Why Passive Suicidal Ideation Should Not Be Ignored
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Passive suicidal ideation refers to thoughts of death or dying without any specific plans or intent to harm oneself. Unlike active suicidal ideation, where a person may have a clear plan and intent to end their life, passive suicidal ideation may involve thoughts like “I wish I weren’t here” or “I wonder what would happen if I weren’t around.”

Passive suicidal ideation should not be ignored because it can be a sign of underlying emotional distress or mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. While a person with passive suicidal ideation may not have an immediate intent to harm themselves, these thoughts can still indicate significant emotional pain and a need for support.

If someone is experiencing passive suicidal ideation, it’s important for them to seek help from a mental health professional or a crisis intervention service. Even though they may not have a clear plan to harm themselves, their thoughts are a sign that they are struggling and in need of support and intervention to address their emo 

Before you continue reading, please know that you don’t have to feel so alone. If you’re in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for immediate support. See our article on suicidal ideation for a list of additional resources. 

What’s passive suicidal ideation?

Suicidal ideation (SI), also known as suicidal thoughts or ideas, is a broad term that encompasses various contemplations of, wishes for, and preoccupations with death and suicide. The lack of a universally accepted, consistent definition of SI presents ongoing challenges for clinicians, researchers and educators.

“Passive” suicidal ideation refers to thoughts of wanting to die that do not involve a plan to harm oneself lethally. It also includes feelings of indifference toward the possibility of accidental death if steps are not taken to preserve one’s life. If you find yourself imagining that the world would be better off without you or secretly wishing for an end to your suffering, it’s important to reach out for help and support. 

Passive suicidal ideation becomes active when there is a shift from thoughts of wanting to die to actively planning and intending to harm oneself lethally. Wondering about different methods of dying by suicide is definitely concerning, because underlying mental health challenges and emotional distress require attention and support. Ignoring these signs can lead to worsening mental health outcomes and potentially dangerous situations. 

Where do passive suicidal thoughts come from?

Some people start having these thoughts during difficult life situations that are beyond their control. Others have thoughts like these after a traumatic loss or if they’re being bullied, harassed or abused. Having a depressive episode can bring on passive suicidal ideation. In fact, having a mental health condition increases your risk of contemplating suicide. 

Just being dissatisfied with your current life can be enough to bring up some disturbing thoughts and ideas. Again, asking yourself big questions isn’t necessarily dangerous. But the more time you spend with these thoughts, especially if you’re feeling isolated, the more likely they are to snowball into something more.

What should you do if you’re having passive suicidal ideation?

Suicidal ideation is a serious concern that requires immediate attention and treatment. When you’re having these thoughts, a help line should be the first course of action. It’s a free and confidential way to get help. For long-term help addressing suicidal ideation, and the issues that lead to them, finding a therapist or a support group can be a safe way to get these things off your chest with some confidentiality. Nobody has to know that you’re seeing a therapist unless you tell them. 

However, you’ll develop much stronger social supports if you can find someone who’s already in your life to talk to. This could be a friend, family member, or anyone you trust to listen respectfully and help you reflect in a nonjudgmental way. Is there someone you look up to or respect who can find some time to meet up for a cup of coffee? We recommend seeking out both a close friend and a licensed clinical therapist so you’ll have both kinds of support.

Starting these conversations can be daunting, so it might be helpful to change your perspective. Think about what you would say or how you would feel if a friend told you they were having thoughts like yours. It can be much easier to show compassion for someone else — which is why developing self-compassion is such an important skill. It doesn’t come naturally, but with the right support, you can do it. 

How Lightfully can help

At Lightfully, we recognize that passive suicidal ideation can be distressing and may indicate underlying issues that require attention and care. Seeking help is the right decision, and progress is possible.

Our programs are designed to provide individualized, whole-person treatment that helps clients better understand the underlying factors contributing to their suicidal ideation and learn how to cope. If you’re not sure where to start, please don’t hesitate to contact us for an assessment or guidance. Your mental health matters, and we are here to support your healing and resilience.

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