Help for Suicidal Thinking
Year in and year out, suicide ranks as one of America’s leading causes of death. In most cases, suicide attempts do not occur spontaneously. Instead, the affected person first experiences some form of suicidal thinking. This kind of thinking is also known as suicidal ideation.
Suicidal ideation is always a cause for immediate concern. If you know someone who is contemplating suicide, seek help as soon as you possibly can. Doctors can take a number of steps to treat suicidal thinking. There are also effective options for treating mental health conditions that increase the risk of suicide.
What Does Suicidal Ideation Mean
Suicidal ideation is a way to describe the presence of ideas or thoughts related to suicide. However, there is no single, agreed-upon definition for this term. By some standards, it only applies to specific thoughts of deadly self-harm. Other experts also include more general thoughts of death or dying under the heading of suicidal ideation.
Regardless of the exact definition in use, one thing is undisputed. Suicidal thinking is a clear warning sign of future danger and harm. Why is this true? Thoughts about suicide often mark the beginning of a chain of events. The middle stage in this chain is active suicidal planning. The end-stage is an actual suicide attempt.
Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation
What are the signs or symptoms of suicidal ideation? In other words, how can you tell if someone is contemplating suicide? Things you may notice in yourself or someone else include:
- Direct talk or thinking about attempting suicide or desiring to die
- Expression of the more general idea of lacking reasons to live
- Statements about feeling hopeless, trapped, or otherwise out of options
- Thoughts or expressions of regret about existing or having been born
- Recurring thoughts of death or dying
In addition, there are less obvious forms of thinking that may point to underlying ideas of suicide. Potential examples here include:
- Expressing a sense of extreme shame or guilt over something
- Plotting to take revenge on someone
Additional Warning Signs
You may also notice other warning signs that occur alongside suicidal thinking. Possible signs include:
- Participation in highly risky behavior
- Telling friends or loved ones goodbye for no apparent reason
- Pulling back from social contact
- Making a will
- Referring to yourself as a burden to other people
- Giving favored belongings away
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Passive Vs. Active Suicidal Thoughts
Suicidal thoughts are often not constant. Instead, they take a more intense form at certain times and a less intense form at others. These changes in the levels of suicidal ideation can be viewed in terms of passive versus active thinking. During less intense periods, your thoughts may be fairly passive. While you are still thinking about suicide, you may lack any clear intent to do anything more than that. In contrast, during periods of greater intensity, your thinking may become more active. At times like these, you may start planning suicide or even make a suicide attempt.
Forms of Dangerous Thought Patterns
But it is crucial to note that these are only generalizations. No person affected by suicidal thinking is exactly like someone else thinking about suicide. In this way, suicidal ideation is never typical in the strictest sense of the word. No one can say with certainty that a person thinking passively about suicide will not attempt to take their life. Conversely, no one can say for sure that a person thinking actively about suicide will make an attempt.
One reason for these inevitable realities is the varying nature of suicidal thinking. It is common for the intensity of suicidal ideation to vary from day to day. In addition, some people experience significant fluctuations over the course of a single day. Facts like these help explain why thoughts of suicide are always viewed as an immediate concern.
Severe Depression and Suicidal Ideation
Several mental illnesses are known for their ability to increase your chances of thinking about suicide. By far, the most common of these illnesses is major depression. By definition, all people with major depression are severely affected by their symptoms. These symptoms occur for no less than two weeks at a time. They also substantially interfere with aspects of your life such as your:
- Ability to meet your obligations at work, in school, or at home
- Sleep patterns
- Food intake
Depression can alter your normal patterns of thinking in a variety of ways. Its most common effects include:
- Ongoing feelings of sadness
- A sense of emptiness or hopelessness
- Problems thinking clearly or remembering things
- An unusually irritable mood
- Feelings such as helplessness or guilt
In combination, these changes and other effects of severe depression can lead to suicidal thinking. Not everyone affected by depression will start thinking about suicide. Still, the link is strong enough that depression is viewed by experts as a main suicide risk factor.
Other mental illnesses can also increase your risk. These illnesses include a less severe form of depression called dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder. They also include bipolar disorders. People affected by major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia account for more than half of all suicide fatalities in the U.S.
Suicidal Ideation Treatment and Treatment Methods for Major Depression
Doctors rely on two main treatment methods to help people with major depression. One method is the use of antidepressants. This umbrella term includes several different classes of medications, including:
- Atypical antidepressants
Medications in each of these classes work in their own characteristic ways. However, they have one thing in common: the potential to improve your control over your mood. While antidepressants can provide major benefits, their use comes with certain challenges. First, it can take time to find the right medication for you out of all the available options. And even when you find the right option, it can take up to a month before it has a notable effect.
Psychotherapy is the second main method used to treat major depression. Therapy of this kind seeks to change how you think, feel and act in everyday life. By making such changes, you can reduce the impact of most, if not all, depression symptoms. Specific therapy options used in depression treatment include:
- Interpersonal therapy, or IPT
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT
- Problem-solving therapy
Both medication and psychotherapy can play a role in suicidal ideation treatment. This is true whether the two options are used separately or together.
As a last resort, you may need electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, for depression and suicidal ideation treatment. This therapy helps stabilize your mood by passing a controlled electrical current through your brain. Doctors only consider ECT when psychotherapy and medication do not provide enough help.
Immediate Placement for Mental Health Treatment
Inpatient Treatment for Suicidal Ideation
Suicidal thinking may be a cause for inpatient mental health treatment. That is especially true if you are in what is known as a suicidal crisis. People in crisis are in immediate danger of attempting suicide or have already done so. In these circumstances, you may require treatment in a psychiatric hospital. The hospital setting will help keep you safe until the crisis passes. If you are not in crisis, you may qualify for a residential mental health treatment program.
Emergency Resources for Suicide Help
There are multiple resources available to help people at risk for suicide. If that risk is immediate, you have two possible options:
- Getting emergency assistance by calling 911
- Taking yourself or your loved one to the closest emergency room to your location
If you need help but are not in urgent danger, you can call a crisis hotline. In most parts of the country, there are hotlines operating at a local, regional, or state level. You can also take advantage of nationwide options. Perhaps the best known of these options is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Another resource available nationwide is the Crisis Text Line. Both of these hotlines operate day and night throughout the year.
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Seek Suicidal Ideation Treatment at Emerald Isle Health & Recovery
Suicidal thinking is a common precursor to actual suicide attempts. These thoughts typically vary in intensity. At times, they may seem more pressing, at others more passive. However, in all their forms, suicidal thoughts are a warning sign that must be heeded.
This is true, in part, because thoughts like these can fluctuate rapidly. Someone who seems at low risk for taking action may quickly transition into a high-risk state. Suicidal ideation often appears in people affected by mood disorders. Illnesses of this type include major depression, as well as dysthymia, and bipolar disorder.
At Emerald Isle, specialize in the treatment of mental illnesses that increase your suicide risks. Whether you are mildly, moderately, or severely affected, you will receive the same high standard of care. We also specialize in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. This is crucial because substance problems can also increase your chances of attempting suicide. With our help, you can map out an achievable plan for your recovery. Your options include both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. To learn more about how we can help, call us today.
- StatPearls: Suicidal Ideation
- National Institute of Mental Health: Frequently Asked Questions About Suicide
- Mayo Clinic: Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts – Symptoms & Causes
- National Institute of Mental Health: Depression
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Does Depression Increase the Risk for Suicide?