man on a boardwalk. Text reads: 23 people explain what it's like to have suicidal thoughts when you're not suicidal

23 People Explain What It's Like to Have Suicidal Thoughts When You're Not Suicidal

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

It’s a complicated thing to explain — what it’s like to have suicidal thoughts, but not want to die. For some, it’s a constant weight of feeling like you don’t deserve to live. For others, it might be a persistent but passing thought. A fly that won’t leave you alone.

Whatever the extent of it, the fact that people can have suicidal thoughts when they have no active plans to kill themselves is something we need to talk about. There’s nothing shameful about experiencing suicidal thoughts, and a person should not have to reach a breaking point before they can reach out for support.

To understand more, we asked people in our mental health community to share what they wish they could tell others about having suicidal thoughts when they have no intent of dying by suicide.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “It’s like randomly imagining what life around you would be like if you didn’t exist anymore. It’s like having random daydreams about dying in different ways. It’s not always looking both ways when you cross the street, not because you want to die, but because you don’t not want to die… it’s having this numbing ache inside you don’t know how to mute.” 

2. “Sometimes my anxiety causes me to feel trapped and overwhelmed. Thoughts of my death (not necessarily suicide) are a fantasy of escape. And escape where you don’t feel guilty, scared or pressured anymore.” 

3. “I have intrusive thoughts about suicide, even when my moods are relatively stable. I sometimes have images and thoughts popping up. These thoughts feel obsessive some days. I am grateful I don’t actually feel like doing any such thing that would end my life.”

4. “I once told my therapist I never pictured myself as an old person. That I didn’t think I’d ever make it there. Some days I just want to disappear. To escape the voices in my head telling me how awful I am, how I’m such a burden to everyone, how fat I am, etc. The cacophony is enough to make you want to rip your brain out of your head.” 

5. “The best way I’ve found to describe it is that suicidal *thoughts* can be fleeting. In fact, I’ve met many people who have never been suicidal who have wondered what it might be like. The problem for those of us who have been suicidal is that the *thought* of suicide brings up all those old emotions, sort of like PTSD. Even writing this response has made my thoughts turn to — “Well, I *could* just go ahead and do it…” But right now, I’m not suicidal, and I actually am in a pretty good place with regard to my mental health. So why does this voice go on in the back of my mind? Because I’m sick, y’all.”

6. “Think of it like getting a cold. You can drink orange juice and take vitamins and take care of yourself as much as you possibly can, and you might be in the healthiest shape of your life. And then you start sneezing, and your nose starts running. You never know when or where it’s going to happen; it just does, and there’s often little you can do to prevent it. So you just keep moving on, accepting it’s a part of you or that it’s simply not something you can control. That’s all we can do.”

7. “It’s less about killing myself and more about ceasing to exist. I want the people around me to not be bothered by my incompetence, insecurities and the trouble I feel I cause them. Sometimes it’s just a call for momentary relief.”

8. “They’re fleeting but frequent thoughts that attack you even when you feel completely fine. Sorta like an annoying fly buzzing around you constantly.”

9. “I am so overwhelmed and stressed out by what seems like everything. The world is just crashing down on me. I just want the stress to be gone. My chest just aches like it’s getting crushed. My mind is like having 100+ internet tabs open and one of them has an ad that is playing music so you gotta rush to find it to make the ad stop, but all you find is more random tabs with no ad (if that makes any sense). My mind is all over the place, and all I want to happen is for it to stop. Freeze. Be calm. Don’t want to die. That’s too permanent. To be able to pause or disappear away from everything though is a nice thought.”

10. “I often describe it as being passively suicidal. I wake up in the morning and wish I hadn’t, I close my eyes at night hoping it’ll be the last time .. It’s not like I want to end my life, like when I’m actively suicidal, but I don’t want to live. It’s lonely and it’s scary and something that goes through my head every single day.”

11. “It’s overwhelming. You know you don’t want to kill yourself, but the thoughts just won’t leave your head. I battle this every single day of my life. I have everything to live for yet the thoughts don’t want to move from my brain. It’s like being trapped in a brain you’re unfamiliar with… it’s like walking into a room full of family and only seeing complete strangers.”

12. “It’s almost like this nagging feeling or voice. You’re out living life. The sun is shining, your favorite song is playing but something feels off. You suddenly get a brief flash of ‘What if’ and it passes so quickly you don’t really process it. Until the music stops. Then it comes again. And lingers. Kind of like when your phone keeps going off and distracting you. Until eventually you have to answer it. (Or in this case, dwell on the thought.)”

