As a person who has lost my brother to suicide, I can't stand it when:
people casually/jokingly say "I wanted to kill myself"
jokingly make the gesture of holding a gun to their head
jokingly make the gesture of hanging themself
How could someone do these things when they don't know whether the person they're communicating with has experienced suicide? I've had friends that know oh so well what I've been through unthinkingly do these things as my heart stops and stomach sickens. So painful. Once, in a restaurant, I had to exit quickly to the bathroom where I burst into tears.
Please people, you don't always know what people have experienced. Suicide is never a joke or casual.
Last night (1-27-09) Jay Leno made a joke about suicide: "The economy is so bad that the owner of a funeral home committed suicide to increase his business". The audience laughed on que, but I marvelled at the illogic of the idea. Those of us on "this" side of suicide can't understand the illogic of suicide. But when you find yourself on the "other" side, it makes all too much sense.
Sometimes I wonder if religions add to the problem: heaven waits for us on the "other" side. Are they right?
When I was 17 my mom committed suicide. I was raised in a middle-class home that I thought was fairly normal. Then one day in 1973 my mom was gone. We were close, my emotions were so overwhelming that I simply stuffed it. At 32 it all hit me. I was on the other side of suicide, but I couldn't do to my daughter what was done to me. Fortunately, I got the right help and rebuild my life. Suicide is a self-centered act that offers a permanent solution to a temporary problem. In my experience the best solution to depression/suicide is to get out of yourself and help others. I learned a lot from my mom's suicide, her death may well have saved my life. I'm 53, sober 21 years and living a better life than I ever dreamed.
My husband killed himself 21 years ago and I still think about it on a daily basis. I think that the most challenging aspect of this was that he left behind three amazing sons...all of whom have grown into fantastic young men. His death gave me a gift of sorts...I never hear a person mention the fact that he/she is suicdal or thinking about killing himself/herself without taking it totally seriously.
This has served me well both personally and professionally. I am the director of the Crisis Line Program for Oregon Partnership...one of the crisis lines that comprisise our program is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). We have experienced a huge increase in calls due to a number of factors, one of which is the economy and its impact on individuals.
I also facilitate a support group for family members and other loved ones who have experienced the loss of someone they care about due to suicide. This group can be a powerful tool for the healing process as group members are able to connect with others in their community who have had a similar experience and they can share freely how they are coping.
Lastly, I have the honor of being on a national committee for survivors of suicide. This is organized by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and is comprisied of professionals as well as lay people who have either survived a loved ones' suicide or attempted suicide.
People who are suicidal can be helped. It is a myth that folks who talk about suicide are "not going to do it". The staff and volunteers who run our suicide crisis line have had 56 hours of training, including 16 hours of peer counseling devoted solely to suicide prevention.
Not only can suicidal individuals be helped, but those who survive the suicide of someone they love can heal. It may not seem so after a recent death, but time,support and self -care can all contribute to that healing process.
Our Lifeline is here 24/7 to assist people who feel suicidal, who have attempted suicide, or are survivors of loved ones who have killed themselves. I am so grateful that you're devoting a show to this incredibly important topic...one that truly needs to be de-stigmatized. Thank you.
About 10 years ago my husband attempted to commit suicide. We were not together at the time, but from what he tells me he went through a very dark time in his life and ultimately came out the other end unharmed--profoundly changed, but unharmed. His decision at that time was to check himself into the county mental hospital in order to prevent him from harming himself. It worked, but the stories that he tells of the hospital and the quality of care that he received while there are rather shocking. Nonetheless, they did prevent him from committing suicide.
What is so surprising to me is how very deeply afraid I am that he might attempt to commit suicide again and how utterly unprepared I feel (both emotionally and practically) were he to go down that path again. It's difficult to live with that thought, but I have found that I just have to take him at his word that he is over his depression. I admit that I have let this fear factor in to decisions that I have made about our relationship (for example, "if I don't do this, will he become depressed?" or "if I encourage him to do this and he fails, will he become depressed?"), but I try to keep a level head about it. Depression is like any other illness: while there are certain measures that may alleviate the symptoms of depression, like any illness (cancer, the flu, etc.) at a certain point there's just not all that much that we can do to avoid it.
I wonder if others who have a partner in this position have similar thoughts?
Feb. 7th will be the fourth anniversary of my best friend and life partner's suicide. I continue to grieve I guess. I moved 3000 miles away here to PDX and still can't muster up much joy in my life-don't date (can't bear the thought of it actually), don't go out, don't really want to get close to anybody...bascially I'm still drifting. I still miss him like crazy and sometimes still turn quickly around to show his something and have to again realize he's not there. I still thank God that he did call me to say goodbye although that conversation has been torturous for me in many ways. To this day I still don't know why--another reason it's been so difficult to move on. I miss him and I miss the person I was. Both therapy and meds haven't dulled the pain. I'm hoping time will do that eventually. I do so hope.
I run support groups for people who suffer from depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, suicide can be the end result of a serious depression that is not successfully treated. The depressed person's brain plays a trick on him or her and says, "Things are hopeless. You will never get better." Being isolated allows this voice to take hold. On the other hand, if people can reach out and talk to others about their painful feelings, they are less likely to act on those feelings. What I tell a suicidal person is "This, too shall pass. Stay alive one day at a time, keep yourself safe, and one morning you will wake up and the nightmare will be over."
