Suicidal Ideation: Thinking about the end is the beginning of a dangerous road


Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the 3rd for our youth and for every suicidal death 100-200 attempts occur. For those of us who live in Oklahoma and the surrounding states to the north, south and west, we are living in “the Suicide Belt” where the likelihood of suicide far exceeds the national statistics. To fully get a grasp of this overwhelming problem, one must have a better understanding of the beginnings and focus of suicidal ideation. Suicidal ideation is a common medical term for thoughts about suicide, which may be as detailed as a formulated plan, without the suicidal act itself. Although most people who undergo suicidal ideation do not commit suicide, a significant number do go on to make suicide attempts; it is the individuals that succeed at the attempt that are continuing the statistic that an average of 1 person is killing themselves every 14.2 minutes. The risk of suicide can continue for up to 17 years beyond the initial thinking or first attempt. Another aspect of suicide to consider is passive ideation or thoughts in which the person hopes or prays that their life would be ended. In younger adults and adolescents, suicidal thinking is sometimes expressed by engaging in high risk activities. Our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are in an extremely high risk group. Their alarming death rate from suicide has been 1 every day since January 1, 2012 and the rate has been steadily climbing over the years of the war.

There are several warning signs to look for when an individual is considering the act of suicide, which are:

  • Getting his or her affairs in order (creating/updating a will, giving away personal possessions)
  • Drastic change in mood/ personality with notable depression, change in activity level/ sleep problems
  • Withdrawing from everyday activities/ social roles/ friendships
  • Purchasing or acquiring items to aid in the process (weaponry, rope, prescription medication/ pills, etc.)
  • Writing a suicide note or speaking of the act
  • Preparing for and rehearsing the act or event

Individuals who are considering the act of suicide are often trying to get away from a current dark situation in their life or are being overrun by mental health issues (depression, PTSD, trauma, a history of abuse, personality disorders, and other behavioral health problems).  There are several ways to decrease the odds of suicide from occurring if caught early enough:

  • Learn to communicate one’s thoughts and feelings to increase awareness of emotional state
  • Surrounding oneself with positive support and people
  • Create positive coping skills for the issue that is causing the feeling of despair
  • Keep all prescription medication and alcohol locked up or not assessable
  • Safely lock secure all weapons of destruction (knifes, guns, tools, etc.)
  • Seek immediate help for the person to prevent harm from occurring
  • Create and maintain an immediate safety net around the person

The subject of suicide is to be taken very seriously- one out of three individuals that attempt suicide will try again within a year, and 10% of those individuals will succeed. If you or someone you know is considering suicide it is most important to know that you are not alone. The crisis behind suicidal thinking are almost always temporary and are considered a permanent solution to a situation that can often be solved with appropriate are. Help is always available so do not hesitate; confide in a loved one or professional to help address the issue at hand. For more statistics on the topic of suicide, please visit The American Association of Suicidology.


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