Loading icon
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.
Health Information Center

Suicidal Ideation—Adult

Authors:
  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition

Suicidal Ideation—Adult

(Suicidal Thinking)

Definition

Suicidal ideation is thinking about or planning to commit suicide.

Causes

The causes of suicidal ideation are not the same for each person. A person may be having problems coping with stress. They may also feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Or they may have a substance use or mental health problem.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of suicidal ideation are mental health problems, such as:

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Access to items that could be used for self-harm, such as guns
  • Lack of support
  • Poor coping skills
  • A stressful life event, such as job loss
  • Past suicide attempts
  • Past trauma
  • History of acting without thinking or of being violent
  • Family members or friends who have died by suicide
The Brain.

http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=69826982brain_man_sketch.jpgBrain Man FaceNULLjpgBrain Man FaceNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\brain_man_sketch.jpgNULL112NULL2008-02-264003006982_917221Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Symptoms

A person having suicidal ideation may:

  • Talk about wanting to die or kill themselves
  • Talk about feelings of despair
  • Prepare for death, such as giving away items
  • Pull away from family and friends

Other problems may be:

  • Mood swings
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of interest in daily activities, such as work and hobbies
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Changes in the way a person looks, such as not brushing their hair or teeth
  • Using more alcohol or drugs
  • Acting worried or restless, or making choices quickly
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in pain

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past mental and physical health. The doctor may also ask the family questions. A mental health exam may be done to look for any other issues.

Treatment

Treatment for suicidal ideation is needed right away. Call or text 988 for the US National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for a free counselor for support. A person who is a Veteran should call 988 and then press "1".

A person may need to stay in a care center. Individual, family, or group therapy may help manage unhelpful thinking.

The goals of treatment are to:

  • Care for any mental, physical, and substance use disorders
  • Teach family and friends how to offer support
  • Learn how to better solve problems and resolve conflict

Prevention

To lower the risk of suicidal ideation:

  • Follow care plans for mental or physical health problems.
  • Get treated for any substance or alcohol use disorder.
  • Talk about problems with family members, friends, or a therapist.
RESOURCES:

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

References

  • Klonsky ED, Qiu T, et al. Recent advances in differentiating suicide attempters from suicide ideators. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2017;30(1):15-20 .
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/major-depressive-disorder-mdd.
  • Risk of suicide. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Available at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Suicide.
  • Suicidal ideation and behavior. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/suicidal-ideation-and-behavior.
  • Warning signs of suicide. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education site. Available at: https://save.org/about-suicide/warning-signs-risk-factors-protective-factors.
  • We can all prevent suicide. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. Available at: https://988lifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide.

Contributors

  • Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated:
2022-09-01

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.