September is National Suicide Prevention Month

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in our country, yet it is preventable. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based treatment for reducing suicidal thoughts. Validation is a key component in DBT. Validation improves relationships by showing we hear and acknowledge our loved one’s internal experiences, such as suicidal thoughts and intense emotions.

What is Validation?

  • It is a form of compassion
  • Validation does NOT mean agreeing with the person
  • It is acknowledging that your loved one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have causes

Why is validation important?

  • It increases support for those experiencing a challenging time
  • It demonstrates we are listening and caring
  • It improves our relationships

How To Navigate the Conversations About Suicide
There is a common misconception that inquiring about suicide increases suicidal tendencies. However, acknowledging and talking about suicide can reduce suicide ideation, rather than increase it, and may lead to improvements in mental health (Dazie et al., 2014). In other words, asking about suicide can prevent suicide. Suicidal individuals do not want to burden others with their emotional suffering. Thus, if someone is opening up to you about suicide, it’s good practice to take it seriously.

What to do when your loved one discloses suicide ideation:

  • Actively Listen. Listen to what the person has to say. Just talking to someone who cares can make a big difference for them.
  • Avoid Problem Solving. While your intention means well, this can make the individual feel unheard and think that “no one understands me.”
  • Validate by saying:
    • “That must’ve been hard to tell me this. I appreciate you sharing this with me.”
    • “Sounds like you’ve been going through a challenging time.”
    • “I’m so sorry things are tough right now.”
    • “What you’re going through does sound difficult.”
    • “You have been through so much – your emotions are valid. I’m here for you.”
  • Avoid invalidating statements like:
    • “Just try to be happy. It’ll get better.”
    • “You are overreacting.”
    • “Really? Your life can’t be that bad.”
    • “You shouldn’t think about it too much. Just lighten up.”
    • “Why can’t you just get over it?”

Other Helpful Tips To Prevent Suicide:

  • Be aware of the warning signs of suicidality. Suicidal individuals often:
    • Feel like a burden and hopeless
    • Are isolated and withdrawn
    • Give their belongings away
    • Have increased anger or irritability
    • Have thoughts of “not wanting to be here” or that “life would be better” if they were dead
    • Have access to harmful and lethal items
    • Rely on substances to cope with their emotional suffering
  • Have a list of free and confidential crisis resources in hand, such as:
    • National Suicide Prevention line: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
    • Call or text 988
    • Text HOME to 741741

Written By: Cindy Nguyen, PsyD

Photo Credit: Jerome on Unsplash

Dazzi, T., Gribble, R., Wessely, S., & Fear, N. T. (2014). Does asking about suicide and related behaviours induce suicidal ideation? What is the evidence?. Psychological medicine, 44(16), 3361–3363.

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