Disrupt Suicidal Thoughts with Mindfulness  

“Did you really want to die?”
“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”
“Then why do they do it?”
“Because they want to stop the pain.”
  ― Tiffanie DeBartolo


After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause. Around 43,000 people take their own lives each year in the US. Someone dies from suicide every 12.3 minutes. Worldwide over 800,000 people die by suicide every year. (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). It is much more prevalent with males who account for 79% of suicides. The problem is far worse than these statistics suggest as it has been estimated that for every completed suicide there were 12 unsuccessful attempts. In other words, about a half a million people in the U.S. attempt suicide each year. Yet compared with other life threatening conditions there has been scant research on how to identify potential suicide attempters, intervene, and reduce suicidality.


Depression and other mood disorders are the number-one risk factor for suicide. More than 90% of people who kill themselves have a mental disorder, whether depression, bipolar disorder or some other diagnosis, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). So, the best way to prevent suicide may be to treat the underlying cause. For many this means treating depression. Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce suicidality in substance abusers (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/11/30/decrease-suicidality-with-mindfulness/). Mindfulness training has also been shown to be effective for treating depression (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/category/research-news/depression/). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was developed specifically to treat depression and prevent relapse. So, it would seem reasonable to expect that MBCT would be effective in suicide prevention.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Reduces the Association Between Depressive Symptoms and Suicidal Cognitions in Patients with a History of Suicidal Depression”



Barnhofer and colleagues treated patients with a history of suicidal depression with eight weeks of either MBCT, Cognitive Psychoeducation (CE), or Treatment as Usual (TAU). They found that at the end of treatment the participants treated with MBCT had a significant reduction in suicidal thoughts while the other groups did not. For the CE and TAU groups there were strong and significant correlations between depression and suicidal thoughts. That is, for these groups, the higher the level of depression the higher the levels of suicidal thought. In contrast for the MBCT group the correlations were significantly weaker That is, there was a much weaker relationship between depression and suicidal thoughts after Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) than Cognitive Psychoeducation (CE), or Treatment as Usual (TAU).


These are interesting and potentially important findings that MBCT can reduce suicidal thoughts and that it weakens the link between depression and suicidal thoughts. This makes sense as MBCT is designed to reprogram depressive thought processes, helping the patient to see that their typical ways of thinking about and assessing their experiences are faulty and tend to heighten depression and that looking at and interpreting their experiences in a more rational way can reduce depression. This, in turn, appears to reduce suicidal thinking.


These results clearly suggest that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) may be an effective program to prevent suicide in people with high levels of suicidal thinking. Since mindfulness training has been shown to reduce suicidality in drug abusers, the second most likely group to commit suicide, it would appear that mindfulness training is potentially an important method to prevent suicide.


So, disrupt suicidal thoughts with mindfulness.


“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.” 
― Friedrich Nietzsche
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


One thought on “Disrupt Suicidal Thoughts with Mindfulness  

  1. I appreciate the use of MBCT to reduce suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior thereby. However, that alone is NOT ENOUGH to empower a person with persistent suicidal thought and plans to commit the act. Concentration and awareness of the present moment nonjudgmentally does help. This is internal source of facing the problem. External sources for motivation must be part of this ‘mindfulness’. Moreover,
    I found it useful for the person with suicidal thoughts to verbalize his or her experience of overcoming it at every stage of that success story to significant others as the individual chooses to. For sure, no forced sharing of that experience.

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