Suicidal Ideation Diagnosis and Treatment

Learn more about how J. Flowers Health Institute can help diagnose and treat suicidal ideation.

The information presented on this page is an overview of the average evaluation of suicidal ideation and is offered here as a resource. At J. Flowers Health Institute, we understand that is a deeply personal experience, so our evaluations and treatment plans are customized and tailored to each individual’s needs. We are here to provide truly comprehensive and holistic care to ensure that individuals get the support and care they need.

If you would like to learn more about J. Flowers Health Institute, please do not hesitate to reach out. We welcome any questions you have: 713.715.1618.
If you are experiencing dangerous suicidal thoughts, please dial 911 or 988 immediately. This link also provides multiple other resources that can provide support and information for those who need them. There is no shame in reaching out for help. 

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Comprehensive Care for Suicidal Ideation at J. Flowers Health Institute

At J. Flowers Health Institute, we understand the severe implications of suicidal ideation on a person’s life.

With the guidance of Dr. James S. Flowers and our team of mental health specialists, we provide robust support to recognize the warning signs of suicidal ideation and offer professional, compassionate treatment.

Our premier facilities are located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX, and our recently established, fully equipped facility in London, UK. Our mission is to create an atmosphere that encourages healing and individual progress.
Suicide Ideation

Discovering Hope with J. Flowers Health Institute

Suicidal ideation, while deeply personal and diverse in every person, needs an equally personal and specialized approach to treatment.

We use comprehensive assessments to identify the possible triggers and underlying causes of your suicidal thoughts, enabling us to formulate a personalized treatment plan.

Knowing the warning signs of suicidal ideation is crucial to getting the right help. Our team is committed to helping you understand these signs and guiding you in your journey toward recovery.

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What is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation, also known as suicidal thoughts, refers to the contemplation of ending one’s own life. It is not a condition in itself, but rather a symptom of other underlying issues, often related to mental health. These thoughts can range from fleeting considerations to detailed plans.

The severity of suicidal ideation can vary greatly from person to person, and it’s not always linked to an actual intent to commit suicide. But, it is a serious symptom that needs immediate attention and care.1

A Closer Look at Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal Ideation Scale

A Suicidal Ideation Scale is a tool used by professionals to assess the severity of suicidal thoughts.2

One commonly used scale is the Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation (BSSI). This is a 21-item self-report questionnaire designed to identify the presence and severity of specific attitudes, behaviors, and plans to commit suicide.

Each item on the scale is rated from 0 to 2, with higher scores indicating more severe suicidal ideation. The BSSI is not a diagnostic tool, but it provides valuable information for clinicians to understand the extent of your suicidal thoughts and to plan appropriate interventions.

Types of Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation can be categorized into two types: passive and active:

  1. Passive Suicidal Ideation: Passive suicidal ideation refers to thoughts about death or a desire to die but without any plans to act on these thoughts. For example, you might wish you wouldn’t wake up in the morning or have thoughts like “I’d be better off dead.”
  2. Active Suicidal Ideation: Active suicidal ideation, on the other hand, involves not just thoughts about dying but also planning or intending to end one’s life. This could involve thinking about methods to commit suicide or making plans to do so.

Both types of suicidal ideation are serious and warrant immediate attention. If you’re experiencing either type, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional or a trusted individual in your life.

How Common Is Suicidal Ideation?

According to the World Health Organization, more than 700,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.3

In the United States, suicide ranks as the tenth leading cause of death. Between 1999 and 2017, there was an alarming increase of nearly 33% in suicide rates. According to the CDC, around 10.6 million adults in the United States struggle with active suicidal thoughts.

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal ideation, it’s important that you reach out to a medical professional right away or call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.4 Know that our J. Flowers Health Institute team of compassionate experts is here to help.

Suicidal Thoughts vs. Suicidal Ideation

Causes and Risk Factors for Suicidal Ideation

Several different factors can put someone at risk of struggling with suicidal ideation. Being aware of these risk factors is important to help others find help when they need it.

Common Causes of Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation can be linked to multiple things, and therefore  usually isn’t one specific cause. Often, numerous factors make someone more susceptible to suicidal ideation.


