10 Things You Need To Know About Suicide From A Survivor

I’ve attempted suicide three times.

The first time I was a junior in high school. After a break up with my boyfriend, which was huge in my teenage world, I swallowed a bottle of aspirin, had my stomach pumped in the ER, and cheered at a football game later that night.

Fast forward two decades. I had now been married to the same boyfriend for 16 years and was a stay-at-home mother of two small sons. When the husband informed me that he wanted a divorce, I sped off in my minivan, bought a six-pack of wine coolers, an assortment of over-the-counter pills, and a couple of bottles of the night-time-so-you-can-rest medicine. Parking the van in a remote corner of a 24-hour store parking lot, I downed the toxic combination and stretched out on the back seat to die.

Hours later, I woke in a panicked stupor and tried to drive home, but proceeded to plow over a curb where I came to a stop, hung out of the door throwing up green goo, and passed out on the grass. Someone driving by called 911, and after being rushed to the ER and having my stomach pumped again, I suffered no physical consequences, but did spend a couple of days in the psych ward of the hospital.

The last time was more serious — much more.

After the end of the marriage in an ugly parting that made Divorce Court  look civil, and years of wrong turns, things not working out, and being flat-out disgusted with life, I attempted suicide again in June of 2007, by swallowing over 90 pills – mostly prescription. Because I wasn’t found in time, the drugs went all the way through my system wreaking destruction.

After a week in a coma, I woke up with a serious brain injury to a very different world. Immediately following the attempt, the ex sued me for custody of our sons, won, and promptly moved out-of-state with them.

At first, I was painfully embarrassed and ashamed to admit to anyone that I had tried to kill myself, had my children taken away, and had mental health issues. But during the first year after it all happened, I began to realize that my shame was like a black cloud I was willingly pulling around over my own head. I could step out from under it at any time. If I talked about these gasp-worthy events openly and refused to inflict any shame on myself, there was none for me.

The shame only existed if I imposed it on myself.

Over the years, I’ve healed tremendously both emotionally and physically and continued talking and writing about depression, suicide, and mental health. While I have seen some positive changes around the subjects as people have become more willing to share their experiences and less judgmental of others, I also see that we still have a long way to go.

Attempting suicide carries a huge stigma of shame, is hush-hushed, and makes people squirm uncomfortably. I believe that only by sharing honestly can we begin to heal ourselves and help others. Although I can’t begin to know what anyone else feels or speak for them, here are some things I want you to know about suicide.

  • Suicide was the 15th leading cause of death overall and the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally in 2012.

According to the World Health Organization. Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year and there are many more who attempt it. There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds. Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29 years, accounting for 17.6 percent of deaths in high-income countries and 8.5 percent of deaths globally (World Health Organization, 2014).

  • Suicidal thoughts are very common.

A 2006 study of 26,000 college students showed that over half had considered suicide at some point. Eighteen percent of undergraduates had thought seriously about it. When I share my experiences, I often get a “me too” story from people telling me how they found themselves in a similar dark place at one time in their life. Just thinking about suicide is pretty common. Taking the thoughts seriously is an indication that all is not well. If we consider how many of us think about it, maybe we could find it in ourselves to be a little less judgemental of each other and ashamed of ourselves.

  • Men are more likely to successfully commit suicide than women, but more women attempt it.

According to The Center For Disease Control, suicide among males is four times higher than among females, with male deaths representing 79 percent of all US suicides. However, females are more likely than males to have had suicidal thoughts, experience depression at roughly twice the rate of men and attempt suicide three times more often as males.

  • Suicide runs in families.

Evidence that suicide runs in families has been found in both case reports and epidemiological studies due to genetics and social modeling. For example, one study found that identical twins had a stronger incidence of suicide than fraternal twins, even when they were raised separately.

  • Suicide is socially contagious.

Suicide contagion can spread through a school, a community, or the public as a celebrity “suicide wave.” When the media splashes the details of a suicide all over, copycat suicides follow. After Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962, suicides for the month went way up, and suicides across the nation in white females in their 30s and 40s in the year after she died increased significantly. There was a similar uptick after Kurt Cobain died in 1994.

  • A person who commits suicide isn’t always clinically depressed.

Depression is a significant risk factor, but it’s only one thing contributing to suicide. Environmental factors such as stressful life events, access to firearms, suicide contagion, and others play a role. (Firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide among males and access to firearms correlates with a higher risk of suicide.)

  • Thoughts and feelings don’t last.  Suicide does.

When I tried to commit suicide each time, I was really trying to escape my feelings, thoughts, and situations I didn’t want to face or know how to navigate.  Back then, I believed I would feel the suffocating despair and helplessness forever, but now I know that’s not the case. Feelings pass. Circumstances change. Life can change drastically in a moment, a day, or over a year.

  • Suicide isn’t a selfish act.

It’s a desperate act. Research has shown that people who commit or attempt suicide are so overwhelmed by the problems in their lives that they either don’t think about how their family and friends would be affected by their suicide or they think that their family and friends would be better off without them in their lives.

