Not Committing Suicide

Depression can strike anyone, regardless of background, status, health or wealth. The black dog of depression has no regard for how you think your life is supposed to be. Left to its own devices, unchecked depression can be a killer.

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I have often warned hypnotherapists against treating, or trying to treat clients who claim they have either had thoughts of suicide, or have actually attempted suicide.

The fact is, hypnotherapists are not sufficiently trained or equipped to deal with individuals who are seriously thinking about ending it all. Thus, any kind of intervention would be decidedly risky. Any talk of suicide needs to be handled by qualified professionals who have experience of counselling, or psychologists or psychiatrists who have had the proper training. I have only ever had two clients who have talked of suicide and on both occasions, I have referred them to those wiser than myself. That is not just about being professional and doing what is obviously in the best interests of your client, but may save a lot of explanation when the police knock on your door with the bad news. Charging in where angels fear to tread could be the short route to a malpractice suit.

Suicide accounts for almost 1% of annual deaths in the UK. Second only to road traffic accidents, suicide is the biggest killer of young men. It is also the leading cause of mortality in women who are either pregnant or in the three months after they have had a baby.

Depression, left undiagnosed and unchecked, does its work slowly, sapping energy, hope, and eventually, the will to carry on living. Sufferers slowly, imperceptibly withdraw from society, so much so that in the end, no one notices.

Around two thirds of adults experience some kind of mental disorder during their lives, but of those, two thirds will recover without any therapeutic intervention. Of the remaining third, only about 5% are actually at risk. But even this low percentage represents a significant number of people who need help.

There are plenty of prescription pills and potions available,* but for the purposes of this article, I wish to concentrate on the talking therapies available. Alternative or complementary therapies have transformed the lives of literally millions of people.

The inner suffering of victims of depression is hidden from view and is complicated by the fact that no one can really understand the psychological agonies that many sufferers describe as being far worse than any physical pain.

Also overlooked is the fact that depression doesn’t only affect the victim – those closest to them are often powerless to help, something that can be almost as traumatic. Depressives can be unpredictable in their behaviour and this unpredictability can be violent. There can be little or no warning and episodes can explode in a split second, often for no apparent cause or reason.

Most people avoid talking about suicide with people suffering from depression, mainly because no one wants the responsibility of accidentally triggering an attempt, not to mention the fear of saying something insensitive or stupid. The irony is that the opposite is true!

Recent research shows that talking about suicide and discussing it openly reduces the risk of people actually trying it. Talking is the enemy of suicide! It is precisely because people are afraid to talk to potential victims about suicide that increases the risk they might try it. There is something very calming about talking openly about it.

Depressives need to be able to express how it is they feel – that’s therapeutic in itself. Once it’s out in the open, both parties can breathe a sigh of relief. Individuals who are serious about taking their own lives are host about it and about the reasons for it. Talking about it can diminish the desire. That is why volunteer groups like The Samaritans are so useful. They have vast practical experience, patience and understanding at their fingertips. I would immediately recommend a client who tells me they are contemplating suicide that they pick up the phone and talk to someone who will be better able to help than I.

There are many reasons why people take their own lives, but the main factor is the feeling of isolation and loneliness.

Every A&E department has access to mental health professionals on a 24 hour a day basis – even on Christmas Day, which is one of the highest danger times. You can just walk in and ask to speak to someone, no questions asked. They will be able to help.

* Professor Irving Kirsch’s book, The Emperors New Drugs – Exploding the Antidepressant Myth is a damning indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, is well worth a read. Highly recommended and an absolute must for any serious therapist.

Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.