Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Brandon Yew and Dr Eki Wari on July 31, 2022

Best Suicide Prevention Tips, According To TCM

Suicide prevention has become increasingly important since the pandemic. Learn how to care for your mental health so you can prevent suicidal thoughts here.

Suicide prevention min scaled

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day in the United States. Did you know that 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide in 2020 alone?

According to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention (AFSP), there are roughly 130 suicide deaths per day. Middle-aged white men have the highest risk.

Luckily, approximately 93% of Americans believe suicide can be prevented. In fact, there are many things you can do from a holistic perspective to support your mental health.

Read on to learn suicide prevention tips based on a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach that could save your life or someone else’s.

Facts About Suicide Prevention

Support is available if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide.

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. Since 2020, suicide rates have increased. This is likely due to pandemic stress.

One study found that in the first year of the pandemic, the United States had the highest ever combined rate of death from drugs, alcohol, and suicide.

Among those who died by suicide in 2020, approximately 90% had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.

Meanwhile, 10% of Americans have thought about suicide while 54% of us have been affected by suicide in some way.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you must seek immediate medical help. There are many mental health treatment options available.

If one treatment did not work for you, consider another. Remember, help is available and it comes in numerous forms.

Suicide Pathology, According To TCM

In TCM, each organ is responsible for controlling an emotion. Balancing these organs can help keep your mental health in good standing.

From TCM’s perspective, there are several reasons why someone might be experiencing suicidal thoughts. We asked Senior TCM Physician Brandon Yew to explain.

“According to TCM, the five vital organs each govern an emotion. Anger by the Liver; joy by the Heart; over-thinking by the Spleen; grief by the Lungs; and fear by the Kidneys. The intensity of these emotions is dependent on the state of the respective organs. If an organ is balanced, the respective emotion will be moderate; if deficient, the emotion is lacking; and if in excess, the emotion will be overbearing,” Physician Yew stated.

Mental well-being can be achieved through the mutual check and balance among these emotions based on the 5 elements regulatory system. For example, anger (Wood) subdues over-thinking (Earth); over-thinking (Earth) subdues fear (Water); fear (Water) subdues joy (Fire), joy (Fire) subdues grief (Metal); and grief (Metal) subdues anger (Wood). 

Depression is closely similar to grief and relates to Metal (Lungs). Anxiety is a result of over-thinking and relates to Earth (Spleen). For someone to experience overwhelming depression and anxiety that leads to suicidal thoughts, the underlying imbalances are a result of either inadequate moderation or excessive functionality of the Lungs and Spleen.

Can TCM Help With Suicide Prevention?

Suicide prevention begins with a good mental health routine. This may include both TCM treatment and psychotherapy.

When someone is actively entertaining compelling suicidal thoughts, it is best for the psychologist or psychiatrist, even with the help of the police and civil defense, to promptly step in and intervene to avert an impending tragedy.

According to Physician Yew, “Only when the patient is more stable mentally can TCM come into the picture. It can then provide complementary symptomatic relief, further enhancing the overall calming effect on the patient.”

TCM can support mental and physical health to prevent suicidal thoughts through herbal medication, acupuncture, tuina (Chinese manual therapy), cupping, gua sha (scraping), moxibustion, and blood-letting.

These treatments are formulated carefully by the TCM physician to address specifically the unique body constitution of every individual patient.  

