Lifeskills Mental Health Blog

What is Passive Suicidal Ideation?

What is Passive Suicidal Ideation?

Suicide is death that occurs when someone injures themselves with the intent to die. It is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 45,000 people every year. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone loses their life to suicide every 11 minutes.1

The numbers of people who contemplate suicide or attempt it and survive are even higher. An estimated 12.2 million Americans considered suicide in 2020. Over 1.2 million attempts occurred during the same year.2 These alarming statistics are clear signs that something more must be done.

Are you wondering how you can help someone who may be struggling? The first steps include learning more about suicidal ideation and the signs to look for.

What is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation (SI) refers to people who have thoughts, ideas, contemplations, or preoccupations with suicide or death. Mental health clinicians separate SI into two primary categories: passive suicidal ideation and active suicidal ideation.3

Passive Suicidal Ideation

Passive suicidal ideation refers to people who have general thoughts or wishes of death but no specific suicidal intent. It includes thoughts such as being okay with falling asleep and never waking up or getting into a fatal car accident. People who experience passive SI do not usually have a plan and are not as likely to act on their thoughts.

Active Suicidal Ideation

Active suicidal ideation refers to individuals experiencing specific, ongoing suicidal thoughts. They have at least some level of desire to follow through on their thoughts. People experiencing active SI may also have a plan of how to take their life.

SI Warning Signs

Are you worried your loved one may be struggling with active or passive suicidal ideation? Some of the warning signs of SI include:

  • Preexisting mental illness, such as depression or anxiety
  • Feeling useless, trapped, or hopeless
  • Experiencing mood swings, including irritability, anger, and rage
  • Engaging in harmful or risky behaviors, such as using drugs, drinking heavily, or driving fast
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Talking about or implying not being around anymore
  • Accessing potentially lethal means (i.e., medication, drugs, firearm, razors)

It’s never bad to check in on your loved one, even if you believe you’re overthinking things. Try to talk with them if you notice any of the signs listed above.4 If they aren’t willing to talk and their behavior is worrisome or dangerous, involve the appropriate local authorities.

Finding Help for Suicidal Ideation

Both passive suicidal ideation and active suicidal ideation are causes for immediate concern. Sometimes passive SI is marred by the misconception that it is “attention-seeking” or less pressing than active SI. However, you should always take suicidal ideation seriously. Even passive SI may progress into active SI with little or no forewarning.

The sooner you seek treatment for a loved one experiencing SI, the sooner they can receive the help they need. Thankfully, programs like Lifeskills South Florida are available to anyone struggling with suicidal ideation or mental illness. We provide a range of mental health treatment services, including residential, partial hospitalization, and outpatient programs, each using evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy.

To learn more about our programs or find help for your loved one, please call us at 954-953-1742 or reach out to us today. We’ll help you understand your options and connect you with the one that best suits your needs.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Mortality Data on CDC WONDER.
  2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2022). Suicide statistics.
  3. National Library of Medicine. (2021). Suicidal Ideation.
  4. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Learning More About Suicidal Ideation.


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