Not wanting to live but not suicidal: what does it mean?


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Page last updated: 24/09/2022

In this guide we are going to discuss the state of not wanting to live but you are not suicidal either. 

Let us take a closer look at what it means to have suicidal thoughts and why they occur. We will also discuss some of the things you can do to cope with these thoughts. 

What does it mean if you do not want to live but you are not suicidal?

If you are at a place in your life where you do not want to actively live and engage in life yet, you do not want to die nor are you suicidal, it can be because of an existential issue.

In brief, the reason why you feel this way could be because:  

  • Your life conditions does not allow you to be yourself
  • You are unable to enjoy the positives that your life has to offer
  • You are not able to be in the present- with your thoughts and emotions
  • You do not have a sense of meaning and purpose to your life

If you are able to recognise this state in you where you don’t really want to live yet you don’t want to die, let us start by acknowledging that this is a very real issue that many people face.

It has been estimated that the world loses one million people to suicide every year (1 in 40 people) and it is the second leading cause of death worldwide for people in their adolecense and their young adult lives. 

There is a high prevaence of suicide ideation amongst the population which can be an dangerous if there is no proper intervention at the right time. Let us take a moment to understand what suicidal ideation is.

Suicidal ideation

A systematic review on suicidal ideation defines it as,

“a broad term used to describe a range of contemplations, wishes, and preoccupations with death and suicide.”

The review also highlights the fact that there is no universally accepted definition of suicidal ideation and no set standards for managing this phenomenon. 

Not wanting to live but not suicidal: what does it mean?

Some signs of suicidal ideation are:

  • feeling or appearing to feel trapped or hopeless
  • being preoccupied with violence, dying, or death
  • experiencing changes in personality, routine, or sleep patterns
  • increasing the use of drugs or alcohol
  • engaging in risky behavior, such as driving carelessly or taking drugs
  • getting their affairs in order and giving things away
  • getting hold of a gun or substances that could end a life
  • isolating themselves
  • saying goodbye to others as though it were the last time
  • talking about suicide or dying
  • expressing regret about being alive or ever having been born

Of a sample of 75,057 adolescents aged 12–17 years, in a study conducted to estimate the prevalence of sucidal ideation world wide, found that 14% of the population have had thoughts of suicide.

There are many causes to suicidal ideation and suicide attepts and is related to various mental health issues and disorders. Research also finds that suicide ideation aggravates into suicide attempts fairly quickly- within a year or so.

There are no universally recognised set patterns of thought or behaviour that comes with suicidal ideation, however it can include fleeting thoughts of sleeping and never waking up to intense and detailed plans for a suicide attempt. 

This broad range allows suicidal ideation to be grouped into passive thoughts where these are thoughts without plans for execution while a person with thoughts and plans are said to have active suicidal thoughts. 

The state between the wish to and the urge to

The state of not wanting to die yet not wanting to live either is an issue that can be conceptualized from an existential point of view. In a case study from an existential standpoint, efforts were made to compare the state of having the wish to die versus the urge to die. 

The researcher posited the assumptions of Victor Frankles Logotherapy and highlighted the four fundamental motivations that allow a person to live optimally: the motivation of “being able to be”, “to enjoy life”, “to be myself”, and “to have meaning”.

It is when these motivations are not met or when the contion of one’s life does to allow these motivations to be met, it becomes the starting point of suicidal ideation and eventual suicide.

The study concludes that “the wish to die” expresses the desire to disengage from life as a method to cope with the stressors of a person’s experiences. 

So if you are having thoughts that involve not wanting to live but not wanting to die either- it could be a way for you to cope with the state of your life which does not allow you to meet the four motivations of optimal loving. 

It could be because you are dissatisfied with various areas of your life, it could be because of your relationships that do not allow you to be who you truly are. For example, when a person hides their secual identity for fear of ostracization and homophobia from their family. 

Or it could be your stressful job that does not allow you to enjoy life by engaging in various activities that allow you to have fun. High stress jobs have been related to higher rates of suicide.

However, you have to be aware that when there is an urge to die- often related to higher risk of suicide, it means that you have exhausted all your ability to cope and you are in need of immediate intervention.

Causes and risk factors of suicidal ideation

Let us take a look at the possible causes of suicide and suicidal ideation. As mentioned earlier from an existential point of view, these factors often stop a person from being able to meet the four fundamental motivations for optimal living. 

