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If you are thinking about taking your life and need to speak to someone now, please call 988 or visit the 988 Lifeline Website.

Suicidal ideation is a complex and sensitive topic that demands our attention, empathy, and understanding. Often shrouded in stigma and fear, it is crucial to engage in open conversations to raise awareness about the different aspects of suicidality. In this blog post, we will explore the nature of suicidal ideation, its prevalence, potential causes, and, most importantly, what you can do if you or someone you know is grappling with these thoughts.

What is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation refers to thoughts about taking one’s own life. It should be distinguished from suicidal tendencies, risk, behavior and attempts.  Suicidal ideation exists on a spectrum, ranging from fleeting considerations and fantasies to more detailed and persistent rumination and plans. It’s important to recognize that these thoughts can vary in intensity and frequency, making it a uniquely personal experience.

Gauging Suicidal Ideation

Gauging suicidal ideation is a way of assessing the likelihood of suicidal behavioral.  Suicidal ideation is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It manifests in different forms, from passive thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” to more active and detailed plans for self-harm often associated with a higher likelihood attempt to kill themselves.  People often ruminate over suicidal thoughts, which can cause an increase in the risk of taking action.  Severity is a way of classifying suicidal risk into low, moderate, and high-risk categories, with high-risk suicidal ideation indicating a greater likelihood of acting on these thoughts.

Causes of Suicidal Ideation:

The origins of suicidal ideation are multifaceted and can result from a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors as well as lived experiences. Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse can contribute to the tendency to think about suicide, as can physical illness and external stressors like financial difficulties, relationship problems, or a history of trauma. Understanding and addressing these factors is essential in providing effective support.

Is suicidal ideation normal, and how prevalent is it?

While the idea of contemplating suicide may be unsettling, it is not uncommon.  According to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, over 12.3 million Americans contemplated suicide in 2021, which indicates that a significant portion of the population has experienced some form of suicidal ideation at some point in their lives. However, there is an important distinction between suicidal ideation and behavior. The majority of individuals who have had suicidal thoughts do not attempt suicide.

Who experiences suicidal ideation, and when is it most likely?

Suicidal ideation does not discriminate based on age, gender, or socio-economic status. It can affect anyone, regardless of their outward circumstances. However, certain populations, such as individuals with a history of mental health issues, substance abuse, or a family history of suicide, may be at a higher risk.

The timing of suicidal ideation can vary, but it often coincides with or follows periods of heightened stress, loss, or major life transitions. It can also be associated with feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and a lack of social support.

I have sometimes thought about suicide, what does it mean?

Experiencing occasional thoughts of suicide does not define you, and it certainly doesn’t mean you are destined to act on them. It is crucial to remind yourself that having these thoughts does not diminish your worth or strength. Rather, they highlight suffering and the need for professional intervention, support and self-care.

What should I do if I have thought about suicide?

If you have thoughts of suicide, it’s important to reach out for help as soon as possible. Consider talking to a mental health professional, a trusted friend, or a family member. If you already have a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, reach out to them. You are not alone, and there are people who care about your well-being. 

If you want or need immediate help, many crisis helplines and resources are available. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 simply dial 988. This hotline is available to anyone who is contemplating suicide or to anyone who is caring for a loved one who is struggling with suicide.  

Remember seeking support does not make you weak; it shows strength and courage in facing your struggles head-on.

When will these thoughts be over?

Suicidal ideation is not a permanent state; it can and often does pass. With appropriate intervention and professional support, you can learn to cope with these thoughts, address problems and develop resilience. The transient nature of suicidal thoughts underscores the importance of seeking help before and during difficult times.  

If your suicidal thoughts resolve or fade without professional support, finding a therapist is still a good idea. Counseling and therapy can help you process and develop ways to respond to suicidal ideation that may recur.

Suicidal ideation is a complex and challenging experience, but it is important to recognize that help is available. By fostering understanding, empathy, and open conversations, we can break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues and encourage individuals to seek the support they need. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, remember that reaching out for help is a sign of strength and the first step towards healing. You matter, and there is hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Angel Ziegler, LMFT
Intake Coordinator
Call: 847-568-1100
Email: Contact us

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If you are interested in learning about how psychotherapy can support healing from the impact of shame, internalized messages and beliefs, LifeWorks can help. Please reach out to Angel Ziegler, our Intake Coordinator, to schedule a brief, complimentary call – we can work together to find a therapist who will be a good fit for you.

Learn more about Getting Started in Therapy here.

2 thoughts on “Understanding Suicidal Ideation: Shedding Light on a Silent Struggle

  1. Psychologically/emotionally some part of my personality needs to die, so I can be ‘reborn’ into a new part of my life.
    Rarely, is getting rid of the body is useful. Working metaphorically with suicide thoughts/feelings can be very useful.

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