A few developments:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has launched a website for attempt survivors, which ought to inspire other organizations to do the same. Eventually, the site will be confident enough to share the full names of people whose stories are shared, but it’s a start. It also has a section on the history of how attempt survivors have come out of the shadows, but its timeline is missing key game-changing developments like the Live Through This portrait project.
And the National Council for Behavioral Health has begun a series of activities around people who’ve been suicidal, starting with a new webinar on the national Way Forward report that came out this summer. The National Council’s leader on suicide prevention work, Cheryl Sharp, speaks openly about her own experience with suicidal thinking and has been a role model.
Finally, a new training program called Suicide to Hope is expected to launch next year. It’s a project of LivingWorks, and a number of people who’ve been suicidal have been involved in field trials. The first trainees will be care providers, though families of suicidal people might join trainings in the future. A focus on working with people to set recovery goals is central to the one-day program.
Perhaps one of the most important people to “come out” this year about suicidal thinking is Orlando Da Silva, the new head of the Ontario Bar Association. As soon as he took up the post in August, the trial lawyer started speaking openly to the media and others about his own attempt and recovery.
“I was told the Toronto Star report was seen by 2 million people,” he says.
On Friday, the bar association launched a project called Opening Remarks, which aims to put mental health front and center in the legal community. You can watch Orlando’s interview here, and he has started a series of interviews with other legal professionals. The first features the president of the Canadian Bar Association talking about her experience with depression.
This week’s post is by Linda Meyer, who recently founded a suicide attempt survivor support group as part of her New Jersey-based wellness center, The Support Place. She is a strong supporter of Wellness Recovery Action Plans, or WRAP plans, and with good reason. They are useful in bringing order to a sometimes chaotic experience, they create a network of supporters who can spring into action once certain signs of crisis are noticed, and they are an assertion of a person’s intelligence and control at a time when caregivers risk overlooking them:
There was a time in my mid-forties when my depression became so bad that the only way I thought I could feel better was to just die. I suppose it was a way of controlling the uncontrollable when every emotion and every physical pain left me feeling hopeless. It was very hard for someone like me, who had a lot of hope and was very much in control of my life. I was happily married, raising our seven children, and beginning to work outside the home.
This week’s post is by Susan Means:
I am 60 years old and a four-attempt suicide survivor. My most recent, and what I would have thought would be my final, attempt was in December 2012, just shy of my 59th birthday.
The fact that I have arrived at this point in my life, one of being willing to disclose, really illustrates to me how fully ingrained the stigma and shame is in me. After my last attempt. where I spent close to 10 days in ICU on a ventilator, an old friend told me, “Next time, get all your affairs in order first.” This was from someone who was in recovery for drug and alcohol addiction! I can remember going home to make sure I would “succeed” this time, as the shame was too great to bear.
This week’s post is by Josh Walfish, a recent college graduate who currently is living his dream in North Carolina. He reflects here on the year that has passed since he wrote a column for his student newspaper in the wake of four suicides in one year on campus. He says he is constantly grateful for his wonderful support network and wants to de-stigmatize suicide by starting an honest dialogue about it:
On November 13, 2013, I wrote my best column ever.
I’m a sports reporter, but on this day, sports were irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was that I was alive and able to write my best column ever.
I knew when I began with the words “I shouldn’t be alive” that I was entering dark territory. When only 15 words in I dropped the line “I am a survivor of suicide,” I understood what I was about to endeavor.
This week’s post is by Emily Routt, who describes herself as a 30-something Catholic who lives in Texas and loves to read, marathon shows on Nexflix and hang out in any combination of coffee shop and bookstore. “As someone who has survived and as someone who works in psych now, I would love to help change how survivors are treated,” she wrote in an email.
“How did I get here? How did things get this bad? Why am I still alive?”
As I lay in the emergency room, this was all I could think. The lights were off, and a nurse was there with me because they were worried I might try to kill myself again. My entire body ached from hours of throwing up, my mind was clouded and all I wanted was sleep, and to be alone.
A couple of weeks ago I met Drew Bergman, who came to the New York area to speak at a walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He’s also a regular speaker with the Philadelphia-area group Minding Your Mind, whose young speakers talk openly about mental health issues, including suicidal thinking. The next day, Drew was the keynote at the group’s annual fundraiser, where the video above premiered. You can see the speakers from the three-minute mark on.
Here, Drew talks about how he decided to speak out despite concerns about repercussions, a tech-friendly idea for engaging an audience that’s too nervous to ask questions, and his belief that public speakers can acknowledge that they still have suicidal thinking from time to time.
This week’s post is by Hollis Easter, who works at a suicide hotline. This is a condensed version of a recent post on his blog, where he writes frequently about mental health issues. “If you ask me why I’m not just over it already, I will ask you why you haven’t learned compassion yet,” he wrote this month about some of the annoying questions around depression. “What more important lesson is there?”
My work on suicide prevention really began in 2004 when I took a full-time job as a program director at a suicide hotline in northern New York. Our field has done a lot in the last 10 years. Here are some of the things that make me glad, and some thoughts about where we should head next.
This week’s post is a conversation with Tim Brown. We were introduced to him by Sally Spencer-Thomas of the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, who has always been thoughtful about pointing out people who speak openly about this. Tim, an entrepreneur and former CEO, spoke at a recent event that Sally organized _ the video is above _ and he’s now releasing a book about his experience:
In my book, I write about the difference between cracked glass and shattered glass and the way they leak at different rates. You think about professional jobs out there and everything tied up in it. There’s the false perception out there that if you’re a doctor, lawyer, etc., they’re not affected by things in their life. But we’re all human, we all have emotions, different perspectives depending on where we are in life’s journey. My goal with my story was never about my story, it was about their story, giving people the perspective that they’re not on an island. They’re worthwhile, worthy, not as hopeless or helpless as they might have thought. At least for me, as my depression got worse, I was isolating myself more. Everyone has a story, and we can all learn from one anther’s perspectives and life experiences.
This week’s post comes from the UK. Rhiannon Stuart is 28 and describes herself as follows: “Oldest child of four girls, happily engaged to the girl of my dreams. We have two cats & cannot wait until we have a family of our own.” Her past no longer defines her, she says. She’s come too far to go back:
I remember waking up, not knowing where I was. I saw a clock on the wall. It was about 12:30. That’s all I remember before I fell asleep once again. The next time I awoke, the clock said 2:45. I have no idea if only two hours had passed, or 14. I couldn’t move my hands, and something was irritating my nose. I still had no idea where I was. The next time I woke up, I couldn’t see the clock.