PTSD and Suicide

 A Video Tribute about Suicide


PTSD and the Suicide Link

Going through a trauma may increase a person's suicide risk. For example, there is evidence that childhood abuse and sexual trauma may increase a person's suicide risk. Among veterans, some studies have found that combat trauma is related to suicide, while other studies have not. In this research, combat trauma survivors who were wounded more than once or put in the hospital for a wound had the highest suicide risk. This suggests suicide risk in veterans may be affected by how intense and how often the combat trauma was. Does PTSD increase a person's suicide risk?

Why is suicide risk higher in trauma survivors? It may be because of the symptoms of PTSD or it may be due to other mental health problems, like depression. Studies show that suicide risk is higher in persons with PTSD. Some studies link suicide risk in those with PTSD to distressing trauma memories, anger, and poor control of impulses. Further, suicide risk is higher for those with PTSD who have certain styles of coping with stress, such as not expressing feelings.

What can I do?

1. Stay Away From Weapons

A suicide attempt will be more likely to occur if you have the means readily available to you, such as guns, knives, or other weapons, or unnecessary medications in your home. Remove these from your environment or go somewhere you won't have access to those means.

2. Go Someplace Safe

Identify several places you can go where you would be less likely to hurt yourself, such as public places like the mall, a coffee shop or restaurant, a busy park, a community center, or a gym.

Once there, immerse yourself in that environment. Pay attention and be mindful of all the sights and sounds around you. Doing this will help put some distance between you and your suicidal thoughts.

3. Talk to Someone Supportive

Social support can be a wonderful way of coping when you're in a crisis. Call a family member or friend.

Let them know you need someone to talk to and would like their support. Change your environment by asking them if you can spend some time with them.

You can also call a suicide prevention hotline to talk to someone supportive. For example, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—1-800-273-TALK (8255)—is a 24-hour, toll-free hotline.

4. Talk to Your Therapist

Some therapists have ways for their patients to contact them outside of session if they're in crisis. If you have a therapist and you have a system like this in place, you should contact your therapist when you're experiencing suicidal thoughts. Your therapist can help you assess the seriousness of the situation, as well as assist you in coming up with ways of coping with those thoughts.

5. Challenge Suicidal Thoughts

When people feel down and depressed, it's common to have thoughts that are consistent with those moods. As our moods change, so will our thoughts. Therefore, even though things may feel hopeless, this may just be a consequence of your mood and not necessarily how things really are.

Use self-monitoring to identify hopeless thoughts and challenge them. Is it not possible that your mood might change? Is there really no hope for the future?

Have you felt like this before, and if so, did things eventually get better? Ask yourself questions like these to challenge your thoughts of hopelessness.

6. Be Mindful of Your Thoughts

Another way of coping with suicidal thoughts is with mindfulness. Take a step back from your thoughts and watch them. Imagine your thoughts as clouds drifting across the sky.

Try not to look at your thoughts as good or bad, but simply as thoughts or objects in your mind. Taking a mindful approach to thoughts of suicide or hopelessness can defuse them, limiting the power they have over your actions and mood.

7. Manage Your Mood

A number of coping strategies can be helpful in managing your mood.

For example, expressive writing or self-soothing coping strategies may help lessen the intensity of your sadness or anxiety. By improving your mood, you may also improve your thoughts, reducing your risk for suicide.

8. Go to the Emergency Room

If these coping strategies aren’t working to lessen suicidal thoughts, call the police or go to your local emergency room. This can be scary, but it's most important for you to stay safe and alive.

9. Find a Therapist if You Don't Have One

Finally, if you don't have a therapist and are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it's important to get a psychiatric evaluation, as well as a therapist.