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What is the Psychological Treatment for Suicidal Ideation?

What Constitutes Suicidal Ideation

Life gets difficult and sometimes pushes people to contemplate suicide for multiple reasons. Heavy stress, significant pain from ailments, mental and physical abuse, and mental health conditions can cause some people to contemplate suicide — with or without a plan of action. 

If this describes you, don’t lose hope. There’s a lot of options for help to stop these thoughts and feelings. Psychological treatment for suicidal ideation can help eliminate these thoughts and help you feel better.

Suicide Statistics

Researchers and scientists worldwide have studied suicide and its effects on society, hoping to use the data to uncover psychological treatments for suicidal ideation, as it is one of the leading causes of death. Here are some of the facts we know about suicide:

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 45,000 people in the United States die by suicide each year, and PubMed research shows at least 800,000 worldwide. 
  • Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2019. 
  • The annual prevalence of suicidal ideation in adults in the United States is 4%.
  • Suicide rates have increased by more than 30% in half of the states since 1999. 
  • Additionally, the CDC reported that about half of individuals who commit suicide in the United States use firearms. The other common methods are suffocation, usually by hanging, and poisoning, typically a drug overdose.
  • Individuals with a lifelong history of suicidal ideation have a 33% probability of ever making a plan, and the likelihood of ever making a suicide attempt is 30%. 
  • More than half of individuals with suicidal thoughts don’t receive mental health services.
  • During the early part of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, suicidal ideation rates doubled.

What Constitutes Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation describes a fixation with death, suicide, or self-harm. There are two types of suicidal ideation, passive and active. A person who has specific thoughts of suicide, of “not wanting to be alive” or “not wanting to wake up in the morning,” but doesn’t intend or plan to commit the action is considered passive. Active describes a person who not only thinks about suicide but also intends to execute the effort and creates a plan to carry it through. 

Not everyone with suicidal ideation has the same symptoms. But many people have symptoms in common.

Symptoms of suicidal ideation include: 

  • Having a feeling of helplessness or having no reason to live, no purpose 
  • Telling friends and family that they would be better off if you were not living
  • Giving away personal possessions
  • Exhibiting reckless behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol often
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Increasingly displaying or feeling rage or anger
  • Appearing anxious or overly agitated
  • Feeling guilt, shame, or trapped 
  • Experiencing extreme mood swings
  • Talking or posting on social media about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide, such as buying a weapon or researching methods of suicide

Factors That Impact Suicide Ideation

Some people are more likely to have thoughts of suicide than others. Dr. Julie D. Eberwein, Executive Director at Integrative Life Center, said factors contributing to thoughts of suicide vary and include:

  • Age 
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Gender: Suicide is more common in male-identifying people than female-identifying people 
  • Sexual orientation
  • Socioeconomic status 
  • Mental health and substance use problems
  • Medical conditions
  • Grief and loss
  • Low self-esteem
  • Relationship problems
  • Employment difficulties
  • Familial discord

What to Do If You Have Suicidal Thoughts

Thoughts of suicide aren’t something to take lightly. These thoughts probably mean you should seek help immediately.

If you’re thinking about suicide:

  • Seek Support from Loved Ones. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member to talk.
  • Engage in Hobbies. Engage in activities that increase protective factors and decrease risk factors, like hobbies that may include a pet or going outside and getting fresh air. 
  • Focus on Self-Care. Prioritize self-care by having daily habits like balanced nourishment, body movement, and restful sleep. These activities benefit the body and mind. Meditation and deep breathing also can help you feel more grounded.
  • Practice Your Faith. If you have religious practices, try to pray or visit a clergy or mosque and speak with a religious figure like a priest or imam. 
  • Call a Hotline. Call 9-8-8 to talk with a qualified professional. The hotline offers 24/7, free, confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
  • Get Professional Help. Seek help from a mental health professional. If you are in an emergency, go to the hospital. Otherwise, schedule an appointment with a therapist.

Julie said anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should seek mental health care immediately.

“If there is an imminent risk of harm to self, treatment needs to be initiated through mobile crisis services or the local emergency room,” she said.

What is the Psychological Treatment for Suicidal Ideation?

Mental health professionals use various therapeutic modalities to treat suicidal ideation and associated illnesses. The treatment that’s right for you depends on your specific situation.

Therapies for suicidal ideation include:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). A type of talk therapy that helps people understand how thoughts affect emotions and behaviors. 
  • Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT). A type of family therapy where mental health experts aim to help a parent and a child repair ruptures in their relationship and work to develop or rebuild an emotionally secure relationship. 
  • Multisystemic Therapy-Psychiatric (MST-Psych). Includes evidenced-based interventions for youth substance use disorders and helps them avoid placement in juvenile justice and/or mental health treatment facilities.
  • Integrated Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I-CBT). A manual-guided therapy comprised of education, mindfulness, and flexible thinking to improve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms and substance use.
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). An evidence-based treatment for children and young adults impacted by trauma and their parents or guardians.

How ILC Can Help

Suicidal ideation is painful for the person experiencing it and frightening to their loved ones. But it’s possible to get help for these thoughts and to feel better. You don’t have to deal with suicidal thoughts or the issues that cause them alone. Integrative Life Center offers psychological treatment for suicidal ideation. Contact us to learn more and start healing.

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