‘Out’

So, how do you “come out” about a suicide attempt or suicidal thinking? And should you?

Here and here are guides that explore disclosing about mental health issues. They include questions to ask yourself when making that decision. And here is a guide for attempt survivors who are thinking about sharing their stories in public.

Here are a few comments from people who’ve come out about their experience, from the site Talking About Suicide:

“I just made the decision I was not going to hide who I was, not be ashamed of who I was, not be ashamed of what happened to me. I’m sure there were people who judged me along the way, but it’s their loss. I wish that I had had someone who could talk to me. … I do not have ‘suicide survivor,’ ‘trauma survivor’ or ‘person who was diagnosed with a severe mental illness’ tattooed across my forehead.” _ Cheryl Sharp

“My psychiatrist congratulates me on my speaking. He says, ‘I have all these letters after my name, but I don’t begin to understand mental illness like you do. And you have such a valuable part to play because you’ve been there.'” _ Tom Greensides

“I lost a lot of friends. Maybe 75 to 80 percent just wrote me off, just like that. At the time it kind of sucked, but I saw right through it, like, ‘You weren’t really my friend anyway.’ It was good to really clean that out of my life. … The people left are probably the healthiest.” _ Joseph Olszewski

“It must have been a hell of a conversation when we met. I knew she was the one. I just told her everything, my whole story in about two hours: ‘This is who I am, where I’ve been, where I am now, what I want to do with life. What do you think?’ She said, ‘Let’s meet again and get married.’ So we got married. We’ve been together eight years, almost. And she’s 100 percent supportive of me.” _ Craig Miller

Finally, one issue that’s rarely addressed in discussions about coming out is legal protection against discrimination _ a bit odd, since concerns about legal protection are so strong when it comes to helping people who might be suicidal.

Here is a post about legal concerns, including one mental health lawyer’s invitation for your feedback on what policies and laws around suicidal thinking help _ and which ones don’t.

We asked a couple of lawyers who are familiar with mental health issues for their thoughts on speaking openly:

Dan Lukasik, lawyer and founder, LawyersWithDepression.com: “I’ve thought about suicide many times, many times. It’s hard for people to understand depression, but it’s an even further leap to understand suicidal ideation.”

“It’s really driven by what kind of climate you work in. Some employers are more understanding, and some are not. … I tend to think, generally speaking, it’s a case-by-case analysis. … I don’t practice that area of law, wrongful termination, but my own personal experience, when I came out six years ago, was pretty rough, very hard. People thought I was crazy. I had a very successful law practice, ‘Why would you throw it away?’ A friend of mine, a judge, said, ‘You understand, your competitors will want to hurt you with this.’ My own experience was none of that came true, and a ton of positive things came out.”

“I think maybe how people choose to come out is also important . Is it going to be a positive story or a negative story? Having read lots of blogs, I think it’s important how the coming out is done. Does it have a positive narrative or very, you know, troubling narrative, I guess. Mine came out as kind of a constructive thing. I wanted to help other people. I’m not a poster child with complete recovery, I’m still struggling, but I’m moving in the right direction. For someone who survives a suicide attempt and is trying to do something constructive, I think it’s a very positive direction.”

“I think if there’s no real reason to tell the employer, if work hasn’t been affected, maybe there’s no reason to tell the employer.”

“Many, many, many people can relate to depression. … Maybe the way to go is to come out with depression. And that’s exactly what I did.”

Lewis Bossing, senior staff attorney, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law: “Some people who may be concerned about discrimination based on knowledge of a suicide attempt may be people who are protected from disability-based discrimination under ADA and other laws.”

“Discrimination about suicide is similar to discrimination on the basis of disability. When you discriminate on that basis, it’s because an employer or a school clings to a stereotype about whether that person is likely to hurt themselves again or hurt someone else, which might affect whether they can do the job or stay in school.”

“I think schools often seem to be concerned about liability from some lawsuit later from family members or someone else at school who may have been affected, where they may have known about someone’s history and not done something. Those episodes are usually few and far between.”

“It’s a matter of going in and figuring out … what kinds of supports a person may need in being successful in school or work. … If it’s a job, a person might need to take a little time off during the day for counseling. Or they may have certain needs for flextime based on medication they’re taking. In many cases, these are reasonable workplace accommodations. In schools, it may be whether they need to take some time off and be permitted to come back after completing a course of treatment, or just taking time away and finishing the program at a later time.”

“Depending on where someone is, if it’s a workplace, the EEOC or the equivalent state agency, all those agencies accept disability discrimination complaints. … If it’s a matter of schools, each state may have statewide education agencies that process disability discrimination complaints. Also, there’s access to the federal department of civil rights, which has handled a lot of these complaints.”

