Lack of mental health resources increases risk of suicide in those with Dissociative Identity Disorder

It’s frustrating to see the public service messages and articles discussing how we need to get people who are having suicidal ideation into treatment centers to prevent them from killing themselves.

Though I appreciate the sentiment of the anti-suicide campaigns, the reality is people who have a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) do not receive the same access of care afforded to every other mental health diagnosis in the DSM V.

DID is the most stigmatized diagnosis within the mental health community.

Interestingly, DID is considered to be amongst the highest risk for suicide. Some estimates say that at least 70% of people with DID have attempted suicide.

With those staggering numbers, one would think the mental health community and the suicide prevention community would be working to improve access to mental health care for those with DID. Nope.

In the 1990s, there were more therapists, psychiatric hospitals, and day treatment programs available to those with a DID diagnosis. The False Memory Foundation (largely supported by those accused of child abuse) succeeded in its goal to end treatment resources for those suffering from DID. This result protects child abusers.

Today, it is extremely difficult to find an experienced outpatient therapist who is willing to treat DID, so many of the highest risk people either have no mental health therapy, or are working with a therapist who doesn’t understand the complexity of treating DID.

Most people who suffer from DID reach points of crisis where they need extra support and hospitalization.

The extra support could look like a day treatment program that understands trauma and dissociation, but after all my research in the United States, I am aware of only 3 programs serving this population (I am not sure that one is still operating) that accept insurance as payment. Since day treatment programs are designed to be community based, it is not very helpful to the majority of people suffering from DID who don’t live in those communities.

Without trained therapists and lack of day treatment programs to provide extra support, the person with DID is more likely to end up in a serious suicidal crisis with an extreme lack of resources available to them.

In a best-case scenario, the person with DID has private mental health insurance or Medicare, both of which offer psychiatric hospital coverage.

Here’s the problems people with DID run into when they are in need of intensive crisis intervention:

1. Although trauma hospital programs have become more common today, these hospital programs will not treat people with DID. They flat out say “we are not set up to treat DID.”

Huh?

I imagine when I hear programs disclose that information, it likely means one of these things:

-we don’t want someone with DID because it will be disruptive to our program, which is completely unfounded.

– we don’t believe these people really have DID, so we don’t want to work with them. People often like to believe this is a rare disorder, it is not.

-since people with DID have a higher risk of suicide, we don’t want to risk our liability by accepting them into our program.

2. There are only six hospital programs that accept insurance that have proficiency in treating DID. I will name them here with no endorsement of them since they are of varying quality:

-University Behavioral Health in Texas

-Sheppard Pratt in Maryland

-River Oaks in Louisiana

– Del Amo in California

– Forest View in Michigan

-Psychiatric Institute of Washington (PIW) in D.C.

Now, this may seem like a lot if you believe the disorder is rare, which it isn’t, and if you don’t take into account that people with DID are likely to have limited emotional and financial resources to travel to these destinations if their insurance actually covers the place.

In addition, these hospital programs more often than not have a waiting list to get in, which doesn’t work for the patient who is truly in a suicidal crisis.

California has created a few really nice DID programs that offer cutting-edge therapies for people with DID. Only problem, these programs are only available to those who can self-pay, typically $40-50k a month. Unfortunately, the symptoms of DID are not likely to coincide with being wealthy enough to afford such places.

3. You might be asking why doesn’t a person with DID just go to their local community mental health hospital? This is another huge topic, but I will do my best to sum it up.

Your typical community-based hospital doesn’t believe in the diagnosis of DID, so when you enter that system you are likely to get a diagnosis of schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar. When you receive those diagnoses, it means the mental health system is largely going to solve your crisis through intense medication therapy. There is no medication that treats DID, so getting blasted with medications does more harm than good.

Also, it is important to understand that people with DID have been highly traumatized in their lives, or they wouldn’t have the diagnosis to begin with. By asking a person to enter a community-based mental health program, you are guaranteeing that they will be re-traumatized by the way they will be treated and the lack of understanding of what is happening with them.

Sadly, we recently witnessed the prevalence of sexual abuse in our world through the “me too” campaign.

People with DID are not born with this condition. It is a result of being subjected to severe trauma in early childhood, typically severe sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.

I wonder, where are the crusaders for this population of victims?

Where is Oprah Winfrey, Brene Brown, Angelina Jolie, Demi Lovato, or any other person of influence who could make a difference in the suffering of those with DID?

I don’t even understand why the for profit hospitals aren’t all over trying to serve this underserved population simply to make money.

Somewhere in mental health history it was decided that the DID population is invisible, expendable, and just don’t matter.

The irony, those of us with DID come from families where the message that we don’t matter was drilled into our heads. Sadly, our current mental health system only reinforces that belief.

My final thought, would the suicide statistics be as high for those with DID if we had adequate resources for those suffering with this disorder?

Does it matter to you?

2 thoughts on “Lack of mental health resources increases risk of suicide in those with Dissociative Identity Disorder

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