What’s It Like to Be Suicidal? This Is My Experience, and How I Got Through It

Author Article

How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.

At times, I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts, even on a weekly basis.

Sometimes I’m able to ignore them. I might be driving to meet a friend for brunch and briefly think about driving my car off the road. The thought might catch me off-guard, but it quickly passes through my mind and I go about my day.

But other times, these thoughts stick around. It’s like a huge weight is dropped onto me, and I’m struggling to get out from underneath it. I suddenly get an intense urge and desire to end it all, and the thoughts can start to overwhelm me.

In those moments, I’m convinced I’ll do anything to get out from under that weight, even if it means ending my life. It’s like there’s a glitch in my brain that’s triggered and my mind goes haywire.

Even if that glitch is actually temporary, it can feel like it will last forever
With time, though, I’ve become more aware of these thoughts and found ways to manage when things get tough. It’s taken a lot of practice, but simply being aware of the lies my brain tells me when I’m suicidal helps to combat them.

If this last year has taught me anything, it’s that no matter what depression tells you, there’s always hope.
Here are four ways my suicidal ideation shows up, and how I’ve learned to cope.

1. When it feels impossible to focus on anything other than my pain, I look for a distraction
When I’m suicidal, I struggle to listen to reason — I only care about relief. My emotional pain is intense and overwhelming, so much so that it’s hard to concentrate or think about anything else.

If I find that I can’t focus, I sometimes turn to my favorite TV shows, like “Friends” or “Seinfeld.” They bring me a sense of comfort and familiarity that I need in those times, and it can be a great distraction when reality gets to be too much. I know all of the episodes by heart, so I’ll usually lay there and listen to the dialogue.

It can help me pull back from my suicidal thoughts and refocus on getting through another day (or just another hour).

Sometimes all we can do is wait for the thoughts to pass and then regroup. Watching a favorite show is a great way to pass the time and keep ourselves safe.
2. When I’m convinced that everyone would be better off without me, I challenge those thoughts
My loved ones would never want me to die by suicide, but when I’m in crisis, it’s hard for me to think clearly.

There’s a voice in my head that tells me how much better off my parents would be if they didn’t need to support me financially, or if my friends didn’t have to take care of me when I’m at my worst. No one would have to answer the late-night calls and texts or come over when I’m in the midst of a breakdown — isn’t that better for everyone?

But the reality is, I’m the only one that thinks that.

My family wouldn’t recover if I died, and my loved ones know that being there for someone when things get tough is a part of life. They would rather answer those late-night calls than lose me forever, even if I struggle to believe that in the moment.

When I’m in this headspace, it usually helps to spend some time with Petey, my rescue dog. He’s my best friend and has been there through it all this past year. On most mornings, he’s the reason I get out of bed.

I know he needs me to stick around and take care of him. Since he was already abandoned once, I could never leave him. Sometimes that thought alone is enough to keep me hanging on.

Challenge your thoughts about loved ones being better off without you by not only thinking through the reality, but spending time with loved ones — pets included.
3. When I struggle to see my other options, I reach out to my therapist — or I go to sleep
Being suicidal is, in some ways, a form of total emotional exhaustion. I’m tired of having to force myself out of bed each morning, having to take all of these medications that don’t seem to be working, and crying constantly.

Struggling with your mental health day in and day out is very tiring, and when I’ve reached my limit, it can feel as though I’m just too broken — that I need a way out.

It helps to check in with my therapist, though, and be reminded of all of the progress I’ve made so far.
Instead of focusing on the step backward, I can refocus on the two steps forward I took just before that — and how other forms of treatment I haven’t tried yet can help me get back on my feet again.

On the nights when the ideations are most intense and it’s too late to check in with my therapist, I take a couple of Trazadone, which are antidepressants that can be prescribed as a sleep aid (Melatonin or Benadryl can also be used as sleep aids, and purchased over-the-counter).

I only take them when I feel unsafe and don’t want to make any impulsive decisions, and it helps to ensure that I make it through the night. In my experience, those impulsive decisions would’ve been the wrong choice, and I almost always wake up the next morning feeling a little better.

4. When I feel completely and utterly alone, I push myself to reach out
When I’m dealing with suicidal ideations, it can feel like no one understands what I’m going through, but I also don’t know how to articulate it or ask for help.

It’s hard enough to try and explain to someone why you feel the desire to die, and sometimes, even opening up just leads to feeling misunderstood.

Even if it can feel awkward or scary at first, it’s important to reach out in these moments and keep yourself safe
If I’m feeling suicidal, I know the worst thing I can do is try to go it alone. It took me a long time to work up the courage to call someone when I was feeling this way, but I’m glad I did. Calling my mom and best friends has saved my life multiple times, even if in the moment I wasn’t convinced it would.

Sometimes you have to ignore the part of your brain that tells you it isn’t worth it, and pick up the phone anyway
Now when I’m feeling suicidal, I call a friend I trust or my parents.
If I don’t feel like talking, just having someone on the other side of the phone can still be comforting. It reminds me that I’m not alone, and that I (and the choices that I make) matter to someone.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a friend, text the crisis hotline by texting HOME to 741741. I’ve done this a few times, and it’s nice to just get my mind off things by texting with a compassionate person.

When you’re in a depressed state, you’re not in a position to make permanent decisions, especially when there’s no one there to offer perspective. After all, depression doesn’t just affect our moods — it can affect our thoughts, too.

Suicidal ideation can be extremely scary, but you’re never alone and you’re never without options.

If you’ve run out of coping tools and you have a plan and an intent, please call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. There’s absolutely no shame in that, and you deserve to be supported and safe.

If this last year has taught me anything, it’s that no matter what depression tells you, there’s always hope. No matter how painful it can be, I always find that I’m stronger than I think I am.

And chances are pretty good that if you’ve made it this far, you are, too.

