Change the associations...cure the suicide
A lengthy article in the NY Times, "The Suicide Detective" discusses a psychologist's work to try and understand the phenomena of suicide. Dr. Matthew Nock uses the Implicit Association Test (I.A.T.) to ascertain, with some impressive accuracy, who is likely to kill themselves. Excerpted below is his "take-away" message from the I.A.T. research and how he applies it to treatment. He seems to be saying implicitly (pun intended) that Sigmund Freud and Aaron Beck are correct about the suicidal mind. It also suggests that our belief that psychotherapy, particularly the kind that incorporates mindfulness, is the curative agent for individuals who struggle with suicide is correct.
Here is the excerpt from the article:
"Right now, we ask people if they’re suicidal,” Nock said. “And if they say yes, we give them medication to try and make them less depressed or less anxious or less psychotic or to have a more stable mood. And then we talk to them. We do talk therapy. And essentially talk them into not being suicidal anymore. And this over all as a strategy for many people does not seem to be curative.” But if doctors could see which patients are suicidal at a given moment, they might be able to retrain their self-destructive thinking based on their test scores. If, as the I.A.T. seems to suggest, associating yourself more with dying than with living increases your risk for suicide, breaking that association might decrease it. To find out, Nock is developing computer tasks that he hopes could help get people, through rote practice, to identify more with being alive than dead. His researchers are also starting to test whether training people to think more positively about the past and the future makes them less likely to attempt suicide. Nock often talks about “turning levers,” as if he were a railroad-switch operator manning an existential junction. “Can we think of suicide as resulting from problems with memory or cognition or attention?” he said. “And if so, can we then turn levers on those things to make people less likely to think about suicide? So, it’s not giving a pill; it’s giving a training.”