Suicide and Complex Trauma

CPTSD Foundation
6 min readSep 11, 2023

This article will tackle active suicide and may not be suitable for sensitive audiences.

September is Suicide Prevention Month. This article, which is part of a series, focuses on suicide and suicidal ideations.

Everyone is vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and actions no matter where you live, what you do for a living, or any other demographic. However, while suicidal thoughts and actions are common, they also indicate something unusual, such as the presence of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Thus, suicidal thoughts should never be treated as normal.

Suicide Prevention Month

September is the month when the subject of suicide is talked about and often reluctantly discussed. It is critical to raise awareness about suicide to ensure that you, your family member, or your friend will not become a statistic.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month was founded at the Reno conference in 1999, which is the year when Surgeon General David Satcher called for action, emphasizing that suicide is a serious public health risk.

In 2008, September was declared National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to start a dialogue connecting people with suicidal thoughts to the treatment they need.

The group Project Semicolon encourages people to get a semicolon tattoo to support those who have mental illness or have lost someone to suicide. There are also necklaces, t-shirts, and other merchandise worn to make the term “suicide” a word and action discussed freely in society.

Trauma is an emotional response to a horrendous event such as an accident or abuse during childhood. Basically, trauma is your response to something that happens to you as an adult or as a child.

Childhood abuse harms a child’s mental health, ability to form relationships, and thought processes. Often, children who have been abused experience complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health problem that is caused by ongoing trauma (not simply one traumatic event) and that alters the trajectory of the child’s life.

Some of the effects of childhood trauma are:

  • Feeling fear or anger
  • Reexperiencing the traumatic event
  • Avoiding triggers
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling shame and/or guilt
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Grief
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness

Unfortunately, the effects listed above continue to occur in their adult life.

Mental health disorders can arise from trauma, including depression, alcohol and other substance abuse, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts and actions.

Trauma and Suicidal Ideation

Research has shown that trauma is closely associated with suicidal ideation and suicide. A paper written by Tong-Chung Bahk et al. discusses how the researchers examined 211 seemingly healthy adults and screened them for a history of trauma and suicidal ideation. The paper addressed whether childhood trauma was a strong indicator of suicidal ideation. The authors concluded the following:

“Our results confirmed that childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of suicidal ideation. Perceived social support mediated the relationship between suicidal ideation and neglect. Anxiety fully mediated the relationship between suicidal ideation and both physical abuse and emotional abuse. Interventions to reduce suicidal ideation among survivors of childhood trauma should focus on anxiety symptoms and attempt to increase their social support.”

Other research conducted by Brokke et al. found that:

“Patients who had experienced sexual abuse reported higher levels of dissociation and were younger at the onset of suicidal thoughts, more likely to self-harm, and more likely to have attempted suicide; and they had made more suicide attempts.”

It is critical to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and to act even if you are not a mental health professional and the person who is suicidal is a friend, a relative, or you. Suicidal ideation is nothing to fool around with, as the suicidal actions that could result happen quickly.

Statistically speaking, 75% of people who die by suicide are male. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are four times more likely to complete suicide. As revealed by media reports, adults are not the only people who become suicidal. Stunningly, suicide is the second leading cause of death of people 10–34 and the fourth leading cause of death of those 35–54.

Clearly, suicide is a significant problem that the United States is attempting to address by offering the new mental health hotline 988. There are other ways to prevent suicide as well.

As an individual, the best way to defeat suicide is to form your own plan before you have suicidal ideation. Your plan may include listing people you trust and reaching out to them when you feel you are falling into the abyss. Ask for support and accept it when it is given.

It is vital for you to share that you are having painful thoughts with someone else, so if the first few people on your list are not available, keep trying. Please don’t give up because they don’t answer the phone. They have not rejected you; they are simply busy at the moment.

Tell your friend or relative you are struggling and need someone to talk to. Express your feelings and emotions with them, even if those emotions are intense. Make a pact with that person that you will either seek help for you or that you will reach out for professional help.

Do what it takes not to become a statistic.

Ending Our Time Together

I have lived through two suicide attempts. The first occurrence was when I was seven years old, and the other was when I was in my thirties. I failed to reach out to others to ask for help, and I know how hard that is when you are in that mindset.

I nearly died, but I am delighted that I didn’t. To this day, I am unsure what trigger pushed me beyond the point where I was rational. I could have dialed 911 and gotten help, but I had not made a list of things to do when I felt suicidal, even though I had felt that way before.

You and I are so precious. The world would be so much colder if something happened to either of us. It is crucial to make that list and keep it in a position where you can see it before you take drastic action.

I hope this article has helped somehow and that you become determined not to become a statistic. You deserve better than that.

“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn into glorious success.” — Elbert Hubbard.

“You may not always have a comfortable life, and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” — Michelle Obama.

References

Bahk, Y. C., Jang, S. K., Choi, K. H., & Lee, S. H. (2017). The relationship between childhood trauma and suicidal ideation: role of maltreatment and potential mediators. Psychiatry investigation, 14(1), 37.

Brokke, S. S., Bertelsen, T. B., Landrø, N. I., & Haaland, V. Ø. (2022). The effect of sexual abuse and dissociation on suicide attempt. BMC Psychiatry, 22, 1–8. Brokke, S. S., Bertelsen, T. B., Landrø, N. I., & Haaland, V. Ø. (2022). The effect of sexual abuse and dissociation on suicide attempt. BMC Psychiatry, 22, 1–8.

Originally published at https://cptsdfoundation.org.

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CPTSD Foundation

Successfully equipping complex trauma survivors and practitioners with compassionate support, skills, and trauma-informed education since 2014.