Passively Suicidal: A Warning Sign You Should Never Ignore

Every year, 47,500 people die from suicide in the United States. Suicide is so common, in fact, that for people under the age of 35, it’s the second-leading cause of death. Younger adults are especially vulnerable—over one in ten American adults aged 18-25 report having experienced suicidal thoughts. But, contrary to popular belief, suicide rarely happens immediately after the first time someone has a suicidal thought. More often, an individual is passively suicidal for a long period before they consider taking action.


Suicide attempts don’t happen in a vacuum. They’re the result of suicidal thoughts called ideations. And these suicidal ideations exist on a vast spectrum, from actively planning to commit suicide to passively daydreaming about one’s own death.


While passive suicidal ideations are often not taken seriously, they are a serious warning sign that should never be ignored.

What Does “Passively Suicidal” Mean?

A man dealing with passive suicidal thoughts, looking forward contemplatively.

Passive suicidal ideation is when someone thinks about or wishes for death without actually planning to end their life. Passive suicidal ideation is distinctly different from active suicidal ideation. Active suicidal ideation is when you think about specific ways in which to end your own life. Put simply, active suicidal ideation involves a plan to harm yourself, whereas passive suicidal ideation does not come with any plan for suicide.


Passive suicidal ideation is often a result of feelings of depression or anxiety. Many people who live with chronic mood disorders may become passively suicidal several times throughout their lives. For some, passively suicidal thoughts are so common that they may not recognize it as an issue.

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While having passively suicidal thoughts doesn’t put you at immediate risk of ending your own life, it still presents a dangerous situation. Passively suicidal individuals are more likely to engage in reckless behaviors without regard for their own health or safety. They’re also at risk of progressing to more active suicidal ideations.


Examples of Passive Suicidal Ideations

Everyone who has passive suicidal thoughts experiences them differently. Some might daydream about dying in an accident or passing away in their sleep. Others might have recurring thoughts that they wish they didn’t exist. Examples of passive suicidal ideations include:


  • – “I just don’t want to live anymore. It’s just too hard.”
  • – “I wish I was never born.”
  • – “I hope this plane crashes.”
  • – “My family would be better off if I wasn’t around anymore.”
  • – “I hope I die in my sleep.”


If you’ve had these thoughts or something similar, there are ways to get help and start feeling better. Start by discussing your thoughts and feelings with a close friend or loved one—someone you can trust. Expressing those feelings can help make them easier to manage. After that, make a plan to seek out professional help. Working with mental health professionals can create long-term, positive changes, letting you put this stressful chapter behind you forever.


If you’re concerned about a loved one experiencing suicidal thoughts, take time to learn about the different risk factors and warning signs. Every person is different, and the more you know, the better your chances of intervening before somebody gets hurt.


Are Suicidal Thoughts Normal?

A question that may surface when discussing this topic is, “Are suicidal thoughts normal?” The answer is complex. While experiencing suicidal thoughts is a sign of extreme emotional distress and should always be taken seriously, it’s not uncommon. As mentioned earlier, over one in ten American adults aged 18-25 report having experienced suicidal thoughts. However, “normal” should not be mistaken for “acceptable” or “not serious.”


Suicidal ideation is an indicator of underlying mental health issues that require immediate attention and treatment. Whether these thoughts are passive or active, they are a clear sign that you need professional help. It’s essential to understand that having suicidal thoughts does not make you “crazy” or “weak”; rather, it means you’re going through a severely challenging emotional phase that needs medical intervention.


If you or someone you know is grappling with suicidal thoughts, seek professional help immediately. There are various treatment options available that can address the root cause of these thoughts and provide coping mechanisms for better mental health.


