MH@H Book Reviews

Book Review: The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook

Book cover: The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook by Kathryn Hope Gordon

The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook by Kathryn Hope Gordon aims to support people experiencing thoughts of suicide to help manage their emotional pain, drawing on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) strategies.

The book begins by guiding the reader through worksheets to reflect on reactions to the suicidal thoughts and identify risk factors and elements in the environment that may contribute. There are also worksheets to identify social supports and prepare a crisis plan. The author describes the Three-Step Theory, which I hadn’t heard of before, to help readers understand how suicide can arise from pain, hopelessness, and loss of connection.

CBT techniques that are covered include problem-solving approaches, reframing negative thought, and changing attributions. Mindfulness is also incorporated. The acronym HOPE is used to group various strategies as help-seeking, optimism, changing perspective, and attending to emotions.

The chapter on relationships made me cringe a little bit. One of the suggestions was that if you feel lonely, you could try meeting people on a dating app. I met with a therapist once who suggested I start dating to deal with my depression, which seemed wildly inappropriate. The book also talked about strengthening old and creating new relationships, and joining a community choir was one of the suggestions. I can see where the author is trying to go, but really, there’s a time and a place, and I’m not convinced this is it this is it.

There was a suggestion that instead of daydreaming about suicide, you should try daydreaming about something you’re looking forward to. I’m not a daydreamer, and maybe this is just me, but when I’m suicidal, there’s sweet bugger-all that I’m looking forward to, with perhaps the exception of being dead. If I was looking forward to something, would I really be wanting to off myself?

I think this author was trying to be kind and gentle and compassionate. I found the thanking and the praising a bit much, but then I’m probably a cynical old goat. This book is written for an audience that needs kind and gentle, not so much for people like me who’ve been around the block a few times and have the cynicism to show for it. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I think it would do a good job of serving the audience that it’s (not explicitly) aimed at.

The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook is available on Amazon.

I received a reviewer copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

You can find my other book reviews here.

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The Straight Talk on Suicide page covers a variety of topics related to suicide, including getting help and safety planning, from the perspective of someone who’s been there.

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31 thoughts on “Book Review: The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook”

  1. I have ample cynicism but try to not go there. Maybe it’s a built in personality attribute. I also think my meds shield me from a lot of what I could be experiencing. And, even though I am experiencing some level of the meds not working properly, they are working some. Best of luck!

  2. I can’t see meeting people on a dating app to be very appealing when I’m thinking of calling it quits on life! It sounds like other parts are very, well, basic. Too basic. Instead of thinking negative thoughts, think positive ones! No duh. I see what you mean with him being compassionate and gentle, and I suppose for some people that could be comforting in itself, but it doesn’t sound like it’s hugely affirmative or actionable in content. Great write-up as always! xx

  3. Huh. Yeah, this sounds problematic. I can see daydreaming about something you’re looking forward to while you’re sad, hormonal, upset, etc. However, doing it while you’re suicidal is sort of… irrelevant? If you were looking forward to anything at all (not counting being dead), then you wouldn’t be suicidal. That’s the whole problem. Well, part of it.

    Dating seems absurd. I’d be more likely to recommend having a huge support circle of close friends and/or family members (depending on circumstance) and even pets who love you. But dating? Huh. Dating is a stressor, among other things, and isn’t best recommended if you’re in crisis. It can take adequate support to process a bad first date. I wouldn’t mind going on some dates, but if I were suicidal?! [I’m shaking my head.]

    Also, I never daydreamed about suicide, although I’m sure it’s different for different situations or people. To me, whenever I’ve been suicidal, I become terrified that I’ll succeed (either in killing myself or in hurting myself substantially). I’m gripped with fear. Again, I know it’s different, but I’ve never daydreamed or fantasized about killing myself. More like, “Oh God, I need to be protected from myself right now. HELP!”

    Great book review!!

    1. I wonder, is dating ever not stressful right at the beginning? Maybe not if you already knew the person, but to just go out and get on a dating app? You never know what kind of disasters you might end up with.

      1. I completely agree!! Oh my gosh, some of the dates I’ve been on!! 😮 I guess you’d have to be, like, a total extrovert and outgoing sort to enjoy it for what it is?

  4. When i read the title i got excited but after reading your post i think I’d fall in the cynical group. Maybe if i was still young and idealistic it be for me. Thanks for the review and i think it sounds like you were open minded about it too.

  5. I have always found workbooks to be helpful, to challenge myself with questions and then process then out in the suggested exercises. Learning how to reframe thought patterns by recognizing their triggers was a big step forward for me when I took CBT and DBT outpatient courses. Like all therapies, take what suits, serves and works and leave the rest. Thorough post Ashleyleia 👏😊

  6. The advice to go on dating apps is odd. It would also seem to put people who are on dating apps to try to find a suitable romantic partner in the weird position of potentially having to talk deeply lonely, suicidal strangers they barely know away from the ledge. Dating is stressful enough as it is! Also, you don’t have to be single to feel lonely. There are plenty of deeply lonely, miserable married people too.

  7. Hehe, I haven’t been actively suicidal in years but the thing about daydreaming about something you’re looking forward to seriously cracked me up. I guess telling such a thing to someone who actually is suicidal at the moment can only reinforce the suicidality and the only thing it’ll accomplish is perhaps shift the person’s focus from the suicide itself to death.
    Weird thing with dating. I’m not sure I can even understand the logic behind why someone would suggest/want to do it while depressed/suicidal and think it would be helpful.
    I hear it so often somewhere how folks with mental illness are being told to strengthen or make new relationships, but I feel like for so many of us, the problem is within, and not due to lack of the right people to mingle with.

    1. I can see it being helpful if an existing friendship grew into a romantic relationship and greater support was available that way, but like you said, the problem is so often within.

  8. I like that you gave credit to the writer’s intentions. Perhaps this would be useful for people with ideation? I’m trying to picture myself at any of my suicide attempts, pulling out a workbook or worksheet page? I’m not feeling it, to be honest. Then again, although I like reading workbooks, I’m not really in the “doing them” camp.

  9. I got my hopes up with title of book, but with what you mention, the book would be for me either.
    Only the day dreaming part I can relate to.
    Dating! That’s a big no no for me, as you know.

  10. No, this book sounds way too basic. I prefer “Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws” by Kate Bornstein, (although I’m not a teen when I read it!) but that’s also not everyone’s cup of tea.

      1. I really like the book but definitely some people won’t. If I sent you a ebook copy, do you think you’d want to review it? Each alternative is 1 page, 2 tops. The tone is… well… it can be amusing and it can be comforting and it can be dark and sombre. 😀

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