13. “Being angry with hope. Being frustrated with faith. Resenting the reasons to stay alive… Self-hate. Self-hate. Self-hate. People hate. People hate. People hate. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Futility, oh my god, the overwhelming futility. Knowing it’s not futile. Arguing with yourself over whether or not it is. Not wanting to die but not wanting to feel worthless any more. Not wanting to die but not wanting that tight aching physical pain in the heart/stomach/head any more. Not wanting to die but not wanting to be living in fear forever…. What if I get ill and die now because I’ve wished myself dead? (I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, please don’t let me die!)”

14. “It’s like going into an art room full of beautiful paintings, and then the lights turn off and written in invisible ink everywhere are these dark thoughts… then as soon as the lights come back on you see just beautiful paintings — although you know hidden somewhere are these suicidal thoughts and you’re just waiting until they resurface.”

15. “Some of my worst points was the ‘other me’ in my head shouting at me, feeling like it was attacking my brain physically…  Another version of this would be like it is trying to slyly coax me into doing this things, like the snake in ‘The Jungle Book.'”

16. “It’s not really the thought, ‘I want to kill myself,’ but more, ‘I don’t care if I die.’ Situations that most people would have fear in don’t always bother me. Or I imagine things happening that would cause death. But these are just passive thoughts, they may always be there, but I am learning to fight them.”

17. “I have a lot of intrusive thoughts, regardless of how stable my mental health is. It’s like everything will be OK, and I’ll be happy and content or at the very least, I’ll be feeling relatively neutral, and all of a sudden my brain will say something like, ‘Just swerve into the concrete barrier,’ or, ‘You could jump off these stairs right now.’ In these moments, I don’t want to kill myself, but the thought of doing so is always there. It’s like a tiny switch in my brain — it isn’t triggered all the way so as to cause a suicidal crisis, but it’s just nudged a little bit so that it’s almost on.”

18. “Suicidal thoughts are a daily occurrence for me, even if I’m not totally low or really wanting to die… They’re passive thoughts, but they’re always there even when I’m having a good day.”

19. “It’s intrusive thoughts that make no sense to you, but they refuse to leave. It’s a feeling that sweeps across your mind like a fog. An evil inner self-voice that taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear on your darkest days. It’s pondering different ways and scenarios you could do it, but never actually planning it. Just because I don’t want to actually go through with killing myself doesn’t mean my mental health isn’t affected by these intrusive thoughts that insist I would be better off if I did. I know how much it would hurt those I love, and all I want is the thoughts of wanting to harm or end myself to be gone. When you struggle with mental illness, anxiety, depression etc., sometimes thoughts invade your mind without even wanting them.”

20. “It’s like being behind a one-way mirror. You can see the world around you going about their daily lives, but you aren’t present in it. You’re merely a spectator. And no one even notices you because all they see is their reflection. All they see (care about) is themselves and the world around them. They never see you, and you feel they don’t care about you. And then your mind begins to wonder. Is my existence significant? I’m already living like I don’t exist, so why should I continue living? It’s one of the most frustrating feelings because you want to be on the other side of the mirror. You want people to notice and to care. It’s this dull aching in your heart that never goes away and you just want it to stop.”

21. “One of my favorite quotes about this: ‘Depression is the inability to construct a future.’ That’s completely true. Even if you aren’t actively looking to end your life, you can’t imagine going on. Every day you feel like it’s too much and that you don’t belong, hoping that some outside force might just end it for you.” — Stacy T.

22. “For me, it’s like the annoying devil character on your shoulder… like you are fine but this dark annoying thing keeps whispering into your ear these awful thoughts. And sometimes it’s not thoughts, it’s just images. Like I will be just going about my day and I will get these random suicidal images in my head. Almost like someone mis-filed a photo in your daily slideshow.”

23. “It’s a spectrum. Suicidal thoughts aren’t always actively planning your death. Sometimes, it’s a random, uncontrollable thought that you’d rather not be alive. Sometimes it’s an impulse to do something self-destructive. Sometimes it’s ‘playing’ with the idea while telling yourself you’re not serious about it. ‘Suicidal thoughts’ encompasses a wide range of thoughts and ideas.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.


What It's Like to Have Passive Suicidal Thoughts


Amy Bleuel sitting in a bench

How Amy Bleuel's Death Affected Me as Someone With a Semicolon Tattoo

I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, my hands shaking. My heart is shattered.

One of the people I admire most in the world has lost her life to depression.

You may have heard of Project Semicolon, but if not I’ll explain it to you in short. Project Semicolon is a project whose main purpose is giving hope for those who live with mental illness, suicidal thoughts or struggle with self-harm. The project explains that the semicolon is used when a writer could end a sentence, but chooses not to. The sentence is your life and you are the writer.

