Scraps of lined paper arranged in the shape of a a woman's profile and hair streaming back, with various depressive or suicidal thoughts written on each piece

Being Passively Suicidal Is Just As Hard as Being Actively Suicidal

September is National Suicide Awareness Month, and today — September 10 — is World Suicide Prevention Day.

To make a quick disclaimer: I am not a threat to myself or anyone else. I am okay (mostly), I have support systems, and I know I have a good life and things, people, to live for.

Also, this is not a cry for attention — I am hoping that by sharing my experiences and talking about something that, at least for me, made a big difference in how I can handle and overcome obstacles, in hopes that this can help someone else.

I have been passively suicidal for many years now.

Last year, I felt that I was finally in a stable enough place where I could start talking about my experiences with suicidal thoughts. Until that point, no one by my therapist and my then-boyfriend knew what I had been going through — not even my parents knew.

I took so long to open up because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me any more than they had to. I didn’t want people freaking out over me, thinking I was one push away from offing myself. And frankly, I was just scared to say out loud “I hate my life and myself so much, I don’t want to live anymore.” That felt too real, too accepting of how bad things had gotten.

I wrote an article titled “Remembering Those Who Love Me Kept Me From Acting On My Suicidal Thoughts.” It was by far one of the scariest things I have done to date, to reveal to people just how bad things had gotten. But I knew it was time, and that sharing my story could potentially help someone else.

What is “passively suicidal?”

Being passively suicidal means you wish to die. Actively suicidal is just that — you’ve got your plan and you’re planning on going through with the plan.

– Arya Grace, The Mighty (“The Difference Between Active and Passive Suicidal Thoughts“)

Passive suicidal ideation occurs when you wish were dead or that you could die, but you don’t actually have any plans to commit suicide. Active suicidal ideation, on the other hand, is not only thinking about it but having the intent to commit suicide, including planning how to do it.

Marcia Purse, Very Well Mind (“An Overview of Suicidal Ideation“)

It is too easy to fall into passively suicidal thoughts.

Whenever I’m low on energy; having a really bad day; am just emotionally, physically, and/or mentally drained; or am overwhelmed — most often by what’s happening in my life — I find myself thinking,

“I just want it all to stop.”
“I can’t keep up with all this.”
“I am so, so tired.”
“I wish I could die so I would stop feeling everything.”

That last one happens a lot. Having depression and anxiety is the worst kind of burden, and makes slipping into passive suicidal thoughts far too easy.

Frankly, I’m having one of those moments as I write this. I’ve been having them quite a lot over these last couple of months, where I’m just so done and tired and sick of feeling everything. Tired of the gray and nothing and being alone. Tired of crying and hurting and it’s just too much right now.

Tumblr post from @justtryingtabreathe that reads: "Do you ever just shut off?? Like you could be feeling okay and interacting with people and then all of a sudden *boom* you're empty. Not hating yourself, not caring about anything... Just feeling dissociated and indifferent to life around you."

All I want to do is sleep, stay in my bed, and ignore the world.

The scary part is, it’s not that hard to go from passive to active suicidal ideation.

I honestly couldn’t tell you why my thoughts have not made that switch. Certainly my loved ones were a big part, but let’s be real — that was guilt at hurting people you love. Nothing stops you from doing things quite like that kind of familial guilt.

Despite being passively suicidal, it has only once — years ago — crossed my mind to ever act on those thoughts. It hasn’t been about taking the action — it is about wanting to stop feeling everything and go numb.

This will never not be hard to talk about.

But talking about mental health, especially suicide, is so important. I will never stop sharing my experiences if it means I can help even one person, even when it’s hard for me. Because I wish I had had that when I was growing up, feeling confused and broken and lost.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults – and so many people do not get the help they need, or know how to reach out to someone to tell them how they feel.

Being suicidal, passive or active, is one of the hardest things to talk about.

There is so much stigma and ignorance surrounding suicide. There is nothing scarier than opening up to someone and being accused of just wanting attention, or hearing some stupid phrase like “But you seem so happy!” or “But you’re too pretty/good-looking to be depressed!” (There is so much wrong with that last one. Never, ever say this — or these other 22 things that are so incredibly stupid to say to someone with a mental illness)

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, passive or active, speak up.

I know this can be one of the hardest things to do, especially that first conversation. Vocalizing something you’ve only kept to yourself will make it feel too real. You may feel like no one will understand, or that people will judge you for the experiences you are going through simply because they don’t get it. It’s true, they may not fully understand.

But do your best to help them understand, by explaining as much as you can. Whatever amount you can explain to them will make a difference. It will help them, help you. It will also take a weight off your chest, because you’ve taken the first step in getting to a place where you don’t wake up every day thinking, “I don’t want to be here.”

You are not alone.

If you ever need reassurance that you are not alone in your struggles and that what you are experiencing is valid, I recommend following accounts @selfcareisforeveryone and @mentalhealthquotes on Instagram.

There are a ton of accounts you can follow, but I find these to be particularly great in reminding myself that other people get it. @mentalhealthquotes also does “Vent Sundays,” where you can just open up in the comments with others who are going through similar things and find reassurance.

I also suggest following The Mighty on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The entire focus of the platform is mental health and destigmatization and will really help you feel understood. You can even submit pieces and become a contributor.

To those with friends, family, etc., who struggle with a mental illness:

Please check in on them. They will not always be able to reach out when they’re at their lowest.

My advice: come up with something — a code-word, a specific image or GIF — that the one struggling can send to you when they need help, attention, or reassurances.


National Suicide Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255 – available 24/7

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