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What We Need to Understand About Those Who Die by Suicide

 

She was very young when it finally claimed her life. It had gone undiagnosed and untreated for many years. Self-medication made it better some days. Some days, it made it worse. Finally, her family took her to a doctor for help, but it was too late. She was dead within the year.

 

It is very much the same for all of us, regardless of the illness. You play out the same scenarios. You walk the tightrope of hope, trying to maintain balance in the midst of the inescapable truth: You are powerless. Your insignificance in the mean face of death is overwhelming.

 

You hold their hand and fight your tears. You stay up late, sitting in the kitchen when you should be in bed. You jump at the phone. You mull over the details with friends. You question the doctor. Are they doing everything they can? Are they doing it right? Could someone else be doing more for them? You count your blessings. You count each day. Then, you count each minute. Before you know it, you’re holding your breath for each second.

 

When the seconds stop, the funeral is unremarkable. The pain so evenly distributed over every inch of your body that you can hardly feel a thing. The food there tastes like sand. If you have the energy to tune in to what anyone is saying, then it is unfathomably inconsequential. You can’t believe you spoke that way, some unimaginable amount of time ago. You are sure you will never speak that way again.

 

The sort of condolences bestowed on us, the grieving loved ones, are many and they are truly empathetic. Even after all this time, they are warm and heartfelt. It is this warmth that drives the lump into my throat, the inevitability that a perfectly well-meaning person will inquire about how it happened. The lump will bob and choke, while I explain to them that she killed herself.

 

I watch as the shift takes place: They furrow their brow and click their tongue, the same reaction from everyone. What had just a moment before been perceived as the tragedy of an innocent death becomes the report of an insidious crime. Suddenly the blame shifts, as if every death is a crime scene and the only one of us unaccountable is God.

 

In order to help those suffering from mental illnesses such as depression, we need to begin acknowledge that falling victim to a mental illness is as irreproachable as falling victim to any physical illness. Imagine marching into battle knowing in the event of your death, instead of being remembered for your bravery, you would be condemned in your failure to prevail. We need to understand these victims are not committing acts of violence against themselves on a whim. We need to recognize they go to battle every day, and each day that they are still standing is a victory.

 

We need to accept their realities are their own, and not shove our own realities down their throats. Those of us who choose to enrich our lives with the power of positive thinking, we need to understand it is chemically impossible for others to do the same. Would you ask a friend battling another illness to try harder? Would you suggest maybe they go get a hobby, get out more and enjoy the sunshine? Would you suggest these things might cure them? Would you ever make them feel they were somehow responsible for the ultimate outcome of their illness?

 

Suicidal thoughts are as real and as harmful as the cancerous cells that infiltrate our bodies and claim our lives. As is the case with cancer, there is a chance the victims of mental illness will respond well to treatment and learn to live again. On the other hand, like cancer, it can fight them until they lose all fighting strength. Whatever the illness, the bottom line is this: it may take our loved ones from us. They will often go violently. They will leave us with what feels like intent.

 

Don’t do your loved ones the injustice of believing this lie. Their illness has already robbed them of a life, but don’t let it taint their memory in death. We don’t want to apologize for them anymore. Some of us won’t because we feel they have nothing to apologize for. Some of us can’t because we can’t forgive them ourselves.

 

Please, stop asking us to apologize for them. Don’t ask us to remember them for their ultimate defeat. Allow us to remember them for each day we spent with them, each memory a lasting victory.

 

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

 

By
Victoria Telfer
Contributor
I write about Suicide

Dear Mom and Dad, I Need You to Accept My Mental Illness

Dear Mum and Dad,

 

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have this voice in my head. At first it was just a whisper, sneaking in late at night when it was quiet. But the voice got louder and spoke to me more and more over the years. It makes me doubt my every action, it makes me agonize over every word I speak. It tells me I am stupid, it calls me a failure, it tells me I’m annoying and it tells me you hate me. Sometimes the voice is so loud and I feel so exhausted I can barely move. When I ask the voice what I should do, it tells me to hurt myself, it sees some busy traffic and it tells me to run in front of it, it sees that knife and it tells me to hurt myself with it. The voice was so loud and so persistent, I saw no end, I believed everything it said. I became so sad, I eventually stopped feeling anything. The voice became “helpful” then — it helped me make a plan. It tricked me into thinking the only way to make the voice disappear, was to also make myself disappear. However, that’s when the other voice would also speak.