Hundreds and thousands of people all over the world, including myself, have tattooed a semicolon to our body to remind ourselves that our story isn’t over yet.

The woman who popularized the Project Semicolon is Amy Bleuel, and last week she lost her life to depression.

If you look at Amy’s Facebook profile you will see a joyful, successful lady who hundreds of thousands people admire and support. But inside, there was more.

And in my eyes, her death shows just how hard living with depression really is. That even when you are really successful and so many people all around the globe look up to you, depression can still be there. And it swallows you up in to its dark, black world.

When I was suicidal, people kept reminding me how successful I am, how far I’ve come from where I once was, but I didn’t care. Because inside of me I was experiencing a strong pain. A pain that someone who has never experienced will never be able to imagine, a pain that words cannot describe. This pain was so strong I wanted nothing but to stop it.

Thanks to Amy, I wasn’t afraid to open up about my depression, tell the world what I’m going through. Just telling people what I’m going through already gave me the strength to carry on. And I know it’s like this for a lot of people.

To me, Amy will always be strong. She told the world about her illness and gave a chance to so many others to take off their masks and talk about their illness. She did so much about raising awareness around mental health, and thanks to her I’m not embarrassed to talk about my own illness, like I was for years beyond years.

I will miss you, Amy <3

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

13 Reasons Why

6 Reasons I'm Not a Fan of '13 Reasons Why'

The mini series version of Jay Asher’s book, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” has come out on Netflix (“13 Reasons Why”). It has been long anticipated, as the best selling young adult novel has been a favorite among many since 2007. However, the story has never sat quite right with me.

For background, I am someone living with mental illness and am a suicide attempt survivor. Today, I am a mental health advocate and future clinician. I read “Thirteen Reasons Why” when I was around 14 years old, in the beginning of my worsening depression and suicidal thoughts. I didn’t really like it then or now.

I recognize this story is one that resonates with some or has provided comfort or solace. I know many people watching the show really enjoy it and are encouraging others to watch and read it as well. While I don’t want to discourage others from finding things that help them, I do want to shed light on the issues it contains.

1. It simplifies suicide and perpetuates the idea suicide has someone to blame.

We are all affected by what we do and what happens to us. And sometimes, what happens to us is unfair, hurtful or even severely traumatizing. I am not saying these things don’t matter, because they do. When faced with the things addressed in “13 Reasons Why” such as bullying, rumors and sexual assault, it absolutely affect our mental health. But to perpetuate the idea there is a straight, linear path to why a suicide happened by pointing fingers at peers, parents or another individual, is harmful. Suicide is a complex issue and it cannot be defined by placing the onus on someone else. Sometimes, suicide has no reason other than intense depression or another mental illness such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. It is upsetting to see a suicide portrayed as the suicidal person wanting others to feel guilty, rather than focusing on the person’s emotions and thoughts.

2. It adds fuel to the fire of suicide myths, like “suicide is selfish.”

People who believe harmful myths about suicide can look to this movie and story to “prove” their point. The fact that Hannah, the girl who dies by suicide in the story, sends pre-recorded tapes detailing the reasons (both events and people’s actions) that led to her suicide is uncomfortable. And it should be. The moral of the story is we need to recognize how we treat people affects them in ways we don’t even know. That is true. But what is most uncomfortable is Hannah’s suicide is seen as a way to expose what people have done to her. It makes it seem as though she is a hero for calling out the harmful things that have been done to her. And while it is brave to confront bullying and stand up after an assault, it is harmful to be done posthumously, implying suicide was the only way to make her voice heard.

3. It devalues both suicide and bullying experiences.

We see over and over again the stories about bullying that lead to suicide, but how accurate is this? And what message does it send? Experiencing bullying is traumatic and each individual copes in their own way. As mental health advocate and speaker Aliçia Raimundo says, “Your bullying experience is valid even if you were never suicidal and your feelings of suicide are valid even if you were never bullied.” Bullying does not directly cause suicide. And many recent youth suicides have been met with advocating for anti-bullying campaigns, which reduces and simplifies suicide. It also continues the idea that the normal outcome for bullying is suicide — which is simply not true. This isn’t to say bullying does not affect mental health or does not have an influence on someone becoming suicidal. It is saying that bullying is a risk factor, but a risk factor is not a cause.

4. It disregards the guidelines on safe and responsible reporting on suicide.

We know Hannah dies by suicide. It is the premise of the story and revealed at the beginning, as the rest of the show depends on it. The show could have been effective and impactful without the graphic, detailed portrayal of Hannah’s suicide, which is a direct violation of research conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other suicide prevention organizations, when they found “risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.”

