Suicidal thoughts

Specialty of Psychiatry

What are suicidal thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts (also referred to as suicidal ideation) is where a person thinks about taking their own life. It may range from fleeting thoughts to detailed planning, role-playing (acting out the suicide without actually doing it), and even failed attempts.

Many people experience suicidal thoughts at some point in their life, but most never seriously consider killing themselves. However, frequent or intense suicidal thoughts are a risk factor for suicide.

It is important to remember that there is always help available for people contemplating suicide.

Why do people have suicidal thoughts?

People may experience suicidal thoughts for a number of reasons. It may occur due to intense emotional distress, perhaps caused by a traumatic or emotionally devastating event, such as the death of a loved one, the end of an important relationship, abuse, chronic illness, or a traumatic experience such as being in a war zone. The individual’s self-esteem may be so low that they feel their life has no value. Others may feel that the emotional pain they are experiencing is too much to bear and that dying would be easier. Some blame themselves in some way and may think they don’t deserve to live.

Suicidal ideation is associated with mood disorders such as depression, and other mental health disorders. Patients with borderline personality disorder tend to experience suicidal thoughts and feelings and may exhibit self-destructive and even suicidal behaviour.

Getting help

If you are experiencing a lot of suicidal thoughts, it is important to seek help. Often, the first step is talking about how you are feeling. This may be to a close friend or family member, or to someone you trust, such as a teacher. There are also organisations that exist to help people in this situation, such as the Samaritans and Mind.

It is highly advised that patients having frequent suicidal thoughts speak to their GP, who may be able to help diagnose a mental health disorder and may be able to refer the patient to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counsellor who can help the patient overcome the problem.

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