Identifying Someone Who Might Be Struggling with Suicide

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By: SUPE Editorial Team

Identifying someone who might be struggling with suicide is not always easy. There can be apparent signals that raise immediate red flags. In many other circumstances, there are no signals, no warnings, and nothing overtly indicating the person was thinking about suicide. 

It’s challenging, but if you think a loved one is thinking about or planning suicide, ask. It is a complete myth that you will give another person the idea to kill themselves. Asking them shows concern and that you care.

Passive and Active Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation means wanting to take your own life or thinking about suicide. However, there is active and passive suicidal ideation.  

Passive suicidal ideation is when a person wishes they were dead or could die, but they do not actively put a plan together to die of suicide.

Active suicidal ideation is when a person is actively thinking about it, intending, and planning how to die of suicide.

Passive suicidal ideation can quickly turn into active and can have a blend of both components. Someone wishing they would die in their sleep could promptly turn to actively trying to die. It is also normal for suicidal thoughts to fluctuate.

Research has shown that these thoughts can be specific, intense, and persistent one day. On the next day, the thoughts could be much less frequent and not as specific. Either way, it’s crucial to take any thoughts of suicide seriously.

How is it Diagnosed?

Doctors are likely the best option for a formal diagnosis involving a medical exam and a questionnaire. Some general questions may include inquiring about a history of addiction, mental illness, or depression.

The doctor would ask about how long they have been having these thoughts, whether they have created a plan, whether they are taking any medication, and if they currently use alcohol or drugs.

Generally, there is a suicidal ideation scale used and questionnaires developed by health professionals. Some examples of this include some of the following:  Ask-Suicide Screening Questions, the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale, and the Suicide Probability Scale. 

These are practical tools that can help identify someone who is struggling with suicidal ideation.

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