Hope in Magnetic Waves: TMS for Suicidal Thoughts

“When you feel like giving up, just remember why you held on for so long.”–Haley Williams

Approximately 703,000 people commit suicide each year, and many more make attempts on their lives or are thinking about it. When battling dark thoughts and urges, it can be challenging to know where to turn for help. You can feel trapped in a dark tunnel with no reasonable way out. You can feel isolated and hopeless.

No one should have to suffer feeling like this, so we want to discuss suicidal ideation, treatments available, and what you can do to help yourself or someone you know today. But first, let’s define what suicidal ideation is.

Understanding Suicidal Ideation (SI)?

SI is often called suicidal ideas or thoughts. It can be passive or active and encompasses preoccupations, wishes, and contemplations about suicide, death, and dying. An example of a passive SI is “I hope I don’t wake up after going to bed tonight.” Active SI is when you come up with specific ways to hasten your death.

SI can be fleeting sometimes, but it isn’t just a passing phase, as some may think. It can wax and wane, meaning it comes and goes and can vary in intensity, character, and duration. Because of its fluctuating pattern, there are no typical suicidal thoughts. Additionally, suicidal thoughts or SI are considered a better predictor of lifetime suicide risk than immediate risk. Researchers have linked SI severity and frequency to subsequent suicide attempts. So, remember, SI is not a cry for attention. Pay attention to your particular SI, especially its type, intensity, and pattern.

Risk Factors for Suicidal Thoughts

SI is a symptom of psychological distress that can occur independently, but it is often a symptom of a serious mental health issue, like major depressive disorder (MDD). Other risk factors include:

  • A breakup with a significant other or friend
  • A recent loss of a loved one
  • Social isolation
  • An unexpected or unhappy change in circumstances related to school, work, housing, or finances
  • A significant physical illness
  • Bullying
  • Substance dependence or heavy use
  • A history of self-harm or suicide attempts
  • A familial history of suicide

Traditional Treatments

Traditional treatments for suicidal thoughts are the same as major depression disorder treatments, such as antidepressant medication and various forms of counseling and talk therapy.

While conventional treatments are effective for many, they may not always provide adequate relief for suicidal thoughts. For example, when you begin an antidepressant, it can take six weeks or more to know how it will affect your symptoms. Some can even cause or worsen SI in rare cases. While talk therapy is an excellent treatment option to get to the root cause of your suicidal ideation, it doesn’t yield immediate results either. For those in acute distress, it is crucial to explore all treatment options and know how they can work independently or together to help you through this challenging time.

Enter Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS is a treatment for major depression which earned FDA approval in 2008. It’s an outpatient treatment you can receive at a clinic. It involves MRI-like magnetic pulses targeting specific areas of your brain associated with mood. It stimulates activity in those areas to promote healthy emotion and mood regulation. It’s a targeted treatment approach that works effectively for many individuals with minimal side effects.

You might be thinking, “While TMS is effective at reducing or eliminating depression symptoms, that doesn’t necessarily mean it treats suicidal thoughts specifically.” Researchers are currently investigating. For example, this study found that TMS tends to reduce suicidal ideation. These researchers found that TMS reduced suicidal thoughts to none for up to 62% of participants who reported SI.

Overall, studies are showing promising results for TMS reducing suicidal ideation and improving moods. By helping restore normal brain functioning, TMS can disrupt the negative thought patterns that contribute to depression and suicidal behavior, offering more immediate relief than other treatment options.

Embrace a Comprehensive Approach

While TMS could be the answer you’re looking for, you must approach suicide prevention holistically. TMS is an excellent treatment for many different disorders because it can work together with other modalities. It can help strengthen the effects of antidepressants, and it can help cement the work you do in talk therapy. Consider integrating TMS solutions into a comprehensive treatment plan to help eliminate your suicidal thoughts and reduce your lifetime risk for suicidal actions.

It’s important to continue discussing these complex and often distressing issues to raise awareness about prevalent mental health problems. We can embrace innovation and foster a culture of compassion. Together, we can create a supportive environment where anyone can feel empowered to seek help.

“This life. This night. Your story. Your hope. It matters. All of it matters.”–Jamie Tworkowski