Suicide Survivors Share Their Stories and Advice in These Photos

Author Article

Suicide rates in the United States have increased dramatically over the past 20 years. There are 129 deaths by suicide nationwide every day.Discussed less often, there are around 1.1 million attempts at suicide every year — or over 3,000 a day, on average — many of which do not end in death.Nevertheless, we often struggle to bring up suicidal thoughts with those we love, even when we know someone might be struggling, or we’re struggling ourselves.

I believe it isn’t that we don’t care, rather that we don’t have a common language to discuss such topics or an awareness of when we should reach out and how. We worry that we won’t say the right thing, or worse, that we’ll say something that’ll cause the person to act on their ideation.

In reality, asking someone directly about suicide is often a way to both help the person feel heard — and help them find the help and resources they need.

Too often discussions around suicide are controlled by those who have no personal experience with suicidal ideation or mental health.

SUICIDE PREVENTION’S MISSING VOICESWe rarely get to hear directly from those who have experienced suicidal ideation or survived a suicide attempt.

Hoping to shift that paradigm, Healthline teamed up with Forefront, a social impact center at the University of Washington that focuses on reducing suicide, empowering individuals, and building community.

Jennifer Stuber, the cofounder and director of Forefront, spoke about the program’s goals, sharing, “Our mission is to save lives [that would otherwise be] lost to suicide. The way that we think we’re going to get there is by simultaneously treating suicide as both a mental health and a public health issue.”

Stuber discussed the importance of every system, whether metal health care, physical health care, or education, having an understanding around suicide prevention and how to intervene if needed.

When asked what she’d say to those who are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts, Stuber said, “You can’t possibly realize how much you’d be missed if you weren’t here because of how badly you feel. There is help and hope available. It doesn’t always work the first time around, it might take several different tries at it, but your life is worth living even if it doesn’t feel like it now.”

For those who’ve attempted suicide, it’s often difficult to find spaces to tell their stories, or people willing to listen.

We wanted to hear directly from folks personally affected by suicide in order to give a face, name, and a voice to a much too common experience.

Gabe

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Gabe shares his experience with deep depression and suicidal thoughts, and how you can help a friend in need.

On their experience with mental illness

I feel like suicidality is something that’s been an inherent part my entire life.

I think that we live in a culture that values strength and perseverance and has this very naive belief that everyone is born in the same circumstances with the same bodies with the same chemicals in their brains that work the way they’re supposed to work.

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On recovering

It’s been ultimately just being lucky enough to have good enough people in my life that are willing to talk to me till 3 a.m. or give me advice and honest feedback on stuff.

For me, if I give it time, eventually I’ll will not feel like dying and that’s time — doing the best you can.

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On how you can help people experiencing suicidal ideation

Just listen to them. Be really honest and make good boundaries about what you can and can’t hear. Be wary of silence when you know that people have been doing bad, even when people seem to be doing good.

Simone

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“No one in my family talked about depression,” Simone tells Healthline. She also talks about the added pressure of being a professional who’s both black and a woman.

On learning about depression

I think almost every single day since I was 16 until maybe earlier this year, I thought about killing myself. I didn’t understand what depression was because no one ever talked about it.

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On being a black woman with depression

There have been plenty of days where I can’t physically move from depression… [but] I can’t call out, because I’m a black woman in a professional career. I’m not allowed to be depressed. I feel like I don’t get a pass.

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On how to respond to people who are experiencing depression

[Depression] can take on so many different forms [for different people]. So you can’t just apply a blanket solution.

Jonathan

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“I’ve had plenty of suicidal thoughts over the past seven years,” shares Jonathan, who has survived two suicide attempts.

On experiencing mental illness

I’ve been in the hospital three times for depression [and suicidal thoughts] and two times after suicide attempts in the last seven years.

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On the upside of mental illness challenges

There’s a stigma with mental illness. [But] I’m definitely not ashamed of my past! If I’d never dealt with this stuff, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I wouldn’t have figured out who I am or the person I want to be.

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On advice to people who experience suicidal ideation

I think doing what makes you happy in life is the most important. That’s why I dress the way I want. I want to show others it’s okay. Don’t let other people tell you how you should live your life.

Tamar

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“We didn’t even know the term mental health. Nobody discussed it,” Tamar reflects about her childhood. She experiences suicidal thoughts and has survived a suicide attempt.

On mental illness, homelessness, and poverty

Because I grew up homeless and lived in a lot of homeless populations, we didn’t consider people sick. Drugs, alcohol, being suicidal, being schizophrenic — that was all just normal to us.

At the time it felt like the only way out was suicide. That I didn’t have any other options, there wasn’t anybody coming to save me, there was no system that was going to swoop in and take me away from the things that were causing me pain.

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On barriers to getting help for people living in poverty

I didn’t have a framework around what [it meant] to be mentally healthy, what [it meant] to get help.

Everybody says there’s help, get help. What does that mean? There was nobody who said, “Hey look, if you don’t have the money, here’s volunteer organizations.” I got no information when I was discharged from the hospital [for attempting suicide] besides don’t do it again, find help.

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On receiving affordable help for the first time (from Open Path)

It was the first time in my life that mental health was in reach.

It was the first time someone articulated to me that [following through on suicidal thoughts] wasn’t an imperative. I didn’t have to listen to it. That was life changing for me.

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On healing

It was actually when I decided to attempt sobriety that I first even learned that idea of having a toolbox of coping mechanisms and then starting to shift it. I didn’t know there were other ways to cope with these feelings that I had.

Having an alternative to feeling suicidal was a whole new world, it was a game changer. Even if I was too depressed to get off the floor, I had a mental health tool box and a language to talk to myself that I’d never had before.

I had to learn that too, that I had become one of my own abusers. That was a revelation. I was just following in the footsteps of everyone else… Yet I want to escape from the cycle.

