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Suicide Ideation: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, And Resources

Suicide Ideation: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, And Resources

Suicidal ideation often called suicidal thoughts or ideas, is defined as a “broad term used to describe a range of contemplations, wishes, and preoccupations with death and suicide.” The World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that suicide is the third leading cause of death in teenagers aged 15 to 19 years old. There are a variety of signs and symptoms associated with a teen struggling with suicidal ideation. Medical News Today list the following examples:

  • Feeling or appearing to feel trapped or hopeless
  • Feeling intolerable emotional pain
  • Being preoccupied with violence, death, or death
  • Having mood shifts, either happy or sad
  • Talking about revenge, guilt, or shame
  • Experiencing agitation or a heightened state of anxiety
  • Experiencing changes in personality, routine, or sleep patterns
  • Increasing the use of drugs or alcohol
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Giving belongings away
  • Getting hold of a gun or substances that could end a life
  • Experiencing depression, panic attacks, or impaired concentration
  • Isolating themselves
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Loss of enjoyment in previously enjoyed activities
  • Expressing severe remorse and self-criticism
  • Talking about suicide or dying
  • Expressing regret about being alive or ever having been born

Young people may have suicidal thoughts that can range from fleeting thoughts to planning out the way in which one wants to end his or her life. It is not uncommon for teens with suicidal ideation to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves.


There is no single cause that can explain why a young person develops suicidal thoughts. However, research has found several risk factors that have been noted as increasing one’s susceptibility to suicidal ideation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide examples of risk factors, some of which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Family history of violence or suicide
  • Adverse childhood experiences (e.g., neglect, child abuse, etc.)
  • Relationship problems (e.g., break-up, loss, etc.)
  • Mental illness 
  • Easy access to lethal means (e.g., medications, firearms, etc.)
  • Unsafe media portrayals of suicide 
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Financial, legal, and/ or criminal problems
  • Social isolation

In many cases, a confluence of different situations and exposure to a combination of risk factors contribute to one’s increased propensity for developing suicidal thoughts. 

Prevention and Resources

The most effective method of prevention for suicidal ideation is to be aware of the risk factors, recognize their signs, and pursue appropriate support as soon as possible. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) provides helpful suggestions to assist someone who may be at risk of experiencing suicide ideation:

  • Ask them if they are thinking about suicide. Studies show that asking does not increase the risk.
  • Keep them safe by staying around and removing any means of committing suicide, such as knives, where possible.
  • Listen to them and be there for them.
  • Encourage them to contact someone they might turn to for support, such as a friend, family member, or spiritual mentor.

There are also a variety of easily accessible suicide prevention resources (e.g., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the Suicide Prevention Resource Guide, and more). Early intervention, family support, and professional assistance can be invaluable to one’s safety and recovery.

For Information and Support

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life in, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


We are available to answer any questions you may have regarding mental health treatment and our residential program, anytime. Contact us today using the form to the right.

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