Skip to the content

Admission Line 888-255-9280

Suicidal Ideation vs. Suicidal Tendencies

The realm of mental health is vast, encompassing each of the different thoughts, feelings, and emotions many of us feel. Oftentimes, people may tiptoe around touchy subjects like suicide, but it’s critical to build awareness on this concerning topic by starting a conversation around it, identifying more real solutions to the crisis, and getting those who need help the assistance they so desperately require. One of the primary ways to better understand the problematic nature of suicide (and in turn, how to better prevent it) is by first knowing the key differences between the terms “suicidal ideation” and “suicidal tendencies.”

Suicidal Ideation

Imagine for a moment that you’re flipping through the pages of a book, but instead of a regular storyline, you’re met with negative thoughts. That’s what suicidal ideation feels like. It’s like having those unsettling chapters in your mental storybook. While not all these thoughts transform into actions, grasping their depth can make all the difference in offering the right support.

The planning stage

Individuals with suicidal ideation often visualize the act of ending their own life, but it’s not always an elaborate plan. Sometimes, it may just be a passing thought on a method or an abstract notion born from distress or depression. Just having these thoughts alone can be distressing and can necessitate getting assistance.

The pen’s power

Many people find solace in writing down their feelings. For those with suicidal ideation, this can sometimes translate into penning goodbye letters. While jotting down emotions can be a healing process for some, the contents might ring some alarm bells. These letters might not just be words and may indicate a person’s deepest pains or possibly a desire to fade away. It’s a delicate territory, and assuring the affected individual that they’re cherished and that assistance is readily available is paramount to their recovery.

Ideation can lack intent

Not everyone with suicidal ideation genuinely wants to say goodbye to the world. It may be more about escaping pain (whether it’s emotional turmoil, physical suffering, or mental anguish). They may not always be looking for an end, but rather a pause or temporary relief. Recognizing this distinction is the key to offering them the right support and understanding.

Suicidal Tendencies

On the other hand, suicidal tendencies go beyond just thinking about suicide; they encompass behaviors and actions that indicate a higher risk of an individual attempting to end their own life. These tendencies can be thought of as a progression from ideation, where a person is not just contemplating it, but is also exhibiting preparatory actions. Grasping the intricacies of suicidal tendencies is pivotal to implementing timely interventions.

Coexistence with suicidal ideation

While suicidal ideation revolves around thoughts of ending one’s life, suicidal tendencies often arise from these ideations, manifesting as behaviors or concrete plans. A person could oscillate between these two stages or might show simultaneous signs of both. For instance, a person with deep-seated suicidal ideations might start stockpiling pills or researching lethal methods. Recognizing this shift from thoughts to potential actions is essential for preventative care.

History of attempts

A defining characteristic of suicidal tendencies is a history of attempted suicides. Repeated attempts or a consistent pattern of self-harming behavior underscores the severity of the individual’s mental and emotional state. Every previous attempt amplifies the risk for future ones. Understanding this history is not just about gauging the level of risk, but it also provides insight into the underlying triggers, facilitating more targeted interventions.

Understanding And Acting: Suicide Prevention

With suicide impacting lives around the globe, it’s more than just numbers - it’s about building understanding hearts, caring communities, and essentially, making a safe space where everyone feels seen and heard.

Spotting the quiet signals

Sometimes, people may miss small details throughout their daily rush. The same goes for spotting signs in someone who is grappling with heavy emotions. They might not always shout it out loud, but tiny changes in their behaviors or moods can speak volumes. Whether it’s a sudden desire to stay away from friends, a dip in their usual spark at work, or even an offhand comment about feeling lost - these may be quiet S.O.S. calls. By tuning in, people can step in early and offer a helping hand.

Let’s talk

Mental health can be a tricky and touchy subject to navigate, as previously mentioned. However, by just being willing to have open-hearted and real conversations about it, whether it’s over dinner or during a coffee break, we can better recognize concerning thoughts and offer help before it’s too late.

Knowledge is power

By training yourself to look for possible suicidal signs and triggers, you can also more easily identify when it’s time to step in and help. Education around the topic is imperative to recognize when to be concerned, what harmful ideations look like, and how to deliver a timely intervention.

Building a safe community

Preventing suicide isn’t a solo act; it’s a group effort. With initiatives like schools fostering understanding, workplaces promoting a healthy work-life balance, and communities rallying together, suicide prevention awareness can increase. Building welcoming and accepting environments that support individuals is key to suicide prevention and awareness.


For those seeking support or resources in their mental health journey, Jackson House offers a range of services tailored to individual needs. If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate. Reach out to us and take the first step towards healing and recovery. Remember, you’re never alone in this journey, and there are always hands ready to help you forward.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.