Research has shown that suicidal behaviors can run in families, suggesting a genetic component. If a family member has died by suicide or has struggled with suicidal ideation, the risk for other family members can be higher.5

It’s important to remember that genetics is just one piece of the puzzle and doesn’t determine whether someone will experience suicidal ideation.

Physical Factors

Physical factors, particularly those related to mental health disorders, are significant contributors to suicidal ideation.

Conditions that can increase the risk of suicidal ideation include:

Certain medical conditions, including chronic pain or terminal illnesses, can also lead to thoughts of suicide. Substance use disorders, including alcohol and drug abuse, are another physical risk factor for suicidal ideation.

Environmental Factors

Environmental causes tend to be linked the most to suicidal ideation. These can include exposure to suicidal behaviors of others, such as family members, peers, or through media and news reports.
Other environmental risk factors can include:
  • Access to lethal means
  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • Prolonged stress
  • Isolation or a feeling of being cut off from other people

Suicidal Ideation Risk Factors

  • Previous attempts
  • Going through a difficult life event that causes stress
  • Feelings of isolation or hopelessness
  • An undiagnosed or underlying mental health disorder
  • Having access to a firearm while contemplating suicide
  • Family history of substance use disorders, mental health disorders, suicide, violence, or abuse
  • Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, especially if they live in a hostile environment


If you’re feeling unsupported in your home, work, or school environment, or if you lack a supportive social circle, it can be harder to cope with suicidal ideation.

Often, people may signal their distress in subtle ways, which can be missed if others around them are not prepared to ask difficult questions and provide support.

Signs and Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

You can look out for several warning signs that a person is struggling with suicidal ideation. It depends on the person and whether they’re struggling with active or passive ideation to determine the severity of the symptoms.

Some people might be very vocal, while others might keep to themselves more.

Behavioral Symptoms

The most common behavioral symptoms are odd changes in behavior. A person who is struggling with suicidal ideation might withdraw from others. But, they could also become very social, especially if they have already decided to attempt.

You might notice sudden changes in their routine, an uptake in their alcohol or drug consumption, or comments from the person about self-harm or suicide. Many times, these are very blatant.

A person might do something such as collect pills or buy a gun if they struggle with active suicidal ideation.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms can be harder to spot, as they can often be attributed to other health issues. But, some physical signs might include:
  • A sudden loss of energy
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches
  • A change in appetite and weight
In severe cases, a person might show signs of self-harm such as cutting or scarring.

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms refer to the way someone thinks. A person struggling with ideation might become more anxious or agitated. They may begin to feel trapped in their current circumstances or feel hopeless about an occurring situation.

Psychosocial Symptoms

Psychosocial symptoms involve changes in a person’s social behavior and emotions.

A person contemplating suicide may begin to give away their belongings or “get their ducks in a row,” such as randomly creating a will or taking out a life insurance policy. They also might say goodbye to people in a way that seems like they won’t ever see them again.6

Suicidal Ideation Diagnosis

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you should contact your doctor right away. Especially if you have a history of major depressive disorder, your doctor will have you take a suicidal ideation assessment.

Suicidal Ideation Assessment

Suicidal ideation assessment is often part of a comprehensive mental health evaluation. It involves a series of questions to gauge if you’re having thoughts about suicide, and if so, how often and how intensely these thoughts occur.

This could involve direct questions about whether you’ve been having thoughts about wanting to die or wishing you were dead. It might also probe for details like if you have a specific plan, or if you’ve been thinking about how you would carry it out.
The intent is to understand the depth and severity of these thoughts, not to make you uncomfortable.

Children and Teenagers

Understanding suicidal ideation in children and teenagers takes sensitivity. Like adults, they may also experience thoughts of suicide.

But, expressing these thoughts might be different for them. They may not always have the words to articulate their feelings or the understanding of what suicidal ideation actually means.


Children may show signs of suicidal ideation through changes in behavior, mood, or school performance.


Teenagers, much like adults, might talk about:
  • Wanting to die or kill themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
They could also talk about being a burden to others, show worrisome behavior changes, or display extreme mood swings.

