Do you have a friend or family member who is having suicidal thoughts? There are many reasons why someone might be feeling these heavy emotions, but there are also many ways to help them in their time of need.
If you or someone you love is having suicidal ideation thoughts, then this guide will help you understand what it is, how to recognize it, and how to help.
Suicidal ideation is when a person feels that they can no longer handle the mental health challenges they are facing and consider ways to take their own life. Individuals reach a point where they feel that suicide is a “way out” or wrongly assume that they have no other way to overcome the mental or physical pain they are dealing with.
On average, about 48,180 people commit suicide every year in the United States. Along the same lines, approximately 12 million American adults seriously think about suicide, while nearly 3.5 million plan a suicide attempt.
These tragic statistics show the impact that suicidal ideation has on society and how important it is for friends, family, and loved ones to be prepared to support those who have these thoughts.
The concept of suicidal ideation is the desire or the consideration to end your own life. People who struggle with these thoughts tend to be so caught up in the emotions that they can negatively impact their daily lifestyle even more.
There are four types of suicidal ideation, which are considered either active or passive, including:
- Suicidal thoughts: Individuals will think about killing themselves and even ways they could do it. They’ll typically keep it to themselves but will sometimes entrust someone else with their feelings, without going as far as threatening to act on it.
- Suicide threat: Someone will have thoughts about taking their own life and will make verbal threats or suggestions that they plan to act on it. They may share these feelings either out of sadness and depression or anger.
- Suicide attempt: An action that shows intent to kill oneself, which doesn’t result in the death of the individual.
- Nonsuicidal self-harm: Though they don’t have thoughts of killing themselves, some may turn to forms of self-harm like cutting, scratching, or burning. In some cases, these actions may lead to suicidal thoughts later on.
There are a handful of signs and symptoms that could point to a person being suicidal with some being more obvious than others. A few of the most common signs of suicidal ideation include:
- Constant interest in death and frequently talking about it
- Putting themselves in life-threatening or dangerous situations
- Self-isolation or limited social life
- Joking or making light of killing themselves
- Recurring significant mood swings
- Giving away important belongings
- Preparing a will suddenly
- Sharing heartfelt, deeply sincere goodbyes with friends and family
When a person you love or care about is considering suicide, there are some important steps to follow that ensure they get the support they need.
If you know a youth who is having thoughts of suicidal ideation, the Jason Foundation is a great place to start. Any time a youth is struggling, they can call (800) 273-TALK (8255) or text “Jason” to 741741.
Most people who are thinking about committing suicide need someone to hear them and listen to what they have to say. Give them a safe space where they can express their feelings and share what is on their mind.
An overabundance of either anger or affection could embarrass someone who is having these intense feelings and make them feel awkward speaking with you about them. Prevent these reactions that could put distance between you, and remain calm and reserved during these conversations.
The more direct and matter of fact you can be about suicide, the better your chances of having a sincere and real conversation. Don’t avoid the topic as this may feel like their feelings are being pushed to the side.
A person who is having suicidal ideation thoughts doesn’t need to hear that what they’re feeling is right or wrong. Simply help them understand that it is okay to show their feelings and let them out.
Individuals who talk about suicide or have these thoughts will need people readily available to talk to when the emotions arise. Make sure that you or another loved one are there for them, even as a listening ear when needed.
It is important to get help from a professional when someone you know is contemplating suicide. Work with them to learn the most effective ways you can be there to help and guide your friend or family member through this difficult time.
A great resource you can always trust to provide help is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
Whenever a person thinks about suicide, there are a handful of options when it comes to getting them help. These include everything from psychotherapy and medications to family support and treating underlying conditions.
Here at Orange County Behavioral Health, we offer comprehensive Suicidal Ideation treatment, including assistance with other mental health conditions.