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How EC-PST Can Help Reduce Suicide Risk

The common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution;

A suicidal person is seeking a solution to a problem that is

generating intense suffering within him or h

Dr. Edwin Shneidman, co-founder of the American Association of Suicidality




  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

  • It is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people

  • A person dies of suicide on average every 11 minutes

  • Approximately 20-22 Veterans die by suicide each day

  • For every person who dies by suicide, approximately 150 are also affected

  • More people die by suicide using a gun than people die by homicide with a gun

WARNING SIGNS OF ACUTE SUICIDE RISK (according to the American Association of Suicidality)

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves; talking of wanting to hurt or kill themselves

  • Looking for ways to kill themselves by looking for means to do so (for example, firearms, poison, etc.)

  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide

SUICIDE THINKING: WARNING SIGNS (according to the American Association of Suicidality)

  • No sense of purpose in life

  • Depressed

  • Hopeless

  • Withdraw from friends, family, society

  • Rage/anger

  • Acting reckless (for example, driving very fast)

  • Major mood changes

  • Giving away previously prized possessions

  • Difficulty sleeping, agitated, anxious

  • Increase in drinking alcohol/taking drugs

  • Seeking long-term care for a pet

  • Feeling trapped

IMPORTANT: If you are experiencing these warning signs,

or know someone who is, contact the following crisis resource:  

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 3-digit dialing code: 988






Based on multiple research studies, we recently developed a model of suicide that can help explain how and why people begin to experience high levels of suicide ideation and thinking. We first described this model in 2015 at the U.S. Air Force National Suicide Prevention Summit and have presented multiple workshops since then that trains various mental health professionals in this approach and its associated psychotherapy intervention, EC-PST. We are also currently conducting research with Veterans and college students at this time to determine the value of this model.


There are three major components to this model:

  • Stressful life events (both acute and chronic)

  • Negative emotion reactivity (people's reactions to stressful events)

  • Social problem solving (the beliefs and actions involved in how people                          cope or manage stressful events)


Each of these factors independently have been found to be a strong predictor of suicide ideation. In other words,


  • Higher levels of stress increases the likelihood of higher levels of suicide ideation

  • More intense and persistent negative emotional responses to such stress further increases the likelihood of higher levels of suicidality

  • Less effective problem-solving attempts to manage such stress and negative arousal even further increases suicidal ideation

Our research has demonstrated that Veterans who previously attempted suicide have higher levels of negative emotion reactivity and poorer problem solving as compared to their non-suicidal Veteran counterparts. Similar results were found when we focused on college students as research participants.

This suggests that one means of reducing suicide risk is to improve people's ability to better manage stress and negative arousal using the tools taught in EC-PST. We are currently working with members of the Department of Veterans Affairs conducting a clinical trial of PST/EC-PST with older adult Veterans at risk for suicide. 

The goals of EC-PST to reduce suicide risk include helping individuals to:

  • Cope better with stressful problems

  • Manage negative arousal/emotions created by stress

  • Solve and manage difficult life problems

Based on a grant from the Pew Charities Trusts, we previously developed a community-based clinic in Philadelphia that provided free services to Veterans at risk for suicide based on EC-PST. Clinically, Veterans found the services meaningful and useful.

Funded in part by a grant from the Infinite Hero Foundation, we developed a series of 6 videos, entitled New Pathways, that demonstrate the use of EC-PST for Veterans who are at risk for suicide. These videos are posted on You Tube. To access all 6 videos, go to the "Videos" page (see menu) or click below.




New suicide hotline number.png
Video 1.png

Click above to access more information about

the Lifeline plus additional resource information.

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