Hopelessness, Shame and Guilt Increase Risk of Self Harm

Robert A. Underwood, Ph.D.

Of the clinical issues we face as psychologists, suicide risk can be one of the more challenging areas to assess, predict and discuss with our patients.  While the warning signs of suicide are not always obvious for us to identify, certain clinical symptoms have been linked more closely to completed suicide.  For example, feelings of hopelessness, shame and guilt, as well as sleep disturbance, and perceived burdensomeness have all been identified as fairly strong warning signs of possible suicide.  Even more so, recent discharge from a psychiatric hospital places one at a much greater risk of attempted suicide, especially within the first month after discharge.  For certain groups, such as adolescents and geriatric individuals, the suicide risk is even higher in some cases.  If you have concerns a loved one is considering suicide or if they have expressed a desire to die, most certainly, seek professional counseling for this loved one right away, and, if your are even more acutely concerned, take them to an emergency room for immediate evaluation.  Keeping lines of communication open with the individual and providing access to support resources is also important.  Instilling hope for the future, discussing reasons for living, and limiting access to means of harm are additional goals to hopefully reduce the chances of someone attempting suicide.  The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is one such resource and available 24 hours a day.  

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