On Wednesday, a spirited project called Now Matters Now launches with tools designed to help people work through suicidal thinking. It stands out because the team behind it, including the young researcher leading it, knows what suicidal thinking feels like.
We have three videos for you this week. But first, a couple of examples of deeply unhelpful responses to suicidal thinking.
From Yale, here is the story of a student who was forced to formally withdraw from the Ivy League school. “As a result of my expulsion from the college, I was even more depressed when I left than when I was admitted,” she writes. And from Toronto, here is the story of a woman who was refused entry by a U.S. border official and later was asked by another, “Were you suicidal in the spring?” The Toronto Star story notes that a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police “recently confirmed to the Star that information about Canadians who attempt or threaten suicide is filed by police services into the database and shared with the FBI and other agencies.”
The videos have a more empowering message.
On May 5, 2011, Jonathan Martis was suicidal. The tall, burly man in his late 30s had been diagnosed as bipolar at age 15 and had been on a series of medications since then. He had stopped taking his latest one in April, just days earlier.
He called family members, and to them it sounded like he was saying goodbye. They knew he had been suicidal in the past, and lately he had been in a bad place. His younger brother, Jeff, came over to check on him. Jonathan didn’t want to see him and called Omaha police, telling them someone was trying to break in. “A dispatcher could tell he sounded unstable,” the local newspaper later reported. Two officers responded.
This week’s post comes to you from prison.
I recently met Manny Bermudez in the visiting room of Great Meadow Correctional Facility in upstate New York, a few hours’ drive from New York City. It’s a stark place. Prisoners and visitors are separated by a low metal counter. Around us, inmates and family members handed little children back and forth while catching up on their lives. Outside, a massive white wall blocked the view of the nearby Adirondack Mountains.
Manny is slight, with glasses and dark hair cut so short that the scars on his scalp are visible. As we talked, he pulled back the long sleeves of his dark-green cotton shirt and showed off extensive tattoos.
A closer look showed the scars across his wrists.
Before moving on to this week’s guest post, here’s some good news: The Huffington Post has published our blog post from last week on its site as part of a special feature on suicide attempt survivors.
Separately, also worth a look are these video interviews with three pioneering attempt survivors who talked openly about their experience back in the day, not long ago, when no one dared to mention it.
The trend toward a more public discussion of suicide attempts continues, and here’s the latest example: The Huffington Post has teamed with TED for a weekend series on “ideas worth spreading,” and this weekend featured the well-known TEDTalk by JD Schramm about his suicide attempt and his wish that we all speak more openly.
“My TEDTalk may have begun a conversation, but the challenge now is how to continue that dialogue,” Schramm writes. The hundreds of comments are worth reading.
It’s been a welcome surprise that most contributors to this blog have been able to write openly, including their names, but this is a good time to remind everyone that people who need to remain anonymous are just as welcome to write something for us.
This week’s post is by Heather, who asks that we use her first name only. “You can put that I’m a psychiatric nurse and a mother to an awesome little boy,” she says in an e-mail.
Before regular contributor GC takes over today’s post, here’s an important development for anyone who’s had thoughts or actions of suicide.
The American Association of Suicidology, which launched this blog, has been around for decades and has divisions for research, clinicians, prevention, crisis centers and the bereaved. People with lived experience have had to slot themselves into one of these groups or float freely.
But last month at its national conference, the association agreed to create a special interest group for attempt survivors _ essentially giving us an organized voice there for the first time.
This week’s post is by Jennifer Garing, an epidemiologist in Texas who works closely with the state suicide prevention coordinator and surveys youth on a variety of risk factors in their lives, including suicide attempts. “I collect the only statewide data on adolescent suicide attempts and suicidal ideation,” she says.
As you’ll see here, she comes at the topic with some personal experience.
Today’s post is by Sandra Kiume, a writer and activist who has turned years of personal experience into a spirited understanding of the ways peers can help one another.
This week’s post is by Craig A. Miller, who contributed a strong post earlier about the difference between not wanting to die and wanting to live. Here, he talks about moving forward. Visit Craig’s website at Thisishowitfeels.com.
“Why?” As a suicide attempt survivor I can’t tell you how many times I have sat with people and tried to give them an answer to that question. When doctors would ask I would become frustrated, because they should be the ones with the answers. When family would ask I would feel guilty, because anything I said was misinterpreted as blame. And when friends would ask I would just become quiet, because no one could ever really understand what I was going through.