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What is Suicidal Ideation?

suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation is considering, planning, or wanting to commit suicide. There are two types of suicidal ideation: Passive suicidal ideation is when you are considering the idea of suicide or wish you were dead. Active suicidal ideation is when you not only consider committing suicide, but you have intent or plans to carry it out.

When we talk about either type of suicidal ideation we are really talking about severe hopelessness. When people find themselves in this frame of mind, they don’t see a way for things to improve. The more you think and feel hopeless, the worse your thoughts get. It can be easy to enter a downward spiral if you don’t get help.

What To Do If You Or A Loved One Is Experiencing Suicidal Ideation

Your Loved One Is Experiencing Suicidal IdeationIf you are experiencing active suicidal ideation, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. It is important that you speak to someone immediately. Someone will speak with you and help you take the next steps to recovery.

Suicidal ideation is a common symptom of depression and hopelessness. In the U.S. around 2% of the population have experienced it in the past year. Hopelessness can have many different emotional sources. A good counselor will work with you to transform these feelings, one memory, thought, or situation at a time, breaking the cycle in a caring and gentle way.

Knowing When Treatment Is Necessary

When dealing with suicidal ideation, treatment is necessary. The hopelessness that suicidal thoughts come from is very hard to shake without help. It’s not as simple as thinking positive thoughts.

A counselor will work with you to identify triggers and trace them back to the emotional source of the problem. Hopelessness is often caused by a feeling powerless to change your situation. Part of the healing process is to learn that not everything can be changed. By letting go of trying to control the world we can begin to control our own response, and understand why things affect us deeply. Hopelessness is is usually accompanied by what psychologies call an external locus of control being fixated on the world and problems around us. These outside things are rarely controllable. By letting go of the need to control circumstances and people and becoming internally focused we can open ourselves to discovering and healing the internal root of our hopelessness.

Treatment Options For Suicidal Ideation

As with all mental health treatment, there are two options: Outpatient and Inpatient.

Outpatient treatment is a convenient treatment option that allows you to live at home and maintain your normal schedule with little change. It can include things like counseling, group therapy, and family sessions. Going to outpatient counseling is the least expensive and the least disruptive of your life. You probably don’t have to take off of work to go, and it just takes an hour out of your day.

Inpatient treatment is a more immersive treatment plan to deal with severe symptoms. You spend time at a treatment facility where you undergo counseling and therapy sessions, with mental health professionals providing 24 support. This is the most expensive, intensive, and immersive option. But it is often where people need to go to achieve results. When you are removed from your environment for a while you take away potential triggers, resulting in better long-term results.

Finding the Best Treatment Option for Your Needs

If you are dealing with passive suicidal ideation and don’t have any addictions or dependencies, outpatient treatment or individual counseling is likely your best option. Working with a counselor a couple of times a week will give you support and guidance without disrupting your life.

If you are experiencing active suicidal ideation, inpatient could be necessary for your safety. Inpatient programs provide a high level of support and care at all times. They also remove you from your environment, removing many triggers and distractions that can prevent you from achieving growth.

Finally, If you are also struggling with an addiction or dependency such as drugs, alcohol, or food, an addiction rehab program may be a great choice. Having co-occurring mental health issues and addiction is called dual-diagnosis and requires an intensive and integrated approach to treatment. A high-quality inpatient program will work with you to treat your addiction while working through the underlying emotional and mental health challenges that caused it.

What is Suicidal Ideation?

Joe Koelzer

Joe Koelzer is a co-founder and CEO of The Clearing. He has years of counseling experience and a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

After observing how depression and substance abuse impacted his wife Betsy’s life, Joe realized how broken our current system is for addiction and related mental health treatment.

He witnessed firsthand how an evidence-based approach coupled with Spiritual Psychology saved Betsy and enabled her to gain control of her life.

In co-founding The Clearing, Joe realized his dream of creating and sharing this innovative approach with others in a structured clinical setting.

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APA Reference
, . (2019). What is Suicidal Ideation?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Feb 2019
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