 

This other voice made me see the future, it made me see all the detail, it made me see all the pain. That voice would save me, but that voice also plagues me. Voice number two has a physical form, much harder to hide. It clouds my mind, it stops my brain from functioning, it makes me feel sick, it causes me feel physical pain. This second voice is no friend, it makes me scared of everything. So welcome to my mind, where three voices battle. There is the depression, it floods my mind with painful thoughts and memories spontaneously. Then the anxiety, the voice of panic and overthinking. Then, somewhere in there is me, who just wants to be happy.

 

I know this sounds silly, but the hardest thing I do each day is just getting out of bed. I spend all night agonizing — sometimes it’s depression giving me a highlight reel of every painful memory, other times it is anxiety racing around my mind, listing everything I need to do. At some point I eventually sleep, sometimes even without nightmares, but when that alarm goes off I feel so exhausted. I can just about deal with that — coffee helps — but then anxiety and depression also wake up. I panic, I think of all the things I need to get done today, I imagine them all in my mind. I’m scared of not finishing, scared of failing, and then depression tells me I shouldn’t even try. So I lay there for a while — powerless, exhausted from the nightmares and panicking about the clock ticking, plagued with the fear of failure.

 

Eventually I force myself up and try to focus on just one little task. The voices quiet down and I gradually get on with my day. Some days I’m not so lucky. Some days the depression wins and I lay there for hours and hours, doing nothing but thinking about how pathetic I am. I tell myself I will fix it tomorrow, then the panic and the pressure increases and that night’s sleep is even worse, so the next day is even harder. That cycle just continues and the voices get stronger. But don’t fear, because I understand the voices are not me. I don’t know where they came from, but I know they’re not my words.

 

That is what makes me better now, why I seem happy. I try my best not to listen, and some days I am really strong. I push it down with dreams of the future, of a life where I might one day be happy. I know how to fix myself now, I know I will beat this. However, I need you to understand more than anything that everyday is still a battle for me. It may seem silly to you, but for me this is all so real and so difficult. So when you say I am lazy or weak or pathetic you cut deep into my wounds. You make me doubt everything I am trying to do, and you become just like those voices. As well as shouting at me, telling me to snap out of it, telling me the voices are my fault, you might as well be a part of my illness too. You may forget your words or your actions, but depression takes great satisfaction in storing it and playing it back to me. I don’t expect you to fully understand, but can you please just accept this is happening to me? That alone will make me ten times stronger. That is all I need from you.

 

Love,

 

Your daughter

 

Harriet O.

 

http://themighty.com/

8 Things I Learned Years After My Dad’s Suicide

Being a Suicide Survivor takes strength at the same time a vulnerability to process feelings and actions. I hope this helps provide support for those who have lost someone to suicide, as well as an education for those who support them.

26 Pieces of Advice That Have Actually Helped People With Mental Illness

By Sarah Schuster

With that expert’s list of ways to manage anxiety, the latest trendy mental health app and that “magical cure for depression” your aunt heard about on TV, it seems like everyone’s full of mental health advice these days.

So, we asked our mental health community to share pieces of advice they’ve actually found helpful. These little nuggets of wisdom aren’t FDA-approved, but when used correctly side effects may include: self-care, acceptance and a little more patience with yourself.

