The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention: Research, Policy and Practice

By Rory C. O’Connor; Jane Pirkis | Go to book overview

25
Modes of Mind and Suicidal
Processes

J. Mark G. Williams, Danielle S. Duggan,
Catherine Crane, Silvia R. Hepburn,
Emily Hargus*, and Bergljot Gjelsvik


Introduction

The aim of our research over many years has been to understand the psychological processes that combine with adverse social circumstances to make someone feel trapped and suicidal. In previous work (Williams, Crane, Barnhofer, & Duggan 2005), we have described the conditions in which suicidal ideation first occurs: the co-occurrence of feelings of extreme pressure to get out or escape and the feeling that there is, in fact, no escape possible—“arrested flight” (O’Connor, 2003; Williams, 2014). Situations of arrested flight are regarded as the initial “setting conditions” for suicidal ideation and may arise either from actual circumstances (such as bullying or sexual abuse) or from a person’s perception of how things are (feeling defeated, viewing oneself as a failure, perceiving there to be no options).

In this chapter, we explore the hypothesis that the way people react to distressing stimuli, including the presence of suicidal ideation, is critical in determining whether these problems become “adhesive,” perpetuating a sense of entrapment. In particular, we suggest that the greatest difficulties arise when (a) the presence of distressing situations, thoughts, or feelings immediately and automatically triggers a sense of discrepancy; (b) a mode of mind that has developed to support discrepancy reduction (the “doing” mode) is adopted to solve the problem, but fails to do so; and (c) there is a tendency to automatically resort to increasingly maladaptive forms of discrepancy-based processing, such as rumination and experiential avoidance, which over time may become habitual responses to discrepancies of all types. Throughout this chapter, we use the terms self-harm and suicidal behavior interchangeably to refer to any act of self-poisoning or self-injury carried out by an individual irrespective of motivation (Hawton et al., 2003; National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2011).

*In Memory of Emily Hargus, a wonderful colleague and friend.

The International Handbook of Suicide Prevention, Second Edition. Edited by Rory C. O’Connor and Jane Pirkis. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2016 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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