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Suicidal Ideation

What is Passive Suicidal Ideation?

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Over the years, suicide has become a far too common trend. But the idea of suicide covers a variety of different emotions and negative thoughts. Suicide ideation by definition means that a person may experience thoughts or desires to take their own life. There are two specific types of suicidal ideation – passive and active. Today we’ll be focusing on passive suicidal ideation and its effects. 

Passive suicidal ideation is when a person wishes they were dead (or that they could die) but do not have any active plans to commit suicide. On the other hand, active suicidal ideation is more severe – this means that a person is not only thinking about suicide but may be planning to do it as well. No matter how it’s put, suicidal thoughts can be extremely stressful and problematic in a person’s day-to-day life.  

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk with a qualified counselor. If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 9-11 immediately. Always recognize the signs and help your loved ones as much as you can. 

The Prevalence of Suicidal Ideation

The prevalence of suicide and suicidal ideation have continued to rise over the past few years. A 2017 national survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (or SAMHSA) found that 4.3% of adults (over 18 years old) had suicidal thoughts. For those who suffer from mental health disorders, this rate is significantly higher. 

As it stands, suicide is the United States’ 10th leading cause of death. It is also the 2nd leading cause of death among the 10 to 34-year-old age group. These numbers paint a problematic picture, one that will take much help to conquer. Once again, do not hesitate to reach out for help if you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide.

Symptoms of Passive Suicidal Ideation

There are several signs and red flags that indicate a person is thinking about suicide. It’s important to keep these in mind if you are concerned with a loved one. Common warning signs include:

  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Problematic use of medication
  • Intense mood swings (anger, aggression, rage, etc.)
  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Giving away their possessions
  • Severe feelings of anxiety
  • Telling people goodbye
  • Risky behavior (unprotected sex, risk-taking behavior)

One of the most useful things you can do for a loved one who is contemplating suicide is to ask them. This helps them know that you are concerned and truly care about them. Many believe that this might give them the idea to commit suicide, however, the opposite is true. 

Passive suicidal ideation should be taken just as seriously as active suicidal ideation. Passive suicidal ideation may start with wishing you would die in an accident or in your sleep but can quickly evolve into active suicidal ideation. Passive suicidal ideation has a blend of active suicidal ideation in it as well. As a loved one, make sure to check up on the person frequently and reach out for professional help if needed. 

Causes of Passive Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation can appear due to several different reasons. Many people may feel hopeless or get the feeling that they’ve lost control of their life. These negative thoughts can contribute to a person experiencing active or passive suicidal ideation. Other social aspects of a person’s life can take a toll on a person’s mind such as financial, relationship, school, work, or health problems. Additionally, mental disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and depression can all have a huge impact on a person’s thoughts of suicide. 

Common risks of active or passive suicidal ideation include the following:

  • Past attempts to commit suicide
  • Isolation, hopelessness, or loneliness
  • Being gay, lesbian, or transgender
  • Chronic pains 
  • Traumatic past (childhood or later one)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Past military service
  • Physical illness like cancer and diabetes or terminal diseases
  • Not being married

A person may feel the desire to commit suicide due to these reasons. Many aspects of a person’s life can be hard to control and can be hard to grasp. Whether it be mental illness or feelings of loneliness, a person may experience passive suicidal ideation as time goes on. It’s important to be supportive to your loved ones and yourself as well. Sometimes it can be hard to understand what someone is going through but if you have concerns, talk to him or her and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. 


Diagnosing a case of depression or anxiety can be a vital step in getting help. If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of depression or suicidal thoughts, getting help is vital. In these cases, a medical professional will assess you with a medical exam. Typically, these medical exams include the following questions:

  • How long have you had thoughts of suicide?
  • How often do you engage in problematic behavior?
  • Have you created a suicide plan?
  • What is your medical history in terms of depression and mental illness?
  • What kind of medications are you currently taking (if any)?

These questions can help your doctor determine what is the best course of action moving forward. Both active and passive suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously. It’s also important to identify any underlying mental disorders or illnesses that may be contributing to these feelings/thoughts. At Montare Behavioral Health, we offer many mental health programs with you in mind. If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts or is suffering from a mental illness, do not hesitate to get professional help. 

Treatment Options

If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts and no dangerous situations have occurred, then your doctor may suggest medication, psychotherapy, or lifestyle changes. Each of these aspects can enact positive change in a person’s life while combating the root of the issue. There are many problems and stresses we may face (minor or severe). Sometimes speaking with a qualified therapist can put things in perspective while motivating positive change. Let’s take a look at how therapy and lifestyle changes can help you/your loved one cope with these feelings.


Psychotherapy is an excellent tool for treating many different types of mental illnesses or passive suicidal ideation. There are many different types of psychotherapy that can be done alone or in a group setting. Psychotherapy allows you to work with a therapist while pinpointing your suicidal feelings and thoughts. This can help you or a loved one cope with these feelings and open up in the process. 

Family therapy is also another option. Involving your loved ones can be a great way to educate and inform your family about what you’re experiencing. It can also help them understand the warning signs of passive suicidal ideation while improving their family dynamics. Additionally, getting help for mental illness is also recommended (this has been proven to increase suicidal thoughts). 

Lifestyle Changes

As with many of life’s problems, sometimes making a few changes can make a huge difference for your mind and body. Learning how to manage stress, exercising, spending time on hobbies/interests, and eating healthy can all be ways to help with passive suicidal ideation. Sticking to a strict and deliberate schedule can help you see what’s important while staying occupied with positive activities. We encourage all our clients to explore their interests and try new things like art therapy or meditation

Medication Help

Specific medications have been proven to help with the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Since depression, anxiety, and other conditions may be the sole cause of passive suicidal ideation, it’s important to focus on the root of the issues. Certain medications can help cope with these symptoms while you continue your treatment. 

Other Ways to Cope with Active or Passive Suicidal Ideation

In the same vein as lifestyle changes, many activities can help you cope with passive suicidal ideation. Remember these tips whenever you are feeling down and remember that feelings are temporary, no matter how bad things may seem. Consider the following ways to cope with suicidal thoughts:

  • Look out for triggers (toxic or stressful relationships, feelings of despair)
  • Eat healthy while getting enough sleep
  • Surround yourself with positive influences and a solid group of support
  • Practice relaxation and positive thinking
  • Stay active and try new things (exercise, volunteer activities, new hobbies, etc.)

Start Your Journey at Montare Behavioral Health

Passive suicidal ideation can be a stressful and scary situation for you and your loved ones. However, life is worth fighting for. At Montare, we are dedicated to helping you and your loved ones overcome mental illness and other conditions. No matter what, we’re there by your side. If you are concerned that you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. For more information on our treatment options and mental health, resource contact us today.