Suicide Is Preventable
How many people have suicidal thoughts or struggle with suicide? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2019, 12 million Americans had serious suicidal thoughts, there were an estimated 1.38 million suicide attempts, and 47,511 people died by suicide. More than half of all suicides were by firearms. In addition, according to the 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health
by The Trevor Project, 40% of LGBTQ youth in the US have "seriously considered suicide" in the past year.
There is no single cause for suicide or chronic suicidal ideation, but we do know something about risk and protective factors. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
- Existing mental health disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and others
- Adverse childhood experiences, including abuse, neglect, or trauma
- Previous suicide attempts or family history of suicide
- Access to lethal means, such as firearms or drugs
- Stressful life events, such as divorce, financial issues, transitions, or other kinds of loss
- LGBTQ status
- Access to mental health care
- Feeling connected to your family and community
- Limited access to lethal means
- Problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills
- Some cultural and religious beliefs
- Feeling a sense of belonging
In addition, the American Psychiatric Association outlines a number of warning signs of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts, including:
- Frequently talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
- Talking about feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Increasing drug or alcohol use/misuse
- Withdrawing from friends, family, or community
- Reckless, risky, thoughtless behavior
- Drastic mood changes
- Voicing feelings of being trapped or a burden to others
Our Treatment for Issues Around Suicide
Prior to coming to Riggs, more than half of our patients have made a near-lethal suicide attempt or struggled with suicidal ideation. Treatment in the open setting of Riggs isn’t right for everyone dealing with thoughts of suicide. Treatment at Riggs requires the capacity to balance the freedom of the open setting with the responsibility, as a member of our community, to keep yourself alive in order to have treatment.
Entering treatment at Riggs begins with a negotiation about keeping yourself safe or telling a staff member if you feel you are not able to keep yourself safe. That agreement forms the foundation of the important work you will do while in treatment. You need to be alive in order to work toward recovery—and in our open setting, keeping yourself safe and alive is your responsibility.
Suicidal thoughts, associated with a number of disorders, arise from a complex and highly personal interplay of biology, social stress, and psychological factors. At Riggs, the whole person is the focus of the treatment, not simply discrete symptoms. We work with you as a person with your own unique life story and your own problems and strengths.
Our treatment approach centers on intensive psychodynamic psychotherapy four times a week with a doctoral-level therapist, exploring your lived experiences to identify patterns and the impact of losses that may be outside your awareness but that influence your decision making. Once aware of these patterns and able to face blocked feelings, you are freed up to make better choices.
Family is also often part of the social context in which ideas about suicide may emerge. So an important part of every treatment at Riggs is family evaluation—with family treatment
offered when indicated.
To augment these regular psychotherapy sessions, medications usually are part of your treatment at Riggs. We have been trailblazers in developing what we call psychodynamic psychopharmacology
, a way of using medications for their biochemical benefit, while also carefully attending to their important meanings.
In addition to therapy and medications, our open setting with its Therapeutic Community Program
mobilizes the powerful potential impact of social learning from interactions with peers—a profound opportunity to learn about things we do that we cannot see but that others can help us see and address.