This week’s post is by Julie Hersh, the president of the Texas-based Hersh Foundation. Her memoir about her experience is being published this month in Spanish as “Decidi Vivir.” She shares her personal top 10 list of ways to stay well here.
One rarely hears “mental illness” without the word “stigma” in close proximity. We read about tragic stories of lives lost because people failed to seek treatment because of fears they might be ostracized, lose jobs or friends. Although the possibility of rejection does lurk with each naked statement about mental illness, my experience has been that my openness has accumulated a handful of bad encounters and thousands of good ones.
This week’s post is by Daryl Brown, who writes from South Africa. Early next year, he will begin his studies to become a psychologist, and he’s a member of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, which runs depression education programs in underprivileged schools across the country. “There is much ignorance about suicide and depression in South Africa, which has caused a perception that one should not talk openly about it,” he says.
Also, some news: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website in the U.S. should be launching a page today for attempt survivors and others who’ve been suicidal. Here’s Daryl:
I did not admit that I suffered from depression until after my suicide attempt. Depression seemed like an excuse other people made for getting attention or not being able to solve their own problems. I did not associate that with what I had. What I had was just a restless, uneasy, niggling sadness that I kept to myself. So last year, when that niggling sadness grew into a gaping black hole that swallowed my joy and enthusiasm and hope for the future, I quietly put my affairs in order and opted out of life. But life was not ready to let me go.
After the death of Robin Williams, a range of people spoke openly last week about, or from, their experiences with suicidal thinking. Here are some of their stories:
Cates Holderness, Michael Blackmon, John Stanton, Julia Pugachevsky and many others at Buzzfeed
Alastair Campbell in The Huffington Post
Dese’Rae Stage at Live Through This
Kay Redfield Jamison in The New York Times
Cheryl Sharp at Mashable
Deborah Serani in Psychology Today
Andrew Solomon in The New Yorker
Jenn Garing on Fox
Christa Scalies for WHYY
Leah Harris on HuffPost Live
Jake Mills in The Guardian
We’re taking a break for August, since it’s holiday season. We leave you with this update from Australia, where Suicide Prevention Australia recently held a Lived Experience Symposium that brought together attempt survivors and loss survivors to create a national manifesto that will be available for public comment later this month. Until then, here’s more about it. And for more about Mic Eales, the artist featured in the video above, there’s this. And here’s his beautiful PhD thesis.
Five years ago, Suicide Prevention Australia published the kind of confidence-builder that the new #WayForward report demands of U.S. mental health organizations: A statement of support for attempt survivors and others who’ve been suicidal. The Australian statement is here.
Organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere, your turn.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.