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Suicidal ideation is real



By Heather L. Berry


Few people survive a lifetime without experiencing a suicidal thought. These thoughts are rarely, however, taken to the planning stages. How do you know, then, when someone’s life is at stake?

Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation (suicidal thinking) varies in degrees. There’s a gap between thinking about suicide and carrying out the act. Mental health professionals classify suicidal ideation as active or passive. Certain characteristics are common for each.

Passive Suicidal Ideation

Maybe the car broke down, a relationship ended or you lost a job. Stressful events in life may drive the best of us to think, “I wish I were dead.” Fleeting thoughts or even wishful thinking, however, is considered passive because the thinker hasn’t acted on the thoughts.

Active Suicidal Ideation

When someone’s suicidal thinking has become active, the individual has taken steps to end their own life. Taking action for the depressed person could include writing a suicide note, giving meaningful items away or just planning how to “end it all.”

How to Help

If a friend or family member confides they have been actively planning a suicide, take it very seriously. Seek help immediately. Individuals with active suicidal ideation should not be left alone until a mental health professional has completed an evaluation.

Passive suicidal thoughts should not be ignored. Talk with the person to get an idea of whether the thought was fleeting or a symptom of depression. Depression is a serious medical condition and needs addressed.

Have Compassion

Lend compassion instead of feigning ignorance with a person having suicidal thoughts. Someone planning to end their own life is in desperate pain and wants the hurt to end. Suicide is not about ending a life, it’s about ending the pain of severe depression.


  • active suicidal thinking
  • suicidal ideation
  • passive ideation