What Is Suicidal Ideation?

A Look at Dangerous Thought Patterns

Tom Merton / OJO Images / Getty Images

Strictly speaking, suicidal ideation means wanting to take your own life or thinking about suicide without actually making plans to commit suicide. However, the term suicidal ideation is often used more generally to refer to having the intent to commit suicide, including planning how it will be done. Suicidal ideation is one of the symptoms of both major depression and bipolar depression.

Prevalence and Factors for Suicidal Ideation

The prevalence of suicidal ideation is low for the general population, about 9%, however, for those with mental disorders, but the rate is significantly higher. Over 77% of those recently studied by researchers at Helsinki University's Psychiatric Consortium found their sample of 287 subjects diagnosed with the depressive or bipolar disorder had suicidal thoughts. Factors associated with suicidal ideation included  hopelessness and childhood physical abuse in addition to their diagnoses. A cross-national study of over 84,000 people found those with suicidal ideation moved toward plans and attempts within the first year of suicidal ideation onset.

5 Tips to Reduce Suicidal Ideation

According to the FDA, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds. Twenty percent of all suicides are among this age group. Here are some tips to help reduce suicidal thoughts and get the help you need to get back on track.  

  • Whether it's you or a loved one, help look for triggers, circumstances, or that lead to feelings of despair such as a death or a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships.
  • Put yourself first. In addition to eating healthy meals regularly, never skipping meals, get plenty of rest and relaxation to stave off stress and help your body recuperate from days' past. Exercise is also important for relieving stress and improving your emotional well-being.
  • Build a community of support. Make the time to be around people with positive influences on your life and those who make you feel good about yourself. Also, don't forget to give back to your community. Giving can be a great way to gain the meaningfulness of life through helping others.
  • Just as old habits have to die to let go of suicidal ideation, new ideas must take their place to stick. Develop your personal and professional interests. Find fun things to do, volunteer activities, or work that gives you a sense of purpose. When you’re doing things you find fulfilling, you’ll feel better about yourself and feelings of despair are less likely to return.
  • Find personal ways to relieve stress levels. In addition to exercising, meditating, using sensory strategies to relax, practicing simple breathing exercises, and challenging self-defeating thoughts can all help us overcome suicidal thoughts.

A Word From Verywell

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to talk to your or a loved one who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or preoccupation with their own death. Though it may be difficult studies show that those who are able to talk to someone regularly, particularly face-to-face such as a close friend or counselor is less likely to attempt suicide. 

Was this page helpful?