Suicide ideation

Suicide Ideation Diagnosis and Treatment

Suicide ideation is when a person fantasizes or thinks about self-harm or taking their own life.

Table of Contents

What is Suicide Ideation?

Suicide ideation is the term used when a person has thoughts about killing themselves. Although a person doesn’t always act on suicidal ideation, it should be taken very seriously. Often, a person might dream about dying either at their hands or due to other circumstances, or they might fantasize about different plans to take their own life.1

Suicide Ideation Scale

There are multiple suicide ideation scales that doctors might use. Sometimes, they might use one or more depending on the person.2 Many times, doctors will use the Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (BSS). The BSS has 21 different items, and it can be an excellent steppingstone for psychologists to help an individual struggling with suicide ideation. In the end, there isn’t one main scale that is used universally, but they ultimately show how at-risk a person is at being a victim of suicide.

How Common Is Suicide Ideation?

Suicide has increased by nearly 33% between 1999 and 2017. It’s currently the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. According to the CDC, around 10.6 million adults in the United States struggle with active suicide ideation. It’s common, and people struggle with it every day. If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal ideation, reach out to a medical professional right away or call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.3

Types of Suicidal Ideation

The types of suicidal ideation are broken into two main categories: active and passive. Active suicidal ideation is when a person thinks about taking their life and makes plans. Passive suicide ideation occurs when a person desires to die but doesn’t make any plans.
Moreover, it can be broken into several different behaviors. Suicide attempts are when a person tries to kill themselves but doesn’t die. A person could also purposely self-harm without intending to kill themselves. In addition, they might verbalize their plans to commit suicide, which is known as suicidal threats. Finally, a person can struggle with suicidal thoughts.

Causes and Risk Factors of Suicide Ideation

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

Common Causes of Suicide Ideation

There are several different causes of suicide ideation. It can be linked to multiple things, and there usually isn’t a specific thing that for sure causes it. Typically, numerous factors make someone more susceptible to suicidal ideation.

Genetics

For example, some research suggests that suicide might be genetic. People that struggle with suicide ideation are more likely to have other family members that have struggled with it, too.4

Physical

There can be physical causes as well. If a person struggles with an injury, physical pain, or an illness, they may become more susceptible to mental health disorders and suicidal ideation.4

Environmental

Finally, environmental causes tend to be linked the most to suicidal ideation. A person is more at risk if they struggle with a crisis that doesn’t seem to have a way out. Moreover, a person struggling to cope with trauma or stress is more at risk of attempting suicide.4

Suicide Ideation Risk Factors

There are multiple risk factors when it comes to suicide ideation. Have an open dialogue about suicide if you or someone you know is struggling with these:4
  • Previous attempt
  • Going through a difficult life event that causes stress
  • Feelings of isolation or hopelessness
  • An undiagnosed or underlying mental health disorder
  • A person has 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

Complications

If a person doesn’t feel supported at home, work, or school, or they don’t have a friend group, it might be tougher to identify if they’re struggling with suicidal ideation. Usually, a person will cry out for help in non-obvious ways. If a person isn’t willing to ask tough questions, it could be tragic.

Signs and Symptoms of Suicide Ideation

You can look out for several warning signs that a person is struggling with suicide 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 that is struggling with suicide ideation might withdraw from others. However, 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. Finally, a person might do something such as collect pills or buy a gun if they struggle with active suicide ideation.4

Physical Symptoms

You might notice a person struggling with suicide ideation might have marks on their body from self-harm activities. They could change their eating habits. Suicide ideation could also lead to a change in sleep patterns. Finally, a person might do risky things that could harm themselves physically.4

Cognitive Symptoms

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. A person struggling with suicide ideation might also present symptoms of an underlying mental health disorder.4

Psychosocial Symptoms

Finally, 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.5 You might notice that they struggle with mood swings, and their conversation might be filled with references to dying.

Suicide Ideation Diagnosis

If you’re 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 suicide ideation assessment.

Suicide Ideation Assessment

This assessment will most likely be a 5 to 10-minute questionnaire that you can fill out. It will ask you questions about your history with mental health disorders, the amount of time you’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts, your history of substance use, and if you’re taking medication. Your doctor will work with you to create a course of action that is well-suited for you.

Children and Teenagers

Usually, children will only express desires of suicide if they have heard someone else say it at home or are severely struggling with emotional turmoil in their lives. With teenagers and children, it’s important to ask questions and communicate clearly with them. If your child is struggling with depression or expressing desires to harm themselves, it’s best to seek professional help from a doctor.6

Suicide Ideation Treatment

Due to the severe nature of suicide ideation, doctors make sure to help in any way possible. Usually, this leads to a joint program that uses both medication and therapy.
Suicide ideation

Medications

Normally, a doctor will begin a person on anti-depressants right away. They might use antipsychotic or anti-anxiety medications to better match the underlying mental health disorder. Doctors will work with the person to find a combination that works best for them.

Therapies

In addition, people will begin to use different forms of therapy. Typically, people will use psychotherapy to discover why they have these intrusive thoughts. If a person has family, they might also go through family sessions to create a better environment at home.

Treatment Program at J. Flowers Health Institute

At J. Flowers Health Institute, they’ll do a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation program to identify any underlying conditions leading to suicide ideation. Then, they’ll use several different methods suited to your specific situation. If you or a loved one are struggling with suicide ideation, reach out to J. Flowers Health Institute today!