Making those connections made me feel like my body is a worthy vessel and that I am worthy to live in it and stay on this planet.

Jo

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Jo lost her husband, who was a veteran, to suicide in 2011, when he was 45. She now works with veteran-run organizations that work to create a community for veterans in need.

On losing her husband to suicide

My husband had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and he also had what we call a “moral injury,” which I think is really important when talking about veterans. The way I’ve heard it described is that it’s basically having performed acts during your time of service that were required by your service but that go against and violate your own moral code or the code of society at large.

I think my husband suffered from tremendous guilt and neither he nor I had the tools to figure out how to process this guilt.

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Jo shares pictures of her husband and of their wedding.

On the isolation of survivors

About a year and a half after he died I quit my job as a lawyer and began to do photography because I needed something to do for my own healing.

What I experienced was profound isolation and that sense that you know, the world was out there, and everyone was moving on with their daily life, and I was on what I used to refer to as “planet my husband died by suicide.”

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On her life as a survivor of suicide

What I have come to discover is that it’s actually pretty common when you have a first-degree suicide loss like that to continue to have [suicidal] feelings yourself.

I know what’s helped me is spending a lot of time particularly with my veteran friends who have been trained in peer support and suicide prevention. It’s so helpful to have someone who can check in and say, “Are you thinking about harming yourself?” but to go further and say “Do you have a plan and do you have a date?”

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On advice to those affected by suicide

We are very antiseptic in the way we think about death and grief, particularly the taboos around suicide. When someone says “You’re very young to be a widow, what happened,” I’m always honest.

If he were around with what I know now, my message to him would have been, “You are loved unconditionally even if you never feel better than you do right now.”

There is always hope

Through organizations like Forefront, the National Suicide Prevention LifelineCrisis Text Line, and others, there’s movement towards shifting our approach to suicidality, reducing stigma, and breaking the silence.

Our hope is that the brave individuals you met above can help be a part of that movement and that breaking of silence, bringing light to a topic that is too often avoided, ignored, or stigmatized.

For those experiencing suicidality, you’re not alone, and there is always hope, even if it doesn’t feel like it now.

If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, check out this list of resources, or send a text here.


Caroline Catlin is an artist, activist, and mental health worker. She enjoys cats, sour candy, and empathy. You can find her on her website.

+ 4 sources

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNPon February 14, 2019 New — Written by Caroline Catlin

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Sibling Suicide Survivors: The ‘Forgotten Mourners’

Author Article

“So how many brothers and sisters do you have?”

I used to dread that question. I still do, if I’m honest, but it’s a quick dull thud of emotion compared to the raging, blood-draining torrent it used to evoke in me.

The answer is always the same: one sister. But whispering in the background are the ghosts of the other two answers that come to mind (and the reasons why I can’t give them).

“One sister, one brother.” Nope, can’t go there—not technically true, even though that’s how I feel. Besides, what do I say when the inevitable next questions come: How old are they? What do they do?”

“One sister—and I used to have a brother, but he died when I was 21.” Sure, if I want to make that person really uncomfortable I can go there. I might even get to watch them visibly squirm if they ask how he died.

As even this small exchange shows, it’s a lonely experience being a siblingbereaved by suicide.

In the aftermath of my brother’s death, I waded through screeds of information on suicide, compulsively searching for I-don’t-quite-know-what. Answers? Confirmation? Connection? Where were the siblings? Where were the others like me?

When I began to research sibling suicide myself, many years later, I realised just how little has been written about us. Just ten academic studies have ever been dedicated exclusively to the experience of sibling suicide (and one is my own).

Here’s what has been found so far about the experience of living through a sibling’s suicide:

1. It’s confusing, painful and hard—with more challenges than ‘normal’bereavement.

Sibling suicide survivors have been found to experience a range of distressing and challenging phenomena. This may include:

  • A marked sense of guilt and responsibility around the death.
  • Intense anger, stemming from a deep sense of rejection and abandonment.
  • Feelings of shame and worthlessness
  • Overwhelming anxiety and fear.

It’s also common for survivors to feel relief, if the death marks the end of a long period of worry and uncertainty. This tends to fuel further guilt, creating an ongoing cycle of emotional disturbance.

As can be expected given this litany of psychological challenges, sibling suicide survivors are at particular risk of developing complicated grief reactions, depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms. They’re also at an increased risk of taking their own lives.

2. Siblings suffer intensely—and they also tend to suffer invisibly.

In a family bereaved by suicide, each person becomes too preoccupied with their own pain to offer meaningful support to the others. Under these circumstances the surviving siblings “often find themselves not only neglected, but expected to put their needs aside in order to spare their parents further distress” (Rakic, 1992, p. 2).

Many grieving siblings try to appear “emotionally together” or even cheerful around their parents, despite their own intense pain. They usually experience a desperate desire to make their parents happy again, and the message to “be strong for your Mum and Dad” tends to be given by others implicitly, explicitly, and often. The siblings’ demeanour is then perceived as evidence that the surviving children have not been badly affected by the loss, making them even less likely to receive care and validation.

In addition, the presence of anger towards the dead sibling—let alone its expression—is usually viewed as highly inappropriate and unacceptable, even in families that can speak relatively freely about emotions.

3. There’s usually no space to talk within the family—and nowhere to talk outside of it either.

The sense of isolation siblings experience is exacerbated to varying degrees by the social stigma around suicide, which makes discussing the death with people outside the family very challenging. It’s still common for people who end their lives to be disparaged as “selfish” and “cowardly.” Research has also shown that suicidally bereaved families receive less community support compared to families that lose a member to “natural” causes, and may be avoided and/or blamed for the death.