I am still impacted by the suicide of my exhusband in May of 1995.
He planned this to the last detail. It amazes me that he had moved out of his apartment, put all of his belongings in storage with neatly typed labels about who was to get what he left behind in boxes and no one knew what he was doing. He had a will and he mailed his wallet to his best friend, a lawyer telling him that if he received the wallet then it meant he was deceased. His best friend knew who to contact to locate his body.
He used the popular books on How to Kill Yourself as a manual for what he did. When I saw the 2 How- to- suicide books on the ironing board at the storage facility I wanted to rip those books and start a campaign to have the books banned.
In his note he stated he loved our dog and he loved me.
When I first learned that he had moved out of his apartment and his phone was disconnected the week he had started his journey to the Alvord Desert, I was alarmed but I didn't want to seem like the meddling ex wife. I contacted his friends who told me he probably got a job in a different state and moved. The National Guard where he worked didn't notice anything unusual.
He drove to the Alovrd desert and shot himself in the head. I am still deeply affected by his suicide. I go from feeling like I contributed to his depression, to believing that if I love another person that person will kill himself because there is something wong with me.
I play it over and over, the last time I saw him and will always wonder what would have happened if instead of saying goodbye after he took me out to see the movie "Outbreak", I had walked back towards him and told him I still loved him. Because when we parted his eyes were wet with tears and I think that was the night he was telling me his goodbye. I will never know.
Time does ease the pain of his loss, nothing can replace the loss of a soulmate. My friends didn't understand how I could grieve so deeply for someone whom I was divorced from for over 2 years. He was my soulmate and it feels like I let him down.
I am told I am not to blame. Some days I can almost believe that. I'd like to believe it.
I know that feeling of self-blame. But you can't change the past. All you can do is apply your experience to the future. And with so many depressed people in the world, you'll probably get a second chance!
Talk Out Loud is mentioning people who lost someone close to sucicide and how difficult it can be to talk about it. I was wondering if you could also talk about people who have attempted suicide and how it is difficult for that person to talk about it, even if they have moved on and life became better.
I applaud TOL by tackling this issue. My father committed suicide when I was 11. Even now at 35, I still live with the sense of guilt and responsibility. My logical mind knows it isn't my fault but somewhere deep down, it still is with me. It affected my relationship with men throughout my life. I wasn’t able to built lasting relationships due to a fear. Fear that someone was going to abandon me, that I wouldn’t be enough for someone to live for, that I would be left behind to endure life’s struggles alone. It was obvious that my father was in pain. He has struggled all his life. He never got the help he need. I understand this and I understand that in his state this seemed like the only way out. However, what is left behind for our family is indescribably dark. The desperate need for understanding, the guilt and anger at the person who died. That is all that is left.
Hi, I had two suicide attempts last spring the second of which was very serious. In other words these were not cries for help. I wanted to die. I have a 13yo son and a wife and have great guilt over this which contributes to my ongoing depression. I've resolved for their sake never to do it again. At the same time I am very ambivalent about life. I am an artist and bipolar with ghastly childhood traumas. I am in counseling and medicated.
Really my question is, for the survivors of loved ones who have died by their own hands--how do I help my wife and son deal with this? I've been very open and honest with them and reassuring that I won't do it again, and why I think it happened. Still, I feel I've damaged them, particularly my son, in some irreperable way. In the experience of survivors, what could I do to help my family?
You'll probably never be able to completely forget your own bad feelings. You might be able to ignore them by getting wrapped up in the feelings (both good and bad) of your wife and son.
Suicide has been a recurring issue for me throughout my life. I am stricken with a type of chronic depression called 'dysthymia', and it happened once during one of my really terrible bouts that I attempted suicide.
I think the problem is on the most part is that people with tendency towards depression and suicide have a support system that really don't quite 'get' what they're going through. A lot of times, people who don't suffer from depression or mental illness don't grasp that it's something that cannot simply be controlled or 'gotten over', and telling them to snap out of it doesn't usually cut it.
In my moment of clarity, I finally came to that moment where I realized that I didn't want to die, I just wanted to stop feeling the way I did. With medication and therapy, I was able to grapple my way to some semblance of normalcy, however just getting out of bed in the morning can be a significant challenge for me every day. My support system still doesn't understand. The best thing I did for myself was to separate myself from them, not having my problems simply dismissed as something easily resolved has helped a great deal in allowing myself to see it as something worthy of serious consideration.
I believe that the suicide of a trusted family acquaintance had a lot to do with my actions as well.
My advice to you if you have a family member with mental illness; no matter how impossible it is for you to understand why then can't just grow past it; accept it. They're in danger. It's not always within their power to struggle against their own brain chemistry.
Be there for them. Be aware of it. And don't let their excuses and non-cooperation stand in the way of your helping them.
And also be aware that, to be there for them will require a LOT of patience. It took years for the condition to develop. It may take years to solve. Be ready to just listen (talking isn't listening!)
Perhaps it's impossible for someone who is "normal" (ie normal feelings of hope) to understand how anyone could commit suicide.
When I go back and read things I have written while depressed and feeling hopeless, I can't understand how I could have felt that way. And yet there are the words in my own handwriting. When deeply depressed it seemed so rational that, since we all die eventually, why wait? Why not just skip the years of pain between now and my inevitable death?
