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 is an old article, detailing passively suicidal feelings which I’ve worked hard to overcome. I’m not a danger to myself or to others. There is not 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, what can I do for you?’
I burst into tears.
I was and continue to be a high-functioning depressive. 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?”
“Are you actively planning to kill yourself or are you just thinking about it?” he 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 means 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 regard to mental illness, what being passively suicidal looks like is different for everyone.
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.
It’s not showering for four days because the effort is too much. The act of turning on the shower, undressing, washing your hair, and cleaning the drain afterward. It’s a sensory overload!
Personally speaking, it also presents itself in nourishment. Or lack thereof. I find myself not wanting to eat because making food is almost like climbing a mountain. A mountain that is made higher by the persistent voice of an eating disorder nagging in my brain.
More commonly it can appear in a bad 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.
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, brings 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.
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 gotten the answer months later, but I just know that some days it’s quieter than others.
One of the key ways to begin to accept and heal is by 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, some days 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.
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
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.
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.
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
Sending you lots of love and hope you feel better soon.
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
Thank you so much pet. I don’t plan on buying that coat anytime soon and I hope you aren’t either. x
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
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.
Thank you so much. x
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.
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.
Thank you for sharing your personal story. Great information to have. Didn’t realize the difference between active and passive.
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.
I can listen to my friends if they need to talk but i’ll always suggest seeking medical advice. We can only do so much.
Thank you very much. The jokes are a hard one to beat, I still make them and often have to second guess myself.
I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s so difficult to watch someone grieve for a child. Sending you my love and condolences. x
Thank you .x
Thank you so much for reading. x
Thank you for stopping in and reading. It certianly isn’t talked about enough, yet it’s so important.
Thank you. I appreciate you stopping in and reading.
Thank you for reading. I really appreciate it. x
Thank you very much for reading. x
I’m so sorry you feel this way. Sending you hugs and well wishes. xx
Beautifully explained and describes how I feel to a T.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Great read for family and friends of those struggling with depression/suicidal ideation
Depression is hard and this is good info to know. Friends of mine just lost their teen to suicide so this hits home.
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.
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.
Thankful to admit that I definitely don’t suffer from passively suicide!
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
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
Thank you so much for reading. Anxiety is such a curse and yet it’s so misunderstood.
Thank you for reading. x
Thank you so much. I really appreciate this. xx
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
I hadn’t heard of this before. I can’t imagine. I feel for the people going through this.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you very much for stopping in. x
Indeed it is
Thank you x
Thank you for stopping in and reading. x
Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for taking the time to pop in and read. x
It’s great that you’ve found something that works for you 😀 Thank you so much for stopping in and reading.
Thank you very much xx
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
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.
Thank you so much for following! It means so much :). Also thank you for taking the time to not only read but leave a wee comment.
Thank you, and thank you for stopping in and reading.
Thank you very much. xx
As always, your raw vulnerability and sharing strikes a cord in me! Thank you!
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.
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.
I volunteer for a charity that runs a suicide hotline and most callers are passively suicidal.
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.
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
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!
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.
This is so helpful and informative, and beautifully written! Thank you for sharing.
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
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading xx
Thank you so much. I’m glad you’re able to find this blog informative 🙂
Thank you so much. x
Thank you 🙂
Thank you. I really appreciate you popping in and reading 🙂
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.
Thank you very much for popping in, reading and commenting. Your support really means a lot 🙂
Thank you so much for reading 🙂
Exactly! I’ve seen it happen too often and for years didn’t say a thing. I suppose for years I have no clue about it to be fair. I used to say things to Uni mates like ‘Have you guys ever driven into class and wondered what if I died on the way and right now Im just going through the motions in my memory, but I’m actually dead?’. It was stupid, but it’s a thought I frequently have and secretly (sometimes) hope for. But by no means am I actively suicidal. At times like this it’s just been a passing fantasy.
Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I’m glad you were able to find this informative.
We need more conversations like this. Thanks for being so vulnerable so the rest of us can learn through your pain. I learned so much.
This is such an important distinction. I have seen people shamed in the past for using the phrase ‘suicidal’ while not actively trying to take their lives and that kind of judgment and lack of understanding is exactly what will push some people over the edge. I truly wish the world would work better to understand and HELP those who are struggling!
I’m so glad I read this as I wasn’t familiar with the term before. Thank you for explaining it so well.
Thank you very much. I really appreciate you popping in and reading.
That’s exactly it in a nutshell! The depression makes you want to die, while the anxiety of it holds you back. You’ve summed this up perfectly. Thank you for stopping in and reading.
Such a great article! It must have been so difficult to talk about but it’s great that you are sharing it so people can realise that you can still be suicidal even if you don’t try and kill your self. I have been through this for many years of my life. It’s like my depression makes me want to die but my anxiety makes me too scared to die. It’s a spiral x
Thank you for sharing this. Talking openly about MH is the first step in de-stigmatising it.
I’m wishing you the very best on your MH journey and hope you continue getting the support needed. ????
This was so well written and gently presented. I was not familiar with this term and appreciate your honesty and wisdom around this topic. Awareness is so important for no only ourselves but others whom we care for and love. Thank you for posting on such an important topic.
I’m so glad I came across this article. I didn’t even know there was a term for this but it definitely makes sense. Being a mental health advocate myself, I shall be more aware of looking for this in others. Thanks for sharing.
Very good explanation about the difference. I work in mental health and I appreciate your research and personal experience on this matter.
Wow, I appreciate this post a lot. I never knew there was something like this, and it feels better knowing there’s a name for this feeling.
This is an incredibly informative post and it saddens me to hear that you, too, have to live with a brain that causes you to feel and think this way. Wishing you all the strength!