Research finds that some of the factors that make suicidal ideation and attempts more likely include:

The following risk factorsTrusted Source may increase the chance of suicide ideation:

  • a family history of violence or suicide
  • a family history of child abuse, neglect, or trauma
  • Mental and physical health (like terminal diseases or chronic pain) issues
  • a feeling of hopelessness
  • a feeling of seclusion or loneliness
  • identifying as LGBTQIA+ with no family or home support
  • a loss of work, friends, finances, or a loved one
  • stress due to discrimination and prejudice
  • historical trauma, such as the destruction of communities and cultures
  • experiencing bullying or trauma
  • exposure to suicidal behavior in others
  • being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Substance abuse

Ways to to cope and manage these thoughts

Some of the ways you can cope with suicidal ideation and the experience of not wanting to live anymore are include the following:

Start with kindness

Living in the thoughts of not wanting to live can be frightening. The thought of the possibility that you might act on these thoughts can make you feel guilty, ashamed, and entirely hopeless. 

Managing life with these thoughts can be tough, especially when you believe that life is not worth the struggle. So start with yourself. Start with kindness. 

While you might believe that you don’t deserve to live, the thought that you do not want to die goes to show that there is a part of you that wants to survive and has survived this long. 

Let that flickering light in you grow brighter by being kind to yourself that means being less critical of your current situation. You are at a difficult part of your life, everyone goes through these rough patches and because our lives are so unique, the struggles you face are no less difficult. 

So take effort to be mindful of what we say and do to ourselves. Being kind can be using words of affirmation to ourselves, using positive self-talk, or it can even be eating a good meal, or giving yourself a hug. 

The intent is to do an act of kindness that you might often do for others such as letting yourself be no matter how much this self of yours is struggling. 

It could be allowing yourself to make mistakes without criticism as you allow yourself to be who you are at this moment even if the person you are right now makes mistakes. 

Create a crisis box

A crisis box is for you to use when you have thoughts of suicide. It is a box that holds good memories and mementos that remind you that your life is filled with things that can give you hope and remind you of love. 

When we struggle with depressive thoughts and suicide ideation we often fortget that we have people around us who love us and things we have in our lives that once brought you joy. 

It can be difficult at that moment to think of these things, when you are already preoccupied with so much pain. This crisis box can give you gentle reminders of a time that you were safe, loved, and you enjoyed life- with the intent to instil in yourself that hope of being able to enjoy life again. 

Seek support and treatment

Thoughts of not living anymore or disengaging with life can lead you to self-isolate, you might cut off contact from people or push people away. 

While it may seem extremely hard to talk to someone about what you feel and your thoughts, one of the best things you can do to yourself is to seek support. 

Your source of support can be your trusted friends, your family, a support group or even a professional therapist. It is advisable to speak to a professional if these thoughts linger for more than two weeks and it causes disruption in your daily life. 

You might feel apprehensive to go to a psychiatrist, you have other options such as talking to a counsellor who can help you manage these thoughts or you can even seek support groups that share similar life experiences and stories such as yours.

Practice selfcare 

Self care can be done with the intent to meet the fundamental motivations of living a life that is optimal. Positive psychology calls it a life that flourishes. 

You can engage in various activities that allow you to be present- with your emotions, no matter how sad they can be. Like meditation, emotional regulation by identifying your emotions, writing them down and reflecting on them. You can choose to practice mindfulness in your daily tasks. 

You can also take part in various engagements that allow you to be who you are- if you are someone who is artistic, maybe you can paint something or make something out of clay. There is no need to be skilled or perfect, the intent is to allow yourself to be who you are now. 

As you engage in these activities, you can even seek out meaning and purpose of your life- engaging with good friends and healthy relationships, even spiritually can assist in discovering meaning while at the same time allowing yourself to enjoy life. 


In this guide we discussed the topic of “not wanting to live but not suicidal” and what it could possibly mean. We have discussed the causes of suicidal ideation and the state of having the wish to die and the urge to die. We also discussed various coping strategies for you.

How many people kill themselves a day?

The American foundation for suicide prevention estimates that the annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals. That is, on average, there are 132 suicides per day.

What are the psychological causes of suicide?

Most suicide ideations,attempts, and completed suicides are related to psychiatric disease, with depression, substance use disorders and psychosis being the most relevant risk factors. However, anxiety, personality-, eating-, and trauma-related disorders, as well as physical health problems are also related to suicide. 

What is suicidal behavior?

Suicidal behavior encompasses a board range of behavior from suicide thoughts, the actual suicide attempt and preparatory behaviors to completed suicide. 

What age group is most suicidal?


The National Violent Death Reporting System (2015) data showed that, among men of all races over the age of 65 were the most likely to die of suicides, closely followed by men 40–60. 

What place is most suicidal?

The most suicidal state in the entire world is by a wide margin Greenland however it is not technically a country but a territory.

Several factors that are probably causes for Greenland’s high rate of suicide, including alcoholism, depression, poverty, conflict-ridden relationship with spouse, dysfunctional parental homes, and trauma.

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