I guess it would be wise to write down my feelings while I am feeling hopeful, and read them when I become depressed.
While we were still dating my husband attempted suicide. He is bipolar and at the time he had not told me about his condition. Aside from the fear that he would die I was heartbroken that he had not told me about his condition. He thought if I knew I would leave him.
The fallout from his attempted suicide was huge. He lost his job and his family (having lived with this for years) decided it was too much and shut him out.
I decided to stand by him and learn as much as I could about bipolar and why he tried to kill himself.
Today he is finally living with this condition. We both know that this could happen again, but now we are prepared.
Thank you for having this discussion, talking about it is the best thing people can do. I've attemted suicide and had numerous friends die from suicide so I have some experience.
Our culture places the value of money and things over people and ecology. This self-based society leaves too much room for isolation and according to all the studies and reports isolation is the number one killer. Most natural cause deaths are due to isolation. Lonliness leads to despair and hopelessness, what hope is there when everyone around you is so concerned with themselves they can't give you the time to listen.
The answer to this huge problem is to leave the materialistic capitalism behind and embrace a more sustainable paradigm. Or just listen to the people around you as though what they have to say actually matters.
As I listen to the man who lost his loved one off a cliff on the Oregon coast, I am reminded that the Buddhists say that a suicide affects a family for ten generations. That alone is reason to spend time understanding its botanical origins and to spend significant efforts at its prevention. My grandmother, Rosamond Pinchot, took her life on January 24, 1938. She was the niece of Governor Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania, first Chief of the United States Forest Service. No one in my family ever talked about Rosamond, or the reasons she suicided until I started to ask questions in 2003. It was said that no one understood it, that Rosamond had every reason to live. Not feeling satisfied with the mystery that everyone proclaimed it was, at 44, I started sniffing around and looking in closets. I spent five years tracing Rosamond's suicide in The Loveliest Woman in America: A Tragic Actress, Her Lost Diaries and A Granddaughter's Search for Home. I hope that my journey back, from the 1920s and 1930s, through the 1990s and my father's death, helps others to understand the roots of suicide in one family, and how one death creates dominoes of dysfunction. Talking about it helps. Behind the suicide is often a box of family secrets, assumptions, undiagnosed depression anger and unexpressed grief. I found that tracing the roots of depression and suicide back through my family helped me to understand its botanical origins and hopefully help hasten and abbreviate the scourge of ten generations.
Recent statistics show that on average 18 Veterans are commiting suicide every day.
For the most part our military - and our government - treats our personell like a piece of equipment, and not a human being.
This needs to stop.
The human race has a long history of one person enslaving another. I fear that societies will always treat personell like pieces of equipment. I don't know an answer.
My mother and I found the body of my uncle, soon after he had committed suicide many years ago. I was 10, and the image has stayed with me ever since. That experience and the subsequent family near-silence on the issue had a huge impact on me. It's been difficult for me to feel safe. Instead I have subconsiously felt that something terrible could happen at any moment, which of course is true. Dwelling on this fact is extremely anxiety-provoking.
My best friend's older sister also committed suicide, a few years later, when I was in high school. It was her 18th birthday, and she had stayed home, telling her parents she just wanted the day to herself. Instead, she called her mom to say goodbye, and she used her parents' handgun to kill herself. It was like reliving a nightmare, and reinforced my lack of security.
It's not difficult to imagine the desire to end one's own life, but it creates such chaos and misery for others. It's so terribly sad.
I just want to add--my uncle was a veteran, though he did not serve during a war--but we was having trouble readjusting to civilian life. He didn't tell us why he did it, but I suspect that was part of it.
In high school I had a very good friend that struggled with skitso-effective disorder. She attempted suicide many times, and I probably stopped her a hand full of times. During our senior year it seemed like things were getting better. She was in a happier place, and that's when she decided to take her life. She found a method that she knew would work. My first reaction to the news of her death was anger. I couldn't believe that she would be so selfish. After time though, I came to realize that being angry wasn't the right way to feel. I knew she was suffering and that the meds she was taking had so many side-effects that she would never have had a normal life.
It is now ten years later, and what happened then is part of why I am committing my life to helping people in need. I worked for the U of O crisis line for over a year and I am hoping to become a counselor for youth and their families. As a crisis counselor, one of my most memorable calls was directly tied to suicide. The original caller was a man calling about his wife who wanted to kill herself. Eventually, he and I were able to convince her to join the conversation and for the next 1.5 hours her husband and I tried to help her see that she was important and loved. That call will live with me for the rest of my life. I know that sometimes people truly believe that suicide is the answer, but to me, unless you are dealing with an incurable painful disease, there is something worth living for.
I'm Barb's big sister Susan - Virginia's daughter.
My immediate - and lasting - reaction to Barb's death as her big sister has been to be prepared to defend her against all comers; I can't tolerate anyone who criticizes her as weak or crazy - those are fighting words.
After I was told of her death, I wrote her a letter telling her that it's possible to survive that dark space which seems so lonely and unbearably painful. I wish she could have read it before.
After Bill's death, killed by a drunk driver a year and a half later, I entered a dark space myself, filled with the pain of the two losses. Surprisingly, I shared that pain with my brother John, found he was in the same space, and realized I needed to continue to live, or I would kill more family members.
