Signs, Effects & Symptoms of Suicidal Behavior

Understanding the Signs of Suicidal Ideation

Understanding the signs of suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation is a blanket term used to describe situations in which a person is preoccupied by, or planning to, take their life. Suicidal ideations can range from a fleeting thought to a detailed plan and should always be taken seriously. Suicidal ideations are not a bid for attention; they’re a cry for help. Feeling as though suicide is the only way out doesn’t mean a person is weak, crazy, or flawed – it simply means that the feelings they’re dealing with are more than they can handle. With time, patience, love, and support, these problems will pass and the feelings of suicide will recede. Just make the promise that you will not do anything right this moment and call someone you love and trust to talk about how you are feeling.

Suicide, or taking one’s own life, is a tragic reaction to certain stressful situations. With proper care and treatment, suicide can be prevented, especially if people pay attention to the warning signs of suicidal thoughts. Many people believe that if a person is determined to end his or her own life, there is nothing that can be done. This is not true. People who are suicidal have mixed feelings about wishing to live and to die as a way to relieve emotional pain. If you or someone you love is feeling desperate, alone, and suicidal, call 911 immediately – this is a medical emergency. Talking about suicide does not increase the likelihood that someone will choose to die by suicide; it’s highly important to talk about the feelings you or your loved one is feeling. Communicating openly and honestly about suicide is one of the most helpful things you can do. If you’re feeling like there’s no way to solve your problems; that suicide is the only way out, know that there is another way – suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It may be hard to see that there is another way to live your life, but it’s true – many people have been where you are and are able to take the steps necessary to recover.


Statistics for suicidal ideation

Nearly 40,000 people in the United States die by suicide each year; more than those who die each year by homicide. Men are more likely than women to die by suicide as they tend to use more lethal means to make a suicide attempt than women. Suicide is a major preventable public health crisis in the U.S. and worldwide. In 2007, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States at an overall rate of 11.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. It’s estimated that 11 suicide attempts occur per every death by suicide.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & risk factors for suicidal ideation

The causes and risk factors for suicidal ideation are believed to be a mixture of genetic, physical, and environmental factors working together to cause these feelings and behaviors. Common causes and risk factors for suicidal ideation include:

Genetic: People who are born into families who have a history of mental illness or suicidal thoughts and behaviors are at a higher risk for developing suicidal thoughts and behaviors themselves. However, while there is a genetic component to suicidal thoughts, not everyone who has a similar family history will develop suicidal ideations. Likewise, people without a family history may develop suicidal ideations.

Physical: Low levels of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, as well as changes to the structure and function of the brain, can increase the risk for many mental illnesses, including those that cause suicidal ideation as a symptom.

Environmental: People who are around others who die by suicide are at a greater risk for considering suicide as a means to end emotional pain.

Risk Factors:

  • Untreated mental disorders
  • Prior history of suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide or mental disorders
  • Family and domestic violence
  • Having guns in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Being male


Symptoms of suicidal ideation

The symptoms of suicidal ideation may be easy to identify or can be veiled in secrecy. Some people who are thinking about death by suicide never show any symptoms of their intentions. Symptoms of suicidal ideation may include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Talking about death, dying
  • Using phrases such as “when I’m gone…” or “I’m going to kill myself”
  • Getting affairs in order
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones
  • Obtaining items needed for suicide attempt
  • Decreased social contact
  • Increasing drug and alcohol usage
  • Withdrawing from once-pleasurable activities
  • Increased risky behaviors

Physical Symptoms:

  • Scars or injuries from past suicide attempts
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Chronic and/or terminal illness

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Belief that dying by suicide is the only way to end emotional pain

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Feeling helpless; trapped by emotional pain
  • Psychosis
  • Self-loathing
  • Hopelessness
  • Paranoia
  • Intense emotional pain
  • Feeing hopeless about a situation
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden changes in personality
  • Severe anxiety and agitation


Effects suicidal ideation can have

The long-term effects of suicidal ideation can be disastrous for all involved. The effects of suicidal ideation on the person who has suicidal thoughts may include:

  • Severe injury
  • Damage to all organ systems
  • Brain damage
  • Brain death
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Effects on Suicide Survivors:

It’s thought that for every successful suicide attempt, 6 to 8 people are left behind. The survivors of suicide grapple with many devastating emotions along with the grief of losing someone they dearly loved. Effects of suicide on suicide survivors include:

  • Extreme guilt
  • Feelings that they could have prevented the loss
  • Complicated grieving
  • Shame
  • Anger
  • Feelings that they are unable to properly grieve in a public way due to stigma of suicide
  • Deep depression

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideation & co-occurring disorders

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are often a symptom or result of undiagnosed mental health disorders. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Alcoholism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia

I felt hopeless until I came to Highland Ridge. Thank you all for how you changed my life.

– Cam D.