Suicidal Ideation

What is suicidal ideation?

Suicidal ideation is a term to describe one’s thoughts of engaging in suicide-related behavior (Crosby et al., n.d.)

Symptoms of suicidal ideation include:

  • Threatening to harm or end their life
  • Seeking or access to means of suicide
  • Expressing ideation of suicide, or wish to die
  • Feeling of hopelessness, worthlessness
  • Acting reckless and impulsive
  • Talking about feeling trapped
  • Withdrawal from family/friends

Major risk factors of suicide include:

  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Mental disorders (depression, mood disorders)
  • Chronic disease and disability
  • Lack of access to care

Medical standard of care

Conventional treatment for suicide prevention mainly includes (Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts – Diagnosis and Treatment – Mayo Clinic, n.d.):

  • psychotherapy
  • medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medications
  • treatment for drug and alcohol addiction (if relevant)
  • encouraging family support and education

Medications used in the context of suicide prevention typically work by acting on chemicals and neurotransmitters. Mechanisms include increasing the release, decreasing the uptake, and inhibiting the breakdown of molecules such as serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine.

The medical approach to suicide prevention can potentially miss physiological and biological factors contributing to increased risk.

“Up to 50% of patients with psychiatric complaints have been found to harbor unrecognized medical illnesses that may have contributed to their mental deterioration” (Carrigan & Lynch, 2003).

Why consider an orthomolecular approach?

Numerous biological causes of, and contributors to, suicidal ideation have been identified through nutritional research and clinical practice. Each individual may experience suicidal ideation for different reasons.

An orthomolecular approach:

  • identifies the drivers and causes of suicidal ideation and focuses on understanding them
  • works WITH the body to restore balance and normal function, and considers the person with the suicidal ideation vs. just the suicidal ideation
  • addresses nutrient depletions that promote suicidal ideation whereas medications do not
  • can be done SAFELY in conjunction with most medical interventions

Depression and suicidal ideation

Addressing depression, if present, is an important aspect of addressing suicide risk. Refer to the Depression webpage for in-depth information on addressing depression with an orthomolecular approach.

Carrigan, C. G., & Lynch, D. J. (2003). Managing Suicide Attempts: Guidelines for the Primary Care Physician. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 5(4), 169–174. 

Crosby, A. E., Ortega, L., & Melanson, C. (n.d.). Self Directed Violence Surveillance. 96. 

Suicide and suicidal thoughts—Diagnosis and treatment—Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved December 27, 2021, from