My immediate coping mechanism was to spend a lot of time in bars, where I knew people, and could tak about the deaths. This is risky, as it can lead to an escape into alcohol, but I managed to avoid alcholism, and it helped me get a break from the pain. This is *not* recommended, but worked for me. Later, I joined a support group with Mom, and found the magic power of human words to heal broken hearts.
Since then, over the years, though the urgent pain is faded, I continue to live with the loss of Bill and Barb, and found tears coming as I hear Mom speak. For myself, I've reconnected to my source of joy, and lead a happy life, filled with a good husband, a large extended family - made larger by marriage.
In June 2007, my father took his life after a long and painful battle with neuropathy. His suicide has all but crippled the family. We feel that he killed himself to prevent his being a burden on my mother, and my brother and sister.
I had suicidal ideation on and off for years. Once I discovered a love one having similar thoughts I felt for myself the distress and concern this causes. It snapped me out of my tunnel vision and gave me a glimpse of how such an act would affect those in my life.
Suicide is an alternative to immense pain. Emotional as well as Physical. Sometimes just wanting to get away from all of it creates a blinding effect to all around you. In addition the emotional pain is often precieved to be caused by those that are the ones that now feel the loss.
This is how a sucidal person relates to those around them.
I think the "selfish" part of suicide, is the inability to see anything except your own perspective of the issue. People often aren't ignoring how their suicide will affect others, they literally cannot see it, or cannot see it with any real perspective compared to other issues.
All too often a person can't see the other people in this world.
Sometimes, he is just selfish.
Sometimes, it's that the other people in the world can't see him. So, he thinks (correctly?) that he is alone in the world.
Of the nine loved ones who've killed themselves two were honorable and inspiring deaths. The pain was was incurable. As the mother of my friend said "I have to honor his decision."
When I was 15, I found my Mom in her bed and I was unable to wake her up. She had left a list of medications she had taken and how much as well as a suicide letter. I will never forget that afternoon. I calmly called the paramedics and they came to pick her up. Next time I saw her she was doped up in a mental hospital.
She has tried multiple times to commit suicide, and it is a constant fear of mine that one day she will succeed. Sometimes I think my life would be easier if she had, but I know that to not be true. She has been through mental health care and continues to struggle with coping with her chronic depression and anxiety. She has self-hospitalized multiple times, but in the end, she is still suffering.
I've tried many times to "help" her. It's very difficult to stand by and only be able to offer her my love.
No one is at fault. Most of the time, suicide is the result of an illness.
We have a serious climb to address the stigma about mental health and illness. At this point our ability to talk about mental health openly is about where we were in the AIDS epidemic in 1985. Lots of stigma.
Excellent show topic. Thank you for airing this largely taboo topic sensitively and thorougly.
BTW, my father is not in the suicide statistics for the state, probably because he was a catholic, but in the 3 years between my mothers death and his own he ended up in the hospital repeatedly because he was deliberately ignoring or exacerbating his own life threatening health issues, which finally killed him. But he wasn't actively "suicidal."
I wonder how different the statistics would look if we could track passive suicides like his as well. The elderly would probably pull way ahead.
That's interesting--not taking care of one's health issues is a form of passive suicide I suppose, as well as lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, eating poorly, etc.
It has been almost 2 years since my ex-husband committed suicide. He was my soulmate. He was joyful, energetic, controlling, single-minded and magical. In these two years since his death, his youngest daughter had a sweet baby girl and his oldest married her soul mate. The ache that remains dulls even the most happy occasion. I am forever changed. When he told me he was depressed after the last time he had visited me, I started to worry. We talked every day and I was desperately trying to get him to move back to Portland and be close to myself and his family. He thought that he couldn't at the time and needed to stay on the ranch that we both loved. Th last time I talked to him he said I Love You and Good-by, which was not the normal combination of words he normally used. The phone call confirming my greatest fear left me crumpled on the floor and part of my soul left me that day. It will never return, but as I struggle to bring back pieces of the person I used to be, I realize how much our mental health services failed my late husband. What if I had said "Are you thinking of hurting yourself". Even though people have told me not to blame myself, I can't help not thinking that I could have given him more help or hope. I understand the dark spiral that he fell into, and had similar thoughts that my life really isn't that significant, but having my children and people that I love around me has helped me survive my darkest hours and I will always feel sadness and joy having loved my husband. Time fades but does not erase memories. His life was significant to all he touched.
Thank you for the focus on Suicide. We have a history of Bi-polar behavior in my family. I lost a sister of 41 years to depression two years ago. Her depression and anxiety was so bad she decided that she could not live with it any more. More bad days than good. She was embarrassed by the fact that she was ill and worried the family would commit her to a hospital. she planned her suicide carefully. One thing for my six surviving siblings and I is she left a well written letter explaining her choice. While I miss her, the letter did help explain her situation as well as why she did what she did.
One thing important is that if you know any body with depression or that is bi-polar make sure they know they need to communicate with friends and family. And we need to commuinicate to them.
Many thanks to Marty, Virginia, and Molly for sharing their experiences.
