18 Messages for Those Who've Lost a Loved One to Suicide

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Suicide leaves those who are touched by it with a unique kind of grief, filled with unanswered questions, stigma from those who don’t understand, and sometimes immense guilt. With more than 800,000 people dying by suicide across the world each year, survivors — the name given to those who have lost a loved one to suicide — are plentiful.

This National Suicide Prevention Week, we gathered messages of hope and pieces of advice, from survivors to survivors, using Facebook responses from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you’ve recently lost a loved one to suicide, these might be words you need to hear:

1. “Allow yourself to grieve. We all grieve in our own time in our own way.” — Sally Ann Ganzer

2. “A person never truly gets ‘over’ a suicide loss. You get through it. Day by day. Sometimes it’s moment by moment.” — Holly Kohler

A quote from Holly Kohler that says, "A person never truly gets 'over' a suicide loss. You get through it. Day by day. Sometimes moment by moment."

3. “Know it wasn’t your fault. Know someday you may take comfort in educating people about suicide.” — Sue Mahlburg

4. “Everyone will have a different journey.” — Anji Sykes-Morey

A quote from Anji Sykes-Morey that says, "Everyone will have a different journey."

5. “Loss from suicide is like no other loss, and there’s no time limit for grieving. Allow yourself that time to process. And then talk to someone, anyone.” — Deenie Bagley

6. “Please reach out. Speak up. The worst thing you could do is to stay silent, like I did for so many years.” — Kelsey Elizabeth Oney

A quote from Kelsey Elizabeth Oney that says, "Please reach out. Speak up. The worst thing you could do is to stay silent, like I did for so many years."

7. “If you’ve lost a loved one to suicide — even if you, yourself, have dealt with depression and suicidal ideation — you may often wonder why. And that’s OK. Allow yourself that space.” — Karen Espenshade

8. “When I lost my brother to suicide, the most helpful thing for me was being part of a support group. Through that support I learned to honor my brother’s life and the wonderful person he was by sharing stories.” — Judie Zerilli

9. “Continue to live your life, know that it’s OK to smile again. Don’t ever be ashamed or let anyone make you feel ashamed.” — Jackie Burson

A quote from Jackie Burson that says, "Continue to live your life, know that it's OK to smile again. Don't ever be ashamed or let anyone make you feel ashamed."

10. “Read books written by other survivors. Write.” — Shakeena Faith

11. “One day you’ll wake up and things won’t hurt as bad. You’ll be able to remember the good things about your friend and not just the end. For me, that’s when I knew I was finally able to move on.” — Kristin Svinth

12. “One thing I learned is however I decided to grieve is the right way for me. Everyone’s different.” — Ron Prickett

13. “Don’t become a statistic yourself. Get counseling and be open to psychiatry if you need it.” — Christine Anderson

A quote from Christine Anderson that says, "Don't become a statistic yourself."

14. “Be patient with yourself. One day you’ll be able to celebrate the life and not focus on the method of death. Please, please, just be patient.” — Judi Swenson

15. “The best piece of advice I got was, ‘Once you accept that many, if not most, of your questions will never be answered, you can start to move forward.’” — Michele Starbeck

16. “You will survive, and you will find purpose in the chaos. Moving on doesn’t mean letting go.” — Mary VanHaute

A quote from Mary VanHaute that says, "You will survive, and you will find purpose in the chaos. Moving on doesn't mean letting go."

17. “So far, the best thing for me has been advocating during difficult times for prevention. It helps me to focus on the positive.” — Sherrie Gerdon

18. “The ‘ton of bricks’ that are thrust upon your shoulders by a loved ones’ suicide never goes away. But you do get stronger shoulders.” — Frank Kaufman

A quote from Frank Kaufman that says, "The 'ton of bricks' that are thrust upon your shoulders by a loved ones' suicide never goes away. But you do get stronger shoulders."

*Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

18 Messages for Those Who've Lost a Loved One to Suicide

Related: Mental Health on The Mighty Podcast

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How One Mom's Brave Selfie Started a New Kind of Mental Health Movement

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When Erin Jones posted a selfie to her Facebook page last week, she was just being her usual open self. Jones often shares her journey as a mother to four children with special needs, and as a person on the autism spectrum with multiple chronic illnesses, anxiety and depression.

It wasn’t just an ordinary selfie — it was a photo to mark a momentous event in Jones’ life with mental illness. After nearly 14 years of dealing with anxiety and depression without medication, Jones finally decided to seek help. She snapped a picture with her prescriptions.

So this also happened yesterday. I have tried living this life without prescription help. It seems to have me on top of…

Posted by Mutha Lovin’ Autism on Wednesday, September 2, 2015

 

Jones feels it’s important to share her journey with others.

“Over the last few years of me opening up about my mental health, I have people constantly, privately and online, coming up to me saying, ‘Your honesty gets me through the day. Knowing I’m not alone, that my child is not alone, sustains us,’” Jones told The Mighty via Facebook message. “Just be honest about who you are. There’s a healing in it.”

