What is suicidal ideation?

What is suicidal ideation?

October 10, 2020


Suicidal ideation means thinking about or planning for committing suicide. Because suicide, depression and other mental health issues are so pervasive among veterans, the VA includes suicidal ideation as a symptom that may affect a disability rating for conditions like major depressive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and more.

It can be classified as either passive or active. The main difference between the two types is that passive ideation is a simple wish for death, while active ideation includes self-directed violent thoughts. Suicidal ideation does not include actual suicide attempts.

Passive ideation might include a desire to die but not by one’s own hand. For example, a person experiencing passive ideation could fantasize about a sudden death (e.g., by an accident or health issue) or believe that the world would be better off without them. Active ideation is often fleeting but reoccurring, thoughts of suicide or the existence of a suicide plan. Even when the individual has no intention of acting upon their thoughts, suicidal ideation is still serious. 

In 2017, the court case Bankhead v. Shulkin established that when suicidal ideation, whether passive or active, is present, a 70 percent disability rating should be assigned. It says: “The presence of suicidal ideation alone, that is, a veteran’s thoughts of their own death or thoughts of engaging in suicide-related behavior, may cause social and occupational impairment with deficiencies in most areas thus warranting a 70 percent disability rating – and does not require ‘evidence of more than thoughts,’ inpatient treatment or hospitalizations, or total social and occupational impairment.”

Veterans have many experiences in the military, especially during combat, which can be traumatic. These experiences can eventually culminate into PTSD and other disorders and put veterans at a much higher risk of suicide than civilians. 

If you or another veteran struggles with suicidal ideation, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK. The Veterans Crisis Line is also available by texting 838255.

For more information on VA disability ratings, contact one of the experienced VA disability attorneys at Legal Help for Veterans by calling 1.800.693.4800.

Mental Health