“I do think disclosure is where we’re going as a society, it’s easier than it ever has been, but I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

“If readers are looking for legal assistance, there are offices in every state that have attorneys who specialize in disability law. The Protection and Advocacy Network. …  I will say the Bazelon Center is the only center for mental health law I’m aware of.”

“It’s worth thinking about how and when to disclose, in what form, what context, and how long that information is likely to trail behind you as you go through life. It might not be that every disclosure is a forever disclosure, but some might be.”

14 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. People know, but they forget, or block it out. No one wants to talk about suicide. It is like so many things today, we are disposable. Someone died? Oops. Too bad. Let’s just replace them. No one wants to help until you’re condition critical and it inconveniences them somehow. I have tried to end my life before, yet it is as if that action no longer has any meaning, either since time has passed or because I was “unsuccessful”. I guess I just feel like it is no big deal to most people, even though it is to me.

    Reply

  2. Wow. John, I completely concur with what you wrote. I’ve been close to suicide for nearly two years now. I continue to struggle only because I don’t want to cause devastation to my adult son’s life. But my own life (especially my work / financial situation) continues to plummet, drawing me ever closer to ending it. I’ve been talking and talking…everyone around me knows, but no one really knows how to help or cares enough to bother. Some people have tried to help, but pulled the rug out from beneath me when I couldn’t get back on track as quickly as they expected. Like you said, no one wants to think about it and unless you have money for professional help, there is little help available. I know because I’ve been doing everything possible to find help for myself. I am still teetering on the edge.

    Reply

    • Hi Sarah, coming from the side of a family member I am wondering what can we do to help or make things easier. I am an adult child of a mother that has attempted twice now. Is there any advice you can give that you believe would help in this situation if a family member tried. My full story is in the comment section under the families tab.

      Thank you for any advice you can give and know you have been heard.

      Danielle

      Reply

    • Sarah, I wish I were there to talk with you. You need people around you who understand your situation. Have you told your physician about your thoughts? Medications can do wonders towards helping with suicidal ideation, though sometimes they’re not enough.

      I often have to remind myself that “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise again.” It’s posted on my bathroom mirror for a daily reminder!

      You’re right: you do not want to kill yourself and hurt your son. Sometimes that is enough to keep us here.

      Surely there’s help out there for you. Again: talk with your doctor.

      HOPE

      Cindy

      Reply

  3. You are right, no one wants to talk about suicide or the fact that you are having serious thoughts about ending your life. Like Sarah; I don’t want to cause devastation to my family, but sometimes even that isn’t enough of a deterrent from attempting again. I had been managing to keep the thoughts from intruding for the most part these previous 2+ years, but within the past 2 months things have gone downhill. Some at work have commented on my change in attitude, and work performance………but if asked, I just reply something is on my mind. I can just imagine saying “trying to formulate a plan that won’t fail, since I no longer want to live.” Statements like that only create a lot of fear; so silence although may not be better for me, for them it is. I have attempted suicide before, hospitalization or involuntary commitment is a road I have traveled too often, and have no wish to repeat. So silence it is for myself.

    SILENCE
    I stand alone, a solitary sentry
    at the very center of my being.
    The quiet and stillness
    pervades, permeates, and penetrates;
    vacant and void, such emptiness.
    The quality of nothingness
    I am insignificant and valueless,
    Life or Death……..Which is it?
    Silence is the only answer.

    Reply

  4. It’s been 10 months, but I still have a lot of “unhealthy” thoughts, ideations. I cannot figure out how to be “normal” anymore, and I don’t like where I am now. I am not happy. I am changed. And it’s not for the better. DOES THIS EVER GO AWAY? WILL I EVER BE HAPPY AGAIN?

    Reply

    • Yes, Cindy, I think you WILL be happy again.

      I eventually came out of my black pit of despair, with medication and counseling. I am so glad I didn’t kill myself. I would have missed so much good stuff and so much happiness!

      Please hang in there till the happy feelings come back.

      Reply

  5. my daughter 16 years old has been fighting depression hard now since this past April, she has been hospitalized inpatient/outpatient, IEPs, teacher mtgs, outpatient therapy, enrichment classes when necessary, last week she attempted suicide, this is her first attempt, those words just immobilize me, sitting in crisis getting her evaluated the woman asked with such a normal behavior, Oh this is your first attempt at suicide? the words are haunting that it seemed like common to her. YES this is my daughters first attempt, then I sit silent, I look at my lethargic daughter full of sadness, I look at the stupid crisis lady and I want to rip her hair out and I can see myself doing this, because she has no emotion or passion for whats actually happening, but I keep silent cause I think if I make any trouble it will get passed onto my daughters treatment or lack of in crisis….. so this is the 3rd time she has been hospitalized inpatient in a 3 month period, the new dr called me yesterday to inform me this is bad , no shit! I find myself researching a lot, when I know more I can do more, I understand more about depression, I advocate for my daughter first and foremost , I just am sitting here not knowing what I can possibly do, when I know there is nothing I can do, cause she has the feelings you all write about in your stories, she feels like all your stories but shes mybaby! I am not going to give up, she has a problem communicating her anxiety into words, she can journal, everything happens fast and the issues she needs to resolve take time and practice, she and I know that, but she fell down hard last week, and now shes so mad at me, im learning through your stories, I am feeling incredibly disturbed, because I hear her words that mommie I just want to die, please let me die…….I cry,im not working, im doing the family therapy’s I cant find any one to talk to about my grief im learnig its normal, THIS SUCKS

