Three Parts of the Brain in the Suicidal Mode (Poster)


Being suicidal is not a choice, or just an extreme form of depression or despair. Instead researchers suggest that there is a specific brain state that we enter – which they have dubbed ‘the suicidal mode’ – in which key parts of our logical, thinking front brain shut down.

This psychoeducational poster summarises some of these impairments and comes from my online course ‘Dealing with Distress: Working with Suicide and Self-Harm’ which explains it in much more detail.

This is a free downloadable PDF.

Page 1 is a full-colour poster.

Page 2 is a low-ink, print-friendly version.

When we are suicidal, there are some very specific changes which happen in our brain, in what I call the ‘blue zone’ (an extension of my ‘Trauma Traffic Light‘ idea) and which researchers call ‘the suicidal mode’. We stop being fully able to imagine the future, mentalise others’ state of mind (hence our apparent lack of empathy), remember what has helped us in the past, or reach out relationally for help.

On this poster I have broken down the impairments of clear, rational thinking in our ‘front brain’ across three parts of the front brain. We can use this as the basis for planning how to avoid falling into the ‘suicidal mode’ in the first place, or helping someone else to get out of it, and I talk about it in much greater depth on my course ‘Dealing with Distress: Working with Suicide and Self-Harm‘.

Receive updates

Get a free 104-page Trauma Survivors’ Resource Guide when you join my mailing list.