It’s estimated that suicide kills more people than homicide in the US, claiming over 45,000 lives every year. Though the rate of suicide has been slowly climbing since the late 1900s, it is still a relatively taboo topic and one that we need to be more open about discussing.
One of the first steps to suicide prevention is understanding the warning signs – the most common of which is suicidal ideation.
What is Suicidal Ideation?
Suicidal ideation can be defined as thinking about, considering, or making plans to end one’s life. It’s a common symptom of mental illness or excessive stress and can range from having suicidal thoughts to making detailed plans. There are two forms of suicidal ideation: active and passive.
And although both active and passive suicidal ideations are extremely distressing and warrant immediate medical intervention, active suicidal ideation is considered to be a more immediate threat. Below we’re going to explore the differences between active and passive suicidal ideations.
Passive Suicidal Ideation
Passive suicidal ideation refers to when an individual has vague thoughts about suicide but no specific plan or intention to commit suicide. While passive suicidal ideation is not as immediately dangerous as active suicidal ideation, it should still be taken seriously as it can escalate over time.
If you or someone you know is experiencing passive suicidal ideation, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional so that these thoughts can be addressed before they become more severe.
Active Suicidal Ideation
Active suicidal ideation refers to when an individual has persistent intrusive thoughts about suicide or a deep fascination with death, a plan on how they will commit suicide, and an immediate intention to follow through with their plans. This plan may be well thought out, or it may be impulsively decided upon in the heat of the moment.
People with active suicidal ideation typically have the means to carry out their plan, and they may have even attempted suicide before. If you or someone you know is experiencing active suicidal ideation, it is crucial to get help immediately as this is considered to be a medical emergency.
Signs of Suicidal Ideation
There are some visible warning signs that may indicate someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts or considering suicide. These include:
- Expressing feelings of being a stumbling block or burden to others
- Giving away prized possessions or writing a will
- Saying goodbye to close friends and family
- Obsession with death or dying
- Engaging in risky behaviors without regard for personal safety
- Saying things like “I wish I were dead”
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
- Sudden changes in mood or behavior
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
- Expressing anger, rage, or seeking revenge
- Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
- Abnormal mood swings
- Talking about wanting to die or hurt oneself
- Acquiring the means to commit suicide
What Should You Do If You Notice These Warning Signs?
If you notice any of the above warning signs in yourself or someone close to you, it’s imperative that you get help right away. If you are in immediate danger, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or 911 for immediate assistance. If you’re not in immediate danger, it’s still advisable to seek professional help and prevent the situation from escalating.
Both active and passive suicidal ideations are symptoms of severe emotional and psychological distress that should never be ignored. If you or someone you know is experiencing any form of suicidal thoughts, it’s vital to seek professional help immediately. With proper treatment, you can overcome these distressing thoughts and lead a happy and fulfilling life.