives or getting rid of things.

Symptoms of Suicidal Thoughts

How can you tell that someone is entertaining suicidal thoughts? Common warning signs that someone is contemplating suicide include; 

  • Sudden or gradual isolation from friends and family
  • Feelings of hopelessness or feeling trapped
  • They will often talk about death and may joke about committing suicide
  • Giving away their possessions
  • Increased substance use 
  • Mood swings that range from rage, anger, and irritability
  • Sudden or gradual risk-taking behaviors like drug use and engaging in unprotected sex
  • Access to means of committing suicide like a gun, drugs, and medications
  • Feelings of anxiousness 
  • Making it seem like one is saying goodbye

If you think that someone is thinking about committing suicide, ask them. Asking them may be the one thing they need to feel that someone cares. 

Diagnosis of Suicidal Thoughts

Unfortunately, there are no lab tests that can diagnose suicidal thoughts. If you or a loved one are having suicidal ideations, the doctor will conduct a psychiatric exam. They will also ask you to fill out a questionnaire. 

The questions will address things like your history with mental illnesses like depression. You may also have to answer questions like whether you have developed a plan to commit suicide. The doctor will also want to know how often you take drugs and alcohol and the medications you are on. 

How to Treat Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide is preventable and treatment includes medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. 

  • Psychotherapy: You will work with a therapist to explore your suicidal feelings, the underlying cause, and how you can cope. 
  • Family therapy: This is where you involve family and loved ones in the treatment. This way they can understand what you’re going through and learn how to help you best.
  • Substance use disorder treatment: Suicidal people may experience an increased use of alcohol and drugs. These can worsen the condition requiring this form of treatment. 
  • Lifestyle changes: This involves finding ways of managing stress, eating well, and sleeping better. The whole point is to keep the mind and body engaged to reduce the risk of developing suicidal thoughts. It also involves building a strong support system around you and setting aside time for hobbies.
  • Medications: Medications are used to treat underlying conditions like depression. This may involve taking antidepressants, anxiety, and antipsychotic medications. 

How to Manage Suicidal Thoughts

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, here are ways you can manage that.

  • Identify your suicidal triggers. Triggers could be things like stress or alcohol and drug use.
  • Find ways of relieving stress 
  • Take care of yourself by eating healthy foods, getting plenty of rest, and finding ways to relax after a hard day
  • Build a community around you by being around people who can influence your life in a positive way
  • Become active by developing new hobbies and keeping yourself busy
  • Seek help from a professional or a family member when feelings of despair start creeping in

If you are thinking about suicide, it helps to remember that you are not alone. You are also not crazy or weak. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, there are so many avenues you can rely on. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line are always open. If you suspect that a friend or loved one is exhibiting suicidal thoughts, call 911. 


  1. How do I get rid of suicidal thoughts? If you have suicidal ideations, the best thing you can do is talk to a doctor or mental health professional. Before you do that, reach out to a friend, family, or someone you feel comfortable talking to. 
  2. Does asking someone if they are suicidal make it worse? Asking someone if they are thinking about taking their life doesn’t drive them to suicide. It can actually make things better for them because it shows that someone cares. 
  3. Can suicidal behavior be inherited? Suicidal behavior is not genetic but suicidal risk factors are. Thoughts of suicide can, however, be socially-learned. 

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!

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