20 [Healing Series] Suicide with Melissa K. Nicholson, LMSW


We talk with Melissa K. Nicholson, LMSW about adoptee suicide (sometimes in a graphic manner and so please listen at your discretion). An incredibly important topic as adoptees are at a greater risk for suicide than the general population. We talk about some warning signs, how to get help, how we can intervene and also therapies that are beneficial for adoptees who may struggle with suicidal ideation.

Show Notes

Topics We Discussed

  • Are adoptees four times more likely to attempt suicide?

  • Research shows a link between higher risk of suicide and adoption

  • Trauma associated with adoption (separation from one’s mother), we can struggle with trust and attachment as children and as adults

  • Abuse and neglect (separation, can include foster care) can exacerbate adoption trauma (anxiety, depression, hopelessness, self harm). All of these factors can increase risk of wanting to die

  • Some adoptees feel different and disconnected from their adoptive families

  • Society and some adoptive parents can tell us, “you’re special, you must be grateful” and this can create an environment that’s invalidating

  • When your emotional experiences are invalidated/rejected/judged emotional distress can worsen and can feel hopeless

  • There’s also a genetic link to suicide, so people who have a biological marker of depression or suicide are at greater risk; combining that with adoption trauma can have a ‘double whammy’ for risk

  • Warning signs can be feeling like you don’t want to get out of bed, lacking motivation, using alcohol to escape, looking for material or means to commit suicide, withdrawing from friends and family, sleeping too much or too little, calling people to say goodbye or writing notes to loved ones, giving away belongings

  • If you have a plan or are seriously thinking of suicide please reach out for support 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

  • You deserve help, you deserve to live

  • Finding someone to talk to, having a support network in place; needs to be someone who will listen without judgement

  • Misconception: people who die by suicide are selfish. That is not true, people who are suicidal are in an extreme amount of emotional pain and think that suicide is their only way to end the pain.

  • Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem

  • The most important way to support some that is suicidal is to listen without judgement; offer your support and let them know that you’re there for them. Don’t cheerlead or try and talk them out of it. If people aren’t allowed to express their pain they can’t get to a place to problem solve and heal.

  • If someone is putting their plan into action, your top priority is their safety. Call 911. Let them know that you really care for them and want them to live.

  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255) suicide hotline for the US; google “crisis centre” “distress line” “suicide hotline” to find your local hotline.

  • Interventions that are most helpful for adoptees

  • DBT - Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (https://psychcentral.com/lib/an-overview-of-dialectical-behavior-therapy/) can be helpful for a variety of issues (high intensity of emotions, self harm, anxiety, difficulty regulating emotions)

  • Next steps would be EMDR (http://www.adopteeson.com/listen/2017/2/24/healing-series-emdr-therapy), mindfulness, self compassion, body somatic therapy, body-mind therapy. Interventions with a professional

  • Building a support network and support group with other adoptees to decrease the feelings of isolation