What Is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation refers to thoughts about taking one’s own life or suicidal behaviours. It is a common symptom experienced by individuals who are struggling with mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 800,000 people die by suicide each year, making it a significant public health concern globally.

Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation manifests differently in individuals, and symptoms vary from person to person. However, some of the common symptoms include:

  • Weakened sense of self-worth or self-esteem
  • Experiencing feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from social activities or relationships
  • Expressing thoughts about death or dying
  • Increased substance use, such as drugs or alcohol
  • Securing means to take one’s own life, such as acquiring a gun or drugs

It is essential to note that experiencing suicidal ideation does not necessarily mean that an individual will attempt or complete suicide. However, it can be challenging to predict who may act on suicidal thoughts.

Causes of Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation can stem from various factors, including mental health issues, traumatic experiences, or physical health problems, among others.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder, are among the leading causes of suicidal ideation. These issues can lead to intense feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or despair, which can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviours.

Traumatic Experiences

Traumatic experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, or a life-changing event, can also lead to suicidal ideation. Individuals who have experienced trauma may struggle with feelings of overwhelming emotions, and it may feel like the only way out is to end their lives.

Physical Health Problems

Physical health problems can lead to suicidal ideation, especially if they are chronic or significantly affect a person’s quality of life. For example, chronic pain or a terminal illness may lead an individual to contemplate taking their life.

Preventing Suicidal Ideation

Preventing suicidal ideation involves early detection of the symptoms and prompt intervention. Below are some strategies that can help prevent suicidal ideation:

Seek Professional Help

Individuals who experience suicidal ideation or other mental health issues should seek professional help. Mental health professionals can provide appropriate treatments such as medication, therapy, or other evidence-based interventions that can reduce suicidal thoughts or behaviours.

Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, meditation, or journaling, can help individuals manage overwhelming emotions effectively. Finding ways to reduce stress can go a long way in helping individuals prevent suicidal ideation.

Communicate with Loved Ones

Having a supportive network of family and friends can provide a critical lifeline for individuals experiencing suicidal ideation. It is important to have open communication and discuss any concerns, struggles, or challenges that may arise.

Limit Access to Means

Limiting access to lethal means, such as firearms or dangerous drugs, can prevent impulsive suicide attempts. Locking up medications, firearms or other means that can be harmful can significantly reduce the risk of suicide.


Suicidal ideation is a significant public health concern requiring prompt intervention. Early detection of symptoms and addressing the underlying factors can prevent suicide attempts and ultimately save lives. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal ideation or struggling with mental health issues, please seek professional help immediately. Remember, there is always hope, and someone is always willing to help.


What is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation refers to having thoughts about taking one’s own life, ranging from thinking about suicide to making plans to carry out the act.

What Are Some Warning Signs of Suicidal Ideation?

People who experience suicidal ideation may exhibit a range of behavioral, emotional, and cognitive signs, including isolation, hopelessness, self-harm, substance abuse, and talking about death or suicide.

What Should I Do If Someone I Know is Experiencing Suicidal Ideation?

If you believe someone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation, it’s important to take action by talking to them openly and honestly about your concerns. Encourage them to seek professional help from a doctor, mental health professional, or crisis helpline. If you believe they are at immediate risk of harm, don’t hesitate to call emergency services or take them to the nearest hospital emergency department.


1. Yang, M., Kleinman, M., & Lin, S. (2020). Suicidal ideation and its correlates among university students in China. Journal of American College Health, 68(2), 195-202. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2019.1642130

2. Lipari, R. N. (2017). Suicidal thoughts and behavior among adults: Results from the 2015 national survey on drug use and health. The CBHSQ Report: September 29, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2724/ShortReport-2724.pdf

3. Porter, L. M., Van Orden, K. A., Witte, T. K., & Joiner Jr., T. E. (2008). A test of three models of suicidal thinking in young adults. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117(4), 816-827. doi: 10.1037/a0012600