Managing the Suicide Risk in Dissociative Identity Disorder
Many people with mental illness, including people with dissociative identity disorder (DID), manage the risk of suicide. In fact, people with DID carry the highest risk for suicide, as 70% of those diagnosed have a history of at least one suicide attempt. With such an increased risk, what can you do to manage the risk of suicide in DID?
How Can You Help Someone with DID Manage the Risk of Suicide?
Often times, there are warning signs that a person is thinking about suicide. Sometimes, the person may openly admit they are having suicidal thoughts. Other times, there may be less obvious signs. These can include worsening hopelessness and/or depression, withdrawing from activities and/or relationships, giving away possessions, or talking about a way out.
With dissociative identity disorder (DID), suicide warning signs may not always be so consistent. People with DID may show warning signs at one time, but appear to be okay later on and not show any signs at all. They may even deny feeling suicidal if approached about it.
This can all be confusing to people on the outside, those who know and support someone with DID. It's not that people with DID are lying or are in denial about their suicidality. Most times, the reality is that they may not even be aware that another part is showing signs or is suicidal. Don't dismiss suicidal signs in DID just because they seem to have gone away.
Use Coping Skills to Manage Suicide Risk in DID
While it's not always possible to get rid of suicidal thoughts entirely, it is possible to manage their intensity and cope with them more effectively. Distress tolerance skills, which are part of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), can help reduce impulsivity, suicidal behaviors, and suicidal thinking.
These skills can also be learned and used by alters who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. While not every part may always be willing to use the skills, it is important to continue to teach and encourage everyone in your system to do the best that they can to ensure the safety of the body, which includes managing suicidal thoughts and feelings.
Staying mindful is another coping skill that can help you cope with suicidal feelings. For those with DID, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are often linked to past trauma. Practicing mindfulness and staying grounded can reduce dissociation, which in turn can reduce trauma triggers that may lead to increased suicidality.
You Aren't Alone in Managing DID's Suicide Risk
One of the most important things to remember when you or your parts are struggling with suicidal ideation is that you are not alone. Communication is key. Encourage your parts to reach out to others in the system for help. Write out a safety plan for you and your parts to follow when anyone feels suicidal. Having that structure in place ahead of time can really help (Emergency Plans for Mental Health Crises Will Help Your Child).
Therapy can help. Your therapist can work with you and your system to learn coping skills and work through any trauma that may be leading to the suicidal thoughts. There are support groups that can help you feel less alone. There are hotlines and text lines that you can reach out to when you or one of your parts are in crisis.
See our resources and hotlines page for more.
Matulewicz, C. (2017, September 28). Managing the Suicide Risk in Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2017/09/managing-suicidality-in-dissociative-identity-disorder