I do not intend to make light of this issue, sensibly and sensitively discussed on the show and here. There was however a mention that Oregon has the highest suicide rate in the USA and I reminded of the following exchange I had during a flight, with a Swedish passenger who was sat next to me. "I hear that Sweden has the highest suicide rate in the world; I admire the Swedish society so much I find this information surprising, is it due to the long dark days of winter?" I asked.
He replied, "it is very unlikely that Sweden has the highest suicide rate of any nation, but Sweden certainly does keep the most accurate statistics."
Totally funny! We can laugh and cry at the same time.
Thank you for the program this morning. Suicide is a taboo topic in our culture. When my husband, who was diagnosed as bipolar, killed himself in June, 2001, no one wanted to talk about it, whether people I worked work with or his family. There still is a big silence after all of these years. I found the biggest wall with some people of faith (certainly not all) who strongly believe suicide is unforgiveable. so, again, thanks for the program. I felt connected with others who have survived the loss of loved ones to suicide and for a few moments that eased the isolation a bit.
I just wanted to add another perspective to this conversation. At what point do we stop trying to prevent suicide? After all the avenues to help have been taken and our loved ones still want to die, I think it is fair to honor our loved ones' wishes and let them end their life without feeling guilt, alone and scared. Giving them permission can offer them a peace of mind in such a tragic moment.
My mother talked about suicide all her life. I think it would have been selfish of me to continue telling her she had to live no matter how miserable she was. It is her right to live or die.
I finally told her that it was okay and that I didn't want her to die alone. After several conversations of discussing her options out loud with me and looking at it as a reality she realized she wasn't ready to die.
I don't suggest this for everyone for all cases. There are legal matters to think about too. If my mom would have decided to end her life, I think I would have felt better about giving her a sense of peace before she passed.
Singsunshinesongs' story reminds me of an incident in college:
I was walking back to the dorm after a test that I had done badly. I was way down in an emotional hole. I saw a friend approaching. She was talking and laughing. I tried to walk past her because I didn't want to bring her down.
But she saw me. My bad feeling was instantly obvious. I thought she'd just say one of the usual things: oh cheer up; you'll do better next time; you're just being too negative-- and then just walk away.
But she just simply said: "Let's go eat lunch".
That was the kindest thing anyone ever did for me! We ate lunch together and I did cheer up because I decided to, if only to reward her for her kindness!
A few things struck me as very true in this conversation. The first is, people who have made up their mind to (commit?) suicide can be VERY sneaky about it. They will try and fool their therapists and their loved ones to get away and do it. I've always felt suicide hotlines are pretty futile. If a person REALLY wants to die, the last thing you want to do is to have a total stranger talk you out of it. And of course there is always the looming spectre of having police and firemen show up at your door. When I cut my wrists (to the bone) I ran for the electrical panel and grabbed both 240 legs, after my wife found me and called 911. The irony was, I had no tendons to contract and so survived. I know this is hard to hear. Maybe even counterproductive. But its honest.
Another true thing is, in my experience it does seem like a relief when you decide to do it. If you have intractable problems in life, combined with mental illness/depression, you have no skills to solve those life problems. Its a great relief to find a way out--and that's all you can see...a solution, finally.
But of course it isn't a solution, which you see when you are not successful, and subsequently see the pain and trauma it causes for your loved ones. I think that is the key to preventing suicide. If a person tries and fails, it is CRUCIAL for everyone to cry and beg and cajole and just generally make the person see how hard life would be without them. Because almost no one who is suicidal wants to hurt the ones they love--they just can't perceive that they will. Instead, most times people will treat the person like a child that needs to be watched and kept safe. That, IMO is futile. Then the person will resort to sneakery.
I've been reading David Foster Wallace, who went through this last summer in hell, same as me. He succeeded. But if you read much of his work, it gives great insight into the complex, feverish energy of manic depression. The fear, the helplessness. The framing of everything in the world as so dark and ironic and malignant, that the only retort can be humor--and then fatalism.
My youngest sister just recently ended her own life (October 2008). She was diagnosed with depression and alcoholism, and received professional treatment, but ultimately she chose to rapidly drink herself to death. She spoke of being suicidal, and she was taken seriously by everyone; however, there was nothing anyone could do to stop her. She had recently been released from employment, no doubt due to poor performance as a result of her drinking. She had been married five years and was having marital problems, and her husband had been laid off due to the economic recession. I believe she decided that taking her own life was a solution to end the pain.
After her funeral, my other three sisters and our parents were in shock because we just did not see this coming. We all believed she would enter rehab, stop drinking, and recover. Instead, she refused further treatment, drank until her liver failed, and she died a horrible and agonizing death. Afterwards, my entire family blamed ourselves for her death. We felt we had all missed the obvious signs -- surely there was something we could have done, perhaps some kind of further intervention. In retrospect, I finally realize that there was nothing anyone could have done. I am a recovering alcoholic (sober for more than 20 years), and in the depths of my drinking I wanted to die too. But something inside of me was a fighter, and I reached out for help and recovery. Some people have that intrinsic desire to overcome all obstacles; however, when disabled with deep depression, unless one asks for help, the prospects for recovery are slim.
I believe that there was little anyone could do to change her outcome. Even with professional treatment and intervention, some people will still succumb to illness and perish. Although it is tragic, horrific, and bewildering to the survivors, the only way I have been able to go on is through acceptance. I have grieved for days, weeks, and months on end, but acceptance has finally prevailed. In addition, I have attended enough AA meetings to know that some recover and others do not. That is the sad fact.