– Laura || https://afinnontheloose.com
Thank you for helping me become familiar with the term passively suicidal. I always learn so much from reading your blog posts. I appreciate your depth and sensitivity.
I know the feeling, thanks for writing about this, it’s not something people talk about often! Its a shame that passively suicidal people and propeo who are high functioning don’t get the care they deserve
Thank you so much for reading pet! I really appreciate it 😀
Awesome information. I love that you tie in personal experiences
Thank you for sharing this with us, Nyxie! I had to learn I was passively suicidal by Googling it. I kept it to myself and when I was feeling really down, I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Turns out I’ve been passively suicidal my whole life. It’s better some days, but other days, not so much. Thank you for shedding light on something that a lot of people may not know about. Despite being a “passive” thing, it’s still serious and needs to be talked about.
Emily | https://www.thatweirdgirllife.com
I relate to this so strongly. Thanks for sharing <3
Jessica | The Unplug Initiative
I know the difference far too well. Be suffered from suicidal ideation since primary school, but I haven’t tried to commit suicide since 2003, although I came very close last August
Thank you so much for stopping by 😀
That was very interesting. I love your blog
You’re very welcome 🙂
Thank you for reading. I always appreciate your support 🙂
Thank you for sharing this. I am lucky enough never to have felt actively or passively suicidal, and I never knew there were different types. You have described how you feel in so much detail – thank you for educating me and others. I can see from the other comments that a lot of people can relate to your post. x
Thank you so much for stopping by and dropping me a comment Shane. Your support means so much. x
Thank you 🙂
A lot to learn from your post
Excellent post Chloe and the term passively suicidal is a perfect description that I have never previously encountered. I feel fortunate that I am no longer feeling this on a regular basis, but I was there and it is a confusing and frightening place to be. Being able to talk about it in these terms hopefully gives loved ones around you an understanding without scaring the life out of them.
Keep sharing, keep talking and stay strong.
Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Mental health is such an important topic, and one close to my heart.
Thank you for sharing this and being so open and honest. Mental illness is a daily struggle, it’s hell on Earth, but it helps others to know they’re not alone xo
Thank you so much for sharing this post! Great explanation of what passively suicidal is!
Thank you very much for stopping by and reading. It means so much to me.
Thank you for sharing and be so very open and honest with such a hard subject. You are helping many with your words!!
Thank you so much for popping in and reading. I have suffered this for the last few years, sometimes very intensely, but I don’t think I need to hide away from it. It helps to write it down 🙂
I love this line: “It pulses in and out of my life like depression does.”
Thank you for sharing. I don’t often hear from people with the same experience as me in this realm.
Thank you for sharing! It is very brave to share these stories and thoughts. I didn’t know there was a difference either. It sounds completely exhausting to have to work through these thoughts constantly and go through the already hard enough journey that is life. I’m so happy that you are sharing awareness on this topic and are with us today! Hugs!
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment 🙂
This is an incredible piece of writing and sums up exactly how I feel. Thank you so much for sharing this!
It’s surprising just how many people are. Thank you for reading 🙂
I forgot to make a comment on here earlier. But this is such a good post. You’ve explained this perfectly.
I cannot thank you enough. I will be using this to help me explain it to others.
I realise now that from as young as 11/12 I have been passively suicidal.
Thank you. I am so glad that I could be of some help to you. xx
Thank you for sharing This had helped me to understand what a loved one is going through. I pray all the best for you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this – I’m glad it could provide some sort of education to some 🙂
Thank you for being so open and honest and for educating me in this. More people need to read this so it’s more openly discussed
I had no idea about this difference. Just want to send you a hug. Please keep strong, things will get better. Get in touch if you need to talk. xx
You’re welcome ❤️
Thank you very much sweetheart. Thank you for your kind words and for always being here. It means so much to have people so kind as you in the MH blogger community.
– Much love xx
Thank you for sharing ❤️ I feel like this and I’m glad I now can name it! Saying I’m suicidal feels silly as I have no plans, I just feel that way. When it gets bad I just have to retreat back into my shell, I know time will ease the feeling ???????? Keep being strong and I’m always here if you fancy a chat!
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It means a lot. 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to read this 🙂 I would have considered it depression as well, but the two seem to be closely related.
Thank you for your kind words.
Thank you for being so brave to share your thoughts and experiences. Definitely a conversation that needs to be had more often because I’m sure many people feel the same way.
Thank you for this. I’ve never heard the term passively suicidal before but this post makes so much sense. Before I would have thought this was depression so thank you for expanding on that. Really great post and I’m glad you’re feeling better now x
You’re very welcome. It’s more common than you think. It was only through speaking with a therapist and discussing how I frequently think about jumping from motorway bridges, and how when I hear of someone taking their own life I get chills, that she mentioned the phrase. Thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂
Wow reading this I have never felt more connected with a anything more, I feel like this so much it’s crazy! I never even knew it had a name, thank you for this informative post!
Thank you for stopping by! It means so much 🙂
Lovely honest post, thank you.
Very on point in terms of posts I’ve been reading this week on, as you call it being “passively suicidal”. Great descriptor- really helps expand the dialogue on a silent experience of many, including me.
Thank you again for your los writing,
Peace and love.
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment <3
Thanks for sharing. I can really relate so it’s nice to hear someone else sharing their experiences.
Thank you for taking the time to read.
I compare it to depression; The intensity comes and goes in waves.
I’m glad I was able to shed some light on the subject.
Thank you for sharing this. I can imagine there’s a lot of people who aren’t aware of the difference. I was aware but certainly not to the extent that you’ve explained. I thought it was just thinking about it regularly, I didn’t realise it was so intense. So thank you for educating me on that aspect.