‘The most powerful tool we have’


This week’s post is by Sarah Gordon, a research fellow in psychological medicine in New Zealand. She also founded the International Association of Service User Academia. This is a speech she delivered at a memorial service for families bereaved by suicide:

Approximately six years ago, a 34-year old woman killed herself. But the paramedics managed to revive her. Waking up from a coma two days later and being assessed as having no long-term mental or physical injury as a result of the suicide attempt, the woman was discharged from the intensive care unit to a psychiatric unit. After two months with this service, the woman asked to be discharged. She felt that this request was quite reasonable: Her immediate acute mental illness symptoms had been addressed.

The psychiatrist refused to entertain any notion of discharge at this time, her reason being that the woman was not in relationship with anyone or anything. You see, she argued, being in relationship with people is absolutely fundamental to living well. So that is what the woman spent the remainder of her time with the unit, a further five months, doing: working on re-learning and practicing being in relationship with herself, her family, her friends and her community.

And what is she doing now? Actively engaging in her roles as a mother and wife, working, dancing, writing, holidaying and shopping  _ something which I particularly enjoy.


‘I was afraid to be’


This week’s post is by Ann Taylor. She’s an aspiring advocate for suicide prevention, 51, the mother of two teenage boys, a domestic violence advocate, a photographer and a physical therapist. This is her coming-out:

so, here’s my story.

aug. 2007:  “mom has passed,” my brother says.

aug. 2008: “i’m done,” my husband says.

feb. 2009: “i love you, dad,” i say for the last time.

jan. 2010: “he didn’t make it,” my friend discloses.

a turn of events that happened just so very quickly. some expected, some by surprise.

my life before that had been going along smoothly. a bit too shy growing up, a small self-esteem issue, and fearful that i was too different from others, being 6’2” … but a life full of friends and supportive, loving parents. good enough grades. nice boyfriend. no drama. no horrific memories. i can’t say it was always bliss, but i certainly have no complaints. undergrad degree. masters. happily employed. married to a man i was passionate about. two children.
beautiful life. or so i thought. then my mind “fell apart.”

what went wrong?

therapists say it was a bombardment of too many stressful events so close in time. friends say, “this is normal. time heals.” my boys say, “i love you.” and i’m too stoic to say, “help.”

i distinctly remember my first flirt with suicide. sitting with close friends at their home “enjoying” a beautiful glass of cab, my boys laughing downstairs with the energy that friday nights bring, my heart racing, my mind spinning, knowing i was in some sort of altered space that i wasn’t confident i could contain. i suggested that i may be tired (unlike me) and should probably head home. i did, which was walking distance a block away. the boys wanted to stay and were invited to spend the night. i should have never been alone.

i walked into the gorgeous night fearful and overwhelmed. made it home. placed a call to my psychiatrist that i may be in trouble. the on-call doctor was less than helpful. i, out of anxiety and a strong desire to disappear, indulged in an overdose of medications that had been in the bathroom cabinet, of no use, for who knows how many years. they had never been thrown away. had they been, my life today would be so very different.

i have continued along my course of not wanting to live. i have had three more suicide attempts. i have been involuntarily held in psychiatric hospitals four times and voluntarily at least 10 times. it has been almost two years since my last attempt and one year since my last hospitalization. i closed off almost all friendships. i did not reveal myself in public. i was afraid of people. i was afraid to be. i still am.

i hired a wonderful caretaker to assist in my safety at night and to dispense necessary medications. i hired a “life adjustment” team to reintegrate me into the necessities of a day. i maintain weekly appointments with a psychiatrist and psychologist. i am involved in a suicide attempters support group. i lost one very close friend who couldn’t comprehend what i had done (which still breaks me) and faded out with most. i live in shame. i am judged. but i am
coming back.

i have been asked to tell my story on film. i did. i have shared my story with my teenage boys, who are proud and supportive. i have shared my story now with about 15 friends. there is support. i feel stronger, less shame. SILENCE is what was killing me.

and now i share my story with you.