I want to thank everyone at "Think Outloud" for allowing me to speak openly on this topic.
My brother killed himself fifty-one years ago this month. He was nineteen. I was thirteen. I came upon the program today by accident and feel grateful for it. The change of language from "committed suicide" to "died by suicide" was, in itself, enlightening. It seems so right and obvious to make this change, but it had never occurred to me. Even though it has been many years since my brother died, I still miss him. I think I miss his presence now, in fact, more than I did when I was younger (except at the very beginning, when his loss struck all of us in the family dumb with pain). I'd love to know the man he would have become. He was smart, gentle, curious, creative, irreverent, and funny and oh so much more. Good friends, good times, working hard at things I love, and living life as honestly as possible--for me, these have been the only ways I know of to grab hold of life and hang on, despite his loss. I know he would have wanted the very best life for me. Thank you all for sharing your stories, thoughts, emotions, and thank you to the producers of this program.
"Died by suicide" is a better term, I agree. It hadn't occurred to me either, but I've always balked at the term "committed suicide", like it's a heinous crime instead of an act of desperation. I'm very grateful to TOL for airing this program and allowing us to share our stories.
I am both a professional working in the area of bereavement and a person bereaved by suicide. I have worked for the past 16 years with children and parents who have experienced a suicide death. My husband died of suicide 14 years ago. I appreciate the open discussion of this highly stigmatized topic and thank the participants for their willingness to share their stories.
After my husband's death I was faced with the question WHY? I have done much reading, studying and talking to others who have experienced a suicide death as well. What I now understand is that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain. The brain, an organ of the body, is not working properly. Rather than looking at this as a "mental illness" I prefer to call it a "brain illness or disease" The person who dies by suicide is not in their right mind because the brain is not functioning correctly. Edwin Shneidman who has written about suicide for many years including 2 books The Suicidal Mind and Suicide as Psychache, talks about the intense pain a suicidal person is in. He writes that a person who dies by suicide is trying to stop the pain in the only way they know how, to die. It is not really a choice, but rather the only percieved path available to the person at that moment, having the intolerable pain, the ability to act on the thought, and a lethal means.
By talking openly about suicide, we can hopefully get rid of the stigma that impacts all of us who have had someone die of suicide. I have more than once chosen not to share how my husband died because of concern for what the reaction would be. As several of you have stated, being able to talk about the suicide death with other who understand or have also experienced a death is helpful. I find that the support that people share is invaluable. There are also many organizations that work to prevent suicide or educate people about suicide. For some getting involved is one way to help with the healing.
In response to Amy above, I'm interested to hear that humans aren't 'meant' to be unhappy. Looking at it from purely a Darwinian perspective, what advantage does happiness confer? How would satisfaction encourage the struggle for survival and/or mating?
I disagree. I don't think humans are meant to be happy. I believe we are meant to struggle toward our own perceived goals. And, when we achieve them we gain a measure of satisfaction. But did you ever know anyone who stopped striving even after they had met their goals? Our lot is to strive endlessly until they plant us. As it is for all animals. The difference is, unlike other animals, we don't die (at least not in America) when we miss or fail to achieve our goals. Instead, for many of us, we get depressed.
But that isn't the whole of it. Many of us are not suited to the artificial cultural and environmental conditions that we as a society have created. Our minds are not suited for that type of struggle--nor of course were our minds even built for such an exercise. So it shouldn't be surprising that modern humans can slip into intense sadness and emotional pain. This is also why, when that struggle becomes more intense as with the current financial horror, more of us become suicidal.
In other words, I'm normal, and its all of YOU who are crazy...heh.
Hi my names ginger p i have lost two people to suicide the pain never leaves you its raw at first overwhelming its all you think about the questions left unanswered the what did i miss what could i have done they can go on forever the point is to love them no matter what remember them with joy if you can to understand the pain will change it moves out of the raw stage to a place of understanding that the human heart still loves still holds them close and releases them to peace i have found that the support of the suicide bereavement support group helped me through the darkest dayes of my life they gave me a safe place to talk about my loved ones and never judged any thing i had to say which at times was very hard to listen to everyone who has lost someone to suicide needs a safe place to talk thank you.
I listened to the program today. I want the people who talked about their pain to know how much they moved me. I lost a great niece a year ago in February. I can't begin to explain the grief and pain I feel and I so empathized and identifed with them. It is such a horrific event in our lives. I think about her everyday. She was an incredible girl who had so much going for her. I am reading "Night Falls Fast" to try to understand. It will take time, but I will forever miss her.
Suicide visits my life all too often. I am mentally ill and very smart. Given that I have Borderline Personality Disorder my life is often a roller-coaster from high hights to low lows. I am not able to handle stress very well and now is a very stressful time of year. Now at age 47 my body is in much pain due to arthritis and chronic back pain. I also get migraines. I am a veteran and 100% service connected disabled. While I receive enough money, money is a thing of great stress for me. I often overdraw my bank account even though I try to prevent that from happening. I see a therapist two or more times per month. And I will probably be seeing a therapist for life.I have been admitted to the psych facility of the VA Hospital 16 time since 2003. I would like to never to back there, but that is just wishful thinking on my part.
