Suicidal ideation (SI) is a common medical term and refers to the thoughts one has about taking his or her own life, with some degree of intent. Although a person may experience suicidal thoughts, it does not mean he or she is in imminent danger of committing suicide. However, suicidal ideation is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. A study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that more than 8 million Americans, roughly 3 percent of the U.S. population, seriously consider suicide each year. Other research has estimated that over 30,000 people commit suicide each year, and a suicide attempt is estimated to be made once every minute.
There are two types of suicidal ideation: active and passive. Active suicidal ideation involves a current desire and plan to die. Passive may also include a desire to die but is not accompanied with a plan to end one’s life. Many healthy people have suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives. However, for those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and drug or alcohol abuse, suicidal ideation can be very common.
Suicidal ideation is preventable if treated. If someone admits to having suicidal thoughts, it is cause for alarm and medical treatment should be sought out immediately. People suffering from suicidal ideation may also exhibit “suicidal gestures.” This means an individual may harm themselves in a non-life threatening manner in hopes to gain sympathy but not actually end his or her life. Even though most individuals with suicidal ideation do not ultimately commit suicide, medical treatment is necessary so the individual can be evaluated.