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Understand Suicide Ideation, Preventive Measures to Stop Suicide


What is Suicidal Ideation?

Suicidal ideation refers to having thoughts or fantasies about one's own death (Garrison, Lewinsohn, Marsteller, Lang Hinrichsen, & Lann, 1991).

Ideas of suicide are very common, and although they are just ideas, but this does not mean that they will not come true. It is necessary to pay attention to these signs, because on some occasions they are precursors of the actual suicide.

We should always pay attention and address the problems when ideas like these appear in a person. Taking action on time can help save a life.

Life is a complex network and all of us at some point find ourselves in difficult situations that make us feel vulnerable and disorient our life. All of which can evolve into states that generate high suffering and hopelessness of perception of reality.

This pain often feels unbearable and endless. We feel that the difficulties exceed our resources to address them, even, it is difficult for us to understand and incorporate what is happening, hence the perception of impotence and discouragement floods those moments.

Thinking about suicide can feel like an escape route to end the pain. For some people fantasizing about death can be something similar to hope and relief — a way out of a situation that they believe they cannot face and that, it will never end.

Faced with these complex moments, anyone could fleetingly have the idea of ​​disappearing, the desire to go to bed and not wake up, or to die (not to kill themselves). These ideas, fleeting, without intention or planning, are more common than we think. But, they are just ideas, and it is important to carry out preventive work so that they remain at this stage.

It is a widespread myth to think that if an idea is in our mind it is because it is going to be carried out, this is a thought bias called “thought-action fusion”.

Not because we imagine about wanting to disappear means that we really want to, but it is important to be aware of these ideas and understand why they are there.

Visibility also implies identification, knowing better the indicators of those cases in which there is a real risk. And if there are doubts, consult and seek guidance from a health professional.

In short, suicide prevention involves creating a context of family and social support that protects vulnerable people so that they do not go beyond ideation, and being attentive to any sign to identify a risk situation, applying the appropriate educational and psychological resources to prevent and anticipate.

Identifying Risks and Protective Factors

Emotional experiences and, above all, the interpretation made of those emotional experiences — emotional pain and suffering, despair, disconnection and isolation, social interaction — are all decisive.

Dolors López, a teacher who, after suffering the consequences of her daughter's suicide, initiated an investigation and designed a teacher training plan on suicide prevention, which says that "the fundamental thing for a person with suicidal ideas to come out of their mental tunnel is to connect with their through emotions.”

Emotions are the key. For the person with suicidal ideas, it is essential to manage their emotions, identification, understanding and emotional regulation. And for the people close to you, who lend their support, communicating from your own emotional management, with empathy and self-regulation, are also a decisive factor.

The Risks

Although suicide is a complex process in which factors coming from different spheres of the person intersect such as personality, social context, education, difficulties. It is important, in this prevention effort, to take into account more factors that can risk for suicide:

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Here are some of them:

  • Isolation and social exclusion –sometimes associated with xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia.
  • Emotional or psychological disorders that evolve into very serious stages due to not receiving care and treatment such as mood disorders, stress disorders, post-traumatic disorders.
  • Losses of very relevant people in terms of affective ties and attachments.
  • Consumption of substances and dependencies such as alcohol or drugs.
  • Very difficult and unstructured family contexts such as abuse or violence.
  • School bullying and cyberbullying.
  • Firearms – an ill-formed, immature or unaware relationship with weapons can pose a risk.

The Protection

In the same way that there are factors that increase the risk, such as those we have seen previously, there are others that increase the resilience of people — the ability to face difficulties and manage ideas about one's own death. In case they appear, preventing them from passing from that stage of thoughts is inevitable.

In this sense, in the protection and prevention of suicide, enhancing emotional skills is an effective strategy.

We refer to:

• Improve self-esteem.

• Acquire social skills.

• Increase self-confidence.

• Learn to self-motivate.

• Learn to acquire habits or change unwanted ones.

• Train emotional self-regulation.

And of course, people are social beings. Support and social integration are fundamental helpers in an issue such as suicide. Feeling that you are accepted, that you are part of a group, that you are a valuable, valid person, that you share projects with other people, in short, that you feel affection and understanding of your environment, are definitely elements of protection.

Suicidal ideation in the Health Psychology consultation

Many of the people who come to our consultation have had the idea of ​​"disappearing" in their heads and some have even had an experience of suicide attempt.

It stands out that these people are not able to speak openly about the idea of ​​suicide, not even in the setting of a health consultation.

It is rare that they express it, and they do not usually do so unless we ask them directly. And of course, in a psychology center we always ask, because we know that this question is part of the reality of people who suffer.

When we openly ask them about this question, they make a puzzled face — why do you ask me this? How could you know that I think so? But they answer and open up immediately, they can talk about this topic, and that gives them peace of mind, security, they feel that they can face it with someone who understands them, who has knowledge, listens to them without judging, and can guide them.

Communicating and expressing is very important in suicide prevention. It is beneficial for all of us to face a careful reflection on this topic either with ourselves, or with friends, family.

8 Myths That Harm Suicide Prevention

The biggest myth we often get to hear is, people who talk about suicide just do it to seek attention. They won’t do in actual, and that you don't need to take them seriously. People who express an intention to end their lives must always be taken into consideration and taken seriously.

Expressing the intention to commit suicide can be a way of asking for attention, emotional support, help. It is essential to talk to them, communicate, give them support, and also collect the right information and take advantage of it to offer help to them.

  • Only people with mental health problems die by suicide: Not all people living with mental health problems commit suicide, nor do all people who die by suicide have mental health problems. Suicide can affect anyone.
  • Suicide is a personal choice: We do not have to intervene in a person's decision to die . Most people with suicidal behavior don't really want to die. As we said before, what they want is, not to live the painful experiences, which is quite different from wanting to die.
  • Talking about suicide can encourage people to end their lives: Asking people if they are thinking about suicide does not give them suicidal thoughts. The stigma that still exists about suicide generates more risk due to isolation and solitary confinement.
  • Suicide risk ends when mood improves: It is not possible to establish a direct relationship between an improvement in mood and the fact that the suicide process has ended. Sometimes it is just the opposite. It can manifest a firm decision to commit suicide, which the person expresses with a kind of liberation or tranquility when having made a final decision, that is, committing suicide.
  • Suicide cannot be prevented because it is unpredictable: Suicide can be prevented. We have already talked about the risk factors, and also about the resources and skills that can be acquired to enhance strengths in the face of difficulties.
  • Medication is the best treatment for suicide: Medications, such as antidepressants, do not reduce suicidal tendencies. On the other hand, prevention strategies and emotional education do.
  • Forced hospitalization reduces the risk of suicide: A 2019 study indicates that the practice of forced hospitalization for health problems may do more harm than good. This is so in the case of suicide, people are more likely to commit suicide when discharged after forced hospitalization.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Hamza Hussaini

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