Despite decades of research, much remains unknown about the transition from chronic to imminent suicidal risk. In the context of COVID-19, this question is even more urgent. The present study tests a novel, stepwise model of this transition, termed the Narrative-Crisis Model. This model proposes that, in people with chronic risk factors, stressful life events can trigger a specific progression of cognitive-affective responses (the suicidal narrative and the suicide crisis syndrome), resulting in increased near-term risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior (STB). Identification of each step in this progression provides opportunities for more precise interventions. Concurrent validity was tested with 732 psychiatric patients and predictive validity with 524 participants, assessed one to two months later. Chronic risk factors were measured with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, Relationship Styles Questionnaire, and UPPS-P Impulsive Behavior Scale; acute risk factors with the Stressful Life Events Questionnaire, Suicide Narrative Inventory, and Suicide Crisis Inventory. The Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale was administered at the initial research assessment and follow-up. Indirect effects were significant for the full model and most pathways, in both concurrent and prospective analyses. In sum, this study provides empirical support for a novel, stepwise model of the progression from chronic to near-term suicidal risk.