Many siblings described being extremely hurt by the actions of those they hoped would support them following the suicide. Some friends abandoned them altogether, while others silenced them with platitudes, told them they “shouldn’t feel like that,” or acted as though the death had never happened. Some siblings spoke of friendships ending due to impatience that the siblings “still weren’t over it,” while others said they deliberately withdrew from their friends. After what they had been through, they found themselves experiencing their peers as immature, unempathetic and/or focused on trivial concerns.

Even when friends are available and supportive, siblings may feel pressure to swallow their hurt to avoid awkwardness. They may also stigmatise themselves negatively due to guilt, and self-isolate out of shame.

4. The loss can cast a very long shadow, affecting the siblings’ sense of security in the future, in relationships, and in life itself.

A sibling’s suicide can severely damage any sense of trust in the stability of meaningful relationships. If your brother or sister—one of your absolute constants in life—can leave like this, anything feels possible and very little feels secure. Research shows that:

  • Numerous siblings became preoccupied with the fear of losing other loved ones to death or being abandoned by them.
  • Many worried that the tragedy of the suicide would be repeated in their own future families. Two academics noted a deep sense of ‘maternal inadequacy’ amongst some of the female siblings, who avoided having the children they longed for out of fear and conflicted feelings related to the loss.
  • Some older siblings felt they had relived the loss in their romantic relationships—entering unsatisfying or painful pairings which ultimately resulted in their being abandoned or let down again.

5. Many siblings eventually create meaningful, purposeful lives out of this emotional nightmare—with a greater sense of perspective and empathy.

During research interviews, many sibling suicide survivors spoke of experiencing a profound shift in perspective over time. Many became involved in suicide prevention activities and some chose to become counsellors or therapists, dedicating their lives to helping others survive their emotional struggles. They spoke of valuing the increased compassion and empathy their life experiences had given them, even though they had suffered profoundly.

This has been my own experience, though nobody could have told me at the time without getting their head bitten off. It makes writing about sibling suicide bereavement a tough ask, knowing that while you are in the experience—angry, guilty, isolated, broken-hearted or just broken depending on the day—it’s so hard to take in even the tiniest sliver of hope that things could ever be better.

But in time, they will. Take it from someone who never, ever believed it when it was said to me.

 

The Role of Mental Illness in Mass Shootings, Suicides

See Author Article Here
By Amy Swearer

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the horrific Parkland school shooting. That tragedy sparked an intense national debate over how best to protect our children from school shootings.

Some have pushed for more restrictions on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. Among them are the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. These groups released a new set of proposals on Monday that they say “can prevent mass shooting incidents and help end gun violence in American schools.”

Unfortunately, these proposals miss the mark by neglecting to focus on the real problems, including, among other things, the role of mental illness in certain types of firearm-related violence.

How does serious mental illness factor in? And what steps can government take to mitigate the role of untreated mental illness in producing violent threats?

These questions merit deliberate, thoughtful examination, not reflexive calls for broad gun control.

For that reason, The Heritage Foundation recently published a legal memorandum, “Mental Illness, Firearms, and Violence,” as part of a series of papers by John Malcolm and myself exploring some of these deeper issues.

The paper makes clear that, while most mentally ill individuals are not and never will become violent, certain types of serious mental illness—especially when untreated—are associated with a higher prevalence of certain types of firearm-related violence.

In particular, individuals with serious mental illness are at a greater risk of committing suicide and are responsible for a disproportionate number of mass public killings.

Mass Public Shootings

There’s no evidence that all mentally ill people constitute a “high risk” population with respect to interpersonal violence, including firearm-related violence against others.

In fact, most studies indicate that mental illness is responsible for only a small fraction (about 3 percent to 5 percent) of all violent crimes committed in the United States every year, and most of those episodes of violence are committed by individuals who are not currently receiving mental health treatment.

There is, however, a strong connection between acts of mass public violence—including mass public shootings—and untreated serious mental illness.

While acts of mass public violence are extraordinary and rare occurrences, they are often high-profile events that deeply affect the national view of violent crime trends. Mass public shootings in particular stoke national conversations on gun violence and gun control, for understandable reasons.

The majority of all mass public killers (some studies estimate as many as two-thirds) likely suffered from a serious mental illness prior to their attacks, and often displayed clear signs of delusional thinking, paranoia, or irrational feelings of oppression associated with conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar-related psychosis.

This includes many individuals who committed atrocious attacks on students, including the Parkland shooter, the Virginia Tech shooter, and the Sandy Hook shooter—all of whom had long histories of untreated mental health problems.

Unfortunately, hardly any of these individuals were receiving psychiatric treatment at the time of their attacks.

Even without access to firearms, individuals with untreated serious mental illness can and do find ways to commit mass public killings.

Activist groups and politicians who point to mass public shootings as a reason for broad restrictions on firearm access by the general public largely miss the underlying reality: The real problem is not the prevalence of firearms among the general public, but the prevalence of untreated serious mental illness that causes some individuals to become violent in catastrophic ways, regardless of lawful access to firearms.

Suicide

The most significant link between mental illness and firearm-related violence is suicide, which accounts for almost two-thirds of all annual firearm-related deaths in the United States.

Of course, not every suicide is necessarily related to an underlying mental illness, but there is little doubt that the presence of a mental illness substantially increases a person’s risk for committing suicide.

The most common method of suicide in the U.S. is through the use of a firearm, an unsurprising reality given that the U.S. has the highest per-capita number of privately owned firearms in the world.

Despite the nation’s exceptionally high rate of suicide by firearm, however, it does not have a particularly high overall suicide rate, compared with other countries.

Our national suicide rate stands at roughly the world average and is comparable to the rate experienced by many European countries with significantly lower rates of private firearm ownership.

At the same time, a number of countries with severely restrictive gun control laws have much higher rates of suicide than the United States, including Belgium, Finland, France, Japan, and South Korea.