‘I use that choice wisely’


This week made a little history. A couple of weeks ago, we featured the #WayForward video featuring numerous “out” attempt survivors. This week, the Way Forward report itself emerged. It’s a groundbreaking document by a national attempt survivor task force, part of the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and it essentially says, “Hey, world, this is what we need.”

NPR did a good story on the report and its demands.

This week’s post is by Gareth Stubbs, who writes from Spain:


‘A force to be reckoned with’


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This week’s post is by Alexis Wortley, a Seattle-area teacher and an emerging young advocate. The post is also a call to action. Many people who’ve been suicidal and are “coming out” are interested in giving back and helping make change. Here’s one way to do it. Consider contacting your local branch of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and asking to join the focus groups the organization has started to hold around the country as it seeks to engage us and create resources. AFSP has recognized it needs to do much more. Your guidance could be crucial.

Alexis explains how it goes:


‘Hustle, sweat and tears’



This week’s post is by DeQuincy Lezine, and if you think you’ve been advocating for attempt survivors for quite some time, get ready for a jolt. DeQuincy is the first director of the American Association of Suicidology‘s newly created Lived Experience division for people who’ve been suicidal and the people who love and support them. He also wrote the groundbreaking #WayForward national report that comes out in early July. It inspired the video above. More details coming soon.

Here’s the very short version of my suicide prevention autobiography:

I got started as a first-year student in college, after my first suicide attempts, by contacting the Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network. I found no other attempt survivors in the national suicide prevention movement. That was 18 years ago.


‘I’m fully engaged now’

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The best way to keep up with happenings between these weekly posts is following us on Twitter at @AboutSuicide. Also, interviews are posted regularly on sister site Talking About Suicide and at the fabulous Live Through This.

This week’s post is by Mary Esther Rohman:

My name is Mary Esther Rohman, and this is my first blog. Someone once stopped me from taking my life by telling me his story, and I was encouraged to start giving back. Much has been given to me.


‘You train yourself to believe’


This week’s essay is by Megan Cotrell, a 23-year-old who works for two crisis hotlines in Ohio, is a field advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and is applying to graduate school with the goal of being an advocate in the public policy field. “I’m really inspired by so many people sharing their experiences,” she writes.

First, quite a bit of news, starting with this change of heart by a psychologist who recently wondered whether disclosing was harmful for attempt survivors. Now he sees “a potential bonanza of therapeutic benefit.” Here are powerful new pieces by Leah Harris and Dese’Rae Stage. Sue Martin brings a strong new voice to the Veterans Administration. And Marie Claire Australia’s new issue has a beautiful story about attempt survivors that mentions this site, though it’s not available online.

Finally, anyone with interest in support groups for attempt survivors should check out this webinar tomorrow via the Mental Health Commission of Canada. It features a pioneering program, Skills for Safer Living.


‘Someone that could really relate’


A few days after making a wonderful speech at the American Association of Suicidology conference in April, an “out” attempt survivor was abruptly fired from their job at a crisis center. After five years of promotions and no disciplinary actions, the person was told their “skill set” no longer fit and was escorted from the building.

This was outrageous, and it made us wonder whether crisis centers across the U.S. value lived experience of suicidal thinking.


‘They just wanted me to be me’


This week’s post is by Tracey Medeiros, one of the stars of a new video on attempt survivors that’s drawn responses of “amazingly done” and “sharing it far and wide.” It’s been tweeted by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Suicide Prevention Australia and the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, among others:

I’m part of the crew for a local cable program called “Voices of Hope,” and it has addressed domestic violence, teen dating violence, bullying and cyberbullying. A few years ago, we began to do more shows about suicide prevention. Typically, I’m the one behind the camera or in the control room. If I shared my lived experience, it was one on one. Until now.

During the Massachusetts state conference for suicide prevention in April, I was excited but nervous. I didn’t expect so many people to come see the new film, “A Voice at the Table.” A number of people were psychologists, psychiatrists and other clinicians. I thought, “Oh, my God! I hope they won’t be offended by what I say in the film!”