What does it mean to be passively suicidal?

What does the term passively suicidal mean? What’s the difference between being active and passive? What are the signs and how can you help yourself?

What does the term passively suicidal mean? What’s the difference between being active and passive? What are the signs and how can you help yourself?

Full disclosure before you begin reading this article. I’m not a danger to myself or to others. I’m not in an immediate crisis, I have nothing in place nor any intention of taking my own life in the near future. If you’re sensitive to material discussing suicide or suicidal idealisations, please be cautious when reading as some material may be upsetting.

The term Passively Suicidal was first uttered to me in a doctor’s office over four years ago. I’d been dragged to the clinic against my will due to an incident the previous night wherein my partner had found me trying to hurt myself. I was given an ultimatum; See my doctor for help, or speak to my parents. The former was the only feasible option.

I’d been waiting for over three hours and my distress was growing. As soon as my name appeared on the screen I all but bolted for the assigned door, relieved to finally be out of the crowded waiting area.

‘Hello Miss F, what can I do for you?’

I burst into tears.

I was a high functioning depressive who had been weaned off her medication for over four years and appeared to be coping well. Besides that, I had just finished studying, had been made redundant at the mouth of Christmas and was properly unemployed for the first time in my life. In hindsight, I had no idea how to cope or distract myself without something to keep me busy.

I was spiraling because I was able to spend twenty-four hours a day within my own head, and that was a dangerous place.

“Are you passively suicidal or actively suicidal?” the GP handed me a tissue just as tears threatened to spill from my eyes.

“What’s the difference?” I’m sure I characteristically raised my eyebrow in suspicion.

“Are you actively planning to kill yourself or are you just thinking about it?” he had turned to face me head-on, no longer looking over his shoulder haphazardly.

“I know exactly how I want to do it. I spoke before I had a chance to contemplate the words or the consequences of them, “But I’m too scared to follow through.

He never asked for any further clarification, nor did we spend a great deal of time talking about it. As is the manner of open clinics he only had a limited time with each patient, suicidal or not. Yet, there I was telling the man I wanted to swallow the whole medicine box.

I was handed a script for a new anti-depressant and asked to come back in two weeks for a follow-up. Shamefully I didn’t bother. Instead, I took myself to the nearest pharmacist, cashed in the script and took my pills.

A month later I started a new job and was beginning to feel better.

Magic. But not really.


Being passively suicidal is apparently akin to window shopping for a coat that you may or may not buy. You pass the store three, maybe four times, but you never go in.

You just admire it from afar.

This is what separates the passively suicidal from the actively suicidal. The latter meaning you’re actively planning on and trying to take your own life.

Personally, it goes hand in hand with my other mental illnesses. It pulses in and out of my life like depression, sometimes loud and sometimes quiet as a mouse. It’s been there for a number of years, choosing to shout when things get bad and anxiously hiding when things are going well. I’ve just never really chosen to address it.


What does being passively suicidal look like? 

Like many things in regards to mental illness, what being passively suicidal looks like is different for everyone.

Dark Humour;

It’s the dark humour that all of us with mental illness seem to display. The LOL I wish I were dead memes, and the ‘Haha, kill me now jokes. Harmless when uttered by some, but a very real cry for help when repeated by others.

Basic Tasks;

It’s not showering for four days because the effort is too much. The act of turning on the shower, undressing, washing your hair, cleaning the drain and the glass afterward. It’s a sensory overload!

Personally speaking, it also presents itself in the nourishment. Or lack thereof. I find myself not wanting to eat because making food is almost like climbing a mountain. A mountain which is made higher by the persistent voice of an eating disorder nagging in my brain.

More commonly it can appear in a messed sleep schedule. Purposely not sleeping for days and then making up for it over the course of a fourteen-hour nap isn’t exactly the picture of stability.

Restlessness;

I’ve spent many a night driving to a bridge at three am because I can’t sleep, I’m frustrated and agitated. I just sit in the car, unable to get out and walk to the overpass. However, the knowledge that I could if I wanted to bring comfort. I never do, I just admire the notion.

