What is it, why does it happen and what signs should I watch out for? We share everything you need to know about passive suicidal ideation

Passive suicidal ideation is something many of us experience, but few of us take it seriously. You may have thought, “I would like to fall asleep and not wake up,” or “I would like to die so I would not have to deal with this.” These are examples of passive suicidal ideation and, although they are not active plans, and often focus on the ways in which one can die instead of actively causing one’s own death (you can focus on thoughts of death through an accident or natural causes, rather than suicide), these thoughts can be not only disturbing, but can lead to involvement in more dangerous behaviors without realizing it.

We explain more about different types of suicidal ideation, warning signs to take care of and how to find help.

What is the difference between passive and active suicidal ideation?

Having suicidal thoughts is a spectrum. For some people, these thoughts may be active: they think about suicide and may have developed a plan for what they will do. They want to die. For others, it may be passive: they wish they were dead or could die but have no plans.

Suicidal ideation may be a symptom of other mental health issues. It can be a symptom of severe depression or manic depression for those with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

No suicidal ideation should be rejected. You are still at risk of harm if you have passive suicidal thoughts. Target and motivation can change quickly, which means you may not feel in danger right now, but that may change before you realize it or have time to seek help. Studies have suggested that if you experience high levels of depression and suicide, thoughts of passive and active ideation have the potential to become more severe and dangerous.

How many people experience passive suicidal ideation?

Passive suicidal thoughts are more common than most of us realize. Worldwide, about 9% of us will experience suicidal ideation at some point in our lives. Within the last 12 months, it stands at around 2%. An American study found that about 4% of adults aged 18 and over have thought about suicide, with those aged 18 to 25 most likely having such thoughts.

Since 2020, around 10 in every 100,000 deaths have contributed to suicide in England. For men, this rate was much higher (15.3 per 100,000) compared to women (4.9 per 100,000). Men aged 45-49 have the highest suicide rate (23.8 per 100,000). Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that one in every 100 deaths is the result of suicide.

Are some people more at risk than others?

While men are three times more likely to commit suicide, research suggests that women show higher rates of suicidal ideation, non-fatal suicidal behavior, and suicide attempts.

You may be at higher risk for suicidal ideation if:

  • You have a personal history of ill mental health (especially depression, bipolar disorder or other mood-based disorders).
  • There is a family history of mental illness (thoughts or suicide attempts, depression).
  • You have experienced substance abuse.
  • You have a history of abuse or have experienced significant trauma.
  • You exhibit impulsive behavior or increased aggression
  • Have a physical illness.
  • You have experienced a great loss (the death of a close friend or family member).
  • You have limited access to health care or a support network.

Can I commit suicide and not understand it?

Sometimes people may struggle to recognize the warning signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviors in themselves or others. Signs that people often overlook can include:

  • Feelings of being empty, hopeless or feeling like you have no way out of your problems.
  • Strong feelings of guilt or shame.
  • The feeling that others would be better off without you.
  • Becoming withdrawn or socially isolated.
  • Unexplained changes in the way you sleep (e.g. struggling to get out of bed, sleeping more, sleeping less, staying awake all night, then struggling to cope the next day).
  • Emotionally distancing oneself from others (e.g., seem indifferent when faced with emotional situations such as the loss of an animal, or when receiving particularly good or bad news).

Experiencing suicidal thoughts can be a scary and confusing time. If you are concerned about your immediate safety, go to the nearest A&E department, call 999 if you can not go to the hospital, or ask someone to call 999 or take you to the hospital.

If you just want to talk to someone or feel like A&E is not an option, you can call the Samaritans at 116 123 and someone will be there to listen without judging, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

To learn more about the signs and symptoms of suicidal thoughts, how they can make you feel and how you can access helpVisit Directorate of Counseling.

Can the idea of ​​passive suicide be turned into active suicidal ideation?

There is currently no specific research on how quickly or often the passive suicidal ideation can become active. While it may be easy to dismiss these thoughts as not so serious as to actively think or plan suicide, research has shown that these thoughts can quickly become more serious and dangerous.

Experiencing physical illness, a significant decline in your mental health, or an unpredictable event (job loss, a particularly bad day, quarreling with a loved one) can trigger your thoughts to become active.

Should passive suicidal thoughts be treated?

It is recommended to seek help and advice. Talking to your GP can be the first step towards getting a full evaluation and diagnosis. This can help you access the right kind of help and support, better understand what may have made you feel this way, and find new ways to deal with those feelings and address them. any cause that may have made you feel this way.

Experiencing any level of desire to die can make you act unconsciously in a way that may be more dangerous to your health and well-being. Even when passive suicidal thoughts remain passive, they suggest a level of dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction in your life and risk negatively affecting your overall well-being and quality of life.

Seeking help is the first step to overcoming these thoughts and feelings. You do not have to live with these thoughts.

How do you overcome passive suicidal ideation?

There are a number of different options that can be recommended, depending on your individual circumstances, symptoms and services available in your local area.

Talk to your GP

Talking to your GP is often the first step towards getting a referral for specialized mental health services in your area, as well as talking about any treatment options that may be worth considering. They can highlight any local support group you can use.


For some people who experience low mood or other symptoms, your GP or mental health professional may suggest medication. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed to help reduce the symptoms while you are working on the underlying causes that are causing your thoughts on therapy.

Consider speech therapy

Counseling (therapy) is often highly recommended, as it can help you identify the underlying issues that may be causing you to feel, help you better understand your thoughts and feelings, and introduce you to ways to new to manage your thoughts. in a more productive or beneficial way.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) therapy in particular can be helpful for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, as it uses acceptance and change techniques that can help you better understand why you feel this way and what you can do to help. yourself. Other types of therapy may be suggested, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Peer support

Conversing with others who have had similar experiences can be a great help. Getting support networks online may be the easiest way to do this, or there may be support groups in your area.

Create a security plan

It is typically suggested when you have active suicidal thoughts, it may be helpful to have one just in case. A safety plan can include listing any warning signs you or others may see, writing down coping strategies that may help, and listing contact details for those you want to contact in an emergency. Ensuring that you know the steps you need to take to keep yourself confident can help you feel more prepared if your thoughts take a disturbing turn.

Talk to your loved ones

Talking to your friends and family can help you better understand how you feel as well as let them know that you are struggling. If you are worried that your thoughts or feelings may have caused you to be attracted to others, this can be a helpful way to get back to them.

Practice taking care of yourself

Taking care of yourself is not a solution, but it can help you create a healthy and balanced structure in your life that promotes your well-being. Having a sleep schedule can promote good sleep hygiene while ensuring you get the seven to nine recommended hours needed to avoid the negative impact on your mental health. Regular, nutritious and balanced meals can have a huge impact on your mood and energy levels, and can even affect how resilient you are to stress. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression and low mood while boosting your self-esteem.

What can I do if a loved one is experiencing passive suicidal ideation?

If you are worried about someone you love, one of the most important things you can do is listen to them. Listen to what they have to say without judging accidentally or minimizing how they feel, ask questions and make sure they know you are there to offer support.

Do not promise to keep their suicidal ideation a secret. Doing so can not only damage their trust in others if you have to speak up and ask for help on their behalf in an emergency, but it can also make you hesitate.

Encourage them to ask for help, but avoid pushing them until they are ready. Offer to help drive them or go with them if they feel anxious to go alone.

If you are concerned about their immediate safety, call 999 or send it directly to A&E.

If you are struggling with your mental health, visit the Counseling Directory for more information or talk to a qualified counselor.

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