Here’s some advice that’s actually helped people with mental illness:

1. “On a particularly difficult day, I was trying to fight through an anxiety attack and finish all the child-related tasks I needed to complete. My husband kept offering help, and I kept refusing. He pulled me aside in the laundry room as I was frantically folding another load and said, “Just let me help you.” It doesn’t immediately make the anxiety go away, but it’s helped me learn to let go.” — Maria Hildreth

2. “Don’t wait. See a doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be embarrassed. Chances are, someone knows exactly what you’re going through.” — Kristin Salber

3. “I have depression and anxiety (as well as other chronic medical conditions), and after the worst week I’ve had in a while, my doctor said, “Find something you enjoy, and if you can’t find that, find the joy in something.” This really had an impact on me and still reminds me to look for a silver lining.” — Faith Merryn

4. “I have generalized anxiety disorder, and I made friends with someone who’s extremely similar to me. She told me to always be myself and the people who truly care will stick around. It truly did help.” — Julia Ann Lange

5. “Words can hurt to say, but they need to come out. Write all those words down on paper.” Melissa Cote

6. “A friend recently told me that no matter if I get a job one day or not, your life matters as long as you can make people smile. When I think of it that way, it’s easier to see my life as something of worth.” — Emma Wozny

7. “A great therapist I had told me to focus on ‘harm-reduction, not perfection.’ I felt like I was expected to magically ‘get better,’ and she helped me learn that starting with baby steps was totally OK.” — Jen Decker

8. “Someone said, ‘I’ve been here, I know a way out, I’m here to show you too.’ And, ‘It gets better, it may not leave, but it gets better. And it has.” — Tom Everman

9. “I have anxiety and major depressive disorder. This is going to sound ridiculous, but my best friend once told me, “When you’re sad, watch ‘The Simpsons.’” It actually works when I’m panicking, too. It gets my mind off whatever I’m obsessing about, and I usually end up laughing.” — Dawn Czarnecki Seshadri

10. “It wasn’t long after my diagnosis that I was told pretty bluntly: ‘This illness is has no cure. You’re going to carry this illness for the rest of your life. So you can either wallow in the weight of that, or you can fight for your only life and make it a good story.’” — Lyss Trayers

11. “My depression and anxiety stem from a traumatic childhood. Just hearing ‘it wasn’t your fault‘ from my psychologist was incredibly helpful.” — Kathrine Elise

12. “Don’t always believe what your brain is telling you.”Kerri Lewis Brock

13. “It’s OK to feel sad. You don’t need to pretend.”Allyson White

14. “The best advice: Treat yourself as if you were a good friend.” — Julie Jeatran

15. “Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small, instead of dwelling on all the things we perceive as failures.” — Jennifer Northrup

16. “I have post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. When I was in intensive outpatient therapy, the counselor looked at us and said, ‘It’s over. That moment is over. It isn’t going to happen again.’ For some reason, that resonated with me.” — Nicole Hanes

17. “They told me this: ‘You are not broken; you are a whole person. You are just human. A human who is living, learning and growing. And learning, living and growing comes with bumps in the road. Remember that this is just a bump.‘” — Kallie Kiefer

18. “Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small, instead of dwelling on all the things we perceive as failures.”Jennifer Northrup

19. “Your worst days will only be 24 hours.“Arielle Smith

19. “You wouldn’t skip a dialysis or chemotherapy appointment. Your therapy appointments are just as important. No excuses.”Jennifer Davis

20. “‘I think you need to give therapy a try.‘ Thanks to that, I started therapy and I’m now on the path to recovery.” — Julianne Leow

21. “Your struggles are your accomplishments in disguise.” Katherine J Palmer

22. “Remember: Depression lies. Don’t believe it.” Beth Brogan

23. “Always ask for help. There is never any shame in asking for help.” — Meghan Shultz

24. “Take life 5 minutes at a time.” — Stephanie Lynn

25. “You can’t give everyone else everything you have. You absolutely have to save a little of yourself for yourself.” — Shawn Henfling

26. “I am a human being. Not a human doing. I just have to be.” — Michelle Balck

Men and Depression: How Male Depression Really IS Different

 

Real Men Really DO Get Depressed A tough guy—a man’s man—doesn’t get depressed. Or so our American culture teaches us. If you believe what you watch in movies, TV and the US media in general, men should always be in control of their emotions,…

Source: Men and Depression: How Male Depression Really IS Different

10 Reasons to Stop Stigmatizing People With Mental Illness

By Rachel Griffin, Oct 16, 2015

I normally post online about Muppets, coffee, musicals and cats, but something happened recently and I can’t stop thinking about it: the Kenneth Cole billboard that links mental illness and gun violence. A blog I posted on my Facebook critiquing it was mostly ignored (it got maybe 2 likes), while I got 318 likes on another post.

