Written by UKCP member Lorraine Davis
Whilst statistics suggest that suicide is declining, media articles highlight the impact and devastation of suicide particularly with women. My thoughts go to why women are committing suicide and feeling so overwhelmed by their thoughts and feeling that they are not seeking support. We live in a fast paced ever changing world of uncertainty, where there are external pressures to be successful, and fulfilled. As a female psychotherapist and a feminist who is invested in women’s equality and empowerment I am acutely aware of the external and internal pressures to be competent, successful, and independent. Yet this can create internal conflicts and polarising thoughts in terms of being able to acknowledge moments of vulnerability and fragility. I believe these pressures leave women at increased risk of wanting to escape from feeling conflicted and overwhelmed by difficult thoughts and feelings. Women are great at caring for others, and being conscientious at work, and so proving their effectiveness and commitment. Yet I believe it is the avoidance or denial of self-care, along with a sense of shame surrounding failure, and seeking support that creates risks for mental health problems. There is also the impact of contradictory messages between environments, whether they are work, social or family; where success, fulfilment and independence are celebrated, and vulnerability, self-care or the permission to fail may not be permitted or accepted.
When working therapeutically with clients who present as a suicide risk I provide the space to share thoughts and feelings surrounding helplessness, powerlessness and hopelessness. I encourage feeling states and thoughts to be voiced, and expressed. I explore how success is measured and what failure means, and how these concepts are perceived and experienced. I encourage a client to engage with the voice of the vulnerable part, and how this part communicates to the self-state that is driven for success, independence and fulfilment, and vice-a-versa. Encouraging a dialogue between self-states can help a client notice the impact that each part has on the other and facilitate an integration of conflicting parts so that self-care, vulnerability, boundaries and limits are more noticeable. This helps with creating empathy and compassion for self.
For help with suicidal thoughts:
In an emergency, call: 999
NHS (England), call: 111
NHS Direct (Wales), call: 0845 46 47
The Samaritans 24 hour helpline, call: 116 123