    Reply

  6. I am sorry you are going through so much. The best you can do for your daughter is to be there for her and constantly tell her that she will not always feel this way, that it will pass in time. I know this is a painful time for both of you. Just reassure her the best you can.

    Reply

  7. I recently found out about this site and want to share to help others and am not sure how to get started. I want to share my story but want it to come across as a positive message of hope. My only thought is to just start wariting with out thinking and edit it later

    Reply

  8. I just came across this site while trolling around on the internet trying to figure out how to pick up what pieces are left of my life. As if I would come across a page that had the answer. In 2012-2013 I attempted suicide. On one occasion I took 30 pills, a prescription for a heart condition. I am a nurse and I was sure that I would simply fall asleep and not wake up. Instead I slept for hours, and temporarily lost the ability to stand or walk. I had not told anyone my plan or even that I had suicidal thoughts. After this I wouldn’t say I ‘actively’ attempted suicide, I simply just didn’t care to live anymore. It was not unusual for my family to stop by my house, where I lived alone, and find me overdosed on alcohol. I was taken away by ambulance or by family to the ER numerous times. It became normal for me to be admitted to the icu with a blood alcohol over 3.0, I was usually than transferred to the psych ward. In the psychiatric unit, I adamantly refused any suicidal thoughts, so as to speed up my release. During this period I shot myself in the chest with an air-powered nail gun. I came within centimeters of missing my heart, which I thought I had properly aimed for. I also stabbed myself in the chest twice, after which I realized it was harder than it seems to cause anymore than infection. It did not offer the rest and peace that I longed for. My last suicide attempt in August 2013 scarred me permanently for life. I was home alone, and did not plan on anyone stopping by. I decided to go head first out the top floor window of my home. Instead of death, I was left with a complicated fracture to my cervical vertebrae, a fractured skull, and countless bruises. I was put on a ventilator, that was no doubt the most terrifying experience of my life. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath, and had no way to communicate. After the ICU stay, I was again sent to the psych ward, and was again released within 2 days. I was able to convince enough of the doctors that it was an accident (and I’m sure I was a liability with my injury). I remember being so angry to wake up alive in the hospital. Now, I am so thankful! Thankful to be alive, and not paralyzed! It was a wake up call, a hard one. I had been having visual and auditory hallucinations for a couple of years and refused to tell anyone. I was too embarrassed, which sounds silly now. I realized it was no longer a question of what anyone thought about me, to me it was life or death. After healing from my injury, I sought help and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I am now on medications that help drastically. I had all the family support through all this that anyone could ask for. I am 28, and still treated like a princess with my family. It just wasn’t able to ‘fix’ me.

    My problem now is how do you move forward and leave that in the past? The stigma, the feelings of guilt and shame? My family even looks at me differently. If anyone can give me any advice on that I would greatly appreciate it.

    Reply

  9. I don’t think that you have to “come out”…. But if you do, wait until the time is right, the subject is at hand, you’re with the right person etc. Not everyone will stay with you, but those that do are your true friends. I feel sometimes like I live a lie, having close (?) friends and co-workers talking about suicide, not knowing what I’ve done, but I do NOT owe everyone an explanation. BLESS YOU and KEEP the HOPE!

    Reply

  10. After now more than 30 years living with chronic suicidality – countless stays in various laughing academies for the spiritually bewildered, all the methods and attempts, the list of drugs I’ve gone through, not to mention all the therapists (neither which have helped much) – well, I’ve found the only place I can speak with true openness and honesty concerning my thoughts and experiences, is on a forum where all the members are also chronically suicidal..

    But, at the same time, I AM as open and honest with people as I can be, I never shy away from the subject of suicide, I’am not at all ashamed of it, and I’ve had some incredible conversations as well as a lot of opportunities to “educate” people about it, or at least try to dispell the “taboo” (and having a very prominent Bride of Frankenstein neck scar, it comes up often (they ask about it thinking it’s from some surgery. Ooops! Pretty funny to watch their expression when they learn the truth.)). But, there is a certain brutal territory that I don’t get into with people, especially the two people I love. Not only would it be very hurtful and frightening for them, but just the fact of my being chronically suicidal means I deal with suicidal ideation of one form or another every day – I don’t want them to have to.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s