Herbal remedies that may help with suicide prevention

The following herbal formulas help calm and tranquilize the mind and soothe the Liver:

  • Chai Hu Shu Gan San: Dispels Dampness and Phlegm from the Spleen; activates Qi and Blood flow
  • Wen Dan Tang: Dissipates Phlegm and Dampness from the Spleen
  • An Shen Ding Zhi Wan: Dissipates Dampness and Phlegm from the Spleen, calms the Heart
  • Chai Hu Jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang: Dispels Wind, Fire, Dampness, and Phlegm toxins from the Liver and Heart
  • Dian Kuang Meng Xing Tang: Dispels Fire, Dampness, Phlegm, Stagnated Qi, and Blood clots from the Liver and Heart
  • Gan Mai Da Zao Tang and Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan: Regenerates Blood and Yin to nourish the Heart; clears Fire
  • Sheng Mai San: Regenerates Qi and Yin to nourish the Heart

Additionally, these herbs can help calm the mind and soothe the Liver:

  • Ossa Draconis, Nacre, and Oyster Shell: Relieves shock
  • Dan Shen root: Activates Blood flow and dispels Blood Stasis; clears Fire
  • Spina date seed: Nourishes the Liver and Heart
  • Polygala root: Harmonizes the Heart and Kidneys, improves cognition, expels Phlegm, and unblocks the head orifices 
  • Lily bulb: Regenerates Yin to clear Heart Fire and nourish the Heart
  • Lotus plumule: Clears Heart Fire; harmonizes the Heart and Kidneys 
  • Turmeric root-tuber: Activates Qi and Blood flow to relieve stress, clears Heart Fire, and cools the Blood  
  • Rose buds: Regulates Blood flow; relieves stress and menstrual cramps 

According to one study, Gingko Biloba has been shown to reduce depression. You can take this in supplement form to help ease symptoms. Medicinal mushrooms, such as Lingzhi, have also been shown to help reduce depressive symptoms.

“Please always bear in mind that the herbs and formulas provided above are meant for varying pathological states of mental illness. They correspond to different body constitutions characterized by specific underlying imbalances. As such, it is strongly advised not to self-medicate without first consulting a certified TCM professional. He or she who will assess your unique body constitution and current medical state and advise you accordingly,” advises Physician Yew.

Acupressure

Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy you can do by placing fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints. Apply an appropriate amount of pressure to elicit a tolerable sensation of soreness or tenderness. At the same time, massage in both clockwise and anticlockwise circular motion 20 times each. Repeat for at least 3 minutes per acupoint.

The acupoints that help relieve stress are: 

  • Bai Hui (DU20): Relieves tension at the crown of the head, soothing the nerves and calming the mind 
  • Yin Tang (EX-HN3): Relieves tension at the center of the forehead and near the brows, soothing the nerves and calming the mind
  • Tai Yang (EX-HN5): Relieves tension in the temples, soothing the nerves and calming the mind
  • Feng Chi (GB20): Relieves tension in the neck, soothing the nerves and calming the mind 
  • Jian Jing (GB21): Relieves tension in the shoulders, soothing the nerves and calming the mind
  • He Gu (LI4): Dissipates Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis from the Lungs, activates Qi and Blood flow to soothe the nerves and calm the mind
  • Dan Zhong (RN 17): Relieves pressure in the thoracic cavity and activates Qi and Blood flow to boost the Heart, soothing the nerves and calming the mind
  • Shen Men (HT7): Strengthens the Heart, clears Heart Fire, and calms the mind
  • Da Ling (PC 7): Activates Blood flow to soothe the nerves and calm the mind
  • Zu San Li (ST 36): Dissipates Dampness, Phlegm, and Qi Stagnation from the Spleen, improves Spleen Qi flow to soothe nervous tension and calm the mind
  • Tai Chong (LR 3): Nourishes and strengthens the Liver; regulates Qi and Blood flow to soothe nervous tension and calm the mind

Take note that acupressure only provides mild symptomatic relief, particularly in the somatic aspect rather than psychological. It is strongly recommended to seek professional help from a licensed TCM practitioner.

He or she can perform acupuncture safely and effectively to provide a much stronger and more comprehensive therapeutic efficacy in tackling the actual root imbalance(s) behind mental illness.

Also, consult a psychologist or psychiatrist, especially if the symptoms persist and are of greater severity that affects daily functions or even pose danger. 

If you or anyone you know are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline immediately by dialing 988 on your phone to connect with someone who can help.

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