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What is Suicidal Ideation?

February 18, 2020

If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, it must be taken seriously. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately.

The current generation is more willing than any before to take on and talk about taboo subjects, going as far as making jokes or sarcastic expressions out of certain subjects. It’s not unlikely to have heard or even joked yourself, about wanting to end it all over a mundane annoyance or casually refer to suicide as an option to deal with everything from a lack of sleep to a stack of unpaid bills. For some joking about difficult subjects takes the fear out of them. The joking or causal use of phrases like “I want to die” aren’t meant to take away from the seriousness of the subject matter, however, they can make a cry for help harder to recognize or hear. When does it stray from a joke to ease suffering into actual suicidal ideation and what exactly does that phrase even mean?

Suicidal ideation is an all-encompassing term that means thoughts of suicide. These thoughts can range from a simple passive thought to more detailed plans around the act. Ideation is not the same as a suicidal act, but it doesn’t have the potential to go from a thought to an action and should be taken seriously if you are a loved one is experiencing it. Intervention at the ideation stage may help keep someone from taking their own life.

Taking it Seriously

Perhaps you or those around you are comfortable joking about suicide, but it’s important that if you have these thoughts or someone confides in you about having them that they always are taken seriously. Some see discussing suicide openly as a cry for attention when it is more often a cry for help, an expression of fear and powerlessness. On average, 17% of adolescents have had suicidal thoughts at least once in the past year. If someone is talking about suicidal thoughts it should be considered real and action should be taken. If needed reach out to someone, like a parent or teacher, who may be able to step in and help, being brave enough to speak up could save a life.

Why it Happens

Suicidal ideation is sometimes the result of depression, bipolar or another mental disorder, or as a response to traumatic life events such as loss or harm. It’s important to remember though that anyone can suffer from suicidal thoughts. In cases of depression and other mental health disorders, proper treatment can often aid in prevention. Therapy and medication assist in symptom reduction for many who struggle with mental health. Sometimes as people begin to feel better emotionally they become relaxed or ambivalent towards these treatments and fall back into unhealthy thought patterns. If you know that someone has stopped taking mental health medication and is experiencing suicidal ideation as a result let someone know right away.

It is possible to experience these same struggles even without a mental health disorder diagnosis, in some it may be harder to see signs of suicidal ideation but there are thing you can look for such as extreme changes in emotions, withdrawal, changes in sleep or eating, among others that may be recognizable. If someone has any of these symptoms and they mention suicide, even casually, seek help for them right away.

There are many contributing factors to mental health, our chemical makeup, our environment, our response to treatment. So there is no real timeline for suicidal ideas to develop or become an issue. Some thoughts have a sudden onset and for others, it’s a gradual process, regardless of the timeline or reasons why what is important to remember is that when we have these thoughts or others share them with us we should reach out for help.

What to Do with Suicidal Ideation

Due to the possible grave outcome of suicidal ideation there is no other option: you need help now. If a friend confides in you that they are thinking of taking their life, you need to tell an adult who can help them immediately. This is a situation where the old adage “you’re better safe than sorry” comes to mind, it is better to react quickly than leave the possibility of harm.

Treatment options are improving all the time. First responders and emergency room personnel can assess your risk and link you up to proper medical care from specialists. If you are unsure what to do, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. They have been there, they care about you, and they know how to help you get help.

Why Suicidal Ideation is So Dangerous

Suicidal ideation can last for hours, days, or months before you may act on your thoughts. Every second that you sit with thoughts of suicide is risking your life. Once you have introduced the concept of suicide to your brain, it opens to opportunity for thinking to go from self-preservation to self-destruction. What may have started as a passing thought in reaction to a life event could turn into obsessive thoughts that lead to actual plans of suicide. Ideation and your awareness of it could be a turning point to save your or someone else’s life.

Suicide is the third highest cause of death amongst 12-19 year-olds in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC.) and those figures are on the rise. One of the best things you can do to change those stats is to reach out for help if you have any suicidal thoughts. You can also help others find help if they talk to you about suicidal ideation. Reach out for help before you reach that point and be an advocate for those around you. Getting help for suicidal ideation is literally a matter of life or death.

Learn how to manage depression and avoid suicidal ideation by calling Potomac Programs 1-855-809-0409 today. You can become an advocate for life – yours and others.

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