The connection between general measures of firearm access and general suicide rates is limited, at best. The U.S. suicide rate has remained relatively stable over the past 50 years, even though the number of guns per capita has doubled.

Moreover, the percentage of suicides committed with firearms has actually decreased since 1999, even though the number of privately owned firearms has increased by more than 100 million.

As this data suggests, broad restrictions on firearm access are unlikely to have a meaningful effect on general suicide rates, and there are other socioeconomic factors beyond firearm availability that better account for differences in suicide rates.

These factors largely include measures of “social cohesion,” such as divorce rates, unemployment, poverty, past trauma, and family structure, and it’s increasingly clear that more socially integrated communities also tend to have lower suicide rates.

Access to firearms may, however, exacerbate the danger for people who are already at a heightened risk for committing suicide. For example, when individuals have a serious mental illness, access to firearms appears to increase their risk of committing suicide.

But it’s also more complicated: While individuals with serious mental illness may have an increased risk of committing suicide when they have ready access to firearms, they may also be less likely than the general population to commit suicide with firearms.

Why? Because they often have greater barriers to legal firearm access, including disqualifying mental health histories under state or federal law, and concerned friends or family members who may limit their unsupervised access to firearms.

Several studies suggest, then, that reducing unsupervised access to all commonly employed means of suicide (including firearms, but also sharp objects, medications, and rope material) for at-risk persons reduces their individual risk of suicide.

In short, broad limitations on firearm access for individuals who are not necessarily at heightened risk for committing suicide are unlikely to meaningfully affect overall suicide rates and should be viewed with a heavy dose of skepticism, but policies designed to limit firearm access for individuals with serious mental illness may be an important step in the right direction for reducing state and national suicide rates.

Policy Implications

It is clear that mental illness—especially untreated serious mental illness—plays a significant role in certain types of firearm-related violence that cannot be ignored.

This is not to suggest that individuals with mental illness should be treated as community pariahs or that they are even the cause of most firearm-related violence in the United States. But any holistic approach to reducing suicide and violent crime rates in our communities must account for the role played by serious mental illness.

The reduction of suicide rates requires a comprehensive approach that addresses all of the various factors related to suicide risk, including mental illness, socioeconomic variations, and access to a support system.

Similarly, policies to reduce the rate of mass public shootings in the United States must account for the significant role played by untreated serious mental illness in such killings.

The broad-scale disarmament of the general population is an inappropriate and unnecessary substitute for dealing with the underlying problems.

At work the other day, a sickening howl came out of an office near mine. It was guttural. Primal. Unfortunately familiar. A few years ago, it was me making that sound at work and I had made it many times before. It is the howl of those left behind after a suicide. It is a […]

via Silent Screams – Suicide Facts and Help — Queen Bee Living

There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors. – Tennessee Williams Whatever you do, don’t succumb to the pressure upon you, it doesn’t bode […]

via Suicide, the fall of many — Finally Unchained

If You’re Having Suicidal Thoughts, Please Read This

See ThoughtCatalog Article Here
By Nikki Zarrella

I’ve now known, and I mean genuinely knew in person, spoke with, or was friends with, four people who have committed suicide. Attending those funerals, seeing all of the people who truly loved and cared for that person… How could they leave all of these people behind? I thought to myself. Even though, deep down, I knew how. Because I’ve been on both ends of this. I know how you can contemplate it, I know how the thought can cross your mind when you feel like you’ve been pushed so far, you’ve been hurt so much, suffered for so long. I have mourned for those individuals who have committed suicide, but I have also had dark moments when those thoughts have seeped into my mind too.

But why? Many people may wonder. Why would the thought of taking your own life ever cross your mind? Well, there are a million reasons why. And it could include anything from life trauma, to chemical imbalances in the brain, to overpowering stress, anxiety, or depression, or just trying to live in a world where you constantly feel like you don’t belong or like you’re always being knocked down. Or sometimes. We just don’t know why we feel the way we do, and we may never know.

In this life, people can be viciously cruel and extremely selfish. Even sometimes the people we love most can hurt us more than anything, or can let us down over and over again. People will hurt others without thinking about the repercussions of their actions, or even stopping to reflect on how they may have impacted another person in a negative, toxic way. Or sometimes, the pain is not caused by anyone else at all. Sometimes, we just feel alone. Like no one could ever possibly imagine or understand what’s going on inside our heads because we don’t even understand it. We feel crazy, dissociated from the world like a lost soul wandering deserted streets.

Suicide does not discriminate. Look at some of the most famous role models, the individuals who were idolized by millions of people, but it still wasn’t enough to keep them here. It wasn’t enough to fight off the demons or suppress the harmful thoughts. Kurt CobainChris CornellChester Bennington…the list goes on. I recently went to a Disturbed concert where lead singer David Draiman took the time to talk to us about suicide awareness and the “demons all of us are fighting,” each and every day. He told us that we must all be advocates not only for ourselves, but for those who are struggling mentally.

“Intervene. Be an advocate. Don’t wait until you’re at their funerals standing in front of their casket”

David urged. Friends, family, whomever that person is who is coming to you, reaching out to you at their darkest hour, be an advocate for them. Help them. In any way you possibly can. Suicide is never ever the answer, it is not a solution, eliminate it as an option. It is something that is permanent. There is no going back, no rewinding time. It is something that inflicts pain upon those who love you…even if you don’t always feel their love, it’s there. I promise. And you leaving this world will only hurt them, more than a thousand knives through the heart, more than you could ever imagine. You would leave a void in their lives that could never be filled. You will be gone, and you will be leaving them behind to hurt, to mourn, and to try and live an impossibly normal life afterwards.

