On this episode of The Addicted Mind podcast, Duane interviews Dr. Ursula Whiteside, a clinician, researcher, and trainer in the area of suicide prevention. Ursula struggled with her suicidal thoughts throughout her life, and in 1999, she moved to Washington state to learn from Marsha Linehan, the creator of DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in some age groups and is more prevalent than car accidents, homicides, and breast cancer. Beyond these statistics, it is estimated that 10 million Americans every year have suicidal ideation.

The exciting thing is that this overwhelming emotional crisis that can lead to suicidal ideation is not sustainable in the brain for more than 48 hours. So while people are within this timeframe, it often feels like things will always be this bad and that there is no hope. While it might not be helpful for them to think that they might feel this way for a couple of days, it might be beneficial for them to know that they will only feel this way for a couple of days at most. When Ursula talks with someone amid their suicidal ideation, she tells them to wait until this suicidal period passes before deciding to act on their ideation.

There are a few simple things that someone in an overwhelming emotional crisis can do: (1) try to describe what is happening, (2) practice mindfulness by being in touch with your emotions, and (3) submerge your face in cold water for 20 seconds at a time for 3-5 minutes. For friends and family members, it can be helpful to know how to respond to their loved one’s thoughts and feelings. The best way to support them is by listening to them, taking care of them, and just being there for them. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon, especially during adolescence, and in addition to DBT and ongoing conversations with your physician, the Now Matters Now website is an excellent resource for learning how to cope with difficult emotions and how to get through an overwhelming emotional crisis step-by-step.

Ursula wants everyone struggling with suicidal thoughts that you can make plans for things to be different. You don’t have to believe your thoughts, and you can reach out for help in navigating these.




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