Risk Factors for Suicidal Ideation

While it’s possible for anyone to have suicidal ideations, there are certain factors that increase the risk. Risk factors include:


  • – Family history of suicide, attempted suicide, or suicidal ideation
  • – Mood disorders like major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder
  • – Current or past substance abuse
  • – Personal history of abuse or trauma
  • – Suffering a major personal loss, such as the death of a partner, relative, or close friend
  • – Having a recent major physical illness
  • – Little to no personal support network
  • – Lack of access to mental and physical healthcare


Signs That Someone Is Suicidal

People experiencing suicidal ideations can display a variety of symptoms. If they’ve been coping with passive suicidal thoughts for many years, they might not show any obvious signs that something is wrong. There are some key warning signs to be on the lookout for, including:


  • – Verbally expressing a desire to die or end their own life, even in “jokes”
  • – Seeking out or researching objects to assist in suicide, like prescription drugs, dangerous substances, or guns
  • – Engaging in risky or reckless behavior
  • – Expressing feelings of hopelessness, isolation, rejection, or apathy
  • – Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • – Anxiety, irritability, or aggression
  • – Change in sleep patterns
  • – Withdrawing or self-isolating
  • – Depression or mood swings
  • – Giving away meaningful personal belongings
  • – Scars or other visible signs of self-harm
  • – Saying goodbye to loved ones


How to Help a Loved One Experiencing Suicidal Ideations

A therapist assisting a patient dealing with suicidal ideation

It’s hard for people with suicidal thoughts to open up about what they’re going through. Family and friends can have a hard time starting the conversation, too. Nobody wants to feel responsible for making someone feel worse or “pushing them over the edge.”


But having these difficult conversations is an important first step in getting your loved one the help they need. For a person experiencing suicidal thoughts, having someone to open up and express their feelings to can be a relief. When you speak to someone in such a vulnerable state, try to focus on being empathetic and understanding rather than assigning blame. Have the conversation and let them know you’re here to help them get all the help they need.


With the right treatment, people can overcome their suicidal ideations and address the underlying issues that led them to those thoughts.


Treatment for Passive Suicidal Ideation

The best way to treat passive suicidal ideation is to be proactive in stopping it from worsening. This is best accomplished with an inpatient mental health program, where you can focus exclusively on restoring your mental health.


What treatment looks like specifically will largely come down to the individual. Psychotherapy techniques like group therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy are common and can lead to developing healthy coping skills to express and release the feelings that lead to passive suicidal ideation. Moreover, some individuals benefit from medications, like antidepressants or antianxiety medications.


Adding structure, routine, and variety to your life can also make a lasting, positive impact. Mental health experts can help you create a personalized plan to start eating better, exercise more often, and create regular sleep routines. Picking up old hobbies (or starting new ones) can also help with suicidal ideation by giving you new activities and goals to focus on.


Ridgeview Hospital’s Psychiatric Program for Suicidal Ideation

If you or someone you care about are living with passively suicidal thoughts or ideations, you can get help. At Ridgeview Hospital, you can get a holistic care plan designed specifically for you. With a healing process that combines mind, body, and community, you’ll work with a caring staff of licensed professionals to create lasting, positive changes in your life.

Approach them with empathy and understanding, avoiding blame. Encourage them to express their feelings and seek professional help. Be supportive in their journey towards recovery, which may include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Remember, having difficult conversations and offering a listening ear can be vital first steps in helping them.

Signs can include verbal expressions of wanting to die, researching suicide methods, engaging in risky behaviors, feelings of hopelessness or isolation, increased substance use, anxiety, mood swings, withdrawing from social activities, giving away possessions, and visible signs of self-harm.

Risk factors include a family history of suicide or mental illness, mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, substance abuse, personal history of abuse or trauma, major personal losses, significant physical illness, lack of support networks, and limited access to mental and physical healthcare.

While suicidal thoughts indicate extreme emotional distress and should be taken seriously, they are not uncommon, especially among young adults. However, they are not “normal” in the sense of being healthy or acceptable.

Examples include thoughts like “I just don’t want to live anymore,” “I wish I was never born,” “I hope this plane crashes,” “My family would be better off if I wasn’t around,” and “I hope I die in my sleep.”

Passive suicidal ideation involves thoughts of dying or wishing for death without a plan to act on these thoughts. It’s often linked to feelings of depression or anxiety and can be a recurring experience for those with chronic mood disorders.

Being passively suicidal refers to having thoughts about wanting to die or wishing for death, without actively planning or attempting suicide. It differs from active suicidal ideation, which involves specific plans or intentions to harm oneself.

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