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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow Passive Suicidal Ideation: How to Recognize the Signs

Passive Suicidal Ideation: How to Recognize the Signs

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
5 min read 1105 Views 0 Comments
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There is a difference between passive suicidal thoughts and actively making a plan to end your own life, but that doesn’t mean that one or the other isn’t harmful. We explain the meaning of passive suicidal ideation, identify suicidal thoughts, and cover the warning signs of a person at risk.

passive suicidal ideation

Life isn’t easy, and sometimes, everything can get on top of you. During times of anxiety or stress, you might think deeply about your life. Sometimes, the desire to leave it all behind might cross your mind. While there might be no specific plan, the thought is there.

If you struggle to cope and thoughts like this enter your mind, you could be experiencing passive suicidal ideation. Even without active plans, these thoughts can put your health at risk. It’s critical to recognize the signs and seek help to prevent active suicidal ideation.

This article explores passive suicidal ideation and how to identify if someone is suicidal.

What Is Passive Suicidal Ideation?

Passive suicidal ideation is the desire for death without making a specific plan to end your life. Unlike active suicidal ideation, you are not actively making any effort to harm yourself. However, you may be plagued by suicidal ideations and negative feelings such as hopelessness.

Passive suicidal thoughts might include daydreaming about dying in an accident or going to sleep at night and hoping you don’t wake up the next morning. These thoughts often do not include suicide attempts and usually revolve around natural events.

Passive suicidal ideations can put your physical and mental health at risk. They may lead you to engage in risky behaviors if you place little value on your life. Addressing passive suicidal ideation is essential. You should never ignore these thoughts and feelings, as you may need help.

Are Suicidal Thoughts Normal?

We all struggle to overcome life’s challenges from time to time. While we all handle problems differently, many people may experience suicidal thoughts in their lifetime. However, you are not alone.

Suicidal thoughts range in nature and severity and can vary from person to person. They can occur over time or come on suddenly. You might have strong suicidal feelings one minute that disappear the next. It can be highly complex and difficult to make sense of your feelings.

It’s important to differentiate between passive suicidal ideation and active suicidal ideation. Active suicidal ideation is when a person has serious thoughts about ending their life. They might start making plans to commit suicide and begin planning their goodbyes for loved ones.

With passive suicidal ideation, these thoughts might come and go. They don’t tend to involve suicide and usually involve external factors, for example, dying in a car accident. Regardless of whether your suicidal thoughts are active or passive, you should always seek support.

What counts as suicidal thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts come in all shapes and sizes. One person’s experience can be completely different from another’s. However, while anyone experiencing suicidal ideation might have different feelings, there are some general thoughts that people tend to share.

Examples of suicidal thoughts may include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Hopeless expectations for the future
  • Feeling like there is no point in living
  • Feeling like a loser
  • Feeling desperate and out of options
  • Feeling unbearable pain that you think will never end
  • Feeling like the world would be a better place without you
  • Being fascinated with death and suicide
  • Thinking about making a suicide attempt
  • Actively planning your suicide or death

Risk Factors for Suicidal Ideation

Certain factors can put an individual at increased risk of passive suicidal ideation, as well as active suicidal ideation. Identifying the possible risk factors for suicidal ideation can aid in suicide prevention. Generally, a mixture of elements usually underlies passive suicidal ideation.

Here are some common risk factors:

  • Mental health disorders, particularly mood disorders such as major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder
  • Other mental disorders, including anxiety, eating, trauma, and substance abuse disorders
  • A family history of mental health issues, suicide, suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and symptoms of depression
  • Impulsive and erratic behavior
  • A history of abuse or childhood trauma
  • Loss of a loved one/grief
  • Loneliness and a lack of support
  • Limited access to healthcare

Signs That Someone Is Suicidal

An individual might be passively suicidal for a long time before actively making a plan to die. However, looking out for red flags can help prevent a future suicide attempt. When somebody is contemplating suicide, they may say certain things or act in a certain way that gives away clues.

Below, you can find some telltale signs that a person might be considering suicide:

  • They’re showing a desire to die
  • They’re thinking about ways to end their own life, like making a specific plan or purchasing a gun or drugs
  • They express that they feel hopeless, trapped, or in pain
  • They have hopeless expectations for the future
  • They express that others would be better off without them
  • They engage in more self-destructive behavior, such as increasing their use of drugs
  • Their behavior is becoming more erratic and reckless
  • They are increasingly anxious, angry, or agitated

You should take any of these signs very seriously. If you are worried about yourself or someone else, reach out to someone for help. You can contact friends, family, your doctor, or a crisis line for support. There is an extensive network of support available to people feeling suicidal.

How to Help a Person Who Is Experiencing Suicidal Ideations?

If you have a loved one who is experiencing passive suicidal ideation, there are some things you can do to help. Firstly, it’s essential they know they can talk to you. Encourage them to talk, listen to them, and show support, even if you don’t understand.

Suicide is a complex topic, and many people struggle to approach the subject. Try to make them feel safe and comfortable so they feel they can be as honest and open as possible. After a conversation, try to encourage them to seek further support for their mental health.

You could help them find a support group or a mental health professional and offer to accompany them if needed. It’s also good to keep checking in, although try not to overwhelm them. This allows you to ensure they are taking action and spot any potential warning signs.

If someone begins showing signs or engaging in self-harm, seek healthcare assistance. You can call 911 in an emergency or call a suicide crisis line. Try to stay calm and don’t leave the person alone. You can also remove items they might use to harm themselves, such as medication.

A Word From a Psychologist

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the US, claiming the lives of thousands of men and women each year. Identifying passive suicidal ideation in its early days can help prevent suicides and decrease suicide risk.

Treatment for suicidal ideation depends on the unique situation. Factors such as the level of suicide risk and underlying mental health problems are taken into account. Outside of a crisis scenario, several options can help someone with suicidal thinking and behavior.

Options include psychotherapy – a type of talking therapy that helps you explore your emotions and the problems that are causing your passive suicidal thoughts. In therapy, you can work to develop coping techniques to help you manage your feelings more healthily.

Medication, such as antidepressants, may be prescribed if you have signs of depression, anxiety disorder, or other mental health conditions. Sometimes, drug and alcohol addiction may trigger suicidal ideation. In these cases, addiction treatment programs can help.

Talking about how you feel is often the first step toward recovery. While you might be battling loneliness, rejection, and feeling unlovable, there is always someone who will listen. You can move past these unhappy emotions even with hopeless expectations for your life.


Passive suicidal ideation can be distressing and difficult to wrap your head around. The important thing to know is that you are not alone and that these negative thoughts will not last forever. There are many ways to address suicidal ideations and get past this troubling time.

Talk to a loved one about how you are feeling. You can talk to friends and family or find a support group to help you cope. Professional help can help you manage your thoughts and improve your mental well-being. With the right actions, you can work toward a happier future.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 8, 2023
5 min read 1105 Views 0 Comments

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