Skip to main content

Research shows that suicide is on the rise, with half of the states in the United States reporting more than a 30% increase since 1999 and nearly all states reporting increased rates since then.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among 10- to 34-year-olds. Women attempt suicide more often than men, but men are successful about three to four times more often than women.

While active suicidal ideation is the most pressing concern, passive suicidal thoughts still create a high-risk environment.

What Are Passive Suicidal Thoughts?

Passive suicidal thoughts, also referred to as passive suicidal ideation, are defined as “entertaining thoughts” of killing yourself. These thoughts can be present with or without a plan to die. 

Evidence supports that even fleeting and seemingly innocuous thoughts can be a risk factor for suicidal behavior. A lack of therapeutic intervention, therefore, can be risky. Individuals who endure the persistent hum of passive ideation may believe that they can manage the problem on their own, that they’ll never really act on it, or that it will eventually go away. However, these thoughts can evolve into something life-threatening.

Commonly Held Beliefs About Suicidal Ideation

The commonly held belief that passive suicidal ide­ation poses less risk for suicide than active suicidal ideation is deeply embedded in clinical psychiatric practice. “Passive suicidal ideation” appears countless times in psychiatric records, articles, texts, guidelines, and clinical discourse. 

Like most psychological phenomena, passive suicidal ideation can occur on a spectrum, ranging from indifference toward being alive to questioning one’s existence to a gnawing feeling that life isn’t worth living. The wish to die doesn’t inevitably mean you will end your life. 

Therefore, when an individual reports passive suicide ideation, the clinician may seize upon it as an indicator of a low risk of suicide. As a result, the clinician may feel relieved and not perform a thorough suicide risk assessment. 

Factors That Increase the Likelihood of Ideation

Certain individuals are statistically more likely to engage in passive suicidal ideation. In addition, research has shown that pre-existing mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, dramatically raise the likelihood of ideation.

Additionally, chronic pain and poor stress management are risk factors for this type of thinking. Drug abuse, past trauma or abuse, and experiencing a recent tragedy or death also increase the chances of suicidal ideation.

What to Look For

Individuals struggling with passive ideation often feel empty and hopeless. They may carry excessive guilt and shame over seemingly innocuous events or behaviors. If you are having passive thoughts of suicide, you may feel like you are out of options and a burden to friends and family.

Individuals entertaining thoughts of suicide often exhibit mood swings, and they may retreat from family and friends and/or engage in increased substance abuse. If you are having passive thoughts of suicide, you may feel trapped, isolated, and alone. However, there is hope, and you can begin to enjoy life again with effective treatment. 

What to Do if You or a Loved One Is Struggling

Evidence shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.

Support Services

Suicidal ideation can be very scary, and if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, it is crucial to reach out for support. Many support services are available, and you don’t have to go through this alone. 

If you are experiencing passive thoughts of suicide, it is important to talk to someone who can help. Support services can help you understand your thoughts and feelings and provide you with practical resources and coping strategies. You can begin by reaching out to a national or local suicide lifeline where a clinician can walk you through your options for resources.

Talking About Suicide

It is important to remember that suicidal ideation is not the same as suicidal behavior, but it is still a very real and pressing issue. Ideation often comes from feeling hopeless and helpless, as though there is no way out of the pain. Suicidal ideation is often accompanied by other mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Talking about suicide openly and honestly can help break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Talking about suicide can also provide a sense of hope for people who are struggling. Suicidal ideation is a complex issue but talking about suicide openly can help provide support and understanding for those who are struggling.

Following Up With Loved Ones

While suicidal ideation is not a mental health disorder, it can lead to suicide if left untreated. Therefore, if you are worried about someone struggling with suicidal ideation, it is essential to follow up with that person and provide support. 

Studies have shown that following up with loved ones who are struggling with suicidal ideation helps. Following up shows the person that you care and that you are there for them. It also gives you an opportunity to provide support and resources. If you are worried about someone who is struggling with suicidal ideation, don’t be afraid to reach out and offer help.

Passive Suicidal Thoughts Can Be Subtle

Although it is important to consider the warning signs and triggers of suicide, it is also crucial to remember that suicidal thoughts can be very subtle. For example, a person who appears happy and well-adjusted may be harboring deeply painful thoughts about ending their life. 

If you are concerned about someone’s safety, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Remember, suicidal ideation must be taken seriously. With early intervention, many lives can be saved. 

How The Phoenix Recovery Center Can Help

Passive suicidal thoughts pose significant challenges to individuals and affect every aspect of a person’s life. Often, those who have passive thoughts of suicide also have an underlying co-occurring mood disorder and/or substance abuse problem. At The Phoenix Recovery Center, we know that the deep and lasting benefits of a strong support system can carry you through even the most trying moments. The Phoenix Recovery Center is among the top mental health facilities in Utah and includes a residential program, PHP day program, intensive outpatient program, and general outpatient program. We also offer addiction recovery services at our center for individuals who are overcoming challenges with addiction. Your recovery is one of the most important processes you’ll ever make part of your life. You don’t have to do it alone. If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of suicide, don’t wait for things to get worse. Call us today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT