How to Say It: Soo-uh-sid-ul I-de-a-shun
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Thinking about or planning to commit suicide is known as suicidal ideation.
The causes are not the same in each person. A person may be having problems coping with stress. They may also feel overwhelmed and hopeless. Or they may have a substance use problem or a mental illness.
Things that may raise the risk are mental health problems, such as:
Other things that may raise the risk are:
A person may:
Other problems may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms. You will also be asked about your physical and mental health history. The doctor may also ask your family questions. A mental health exam may be done to look for any other issues.
Treatment will be needed right away. A person may need to stay in a care center. Individual, family, or group therapy may be used to help manage unhelpful thinking.
The goals of treatment are to:
To lower the risk of this problem:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Canadian Mental Health Association
Klonsky ED, Qiu T, et al. Recent advances in differentiating suicide attempters from suicide ideators. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2017 Jan;30(1):15-20 .
Major depressive disorder (MDD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/major-depressive-disorder-mdd. Updated January 19, 2018. Accessed April 18, 2018.
Risk of suicide. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Available at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Suicide. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Suicidal ideation and behavior. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/suicidal-ideation-and-behavior. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Suicidal thoughts. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website. Available at:
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Accessed September 4, 2020.
Warning signs of suicide. Suicide Awareness Voices of Education site. Available at: https://save.org/about-suicide/warning-signs-risk-factors-protective-factors. Accessed September 4, 2020.
We can all prevent suicide. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. Available at: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide. Accessed September 4, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 2/19/2021