Growing up through my young adult hood I joined the military. I spent five years in the Army before having two major nervous breakdowns. At age 25 I started self-medicating, first with cocaine then methamphetamine. I abused them for the first 5 years or so, then I tapered off to the point where I needed to diconnect from reality. Drugs led to prison. I now live on parole. I no longer to street drugs and my life is better for it. But I have traded that one drug for 16 others in order to keep me healthy and stable. But they don't always work! Suicide was just under my radar this evening.
I WORKED AS A VOLUNTEER ON THE OREGON PARTNERSHIP HELP LINE FOR ABOUT 18 MONTHS...MOST OF MY SUICIDE CALLS CAME FROM SUBSTANCE ABUSE DRUG INDUCED PSYCHOSIS, AND THOSE WHO ARE ALONE, DISABLED, VERY POOR, DIVORCED, AND/OR HAD A HISTORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS CAUSED BY DRUGS.....I FIND THAT "MOOD DISORDERS" AND "PSYCHIATRIC" ILLNESS" TO BE A GENERIC WAY OF DESCRIBING THE CAUSES OF SUICIDE....I ONLY REMEMBER ONE PERSON WHO WAS DIAGNOSED WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS THAT DIDN'T HAVE ANY OTHER CONTRIBUTING FACTORS.
I'm surprised that someone who must have undergone training to volunteer for such a sensitive help line isn't aware that many cases of undiagnosed mental illness lead to "self medication" through drugs and alcohol. Many people use drugs to alter an already altered reality. Mental illness, undiagnosed, is a leading indicator of drug use and addiction. Drugs can create a sense of extreme euphoria, which would be what a person suffering from depression might run to. The fall back is the extreme depression when in withdraw.
It is a cyclical cycle that can be broken if we spent more time as a culture working to care for the marginalized groups in society. If we didn't brush off so many people as "drug addicts. period" and worked towards finding root causes that lead to addiction, I believe the work that you did on the help line would be made much easier.
Obviously suicide is a complicated issue, but I think we can see a pattern of stress thresholds and mental stability. Deep and abiding unhappiness and self depreciation are not normal chemical brain reactions. Humans are naturally emotionally resilient
I was just talking to a friend whose husband attempted suicide a few years ago. She said they had just had a fight of some kind, and for the record, they both have relatives with a history of depression and suicide. And what she told me made me feel sick to my stomach.
When she took her husband to the hospital, they were questioned separately, and she was asked twice if they were "on drugs" (which they most certainly were not). Then when they had superficially treated her husband, he was "practically forced" (her words) to stay at some kind of institution for five days, where he was surrounded by people with severe mental problems, talking to themselves and having hallucinations, etc. It sounded like a scene from [i]One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest[/i], but less amusing.
I was grieved because it sounded like the interrogators were suspicious and callous, and the place that they sent him was a nightmare prison for people who are sick.
I'm not sure I think that all people who think about or attempt suicide, or even succeed at committing suicide, are necessarily sick like those hallucinating in that institution. Obviously they are distraught and things aren't working out the way that we all would want them to. But I have been depressed myself, and have even had suicidal thoughts long ago, and I feel in retrospect that it was just one of a few unpleasant options that I had, and I chose to reject it, whereas others choose it as the last choice.
Suicide is a part of humanity, and some cultures condone it under certain circumstances. I am thinking of course of the suicide bombings that we hear about far too often these days and the now extinguished (pardon the pun) practice of Sati. I of course agree that we need to do whatever we can to help people having suicidal thoughts. But I think that part of helping them might entail thinking differently about them.
We just covered a suicide awareness unit in our Health class, here are some of the warning signs we talked about:
Abrupt changes in personality; alcohol or drug abouse; anxiety at times of separation; ceasing to groom oneself or care for one's possessions; quitting hobbies and activities; changes in eting and sleeping habits; feeling bad about oneself; giving awa possessions, making a will; inabilit to concentrate; not caring what happens; drastic change in school work and grade changes; thinking, talking, or writing about death/ fixated on death; withdrawal from friends and family; and sudden lifting of depression/ sense of resolution.
Sometimes, if depression is a lifelong affliction, the changes may be very subtle and hard to see.
But more often the changes are dramatic, obvious and still hard to see.
Jakeac: thanks for the heads up.
Everyone: be watching and listening.
I do believe suicide can be prevented but it will take society to be able to talk about it openly. Mental illness isn't up there with cancer yet in acceptability. When people ask how my mom died I always have to pause and think a moment.
Do I say? "A long illness."
The reply by Hurbertg described..."I FIND THAT "MOOD DISORDERS" AND "PSYCHIATRIC" ILLNESS" TO BE A GENERIC WAY OF DESCRIBING THE CAUSES OF SUICIDE....I ONLY REMEMBER ONE PERSON WHO WAS DIAGNOSED WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS THAT DIDN'T HAVE ANY OTHER CONTRIBUTING FACTORS..."
It is well known that drug and alcohol abuse go hand in hand with mental illness. People mentally ill or not turn to them as "medicine". Not always good, but for the ill person person without meds or with- alcohol is a depressant-sleep aid and so on.
Trying to keep mentally ill people on a regular med plan is a whole other bag of worms.
Once people get regulated on meds they suddenly feel "better" and stop taking them.