It’s putting ourselves in risky situations. Starving, self-harm, purging, smoking, drinking, reckless driving, etc. If you’ve ever put yourself in an overly risky situation, ask yourself why? I always come back with the answer; “Because it would be better off that way.”

It can grow until you become so desperate for distraction that you start to write out pages and pages of to-do lists. You recite quotes, book blurbs, and completely irrelevant information all in a bid to keep your mind occupied, so that you don’t have to think about how you don’t necessarily want to be here, but don’t want to die either.

Isolation;

Passively suicidal idealisations can manifest in the way we isolate ourselves. It’s not answering phone calls, not replying to texts and ignoring social media. It’s eliminating any and all people because it’s too much effort even to speak, let alone explain yourself.


How can you help yourself?

Being passively suicidal looks a lot like regular old depression, except it can feel more intense. For me, depression is flat and filled with crying. However, passive suicidalness is alive with constant pain in my chest and heaviness in my gut. I don’t know how to calm it down, I still haven’t got the answer months later, but I just know that somedays it’s quieter than others.

One of the key ways to begin to accept and heal is admitting it. Speak to someone aloud, write it down in a journal or even in a letter. Confide in anyone you feel comfortable with; A GP, a friend, a therapist, a lecturer or even a parent.

It’s really as simple, or as difficult, as that. Communication and being vulnerable to others is the first step to understanding and working towards healing these thoughts. Although they may never cease completely, they can be dulled by simply airing them to the world in whatever way you choose.


You are never alone. You should never be ashamed to open up about your struggles, nor should you be embarrassed. Reach out before it’s too late.

This was written and released the day I found out my grandfather had terminal cancer, therefore it never really gained any traction. Things have progressed since then, somedays being better than others, and so it’s been updated significantly.

If any of you are struggling with suicidal thoughts of any degree please, please, open up. Don’t keep it bottled up inside.

** If you like what I do please consider donating to my KO- FI fund. I’d like to be able to reach more of an audience so I can potentially grow this blog to be much more than it currently is. I also hope to bring freebies and eventually toolkits to you all as a way of saying thank you for your support.

138 comments

  1. I’m incredibly sorry you’ve had to go through this. I’m glad you wrote this post, because I had those feelings you mentioned, but I could never put a word to it. It’s a lot easier to process when you know what it’s called

  2. NOTE: I am also not in immediate danger to myself or others. But I have been passively suicidal. A lot, honestly. Thank you for speaking up about this.

  3. It is really hard, but real, what you are dealing with. I often find myself uncomfortable reading because of the rawness, but I need it and it opens my eyes. Thank you.

  4. An interesting idea, even though, really there’s nothing passive about it: one is thinking suicide so it’s a real worry. Like you say admitting there is a problem is maybe the biggest step of all, and then actually doing something about it

  5. Not going to lie, last few days have been awful but im learning the power of outside stressors and for now, the coat stays firmly on the rack x

  6. Such a brave and frank remis of something that not many people understand. I like yourself was explained the term during a doctors consultation and have since walked through my recovery and relapses in a blur trying to get someone else to get what my doctor seemed to get.

    Keep fighting the fight and don’t buy that coat for I strive to do the same x

  7. I hear you there. I talk, or at least I try to, but no one seems to listen. Or maybe I’m not saying it loud enough? Who knows anymore.

  8. I think you are incredibly brave for sharing your story. If more people did what you did there wouldn’t be such a stigma around depression, anxiety, and mental illness in general.

  9. I never realized there was a term for people thinking about suicide. Regardless, no one should ever feel ashamed of reaching out for help no matter what.

  10. Thank you for sharing your personal story. Great information to have. Didn’t realize the difference between active and passive.

  11. This has been my life for almost the past year. I’ve been talking, but nobody wants to take me seriously. Some days are harder than others.

  12. I didn’t really know the difference between the two. It would’ve been difficult to put yourself out there. But thank you and I wish you well.

  13. These are some very important points that can help someone having passive suicidal thoughts. Thanks for providing awareness to the common people. This topic needs to be discussed more.

