Is It Normal to Experience Suicidal Thoughts?
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Is It Normal to Experience Suicidal Thoughts?

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Suicidal thoughts are a deeply personal and often misunderstood experience. It’s not uncommon for people to have fleeting thoughts of suicide, especially during challenging times. However, for some individuals, these thoughts can become persistent and overwhelming, signaling a deeper struggle with mental health.

Persistent suicidal thoughts, also known as suicidal ideation, may vary in intensity and frequency. They can range from fleeting considerations of suicide to detailed plans and can be accompanied by a desire to end one’s life.

Persistent suicidal thoughts can be a symptom of various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and others. These thoughts are often a sign of deep emotional distress and should be taken seriously. 

It’s important to seek help if you or someone you know is experiencing persistent suicidal thoughts. A mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis, support and guidance on appropriate treatment options. If you are in immediate danger or are concerned about someone else’s safety, please seek help from a mental health professional, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or emergency services.

What is suicidal ideation?

Suicidal ideation is a very broad term clinicians use to cover a range of thoughts, urges, wishes, questions, preoccupations, planning and other ruminations related to death and suicide. While there’s no definitive guide for what “counts” as suicidal ideation, it’s important to approach all thoughts like these with caution.

Suicidal ideation can start with a desire for relief from overwhelming emotions, the feeling that you can’t continue on with your life as it is, or negative feelings toward yourself. You may have heard people describe passive suicidal ideation. This means you have no plans to make an attempt, but you’ve thought that dying could be a relief. Specifying whether you have suicidal ideation with a plan or the means to end your life can help you describe where you are in your thought process.

What puts someone at risk for suicidal ideation?

Suicidal ideation can be influenced by a variety of factors, and the risk factors can vary from person to person. Some common risk factors for suicidal ideation include:

  • Prolonged stress from abuse, bullying or harassment
  • Prolonged stress from life situations like traumatic losses, big transitions, divorce and more
  • Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and others
  • Health conditions like chronic pain and traumatic brain injury
  • Environmental factors including poverty and belonging to a marginalized group
  • Exposure to graphic images and descriptions of suicide attempts
  • Past suicide attempts and a family history that includes suicide
  • Access to lethal means such as drugs or weapons
  • Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

What can you do to lower your risk of suicide?

There are some positive protective factors that can make you less vulnerable to these thoughts. Being proactive about your mental health is one of them, so reading this article means you’re on the right track. Access to mental health care is a big one. A strong social support network, spiritual beliefs that give your life meaning, and healthy coping skills are other anchors you can develop on your healing journey.

Some protective factors that can lessen a person’s risk of attempting suicide include:

  • Being proactive about one’s mental wellness and having access to mental health care
  • Feeling connected to family and community
  • Positive coping and problem-solving skills
  • Limited access to lethal means
  • A strong sense of self-esteem, personal meaning and life purpose
  • Beliefs that encourage perseverance and help-seeking behavior

Are suicidal thoughts at least once in your lifetime normal? 

Thinking about what you might do if and when you’re dealing with a situation that drives you to consider attempting suicide can actually help you prevent it from happening. You might gather your resources by writing down some names of people you can call on for support, including the 988 suicide hotline. You could journal about some reasons your life is worth living or why attempting suicide wouldn’t be a good idea. Finally, you can make a formal promise to yourself or a close friend that you’ll reach out for help before making serious plans.

Do suicidal ideas mean you’re depressed?

Constant suicidal thoughts are not considered normal and are often a sign of significant emotional distress or specific mental health concerns. While suicidal ideation can be a symptom of depression, it can also occur in other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, PTSD and borderline personality disorder, among others.

Suicidal ideation, whether persistent or not, should never be ignored. It’s a sign that someone is struggling and needs help. Addressing suicidal ideation can not only save a life but also lead to earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment of underlying mental health issues. Encouraging individuals to seek help and support can make a significant difference in their well-being and recovery.

Are you or someone you love experiencing suicidal thoughts?

The first thing to do is try to ensure your safety by staying away from any lethal means. Once you’re in a secure location, you can connect with a suicide help line for instant crisis support from a care coordinator. The national 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline even has specific resources for individuals who are neurodivergent, veterans, past attempt survivors, hard of hearing, BIPOC, and more. Please know that you’re not alone. Here are some more resources to help you: 

How Lightfully helps people with suicidal ideation

Once you make it through the most intense moment of crisis, there will be more healing work ahead of you. Take a deep breath. Lots of people like you have made it through their darkest times to find a renewed sense of meaning, self-compassion and will to carry on. People who are in acute danger or taking their own life may need inpatient mental health treatment

The next step after that is where we come in. We take a whole person-centered approach to treating all kinds of mental health conditions that’s called process-based therapy (PBT). You’ll be matched with a compassionate clinical expert who will help you develop skills, relationships and resources as “anchors” or protective factors to keep you grounded. 

You’re moving in the right direction, so there is reason to be brave and reach out for help. Our Admissions Concierge Team is ready to listen and get you started with an assessment. We’ll take the next steps together.

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