5. It doesn’t address mental illness in adolescence.

Not all who die by suicide have mental illness, but a mental disorder and/or substance abuse is found in 90% of suicide deaths. And when it comes to adolescents, one in five have (or will have) a serious mental illness. With those statistics in mind, it’s no wonder suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 10 to 14 and the second among those 15 to 34 years old. Clearly, these are important issues and ones that need to be addressed. “13 Reasons Why” is one of the first and most popular mainstream media portrayals of suicide in adolescence and it doesn’t talk about mental illness at all. It is missing a crucial opportunity to discuss an issue affecting the lives of so many children and teenagers.

6. There is no example of successful help-seeking.

A theme throughout the story is silence. None of the teenagers talk to their parents, faculty, staff or anyone but each other about their feelings. As Hannah was contemplating suicide and preparing the tapes, she gave “one try” to ask for help. Having Hannah go to the counselor and him failing to grasp her mental state and fail to help her, is sending a message that help is unattainable. That there is such a thing as “too late” to be helped. After her suicide, her peers also don’t receive help. Several characters have an extremely hard time coping with the tapes, but when parents ask, the students deny it. I understand teenagers can be brooding and moody, we get that. What would be helpful to teenagers today is to show how to ask for help, how treatment and counseling is available — not that everyone just accepts “I’m fine” at face value and that’s the end of the conversation. I wish even one character had someone intervene to shine some light, to be an image of hope, that could help the narrative from being one of desperation and silence to one that encourages conversation and help-seeking. There needs to be an example of what to do, not just what not to do. When we present a failing system without the avenue for change, it does not help to prevent the very thing the show is about.

This is not to say the show and book are all bad. They get some things right, too. In particular, tackling rape culture and slut shaming was dealt with accurately. The scenes dealing with the assaults can be triggering, but it is not shown in the same graphic nature as Hannah’s suicide. The story acts as a warning and that moral of treating people well and being aware of how our words and actions affect others is a good one, I just think it gets muddled and lost at times. It’s stories like these that remind me of the work that needs to be done in the media to involve advocates, clinicians and people with lived experience to make sure we are presenting stories that need to be told in the most responsible and effective ways possible, along with representation of how to get help.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page.

Amy Bleuel

Why Amy Bleuel's Death Does Not Invalidate Her Message

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741

My heart has been heavy the past few days since the report of mental health advocate Amy Bleuel’s death was released.

For those who don’t know who Amy was, she pioneered a network of peer support via her nonprofit organization, Project Semicolon, founded in 2013. Project Semicolon exploded into social media consciousness in 2015 when pictures of semicolon tattoos inspired by the project took off and started spreading like wildfire. But I was a follower of the Project since 2014, when I came across a photo on Facebook dedicated to Semicolon Day:

Project Semicolon defines itself as being “dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury.” I can’t stress enough how important the project was to me as someone who has a past history of self-harm, who has struggled with depression and anxiety and is a suicide attempt survivor and the mother of a suicide attempt survivor.

Amy made it OK to talk about these things openly and touched so many lives with a small punctuation mark. Many who self-harm tend to hide what they do. The nature of the stigma has prevented many from seeking help or having hope for recovery. Suicide attempts often have similar stigmas attached and many suicide attempt survivors, suicide loss survivors or those considering suicide tend to feel alone even in the mental health community. Amy gave us a place there.

As an advocate for mental health as well as chronic illness, I admired and continue to admire Amy and her message of inclusion and support. Amy was a suicide attempt survivor who struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) herself and whose father died by suicide. A few days ago, it was indeed confirmed Amy died by suicide.

People tend to think mental health advocates have all the answers, but oftentimes we’re really still in the battle with them. We’re navigating the same waters, but don’t necessarily have a lighthouse in sight, a life jacket or even know how to swim in uncharted waters. We just know we’re called to help others.

Sometimes in helping others, our own self-care takes a backseat. Sometimes because it’s easier to focus on the problems of others. Sometimes because we get caught up in what we do and other times because we just don’t see that we have that same safety net we try to be.

When an advocate dies by suicide, people wonder what will happen to those they reached out to. Will they feel abandoned? Will they lose hope and give up? But such a loss does not invalidate the message or their work. It makes it more important.

Rest in peace, Amy Bleuel. Your story is still not over and neither is your legacy.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via Amy Bleuel Facebook page.

These Semicolons Are More Than Just a Fun Idea for a Tattoo

Founder of the Semicolon Project, Amy Bleuel, passed away March of 2017 but her message will continue on.

Read the full transcript:

These Semicolons Are More Than Just a Fun Idea for a Tattoo.

