The fear of possible threats to us was so intense that inappropriately we would joke about my father’s demise to release the stress of our situation. Like dropping a plugged-in blow dryer in the bathtub while my father bathed. Poisoning his food. My mother would pray for a Greyhound bus to hit him so she could collect on the insurance from my father’s passing. The jokes were endless and we would laugh together and come up with creative ways for him to die.
Looking back at it now it was a very sad state of affairs to wish harm on someone else. I still hold a level of shame about the topic, and I still recall the feeling of horror of not feeling safe. The lack of safety amplified the feeling of “I’m going to die sometime soon.” While my elementary friends played, I went into protection mode of saving my mom, my sister, and myself and played with the idea of secretly killing my father.
It is important to understand that homicidal ideation is not always indicative of an imminent threat, but can be a precursor to violent behavior if it goes untreated.
What is homicidal ideation?
Homicidal ideation refers to thoughts about killing another person or causing them harm. It is a thought process that can often occur without the individual having any intention of carrying out an act of violence. It is important to understand the motivations behind this kind of thinking in order to better recognize it and take steps to prevent it. There are many potential causes for homicidal ideation. Some of the most commonly reported are psychological issues, substance abuse, and a history of violence or trauma.
It is important to understand that homicidal ideation is not always indicative of an imminent threat, but can be a precursor to violent behavior if it goes untreated. Homicidal ideation can indicate a more significant underlying mental health issue, such as depression or schizophrenia. If left untreated, these conditions can become debilitating and even dangerous.
Signs that someone may be having homicidal thoughts
Homicidal ideation can manifest in many different ways. It’s important to be aware of the signs to act swiftly if necessary. Some common signs of homicidal thoughts are:
- Making threats, either verbally or through writing
- Showing extreme aggression and violence towards other people or animals
- Expressing a desire to harm or kill someone, either directly or indirectly
- Engaging in risky behavior that could potentially hurt someone
- Collecting weapons or making plans to commit an act of violence
It is vital to remember that these behaviors aren’t necessarily due to homicidal ideation. These behaviors can also indicate underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. If you see these signs in someone you care about, it is important to reach out for help.
How to talk to someone who has expressed dangerous thoughts or behavior
Talking to someone who has expressed dangerous thoughts or behavior can be difficult and uncomfortable. Because of this, it is important to approach the situation compassionately and caringly. First of all, reassure the person that you care about them and want to help. Encourage open communication by letting them know that it is okay to talk about their feelings without fear of judgment or retribution.
Be sure to take all statements seriously and listen carefully without interrupting. Try not to make assumptions or offer unsolicited advice; instead, focus on understanding the person’s perspective and validating their emotions. If appropriate, suggest seeking professional help from a mental health professional and offer your support throughout the process. Above all else, remain calm – it can be easy to become overwhelmed, but remember that the goal is to provide comfort and understanding. By getting help and talking openly about their feelings, people with dangerous thoughts or behaviors can find ways to manage their symptoms in a healthy way.
Strategies to keep others safe when someone is displaying signs of homicidal ideation
When someone is displaying signs of homicidal ideation, it is important to take steps to ensure everyone’s safety. Here are a few strategies for keeping others safe:
- Remove any potential weapons or items that could be used as weapons from the home.
- Ensure that all family members and other close contacts are aware of the situation and can recognize any warning signs.
- Create an emergency plan in case of an incident or crisis. This should include contact information for local mental health professionals and crisis lines, as well as instructions on how to respond in an emergency situation.
- Encourage the person with homicidal ideation to stay away from potentially dangerous situations, such as crowded places or areas where conflicts may arise.
Building a support system for those experiencing homicidal ideation
A support system is essential for those experiencing homicidal ideation. It is important to create a safe and supportive environment, where the person can open up about their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or retribution. Family members, friends, and mental health professionals can be invaluable sources of emotional support in these cases. Make sure to provide unconditional acceptance, understanding, and a non-judgmental attitude towards the person. Encourage them to stay connected with people who care about them and offer comfort during difficult times. Offer assistance in navigating the challenges associated with homicidal ideation, such as accessing mental health services or finding appropriate treatment options. Above all else, remind them that professional help is available if needed.
My experience of homicidal ideation
One evening while watching Murder She Wrote with my mother, I took note that the murderess put cyanide in the victim’s tea. I thought, “That’s brilliant! That’s how I’m going to get rid of my father!”
That night, I took down the rat poison from the top shelf of the garage. I knew that it tasted bitter and there would be no amount of sugar to hide the poison in my father’s coffee. I was concerned about my sister who loved to nibble the leftovers of breakfast as she waited for me to catch the bus to school. The thought of accidentally harming her was unbearable so I determined that rat poison was not an option. I could have shared my thoughts with my sister and mother, but if they got involved that meant they would go to jail too. I couldn’t have that, so I kept my thoughts to myself.
Change of strategy
At dinner, my mother said to me while I fiddled with my knife, “Sharp objects like knives are not to be played with. They are not toys so mind your table manners.” I knew at that moment that I was going to attack my father with a knife.
In bed, I practiced stabbing a spare pillow next to me. I’d picture the pillow as if it were my father. I’d sneak a kitchen knife, and lay it next to my hip when I went to bed. Too scared, I could never muster up the nerves to bring out the knife and stab my father. I held it in my sweaty hands and realized it was too dark to see. That there were too many ribs in one’s chest. That I would have to use the exact placement of the knife, and I always got confused about which side the heart was on, and feared under stress, I’d get it wrong. Plus, the knife I had in hand was a butter knife. I could never bring myself to take a sharp knife from the kitchen because that would be way too dangerous! I’d really get a spanking if I got caught with a sharp steak knife.
Night after night I’d take the butter knife and I’d place it on the side of my left hip. I recall the feeling of the coolness of the stainless steel on my skin as I fell asleep. Sometimes I’d wake to the sound of the knife knocking against the wall as I rolled over to my side. The knife would slide down the wall and end up behind my bed. I gave up on the idea of stabbing my father after my mother found a pile of butter knives behind my bed as she was changing the bedding. “Oh here is all my cutlery. I’ve been wondering where it was!” my mom expressed with frustration and scowled in my direction.
Fighting the shame and moving forward
Despite moving past the intense feelings of wanting to hurt my father, the shame stuck with me into adulthood. Feelings of embarrassment and shame commonly surround those who have had thoughts about harming someone else. Repeated exposure to trauma and fear of being harmed can lead to homicidal ideation. I was at the front door of becoming an animal. If I could get there and I was just a child, it made me realize that when push came to shove that we are all possibly one step away from losing our humanity if threatened enough. It was a reminder of the fragility of life and our mental health.
In therapy, I was able to realize that although my thoughts were dark, they were a way of coping with the trauma at the time. That step allowed me to lay down a lot of the shame that I held on it. It was in this space that I first heard and understood the term homicidal ideation and realized that it was what I had experienced. Pushing past the shame, I discovered it is more common than many care to express. I wasn’t alone.
If you or someone you know has experienced or is experiencing homicidal ideation, discovering the root cause is essential. With the help of a trained therapist, it is possible to move past the intense feelings and find peace.
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