Suicidal Ideation

Evidence-based strategies, resources and support to help overcome life's darkest moments.

If you are currently battling with thoughts of taking your life or are concerned for another who appears in crisis, please reach out to a trained professional in your area or dial 988 to speak with a counselor on the Suicide and Crisis Hotline

This webpage candidly discusses sensitive material associated with suicide. I am a mom who lost her son to suicide. I now feel passionate about advocating for others battling with suicidal ideation and have a deep desire to help remove the stigma often associated with mental illness through encouraging conversations, the sharing of information and building safety nets. 

Suicidal ideation, or suicidal thoughts, means having thoughts, ideas, or ruminations about the possibility of ending one's own life. It is not a diagnosis but is a symptom of some mental disorders and can also occur in response to adverse events without the presence of a mental disorder. https://en.wikipedi

Before our son died, although we had been seeking professional help for our son's mental health, our family was naïve and ignorant about suicidal ideation. After losing Jesse, I now see that those of us close to Jesse would have been able to help him significantly IF we knew more about suicidal ideation and better understood the battle Jesse was facing internally. 

I now recognize suicidal ideation as a potentially terminal condition that needs to be brought into the light and fought as diligently as we fight terminal cancer. But it is trickier than terminal cancer, because we cannot physically see it like we would a tumor on an MRI. We need to know the risks, signs and signals of suicidal thoughts from a person’s behavior and then be willing to lean in and have tough but potentially life-saving conversations.

Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They can’t cause or predict a suicide attempt, but they’re important to be aware of.

• Mental disorders, particularly mood

disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders,

and certain personality disorders

• Alcohol and other substance use disorders

• Hopelessness

• Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies

• History of trauma or abuse

• Major physical illnesses

• Previous suicide attempt(s)

• Family history of suicide

• Job or financial loss

• Loss of relationship(s)

• Easy access to lethal means

• Local clusters of suicide

• Lack of social support and sense of isolation

• Stigma associated with asking for help

• Lack of healthcare, especially mental health

and substance abuse treatment

• Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the

belief that suicide is a noble resolution of

a personal dilemma

• Exposure to others who have died by suicide

(in real life or via the media and Internet)

Warning Signs reveal a person may be actively considering suicide. These signals open the door for us to candidly ask the person if they are contemplating taking their life.

Asking someone if they are thinking about ending their life does not increase the risk of suicide attempt.

QPR Gatekeeper training is available in person as well as online. The link above will take you to their website to learn more about evidence based strategies used to support individuals at risk.

During the last 12 months of my son’s life, our family would lean into Jesse’s world to try to be supportive and available for him. We would talk about the difficulties of transitioning into adulthood. We would hold Jesse accountable and seek opportunities for Jesse to thrive and do things that we knew he enjoyed. 

But, we would never once talk about how awful and difficult it is to struggle with suicidal thoughts

I am now a certified QPR Gatekeeper Trainer. I want to help others learn how to identify the risks and warnings of suicidal ideation and help them feel comfortable with reaching out when a risk is evident.

Question, Persuade, Refer….

It is important that all three of these steps be approached with great care and wisdom…

Question How we ask if someone is thinking about suicide must be non-confrontational and supportive.

Persuade When we persuade someone to get help, we need to be ready to be their advocate.

Refer Referrals need to be places utilizing suicide ideation specific treatments 

Many Mental Health providers are not trained to treat Suicidal Ideation which can potentially lead a person at risk toward a deeper level of hopelessness. In my research I have found the following therapy treatments as recommendations for individuals at risk for suicide. I do not have any experience personally with these treatments but wish we would have been able to  consider them for my son. 

CAMS: Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality

CBT-SP: Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Suicide

DBT:  Dialectic Behavior Therapy

BCBT: Brief Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Suicide Prevention

Several organizations provide professional documents that you can explore on your own to learn more about effective treatment which may include a combination of therapy and medication. Doing an internet search with the term "suicidal ideation treatment" will bring up several resources.

I personally find the following organizations to be helpful in my research:

Safety Plans

Bereaving Parent

"I have now learned it is common for many counselors trained in suicide ideation to help their clients create a safety plan. We did not experience that with any of our counselors. Knowing what I now know, I would seek out a counselor that uses safety plans as a strategy with their clients." Safety plans allow us to be proactive in our approach to supporting ourselves and others in crisis. The website below will enable you to create a safety plan and print it or save it to your files. 

Additional Resources for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Loss Support  are below


Printable Information Trifold

Suicidal Ideation Information pdf.pdf

Printable Information Sheet