  14. Wow. Thanks for putting yourself out there in such an honest and important way. I’m hope you are getting all the help and support you need.

  15. I never really knew or thought of the difference before, but it makes a lot of sense when you explain it. I think it is something that isn’t spoken about enough really.

  16. What an informative post. It truly tought me the difference between being active and passive suicidal. Thanks for being so open. The more we learn, the more we can help.

  17. Depression is hard and this is good info to know. Friends of mine just lost their teen to suicide so this hits home.

  18. Very enlightening. I do need to stop with the jokes. I’ve gotten so much better but this has illuminated to me where there’s still work to do. Awesome read.

  19. I have always advised any of my friends who hint in any way that they feel inclined in that direction to seek professional help as I will not be able to assist them at all.

  20. I’m both sorry it made you feel like that and sort of glad too. Not glad because you’re feeling that way, but glad because it made you realise you need to work on things. Since posting this I’ve been struggling HARD with these thoughts (truth be told it was way before that, but no matter) so while re-reading it for editing it made me sad.
    Thank you so much for reading and commenting. x

  21. It can be so, so hard. Even talking to my therapist is hard sometimes because you just can’t put all your thoughts and feelings into words. I’m so sorry your went through that. I hope you got the help you needed though. x

  22. The information you are continously providing is a really valuable resource. Your deep and meaningful post will mean so much to a huge percentage of your readers

  23. It can be so difficult for those that struggle to ask for help. I have the same problem with my anxiety. Thank you for opening up.

  24. I think that is is still very hard for people who suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses to open up and ask for help. People who have never been though this won’t understand and sometimes they will push you away because you asked for help. It did happen to me, and that pushed me into more distrust.

  25. I first read this post a few days ago and have been struggling with it since. It hit a little too close to home and attacked a few truths that I am not comfortable with which means I have some work to do.
    Thank you for continuously posting, and discussing, those hard topics that so many of us need to talk about.

  26. I certainly use it when talking to professionals or even if I ever call helplines (which I have not that long ago). It’s just an easier way of expressing things without saying ‘I WANT TO DIE NOW’, you know?

    Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I’m so sorry about your nana. Cancer is a horrible thing x

  27. I’ve experienced this before. Many don’t have a plan in place but just know they aren’t opposed to the idea. It’s sad, and still plagues me to this day.

  28. Thank you for the open dialogue on this condition that is so heavily prevalent in today’s society. There are many levels and forms of depression. As humans I think we all go through some of it at some point. I hope the result of your blog is that many people are encouraged to seek help.

  29. Hi! I’ve been following your blog and Love it! I understand very well what’s like to be passively suicidal. It’s a thing and many might not understand it well enough if they’re not going through the same. I was into depression before and had many suicidal thoughts but positivity, being hopeful and surrounds oneself with good friends helps alot.

  30. Sorry to hear about your experience, I get why you started off the post with a disclosure after reading the rest of the post.

    I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather too. Cancer is a horrible, my Nana died of cancer, we only found out she had it two weeks before she died.

    I hadn’t heard the term passively suicidal since the 90s. I’ve become so use to using suicidal ideation more recently. But passively suicidal is a much more simpler and to the point term, I should start using it again.

  31. I wasn’t aware there were two forms of suicide. Thank you for sharind and for your transparency, My prayer is that you reach a place where those thoughts lack all power. #bewell

  32. I’ve struggled with depression all of my life, I finally got on medication (in my 40’s) wish I would’ve done it years ago!

  33. I’ve never heard the term passively suicidal – what an eye-opening story. We all need to continue this dialogue in every part of the world with people in all walks of life and of every age! Wishing you the best and to please continue using your insight, experience and voice to increase awareness.

  34. Thank you for sharing a piece of your life. I think it’s an important topic but it’s not often discussed as it should

  35. Thank you very much for stopping in and reading. Not a lot of people have heard of it but it’s a very huge problem among far more than we know. I only just picked up on it in my best friend, and I’ve known him for over 15 years.