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.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk are mental health problems, such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Being within reach of items that could be used for self-harm, such as guns
  • Lack of a support system
  • Poor coping skills
  • A stressful life event, such as job loss
  • Prior suicide attempts
  • Prior trauma
  • History of acting without thinking or of being violent
  • Having family members or friends who have died by suicide
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A person may:

  • Talk about wanting to die or kill oneself
  • Talk about feelings of despair
  • Prepare for death, such as giving away items
  • Pull away from family and friends

Other problems may be:

  • Mood swings
  • Lack of focus
  • No longer wanting to do daily activities, such as work and hobbies
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Changes in the way a person looks, such as not brushing one's hair or teeth
  • Using more alcohol or drugs
  • Acting worried or restless or making choices quickly
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in pain


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 is needed right away. Call or text 988 for the US National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to be connected with a free counselor for support. A person who is a Veteran should call 988 and then press '1'.

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:

  • Care for any mental, physical, and substance use disorders
  • Teach family and friends how to offer support
  • Learn how to better solve problems and resolve conflict


To lower the risk of this problem:

  • Follow care plans for mental or physical health problems.
  • Get treated for any substance or alcohol use disorder.
  • Talk about problems with family members, friends, or a therapist.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.