That one was about my hair.

So now, I’m on a tireless quest to help people understand why mental health stigma can be devastating. You might think this doesn’t apply to you, but even my super kind-hearted friends have said things to me about mental illness to “help” that felt more like a punch in the stomach. Even I need to work on the way I see myself and others with mental illness.

Here are 10 reasons why you (and I, and everyone else) need to stop stigmatizing people with mental illness:

1. It makes it harder to ask for help.

Those three words, “I need help,” floated behind the curtain of my mind for too long. They’d peek out — peek a little more — and then run back to hide again. I could feel the words trying to slide out of my mouth desperate to be heard, but shame would push them back again. When they finally escaped they wore a lot of costumes, hidden in “I thinks,” “Maybes” and “I’m not sure’s” to cover what I really needed to say.

When we make people feel like there’s something odd/shameful about having a mental health issue, we make it hard for them to admit they need help. Sometimes when they finally do, it’s only when they’ve become most desperate. What should have been a first step becomes a last resort.

2. It makes people feel like monsters.

Once, after telling a friend I took medication for depression, she had a dream I was chasing her with an ax. Because of what I said about depression! I was confused and so hurt. Me? The girl who took a cockroach out of her apartment to set it free? The girl who gave the building exterminator an orange freeze-pop and asked him to please not kill the mouse? It made me never want to tell anyone else ever again.

When the media shouts and obsesses over mental illness like it’s a fearful thing (“Did the mass killer have a mental illness?” “Monster shooter had depression!”) it misrepresents a whole group of people. They don’t often show people with mental illness who are doing phenomenal things in this world. Fear sells, but it also shames.

3. It can make you hurt people you care about, even if you don’t mean to.

Think of all the people you interact with and care about in your life. One out of four of them have a mental illness. You never know who’s listening and how your joking or comments affect them. Educate yourself about mental illness before you make hurtful jokes or get on your soapbox. All the cool kids are not stigmatizing anymore, so you don’t want to look like a goober.

4. It makes people feel alone.

When people don’t talk about mental illness (or whisper it like it’s dirty word) it makes people feel like it’s uncommon or something to be ashamed of. Stigma isolates, but community and connection can be an important part of healing. We need to know our people are out there. We need to know one day we will be welcomed with open arms.

5. It makes people feel guilty about taking medication.

Because of some lame comments from people who I trusted (with no medical background) about medication, I’ve been off my medication about 10 times. I tried so many alternative therapies, but always ended up in the same position. Then when I went back on medication, I felt like a failure. It wasn’t until a brilliant, compassionate psychiatrist sat me down and said, “Stop it,” that I finally changed my attitude. She told me it wasn’t weak to take medication; it was strong. I wasn’t cheating life by taking it; I was cheating myself and everyone else by denying myself it.

Different methods work for different people, but never shame someone for taking medication for their mental illness. It can have devastating consequences.

6. It denies those with mental illness hope.

I moved to New York City from a small town, and now I’m a graduate student at New York University. I have amazing friends and a supportive community. I volunteer and teach amazing kids. I’m happy. But there was a time I couldn’t imagine these things for myself. I didn’t have any role models who had a mental illness. I only knew the stigma.

When people with mental illness come of out the shadows, it shows others they can live successful, beautiful lives — with a mental illness.

7. It makes people feel weak.

When we shame people for asking for help, it makes them feel weak. The idea that anyone can just “get over” or “work though” a mental illness is outdated. On the contrary, it takes tremendous strength to ask for help and stay with treatment. It’s badass.

8. It doesn’t help people get the mental health care they deserve.

Care for people with mental illness should be top-notch (I mean, we’re talking about the brain here), but in my experience, it’s not. I’ve been treated like I’m a child. I’ve been on hold with insurance for 45 minutes only to be told there’s “nothing they can do.” I’ve noticed compassion is missing from our mental health system, and I think stigma is a big barrier as we work to improve our mental health system.