The world we live in right now is all kinds of messed up. Men are taught to be strong, women are often seen as fragile, but everyone has demons, burdens to carry, weight on their shoulders. Everyone feels pain. We just all handle those demons and burdens in different ways. Distorted self-image, body shaming, bullying, traumatic events, the internal and external scars many of us carry with us…it is not an easy time to be navigating through this crazy world. But no matter what, you always have to remember that you are not alone. You have the power to change your life for the better. Regardless of how shitty other people can be or how heavy that weight on your shoulders may feel at times, the power is within you and the choices you make to change things, get the help you need and deserve, and to make a life for yourself.

It won’t be easy, and there will be days when it’s overwhelmingly difficult. There will be days much darker than others, but that means there will be brighter days too. I still have days where I feel like I’m drowning. Like every time I come up for air it is only to be knocked down again by a crashing wave. But in that darkness, in that web of anxiety, fear, and pain I often find myself tangled in, I remind myself of the people who love me. I remind myself of the years I have not yet lived. The places I want to travel to. The parts of the world I have not seen. My future filled with mystery, excitement, hopes, and dreams. The endless possibilities of where I could go, who I could meet, who I could become, what I could accomplish.

Life is a long and winding road, but you must stay strong. Don’t ever give up on yourself. There are millions of people out there who are struggling, who fight every single day to put on a brave face, even when deep down inside they feel broken, like they’re falling apart and are unable to keep picking up the pieces. But they keep on fighting because it’s worth it. Life is worth it. It will bring joyous moments, unforgettable memories…often at times when you least expect it. It is worth it to be here for the people you love, and who love you more than you know. You just need to hold on for the ride and stick around to witness all that will come, all that’s in store for you.

But in the meantime, go to therapy – any kind, don’t stop looking until you find one that works for you. There are endless amounts of options out there today. There are so many ways to find guidance, support, and someone who will truly listen and want to help you. Talk about your feelings, find a support group, look into appropriate medicines if you need to, confide in friends and family, begin a healthy hobby, adopt a pet, join a club, listen to music that soothes your soul, start traveling the world, focus on yourself. Do whatever it takes. Just don’t leave this earth. Do not shatter someone else’s world by leaving your own behind. Someone out there needs you, someone out there loves you. Live your life and stay alive to see your future come to fruition. And remember, there’s always a reason to keep on fighting for your life. Just don’t ever give up on yourself. Keep fighting. Keep staying strong. And keep living.

I Don’t Want to Do Anything – What’s Wrong with Me?

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By Marie Miguel

There are times in our lives when we feel down, and we can’t figure out what the source of the problem is. There’s a difference between feeling sad and being depressed. When you don’t want to do anything – not even simple things that you enjoy – there’s a problem. When you find yourself with no motivation, it’s time to seek help because you may be depressed. When you’re thinking “I don’t want to do anything,” there’s something inside of you that’s telling you that life isn’t worth enjoying or pursuing, and that’s not true. You have individual interests and motivation, and there’s inside you. You have things that make you happy, but you can’t see them at the moment. That’s the problem; when you feel stagnant and lack positive emotion. It’s a symptom that shouldn’t be ignored, and it’s important to know that you can get through this time.

Pushing past the “I don’t want to do anything” feeling

One way to push past this feeling is to pursue therapy, but getting to that point is difficult because your brain is telling you that there’s no point in doing anything; including going to therapy. It’s essential that you work past those feelings of stagnancy. It’s vital to remember that what your brain is telling you isn’t true; there is a point to live, and you do have things that you enjoy. It’s about pushing through and remembering that the thoughts going through your mind are attributed to depression; they aren’t a reflection of who you are as a person.

Depression lies

Depression isn’t who you are. Depression is a mental illness that has symptoms such as lacking motivation, sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, changes in appetite, thoughts of emptiness or hopelessness, and thoughts of suicide or a plan to end one’s life. If you’re having thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or go to the emergency room. Contact a mental health professional and get medical attention immediately. Depression is a legitimate illness, and it needs to be addressed. If you’re feeling an emptiness inside, it could be because of this mental illness. It is treatable, it isn’t your fault, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

There is nothing wrong with you

Hear this now: there is nothing wrong with you. If you have depression, you are not alone. You’re struggling with a medical condition that many people, in fact, millions of people in the US alone, battle every single day. If you look at it that way, you’ll be more apt to seek help. It’s okay to acknowledge that you feel hopeless, as long as you pursue something that’ll help you move past this feeling. You’ve got this. Things will not be this way forever, and you will be able to move forward, no matter how hard it seems. Remember a time when you felt emptiness or sadness and were able to push past it and keep going. If you’re reading this article, you are alive. If you’re reading these words, you are strong, and you deserve to seek help.

Online counseling

Online counseling is an excellent place to seek help for feelings of emptiness and that “I don’t want to do anything” feeling. You are allowed to feel lost, but your online counselor is there to help you push through these feelings and find a way to cope. You might feel helpless, but your online counselor believes in you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

This is a featured post by site sponsor Better Help.

 

India’s Suicide Capital: Sikkim

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By Diwash Gahatraj

Despite a booming economy, Sikkim has the highest suicide rate among all Indian states, second only to the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Gangtok: For Sukhrani Limbu of Sordung village, about 120 km from Gangtok, 29 May 2016, was just another usual day at work. But upon her return home, she found her eldest son, 30-year-old Aitey Singh Limbu, hanging from the ventilation shaft in his room.

Life somehow went on for the grieving mother. But then came 29 May 2018, when her third son, 27-year-old Aitey Hang Limbu, hanged himself from the same ventilation shaft in the same room.

“There was no suicide note, no signs of sickness… I am still clueless about what triggered their suicides,” Sukhrani says, fighting back the tears.

Sukhrani is not the only mother or family member in Sikkim who’s searching for answers. A National Crime Records Bureau study reported that the landlocked Himalayan state witnessed 241 suicides in 2015, 2.1 per cent of all the suicides in India that year.

