Suicidal Ideation: Identifying and Treating Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal ideation can feel incredibly scary, especially if you aren’t sure how to cope with these thoughts of suicide. In this article, we’ll discuss the warning signs of suicidal ideation and provide resources to help you reduce the risk of harm.

If you are struggling with suicidal ideation and feel that you might be a danger to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or dial 911 for urgent assistance.

Who Is At Risk for Suicidal Ideation?

suicidal thoughts

Millions of people experience symptoms of mental illnesses every year in the United States and across the globe. When mental illnesses go untreated or undiagnosed, the symptoms can become life-threatening.

Unfortunately, suicidal ideation is one of these common symptoms that comes alongside several mental illnesses. Suicidal ideation is also known as thoughts of suicide or contemplating ending your own life.

Suicidal ideation can present itself in mental illnesses such as:

Additionally, people who have experienced traumatic life events are also at a higher risk for experiencing suicidal ideation or even completing suicide. This is especially true when there is a family history of suicide attempts and mental illnesses.

The risk of suicide is incredibly dangerous for people who have suicidal ideation, mental illnesses, and/or a family history of suicide attempts. Currently, suicide is one of the top causes of death around the world. 

This is why it is important to know the warning signs and risk of suicidal ideation. With the right treatment and mental health awareness, we can work together to prevent suicide and reduce the risk of harm.

The Connection Between Substance Abuse and Suicidal Ideation

People who have mental illnesses and struggle with addiction are at an even higher risk for developing suicidal ideation. In fact, research shows that substance abuse and mental health conditions like depression are the most common diagnoses in people prior to them committing suicide.

This is because drugs and alcohol can increase the risk of impulsive behaviors and harmful thinking patterns. Certain drugs can cause you to make risky decisions that put your life in danger. Additionally, prescription drugs for major depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder sometimes come with mood-altering side effects.

Drinking and using drugs can worsen your suicidal ideation and even make you have stronger thoughts of committing suicide. Alcohol in particular can have a negative impact on mental health. Alcohol is a natural depressant, which means that it affects your mood and behaviors.

Even if you do not have a history of mental health struggles, drinking alcohol can increase the risk of suicidal ideation because of its affect on the body. Substance abuse is an urgent mental health issue because it adds fuel to the fire of suicidal ideation.

If you do struggle with substance abuse or if you notice that you have thoughts of suicide when you use alcohol or drugs, consider this to be a red flag for further mental health harm and seek help immediately.

Thoughts of Suicide: Learn The Warning Signs

suicidal ideation

Learning to recognize warning signs is one of the first steps in preventing suicide. There are many different warning signs that come with suicidal ideation that you might be able to detect in yourself or a loved one. According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the warning signs can be obvious or more subtle. But always take note if you notice the following warning signs:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of being worthless or a burden
  • Increased symptoms of mental illnesses
  • Substance abuse
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Drastic mood changes
  • Participating in impulsive or risky behaviors
  • Social isolation
  • Passive suicidal ideation 
  • Active suicidal ideation

Passive Suicidal Ideation vs. Active Suicidal Ideation

Thoughts of suicide can be passive or active. The main difference in passive suicidal ideation often comes down to intent. The warning signs of passive suicidal ideation might sound like:

  • “I wish I were dead.”
  • “I don’t want to live.”
  • “I feel hopeless.”
  • “I want to hurt myself.”

This is considered passive suicidal ideation because they are thoughts of suicide, but there is no active plan in place of completing suicide.

Active suicidal ideation typically involves a plan of committing suicide. Creating a plan for how you would commit suicide, writing a goodbye letter to friends and family, and telling somebody that you are going to commit suicide are all warning signs of active suicidal ideation.

Both passive and active suicidal ideation come with a risk to your well-being. Please seek help immediately if you have any of these warning signs or if you worry that you might be having suicidal thoughts.

Crisis Care Services Reduce the Risk of Suicidal Ideation

Mental health care is one of the most important elements in preventing suicide. And help for suicidal ideation can look different depending on your specific situation. 

However, most times, the first step to prevent suicide is to find the right therapies that work for you. This might mean individual counseling sessions, mental illness treatment, and/or working through substance abuse recovery.

Crisis care services are a powerful tool in suicide prevention. Crisis care services are emergency services meant to help people who are experiencing urgent mental health struggles, like having active suicidal ideation.

In these situations, trained mental health professionals work to deescalate a crisis situation. The goal is to help you or your loved one to feel calm and in control of your emotions once again. Learning to regulate emotional reactions will help you reduce the risk of harm to yourself or others.

Crisis care services are a key part of your mental health treatment program because your safety should always be the priority. Crisis intervention within your treatment program might include:

  • Joining a support group 
  • Individualized therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Addiction and mental health education
  • Medication evaluation
  • Having a discharge planning for you to continue your recovery well after you leave the program.

So many people struggle with suicidal ideation and simply need the right treatment to help them find the tools to recover. With the proper intervention from the crisis care team, you can learn lifelong skills to use when you are feeling high spikes of scary emotions or suicidal thoughts. 

Resources To Help You in a Crisis

At Port St. Lucie Hospital, we actively work to prevent suicide and suicidal ideation with our uniquely crafted mental health and addiction services. We offer the crisis care services mentioned above as well as one-on-one counseling, support group sessions, stress management skills, family education, recreational therapies, and so much more.

We know how challenging it can be to reach out for help, but we are here to support you in your recovery. Reach out to us by phone at (772) 238-7734 or through our confidential online form to share your story and find treatment today.

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