I didn’t see taking my life as a selfish act at all. In fact, I thought of it as a selfless act. I know how terribly skewed that sounds – now, but then, I honestly thought that the world, especially my sons, would be better off without me. My opinion of myself was that low. That’s the kind of thinking that leads to a suicide.

  •  No one is to blame for a suicide.

The reasons for any individual taking their life is complex, and it would be a mistake to assume anyone is to blame including the person who took their life. The cause of a completed suicide is never a single thing. It’s a combination of hundreds of things which may have happened in the distant past, impacting and shaping the person, which may not even be known. It’s biology. It’s psychology. It’s timing. No one ever knows. What I do know is that it’s futile and unproductive to try to pinpoint a reason.

My reason each time was that it was the option I chose at that moment. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m saying it’s the truth.

  • Impose. Intrude. Barge In.

Someone who is suicidal needs a person to extend a hand, intervene with force, if necessary, to keep them safe until they can do so themselves and begin to take the steps towards healthier thinking. Your help may be unwanted at the time, and they may act like they hate you for it. That’s OK. They’ll get over it and be alive to do it.

I didn’t like it one bit and was mad as hell at those who saved me and continued to protect my life. I thought, “How dare they!  This is my life. Why don’t they mind their own business?” Now, I’m forever grateful to these people. Be a bother. Butt in. A suicidal person may not appreciate it right then, but they will later.

You can learn more about the risk factors for suicide and warning signs of suicide from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you are suicidal:

  • Send an anonymous e-mail to The Samaritans.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TTY:1-800-799-4TTY).
  • Teenagers, call Covenant House NineLine, 1-800-999-9999.
  • Look in the front of your phone book for a crisis line.
  • Call a psychotherapist.
  • Talk with a friend or a minister or rabbi.

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cephotos96/

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Making Of A Suicide - The Best Brain Possible

  2. Alexis Shaw Reply

    If you’re suicidal, but you’ve already spent years trying every combination of treatment / therapy / medication / meditation / mindfulness, it’s kind of ridiculous to recommend that you “talk to a friend” or “call a crisis hotline.” I’ve done all of these things countless times. The brain is not understood, and insisting that people remain alive and endure their suffering is ridiculous. Some people don’t get better. Some people live with mental illness for their entire pitiful lives. Every human should have the right to decide what to do with their own life, including terminating it.

    • I empathize and agree with you, Alexis. The basic recommendations are not helpful for you, but I am still going to put them out there. The might be helpful for some. I too was suicidal. I found what worked for me. I am not suggesting that it will work for you or anyone else. We all are unique with individual brains and neuronal patterns. I have recently been working with a family member who is in a similar situation. As a last resort, we tried TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). It isn’t permanent. However, it does seem to be helping enough in the interim for us to put lifestyle habits in place that can change their brain permanently. You might find this blog helpful. http://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/6-depression-treatments-you-might-not-know-about/

    • I couldnt agree more with you alexis shaw forgive me if I seem a little patronising this is not at all how this is meant but how old are you? The reason I ask is you seem rather young in years and yet so peceptive. I have a whole host of past events that seem to make me want to give up on things possibly some that you are or have experienced however then something comes along that just might be worth sticking around to do in this case in this case id like to uderstand your thought pattern what you are feeling im not a councillor and I realise that your well aware that sometimes when speaking to them it seems like they are very much scripted (the reason mainly is because altho they mainly are volunteers and care a great deal they havr to follow a series of questions and nit get to involved because if they spoke to you and hurt yourself as a result of there answer to you its accountability a friend is another option as they often suggest (maybe you dont trust anyone enough to spill your concerns a fear of judgement) sometimes the best ppl to talk to express your self to are ppl you will never know or meet someone that will listen to you and tell you about their own experiences personally I feel ive experienced every unfortunate thing there is to experience when ppl say say they feel alone and are surrounded by “friends and family” I see them as lucky for I have none of either im not sure if youll understand where im coming from when I say I do have friends to laugh with and go out with but I dont know them nor they know me not like your meant to know a friend they know about me what I want them to know and thats it its like leading a double life for no reason at all other than fear because with knowledge comes power and if im brutitly honest im scared to death of being hurt and so I choose to shut it out I wonder if any of this rings true to yourself or if there are the ramblings of a man whom youll never know in any case my life experiences have made me who I am a life of betrayal by those I thought cared not once but many many times I should very much like for you to express what your fears or problems are to write it out I find is the best theropy I struggle myself with the idea im worth saving but my compassion and heart know that you are worth saving if you ever thing no body cares about you your so so wrong because although I dont know you and I never will I care I cared enough to write this in the hope it reaches you and provides you with a life line I care about you so dont ever think that nobody does I hope to hear from you and carry you through some of your troubles im not a religious guy at all but I find strength on occasion from the peom footprints you never know right maybe itll help you too

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