It is near impossible as well for a person on Medicare/Social security disability to see a psychiatrist because they don't take Medicare.
In 1932 during the great depression my grandfather, the bank president, presumably despondent about business failure and foreclosing on his friends' farms, shot himself at his desk. His family, including my mother, were plunged into financial and social difficulties that still echo in the family two generations later.
I think about that these days. We are really at the beginning of the new economic pain; for most of us it is still something to read about in the newspaper. In the months ahead, as the impacts of financial depression get closer to our lives, people we know will struggle with hopelessness, shame and despondency.
A few years ago when I was a volunteer library board member, twice in a week I came across a previous patron's computer catalog search result on 'teen suicide.' Maybe it was just a homework assignment. When I tried to convince the library staff to find a way to include in any search on suicide contact infomation for the local hotline, and to include several books on our shelves as a means of prevention, they resisted. I can't imagine why.
All of us, and all organizations, including all our employers, are going to need increased awareness. But will it be resisted as not mission critical? I hope not - it might come to pass that it is critical to me or someone I love.
One comment I have heard often in response to suicide is how incredibly selfish it is. As someone who has suffered from depression, I want to explain some of the feelings I had when contemplating suicide to those who see it as selfish. My thoughts at that time were that I was generally useless, with no future to look forward to, a terrible parent who would end up ruining my child's life if allowed to continue parenting, and generally a burden to everyone. I saw it as the best way to end everyone's suffering, not just my own.
To put these thoughts in perspective, during this period I was gainfully employed, an attentive parent, have never had substance abuse problems, was experiencing no major problems, and had many good friends. Nobody ever guessed how depressed I was. That is what depression can do to a person's perspective. When I called my mother to inform her of my plans, to say goodbye and ask her to make sure my daughter knew how much I loved her, I realized from her response that what I needed was medical attention, not a suicide plan. I hope this can help people understand what may have been happening in a suicide victim's life, and allow them to forgive the victim and themselves.
Hi. I am attaching an essay that briefly, and inadequately, discusses my life after my sons self inflicted death 3 1/2 months ago. Use it as you will.
Unfortunately, none of the attachments that people uploaded to our old site made it onto this new site, which means that we temporarily lost Nicolas Hargitay's profound essay. You can now download it here (pdf).
Robbin44's bother's comment "hell is life on earth" reminded me of something.
Years ago the comic strip "Andy Cap" (Andy is a middle-aged lower-class engishman who drinks too much) showed Andy walking with the local pastor. He asked, "Parson, is this another world's hell?" The pastor answered honestly: "I don't know, Andy, I don't know."
I often wonder the same thing.
Your honesty in expressing your feelings regarding the loss of your son is very touching. I'm so sorry for your loss. Your writing of hell reminds me of what my brother, who committed suicide 12 years ago, used to say: "hell is life on earth". For him, this was so often true and for me also. Your honesty is so refreshing to me as I wish my Mom could express her feelings honestly regarding the loss of her son. Keep writing.
Thank you. Thank you.
My father took his life when I was a child. Only recently did I attempt to translate that myriad of emotions into something more, however imperfect, yet personal. It showed at a few major film festivals but more importantly it started a dialogue with my family and others about suicide. Sharing our stories is vital. We are not going at this thing called life alone. Thanks OPB and others for sharing.
My brother committed suicide twelve years ago which has had a profound affect on my life. He was an alcoholic and manic depressive. I struggled with him from the time he was 16 until 32 (when he died). So many programs, so many drug regimes, so little success. He attempted suicide a number of times before successfully completing the act. He was so so so tired. His suicide has really defined my life. There isn't an hour that goes by that I don't think of him. I have finally after twelve years come to peace with losing my beloved brother. This peace only came after years and years of therapy, self reflection and spirituality. I miss him like hell...every every every day.
I'm so sorry for your loss. You tried so hard--you were a good brother.
One of my parent's mother committed suicide before anti-depressants were available. Medical professionals knew she was suicidal. Her sister died from shock therapy intended to treat suicide.
I learned about these incidents when I was young, before I was 10. The images have haunted me and I have had to process these over time. Movies contain many suicides that are portrayed in a variety of ways--from comical to catastrophic.
The most important pieces are education, prevention, and early treatment with on-going follow-up. The best study I learned about from a doctor was about people attempting suicide by jumping into a river. All people who landed on ice floes regretted their suicide attempt and were happy to be alive.
Your program could go any number of ways. I ask you to be mindful of those of us who already live with graphic images of acts of suicide. I also ask you to give consideration to soldiers returning from the war at-risk of mental health concerns, including suicide. Our society needs to be prepared to take care of our soldiers.
I tried to commit suicide in 2006 and I ended up being hospitalized 4 times, I tried different anti depressents, but nothing worked. I went into different programs, and gave it my full effort, not to feel the way that I did. I finely ended up getting into a program that helped me emencly called DBT. I lost more than a year of my life. I am now better and living my life. In response to "Hubertq" I wasn't any of those thing, "alone, disabled, poor, divorces, or ever used drugs!." I was adopted and at a private school. It happens to more people than what this person mentions. You have to keep going, and seek support, and if the support isn't working, keep trying to find something until you find something that works. I know how hard it is, and the wanting to give up, but keep going.
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