Understanding Suicide Ideation this World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day

In light of World Suicide Prevention Day, we want to talk about how each of us can break the stigma surrounding discussions on suicide through a deeper understanding of the different levels of suicidal ideation. 

Understanding different types/levels of suicidal ideation can be critical in adequately assessing and supporting someone in need. Not all suicidal thoughts are created equally, so practising individualised care is important. 

What are the different types of being suicidal?

Firstly, there are two kinds of ideation: passive and active. Passive suicidal ideation occurs when you wish you were dead or that you could die, but there are no plans to commit suicide. Active suicidal ideation, on the other hand, is not only thinking about it but actively intending to commit suicide, with plans on how to do it.

Both can occur as a symptom in people diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder or another mental illness. Still, it is also important to highlight that they can arise in people with no known mental illness.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2019, more than 700,000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths. 

With such a confronting statistic, we cannot, and must not, ignore the difficult conversations that must be had surrounding suicide. Particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic and the many risk facts for suicide, such as; job loss, financial stress and Covid Anxiety, still very much present. 

When do suicidal thoughts occur?

Often, these thoughts strike when people feel hopeless and out of control of their lives or like it has no meaning or purpose. These feelings can be triggered by a change in circumstance relating to relationship problems, trauma, substance use, a crisis of some sort, pressure at work, a physical health issue, or financial difficulties.

While passive suicidal ideation may feel less urgent than active, beware that it can quickly turn into a blend of active and passive components. 

Soothing internal pain at a young age can look like closing your eyes and disappearing. Thinking about no longer existing is sometimes used as an emotional reflex, a default thought that carries on into adulthood. Because it is not formally tracked, it could be far more common than most of us realise. Left unchecked, this temporary coping strategy can morph those seemingly innocuous thoughts into suicidal behaviour.

Very Well Mind outlines warning signs that you or a loved one are thinking about or contemplating suicide include.

Warning signs a person may consider suicide:

  • Isolating yourself from your loved ones
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Isolating yourself from your loved ones
  • Giving away possessions
  • An increase in substance use or misuse
  • Accessing the means to kill yourself, such as medication, drugs, or a firearm
  • Acting as if you’re saying goodbye to people


Suicidality exists on a spectrum and treating someone with a random intrusive thought with the same protocol as treating someone who is actively suicidal can be more harmful than helpful. Similarly, treating someone who is actively suicidal with the same protocol you’d treat someone with a random intrusive thought can be life-threatening.

This World Suicide Prevention Day, we want to encourage people not to downplay the severity of harmful thoughts or worry about the stigma they could face. Studies show that the main reason for people not seeking treatment is thinking their problems are not “serious enough to warrant professional help.” 

Help for suicide ideation is available

Suicidal ideation in any form shouldn’t be taken lightly, so if you or someone you know is experiencing it, know that you deserve support, and we are here for you. 

We are an experienced, BABCP-accredited organisation with trained CBT therapists who are ready to apply tried and tested techniques to stop suicidal thoughts in their tracks. 

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