The Semicolon Project was founded in 2013 by Amy Bleuel.

In literature, an author uses a semicolon to not end a sentence but to continue on.” -Amy Bleuel

“We see it as you are the author and your life is the sentence. You’re choosing to keep going.”

For many people the semicolon was a sign of hope through mental illness, suicide, self-injury and addiction.

“I got the word warrior because I fight with these thoughts every day, and I survived a suicide attempt. The semicolon is in there because it symbolizes that my story isn’t over. I got it right there on my arm so I can see it clearly every day and remind myself to stay strong.” — Ashley Lake

“This is the tattoo I’m proudest of.” — Kris Lindsey

Amy died March of 2017, but the message of the semicolon continues on.

“It’s humbling to know that a message you started is resonating with people and so many people are choosing to continue their story because of your efforts.” -Amy Bleuel

For anyone struggling right now, please take care of yourself. Please talk to someone.

Text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Call The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.
Donating your social media data to 


Amy Bleuel going for a hike

The Privilege of Knowing Amy

She landed the “gig” of a lifetime, an opportunity that would change everything. Months in advance she booked a hotel downtown, the car that would take her there and planned every other detail of her trip… except for her airfare. Just like every other trip, she would wait until the very last minute to book her flight despite the extra high fares she was bound to pay.

My friend, like 20 million Americans, was afraid to fly. It’s a condition called aviophobia, which is a bona fide anxiety disorder.

But, she wasn’t afraid of flying for the reason you may think. It wasn’t the crashing and dying part she was afraid of. It was the lack of control; being trapped 30,000 feet in the air with hundreds of strangers and no way out is what down right terrified her.

No, death she was comfortable with. Since a young age, she’d lived with chronic suicidal ideation. Overwhelmed with a persistent need to take her own life, she’d attempted suicide more times than she could count. She told me it was the only time she felt like the one in control.  

We used to talk or text long into the night about her “need to die” as she put it. She was embarrassed by it. Afraid everyone would find out she didn’t have it all together.

I used every crisis intervention approach I’d learned as a Mental Health First Aid instructor:

Assess for risk of suicide or self-harm. Check.

Listen nonjudgmentally. Check.

Give reassurance and information. Check.

Encourage professional help. Check.

Encourage self-help. Check.

I also used my personal experiences as the founder of NoStigmas. My father having died by suicide when I was 6, I know a thing or two about the ripple effects of losing someone to suicide. I shared my own struggles with anxiety and depression, even going as far as commiserating with her about my own thoughts of suicide and losing the will to live in high school. Peer support at its finest.

During those times, her desire to die was strong. Her guarded smile and self-deprecating humor would turn very dark. Going through it with her for hours on end was exhausting. I couldn’t hang up for fear that she’d kill herself. When I didn’t hear from her, I would worry and reach out to make sure she was OK. I became so desperate to help that I started neglecting my own wellness. I was losing sleep, constantly anxious and afraid I’d say the wrong thing and trigger an attempt.  

After months of this, I had to create some healthy boundaries and manage her expectations of me as an ally. This was really tough to introduce to her and even more difficult to adhere to. That was a year ago.

My friend Amy Bleuel died by suicide last week.  

Amy Bleuel going for a hike

I am devastatingly guilt-ridden at myself and helplessly angry at her all at the same time. I feel like I should have been there. I feel like I could have done more. I feel like I have failed as a friend. I feel like I have no business doing this work. Etiam atque etiam.

Is this what a doctor feels like when they “did everything they could” to save someone’s life and ultimately lose them? I know I did everything in my power to help. But, I still feel like a helpless 6-year-old fatherless child all over again.

I know I’m not alone in these feelings. Over 800,000 people die by suicide each year worldwide. It’s said that each of them leaves behind six people or more who are forever and irreparably affected by their death. Each of us carries a “survivor’s guilt” and all the “what if’s” with us wherever we go.

But another perspective is this: I had the privilege of knowing her in a way few ever have. Amy chose to trust me with her hopes, dreams and crushing realities. She lived through things no human should ever have to experience and used that to help others. For whatever length of time, we got to talk about taboo things and experience raw humanness in a way that frightens most people. And that connection will continue on.  

Let’s all remember those who are gone for the lives they lived, rather than they way they died.

Fly free, my friend; your story isn’t over.

P.S. I took this photo of Amy during a trip to Seattle for a shared speaking event. I’ll always remember her this way.

— — —

If you or someone you know is in crisis or considering suicide, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text “NoStigmas” to 741-741.

A special thank you to E.C. and those who have and continue to support me in so many ways. You give me renewed strength and perspective to continue ever forward.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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