But in terms of suicide rate in the last decade, Sikkim has the highest (37.5) among all states, and the second highest in the country after the Union Territory of Puducherry (43.2). Suicide rate is the number of suicides per one lakh population. According to the 2011 Census, Sikkim’s population was 610,577.

The West district, where Sukhrani lives, is Sikkim’s worst-affected region. Between 2008 and 2018, 278 cases of suicide were reported here.

Underbelly of the ‘golden state’

Sikkim joined the Indian republic in 1975, and has gradually become the poster child for development and a booming economy. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the state witnessed the highest net state domestic product in the country, and was the third richest state in India according to the 2015-16 Economic Survey.

In September 2018, Sikkim got its first airport at Pakyong near Gangtok, and in October, it was awarded by the United Nations for becoming the first state in the world to become 100 per cent organic. Literacy and cleanliness are high, and it’s often referred to as a ‘golden state’.

Yet, it has a sordid underbelly, which is manifesting itself in suicides and the questionable mental health condition of its residents. Regardless of age, gender, rural-urban divide, economic or health status, suicide looms everywhere.


Also read: What the history of foreign invasions tell us about suicides across India


A number of factors

“It would be very difficult, and even unfair, to pinpoint a particular reason for why Sikkimese people are turning suicidal. There are several factors: A long history of alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, high aspirations, ignorance of mental health illnesses and changing family structures,” said Yumnam Suryajeevan, assistant professor of sociology at the Sikkim Manipal University.

Social worker Dr Satyadeep Chhetri adds three more factors — lack of socialisation, loneliness and high rates of adultery.

“Around 70 per cent of people who have committed suicide were loners — either they were separated couples, aged people living away from their children, or kids from broken families. There is no study to connect suicide with adultery or other factors, but many people have committed suicide due to marital discord,” Chettri said.

A case in point is that of a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide on 26 June 2017 because she longed for parental love.

The seventh grader from Timberbung village in West Sikkim used to live with her old grandparents after her parents drifted apart and started living with their respective lovers, said an investigating officer from Soreng police station.

Drugs and alcohol

Many Sikkimese youth are high on pharmaceutical drugs like Nitrosun 10mg, Spasmo Proxyvon (SP) and cough syrups like Corex and Phensedyl, which are smuggled into the state from the neighbouring Siliguri in West Bengal.

“Drug users are very vulnerable to suicide,” said Prashant Sharma, member of the Sikkim Drug User Forum.

Former drug user Robin Rai recalls trying to kill himself during one of his weak moments nine years ago. Rai, who works as a counsellor at a suicide helpline centre in Gangtok, said he gets numerous calls from drug users with suicidal tendencies.

The state’s climate, geographical location, and the easy availability of alcohol has made it vulnerable to alcohol abuse as well.

Sikkim’s history with alcohol dates back to 1954, when Sikkim Distilleries was set up in Rangpo to ensure quality liquor for its citizens at a reasonable price. The then Chogyal (king) agreed to give the company absolute monopoly for the manufacture of alcohol, on the condition that the government was given 47 per cent of its shares. The state earns considerable revenue every year from alcohol sales — in 2013-14, the figure stood at Rs 120.64 crore.

K.C. Nima, a public health activist, shared the story of Suresh (name changed), a 40-year-old chronic alcoholic who had attempted suicide twice.

“The Sikkim High Court had to order the state to provide rehabilitation for him. There are many such cases,” Nima said.

Charvi Jain, a Kolkata-based psychotherapist, said that dysfunctional families, loneliness and drug and alcohol abuse are all interconnected. “It can be a deadly cocktail for suicide,” she said.


Also read: Suicides high among married women: Crisis in Indian marriages or mental health stigma?


Unemployment

According to a report by the Labour Bureau of the Ministry of Labour & Employment, Sikkim has the second highest unemployment rate in India.

Prawesh Lama, guitarist for the popular local band Tribal Rain, said the rush for government jobs had something to do with it.

“The problem of educated unemployed youth is high here. Sikkimese youth focus only on government jobs. But such jobs are for just a few who have the ‘right’ contacts,” Lama said.

“People are not willing to compete in the private sector. In this struggle to grab a government job, many youth get frustrated-some fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse, while a few even lose the urge to live.”

Cultural stigma of mental illness

Historically, the rulers of Sikkim have had no record of suicidal deaths. However, according to local tribal myth, adultery in a past life could lead to unnatural deaths, said L. Khamdak, professor of Limbu cultural studies at Namchi Government College in South Sikkim.

Tshering Tamang, a shaman based in Pelling, West Sikkim, added: “Every person has a predestined time to live. If someone kills themselves before time, their soul turns into Sian (evil spirit).This Sian can take lives of other people known to him or her in the similar way. More suicides will take place till the spirit completes its life-circle.”

In Sikkimese religious practices, mental health is often misunderstood. People with serious mental health illness approach religious gurus and shamans rather than coming to a doctor, said a psychiatrist based in Geyzing, West Sikkim, who did not wish to be named.

What has the administration done?

Other than an unpublished study conducted by Sikkim University, the state government has done very little research on the issue. ThePrint repeatedly tried to contact state health minister Arjun Ghatani, health secretary Vishal Chauhan and other senior officials, and emailed them questionnaires on the issue. But the only official response was an email from the health department, acknowledging receipt and saying it would take time to reply to the questions, “as this is a government procedure”.

However, that’s not to say there haven’t been efforts to curb suicides. A senior health department officer said on the condition of anonymity that the state was trying its best to combat the growing problem.

“The Sikkim Mental Health programme is operational since 2011, and we are conducting many awareness campaigns across the state,” the officer said.