9. It causes lack of education about mental illness.

I remember when I started experiencing obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, I was so ashamed and didn’t understand what was going on. I thought I was just some kind of freak.

We need to educate kids, teens and adults about mental illness so when they’re experiencing the symptoms they’ll know what’s going on. When we are silent, they stay silent, sometimes delaying treatment long after symptoms occur.

10. It’s not compassionate.

We have to have compassion for people with mental illness. And those who have mental illness need to have compassion for themselves. Don’t believe the stigma, and get the help you deserve.

5 Things to Do When You’re Worried About a Friend’s Mental Health

 

 

I often run student workshops on a range of issues related to mental health and emotional wellbeing. Regardless of the precise topic, the most common question students ask me is: “What should I do if I’m worried a friend has a mental health issue?”

Perhaps it’s something you’re wondering about, or you’d like to be able to share ideas with your students, friends or your own child. I’ve shared my ideas below, but I’d love to hear yours, too.

1. Listen.

The most important thing you can do for your friend is to make time for them and listen to them. They need to feel listened to, so get rid of all distractions. Giving them the space and time to talk is a really important first step — in the beginning, but also right through (and beyond) the recovery journey.

2. Don’t judge.

More than almost anything, young people with mental health and emotional well-being issues such as depression, eating disorders and self-harm tell me that they fear the judgement of others. They worry people will overreact, thinking they’re crazy or assuming they want to kill themselves. Or sometimes, they worry people will be dismissive and think they’re just attention-seeking. A good friend listens without judgement and sees their friend as a friend — not a unhelpful label like “anorexic or “self-harmer.”

3. Ask how you can help.

When someone shares their struggles and concerns with you, the most helpful thing you can ask is how you can help. There’s no need to dissect the ins and outs of why your friend feels this way — that is the work of a therapist. But as their friend, you can talk to them about what practical measures you can put in place to support them through each day. Think about difficulties and barriers which are making life harder for them. For example, if they’re struggling with anxiety, maybe arriving at school when its really busy makes them feel panicky and out of control. To relieve this, maybe you could walk in with them each day to offer moral support. Exactly how you can help will vary from person to person, so the best thing to do is to have a discussion with your friend to bounce some ideas about. You should also try to revisit the topic every now and then.

4. Seek support — for your friend and yourself.

Depending on the nature of your friend’s concerns, it’s likely you’ll need to encourage them to seek further support. Telling a trusted adult at home or school will enable you to access further support – for both of you. Your friend might be reluctant to share their concerns with anyone else, but if you’re worried it’s important that you don’t go it alone. Also, you may end up developing well-being issues yourself if you take on your friend’s concerns without any additional help. You can help your friend to feel reassured and more in control of the situation by discussing:

WHAT information needs to be passed on – you only need to share enough to access support, not everything they’ve told you.
WHO needs to know – think carefully about who you trust to respond appropriately and support you both.
HOW you’re going to tell them – does your friend want to do it themselevs, do they want you to do it for them, should you to it together or should you write a letter or email?
Of course, we should always try to seek our friend’s consent before alerting someone to their issues. However, there are some circumstances in which you should tell a trusted adult right away to keep your friend safe, and to access support as quickly as possible. These circumstances include:

Self-harm including alcohol or drug misuse
Suicidal feelings
Difficulties concerning food including bingeing, starving, vomiting or laxative abuse
Abuse at home (physical, sexual or emotional)
Abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend (physical, sexual or emotional)
Bullying of any type
5. Stick by them.

Finally, stick by your friend through thick and thin. It can be hard being friends with someone who’s facing these kinds of difficulties; you may find your friend pushes you away, stops coming out with you, starts acting differently or ignores you completely. But rest assured, your support will mean a huge amount to them (even if they don’t show it) and will help them through their recovery. Even just the occasional text message can mean a huge amount to someone who’s struggling to get through each day.

Good luck – your friend is lucky to have you.

http://themighty.com/author/pooky-knightsmith/