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.
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.
“Life hurts,” the emailed comment began.
What followed is the note that we’ve posted below. It’s a simple, clear description of what it can feel like after an attempt. It also points out so well the need for resources for family, friends and colleagues of attempt survivors that we immediately wanted to publish it.
“Of course you have my permission to post it on the site,” Toni replied. She was more than happy to share her story and even agreed to use her full name, though we decided on just her first name for now. (She can yell at us if she likes … or write another post later on.)
This week, we dive right into Jennifer Garing’s post on a bold project to bring a New Hampshire gun shop suicide prevention project to sprawling Texas (and we point out last week’s article in Salon about this blog and other efforts to share the stories of attempt survivors):
We try not to talk about the means with which people attempt or complete suicide for fear of romanticizing it or creating a cookbook for completion. But sometimes the means are what really matter.
This week’s post is by Sue Martin, whose story illustrates two ideas we ought to run with. First, there’s no need to confine our stories to the world of mental health or suicide prevention. Sue’s an author and an emerging public speaker, and so far her audiences have been blind rehabilitation professionals who see her attempt as just one part of her life experience. The response, she says, has been wonderful.
Second, dismissing someone’s story of recovery just because they mention how they tried to kill themself really risks missing the point. As you’ll see, Sue mentions up front what she did because it’s crucial to everything that follows.
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.
The push to give suicide attempt survivors more of a voice might actually be working.
While the Live Through This portrait project takes off with mentions by Brain Pickings, PostSecret and Upworthy, one national suicide prevention group has pointed out the trend and asked for more.
“Two examples of efforts to provide forums for survivors of suicide attempts are Live Through This and What Happens Now?” Suicide Prevention Resource Center director Jerry Reed wrote earlier this month. “We need to expand efforts to encourage and support attempt survivors in bringing their expertise to the struggle against suicide,” including through peer support networks.
That call for more peer support _ for more people who’ve had suicidal thoughts or actions using that experience to help others _is more significant than you might think. Here’s why: The suicide prevention and mental health fields already have plenty of peers, many more than we know. Many of them just don’t feel comfortable identifying themselves.
Stigma? Among the very people who should know better? Oh, yes.
A quick note to begin: This blog was part of a live segment by The Huffington Post last week, along with three attempt survivors and a handful of sites on the topic. You can watch it here and explore the resources linked under the video.
This week’s story is about someone who worked for years in suicide prevention, knew and preached the coping skills and still ended up trying to kill herself. Natalie De Stefano wrote to us last month, and her story leapt off the page.
Imagine having a migraine, or living on the brink of one, for 20 years. And finding no medications that help. And being told, “Hang on ’til after menopause.” Natalie tried. As she counseled suicidal veterans as a case manager, she wore sunglasses and kept her pills nearby. She loves her work, And then last year, the pain got worse. She began having migraines every day, with nausea and vomiting. After her attempt, she was in a coma for more than a week. She woke up angry.