In 2015, a state-funded 24×7 suicide helpline centre (03592-2021111, 18003453225) equipped with trained counsellors was started from the psychiatric department of the Sir Thodup Namgyal Memorial Hospital in Gangtok. However, the centre has received just 182 genuine calls so far, because hardly anyone seems aware of it. There were no advertisements for this number in Gangtok or West Sikkim, and helpline head Dr Jigmee K. Topgay said the reason was a lack of funding for promotion.

Hardly any local psychiatrists or health department officials were willing to speak on record when contacted for this report, because when a few of them spoke to a national daily on this issue, they were transferred from Gangtok to far-flung regions of the state.

One exception was Dr Satish Rasaily, a psychiatrist who has worked closely in the past with the government on suicide awareness programmes.

“The state has done several suicide prevention campaigns in Gangtok,” he said.

But outside the state capital, the track record of awareness programmes gets a bit murky. On the one hand, health department officials claim they conduct regular camps, as do local government officials like Hemant Limbu, vice-president of the Darap village near Pelling.

“We have a conducted a community level awareness programme where doctors, psychiatrists and suicide counsellors from Gangtok visited our area on the occasion of World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2018,” Limbu said.

But on the other hand, people in many other villages in West Sikkim said such camps were a rarity.


Also read: One in every 3 women who commit suicide globally is an Indian


How to fix this problem

Parul Agarwal, a Siliguri-based counsellor and psychotherapist suggested that the Sikkim government should work on spreading awareness about mental health.

“Forming a team of well-trained counsellors and psychiatrists who can work at the grassroots level can be a good start. Regular workshops, seminars in schools and colleges and a compulsory HR policy on mental health awareness at workplaces can be helpful,” she said.

Among all the religious groups in the state, incidents of suicide are least among the Christian community, and that’s because of a conscious effort that others could emulate, said Father Moni Clement Lepcha of St Mary’s Catholic Church, Geyzing.

“We regularly hold conversation with our parish members. When we talk about our problems, it helps a lot in venting out,” he said.

Social worker Chhetri added: “We have to tap the emotional quotient of Sikkim’s citizens. We have to tackle this situation as a society. We need to be more open to talk to each other, create occasions to meet and socialise.”

How To Help A Friend Who’s Suicidal Without Sacrificing Your Own Mental Health

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As of 2017, the United States alone saw an estimated 1.3 million suicide attempts. Needless to say, suicide, often misunderstood and stigmatized, is a desperately urgent issue in America—and not solely for the people battling it firsthand. Supporting a suicidal friend can be a taxing, often frightening, stressful, and heartbreaking experience. But, being the best support system possible requires you to put yourself and your own needs first.

Easier said than done, though. As any caring and thoughtful friend would be, you’re likely worried about the wellness and safety of the person who you suspect to be in crisis. This situation can lead to bouts of self-doubt (“Am I doing and saying the right things?” or “Am I making things worse somehow?”), but Christine Moutier, MD, chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says to trust your instincts. “Asking about suicide will not make someone suicidal if they do not already have those thoughts. Usually people feel relieved to share, especially if you are respectful and compassionate,” she says.

While you should open the lines of communication by asking your friend what they need, know what your own boundaries are, says Dese’Rae L. Stage, suicide awareness activist and creator of Live Through This. “If you’re not in a position where you can help, be honest. Say, ‘I’m not doing too well myself, but here’s a way we can find you help.” Going this route is not only best for you and your own sense of wellness, but it can also make you more approachable to your friend. “It shows how much you truly care about your friend and also allows you to be human and acknowledge you don’t have all the answers either,” says therapist Amanda E. White, MA, LPC, adding that this dialogue can come as a relief to someone who is suicidal, because so many people tend to walk on eggshells around them.

“If you’re not in a position where you can help, be honest. Say, ‘I’m not doing too well myself, but here’s a way we can find you help.” —Dese’Rae L. Stage, suicide awareness activist

Another option for helping your friend without sacrificing yourself is to call in additional support. Stage suggests tapping other friends, especially if you are in a tight-knit group, to make it a team effort of sorts. “Take shifts if you can,” Stage says. “See what [your friend] needs. Are they having trouble in their living space? Do they need help with laundry or dishes? Do they need someone to sit there and watch TV with them and order a pizza? Do they need to get out? [Helping with] things like that are good starters.”

If that arrangement—or any other, for that matter—doesn’t work for you, one thing that certainly can is honesty. Tell your friend you are there in the capacity you can be, whatever that may be, and that you love them. “Let them know they’re supported, even if you can’t necessarily be the one to do it,” Stage says. When you’re having this chat, or any conversation around suicide, it’s best to be direct, open, and a good listener. “People who are suicidal just need to be heard and validated. Even if you don’t agree with them, just say, ‘I hear you, and that sounds really hard.’”

“Focusing on your own health and wellness is important when you are trying to support someone in your life. If you are not well, you won’t be able to be a support to someone else who is struggling.” —Christine Moutier, MD

Dr. Moutier echoes that your time and attention alone can be a huge help. “Know that by simply caring and offering a listening ear and a feeling of support, you are providing them with everything a friend should.”

That said, you yourself may benefit from talking through this ordeal with someone who can guide, support, listen to you. “You are not alone—whether you’re the one struggling or the friend supporting them.” says Dr. Moutier, who says seeking therapy or support groups could be a smart avenue to explore for self-preservation. “Focusing on your own health and wellness is important when you are trying to support someone in your life. If you are not well, you won’t be able to be a support to someone else who is struggling.” In addition to seeking counseling for yourself, she recommends getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, “and doing whatever you can do reduce your own stress.”

To be your best self—for the sake of your own well-being and ability to be source of support for a friend in crisis—you must always take care of yourself. And doing so, White says, is anything but selfish. “The most important thing is to make sure you are spending time with people who empower you and provide you with energy and love.”

If you or someone you love is suicidal, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8755 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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