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CBT and Suicide Prevention

Madissyn Fredericks, Licensed Professional Counselor, Symmetry Counseling

Ending one’s own life has been a frequently discussed topic in the media the past few years. Between celebrity suicides, the making of “13 Reasons Why”, and higher suicide rates in high schools around the country, we are exposed to the idea now more than ever. When we hear some of the devastating stories of those who have struggled with depression and ended their life, we often ask ourselves, “Why didn’t they say something or ask for help?” The truth is, it isn’t easy to ask for help when you are feeling hopeless, depressed, unmotivated, and alone. While it may not be easy, reaching out for help could save your life. Research by Brown et al. (2005) found evidence that supports cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a valid prevention and treatment for those struggling with suicidal ideations and depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that how we think affects how we feel and what we do and vice versa. Therefore, when someone believes no one cares about them and they feel ending their life is the only way out, they may see suicide as the only option. The New York Times’ article, “How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy May Help Suicidal People”, listed stages you may use with your CBT therapist. Below are some of these strategies you can try to help alleviate those terrifying thoughts you may have of ending your life.

Create A Safety Plan

Safety plans instill hope. They include questions to help you think more rationally and remind you of why you don’t want to follow through with ending your life. You may answer prompts such as “List the reasons you want to be safe and happy”, “How can you make your surroundings safer?”, “What are your warning signs?”, and “List the things you can do to help you cope (exercise, breath, call a friend, etc.)”. It is important to remember why you want to be safe and remind yourself of the things important to you in your life.

Challenging Yourself

Once a safety plan has been created, CBT therapists will then work towards identifying the situations that most lead to you feeling hopeless and suicidal. They will challenge negative thinking and help you maintain a healthy routine, reconnect with your social networks, and modify your beliefs about suicide and irrational thinking. This phase of treatment is intended to pinpoint where the depression originated and challenge the beliefs and thoughts that keep you in that negative and hopeless place.

Practice for Prevention

Prevention is a very important aspect of treatment. Once some of your triggers, maladaptive beliefs, and negative thoughts have been brought to the surface, it becomes easier to acknowledge them and challenge them. It is important to continue to use your safety plan and practice the techniques you have learned in sessions as much as you can. The more you practice, the easier it will become to pull yourself out of a negative place and prevent a future crisis. If you feel that you have used all the techniques you know and are still afraid for your life, call 9-1-1 or 1-800-273-8255.

Whether you are having brief thoughts of suicide or have a plan in mind, remember that your life is worth living. Try some of these strategies and if you continue to struggle with depression or thoughts of suicide and would like some support, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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