If your child is struggling with depression or expressing desires to harm themselves, it’s best to seek professional help.7 At J. Flowers Health Institute, we have comprehensive diagnostic assessment and treatment programs geared toward the unique needs of struggling adolescents.

Suicide Ideation

Suicidal Ideation Treatment

Due to the profound seriousness of suicidal thoughts, physicians ensure they provide comprehensive assistance, frequently resulting in a collaborative treatment approach combining medication and therapy.

Psychotherapy Interventions for Suicidal Ideation

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is often the first line of treatment for suicidal ideation. This type of therapy is used to explore the root cause and understand why someone might be feeling suicidal.

It can also help:
  • Build coping skills
  • Manage triggers
  • Develop a safety plan

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps you understand your thought patterns. The goal is to change negative thinking that might lead to suicidal ideation. This kind of therapy can give you the tools to recognize when you’re beginning to have harmful thoughts.

For example, CBT might help you recognize that feelings of worthlessness are part of a pattern of thinking brought on by depression, and not a reflection of reality.

You’ll learn how to challenge these harmful thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic ones. This can reduce the frequency and intensity of suicidal ideation over time.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT was specifically developed to help people who engage in self-harm behaviors or have thoughts of suicide.
This therapy focuses on teaching you skills to:
  • Cope with stress
  • Manage your emotions
  • Improve your relationships with others

DBT often includes both individual therapy and group skills training, where you can practice new ways of interacting with others. This combination can be effective in reducing suicidal ideation by helping you better handle your emotions and interactions.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)

IPT is based on the idea that improving your relationships and social functioning can help reduce your symptoms of depression and, as a result, reduce thoughts of suicide.

IPT might involve working on:
  • Resolving conflicts with others
  • Improving social skills
  • Increasing social support
The focus on relationships can help you feel better understood and less alone, which can be an important part of reducing suicidal ideation.

Pharmacological Treatment for Suicidal Ideation

While there is no single medication specifically approved to treat suicidal ideation, some medications may help reduce your symptoms of depression or anxiety that can lead to suicidal thoughts.


Antidepressants are a category of medications designed to balance brain chemicals linked to mood.

When these chemicals are out of balance, feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or thoughts of suicide may surface. By helping to restore balance, antidepressants can reduce the intensity and frequency of suicidal ideation.

Antidepressants are often best used to complement other treatment opportunities for a more whole-person, holistic approach. This can include individual or family talk therapy, support groups, or even experiential treatment modalities such as yoga or meditation.

Other Medications

Other types include mood stabilizers, which are often used for bipolar disorder, and antipsychotic medications, used for conditions where thoughts are disconnected from reality.

It’s important to note that while these medications can be effective, they don’t work instantly. It often takes a few weeks before their full effects are felt.
In some cases, a person’s symptoms might initially get worse before they start to improve. Therefore, close monitoring by a healthcare provider is necessary during this period.
Suicide Ideation

Treatment Program at J. Flowers Health Institute

Suicidal ideation can be incredibly overwhelming and isolating. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, remember that help is available and recovery is possible.

At J. Flowers Health Institute, our team of world-class experts provides a supportive environment to identify, understand, and treat suicidal ideation.

Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation

We use our “Living MRI” to understand your condition fully. This involves a thorough review of your medical history, as well as psychiatric and psychological evaluations.

Personalized Treatment Plan

Based on the comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, we design an individualized treatment plan to address your specific needs. This includes medical, psychiatric, and therapeutic strategies to guide you toward wellness.

Ongoing Support

Our commitment to your well-being does not end when you leave our facility. Our alumni support system ensures that you continue to receive assistance and guidance in the days, weeks, and months following your time with us.

A Holistic Approach to Treatment

At J. Flowers Health Institute, we believe in a holistic approach to treatment, addressing the mind, body, and spirit. We work to not only manage the symptoms but to find and treat the root cause, providing you with the tools and strategies you need to live a happier, healthier life.

Contact J. Flowers Health Institute Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to reach out to J. Flowers Health Institute today. Our dedicated team is ready to provide compassionate care and professional help when you need it the most.