Causes & Effects of Suicidal Ideation

At San Jose Behavioral Health, we believe education is an important first step in the effort to manage suicidal ideation. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of suicidal ideation can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Suicidal Ideation

Learn About Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation describes thoughts about ending one’s own life. These thoughts can vary in degree, from brief ruminations on killing oneself through more detailed planning. Suicidal ideation should be always be taken seriously, and people who struggle with thoughts of ending their own lives should have the opportunity to receive professional help. It is important to note that suicidal ideation is not a diagnosable mental health disorder. Rather, it can occur as a result of a traumatic or upsetting experience, or as a symptom of a variety of mental health disorders. Because suicidal ideation can often be symptomatic of a mental health disorder, it is important that an individual who has been thinking about suicide gets professional help that will not only end these thoughts, but will also address the underlying condition or disorder that led to the suicidal ideation.


Suicidal Ideation Statistics

It is impossible to get an accurate estimate of how many people think about suicide. However, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 40,000 Americans ending their own lives each year. AFSP also estimates that the rate of attempted to completed suicides is 25 to 1, meaning that about one million individuals in the United States attempt to kill themselves every year. Women attempt suicide three times as often as men do, but the rate of completed suicides among men is about 3.5 times that of women. The suicide rate is highest among white middle-aged men.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors of Suicidal Ideation

Both genetic and/or environmental factors may increase a person’s risk for suicidal ideation.

Genetic: Genetics play an important role in an individual’s mental well-being. When an individual has been engaging in suicidal ideation, it is often linked to an underlying mental disorder or disorders. Because many mental health disorders have a genetic component, these genetics may also impact an individual’s risk of developing suicidal ideation.

Environmental: Stress and trauma are among the environmental risk factors for suicidal ideation. Bullying, abuse, accidents, injuries, or knowing someone who has completed suicide can also increase the likelihood that a person will think about ending his or her own life.

Risk Factors:

  • Knowing someone or being close to someone who committed suicide
  • Experiences of bullying, trauma, stress and violence
  • Experiences of abuse and abandonment
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • A history of mental health disorders in the family

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation does not always manifest obvious signs or provide clear warnings; however, the following are common indicators that a person may be thinking about ending his or her life:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Inflicting self-injury and/or self-harm
  • Being withdrawn or isolating oneself
  • Evading regular activities
  • Discussing or writing about suicide and death
  • Handing over personal possessions to others
  • Making plans for suicide attempts
  • Talking about feeling helpless and worthless

Physical symptoms:

  • Lack of sleep or too much sleep
  • Sudden and significant weight change
  • Significant changes in eating habits
  • Disregard of hygiene
  • Change in overall look

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Persuasive and persistent suicidal thoughts
  • Persistent thoughts of escaping or dying
  • Obsessing about death
  • Inability to focus or concentrate

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Being anxious
  • Being depressed
  • Feeling unable to find enthusiasm in regular activities
  • Feeling worthless, shameful, and hopeless
  • A significant yet unexpected reversion back to positive mood after a period of profound sadness and/or despair

Lasting Effects

Effects of Suicidal Ideation

Clearly, untreated suicidal ideation can lead to serious injuries and even death. The following are among the additional potential effects of suicidal ideation:

  • Inability to perform well at work
  • Loss of career and financial security
  • Decreased social skills
  • Relationship conflicts with family and friends
  • Loss of family and friends

If an individual attempts suicide, consequences may include:

  • Organ failure or organ damage
  • Wounds and scars
  • Brain damage
  • Paralysis
  • Comatose state

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Suicidal ideation has been associated with the following mental health disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Eating disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorder

After dealing with suicidal thoughts and ideations for years, I finally decided to seek help. San Jose treated me as a priority and their comprehensive care gave me hope. I am doing much better now... thanks to San Jose!

– Taylor D.