After The Mighty published an article about Jones’ medication selfie on Wednesday, September 2, Jones received hundreds of messages from people thanking her for saying what they needed to hear. Jones estimates that she’s heard from at least 50 people who’ve told her they’ve filled a prescription, made an appointment to see a doctor or otherwise sought help because of her message.

“To know that by just being honest about my shortcomings, all of these people are receiving the help they need, is very humbling and overwhelming,” Jones told The Mighty.

After sharing her article, Jones noticed people were posting photos of themselves with their medication in the comment section on Facebook. It gave her the idea of starting a hashtag for people to share their medication and prescription selfies, and after collaborating with The Mighty, she started the hashtag #MedicatedAndMighty.

#MedicatedAndMighty has created a space for people to talk about their medication and help erase the stigma surrounding asking for help in the form of a prescription. For Jones, it’s also a reminder of the strength in community and the power of solidarity.

“That’s what this is all about,” Jones told The Mighty, “standing together.”

 

In support of Mutha Lovin’ Autism and Sammiches & Psych Meds Liam and I are sharing our pic.Yes, i got his permission….

Posted by A Legion for Liam on Saturday, September 5, 2015

Add your voice to the conversation by tweeting, Instagramming or Facebooking a prescription or medication selfie using the hashtag #MedicatedAndMighty.

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9 Ways Parents Knew It Was Time to Get Their Child Mental Health Help

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Recognizing the early signs of mental illness isn’t always easy. There’s no blood test results and (usually) no tumors to magically explain seemingly strange behavior. Because of this, it typically takes ten years from the time symptoms first appear until someone gets a correct diagnosis and proper treatment, according to Mental Health America.

For children experiencing mental health issues, one of the most important early intervention tools can be parents. To learn more about how parents identify early signs of mental health issues, we teamed up with Mental Health America and asked parents when they knew it was time to get their child mental health care.

Of course, every person is different, and mental illnesses manifest in many different ways. But the stakes are too high to turn the other way.

Here’s what parents had to say:

1. “When I realized his teacher and I couldn’t be the only two people who saw there was more going on than a boy struggling in school. I was torn on what to do because most people in my life minimized my complaints. I wasn’t sure a label was what we wanted, but I just wanted school life to be a little less difficult for him. So if I need a label to do that, then I embrace it.” — Raelene St Clair

mental health meme: "When I realized his teacher and I couldn't be the only two people who saw there was more going on than a boy struggling in school.

2. “When my son would take two hours at the toy store because he was too scared of making the wrong choice.” — Christy Vogel

Mental health meme: When my son would take two hours at the toy store because he was too scared of making the wrong choice."

3. “My child’s temper tantrums were not ordinary temper tantrums. They lasted anywhere between 30 minutes to four-to-six hours, and could be violent.” — Dionne Driscoll

mental health meme: My child's temper tantrums were not ordinary temper tantrums.

4.I knew it was time to get help for my son when he was either crying or angry for most of the day. The daycare was calling us every day to come in because his behavior was out of control. He was only 4.” — Anna Davis Gode

mental health meme: I knew it was time to get help for my son when he was either crying or angry for most of the day."

 

5. He felt like his lungs were sinking in and his mind was spinning.” — Karrie Hale-Sanders

Mental Health meme: He felt like his lungs were sinking in and his mind was spinning.

6. “After listening to him talk, I turned to him and asked, ‘Do you ever feel like you’ll implode under the weight of your own thoughts?’ His answer was simply, ‘Yes.'” — Amanda Talma

mental health meme: "After listening to him talk, I turned to him and asked, 'Do you ever feel like you'll implode under the weight of your own thoughts?' His answer was simply, 'Yes.'

7. “Both my kids inherited my mental illness genes. As soon as I recognized similar symptoms in them, we started diagnoses and treatment options. I was always honest with them about mine and explained to them what I was going through as soon as they were old enough to understand. Mental illness is something we balance together in our family.” — Tracy Bryan

mental health meme: "Both my kids inherited my mental illness genes. As soon as I recognized similar symptoms in them, we started diagnoses and treatment options.

 

8. In the back of my mind I knew he was struggling but never wanted to deal with it — until I witnessed him have a breakdown.” — Donnette D Watson

mental health meme: "In the back of my mind I knew he was struggling but never wanted to deal with it — until I witnessed him have a breakdown."

 

9. When I noticed major changes in his personality. Then he had a breakdown, which landed him two states away in a mental health facility. In hindsight, that was the beginning of hope.” — Beverly Galwey

mental health meme: "When I noticed major changes in his personality. Then he had a breakdown, which landed him two states away in a mental health facility. In hindsight, that was the beginning of hope."

*Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

To learn more about identifying the early signs of mental illness, check out Mental Health America’s B4Stage4 campaign and the video below:

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7 Easy but Important Ways to Participate in National Suicide Prevention Week

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During the week surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, it’s time to speak up.

For the 41,149 Americans who took their own lives last year.

For the more than 800,000 people who die by suicide across the world each year.

For the countless more who have made suicide attempts or have lost a loved one to suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 6 to Sept. 12) is an opportunity to confront these deaths as a nation, and work to get those numbers down through dialogue and action that puts suicide prevention in the forefront.

Don’t keep quiet. Here are seven things you can do to support suicide prevention during National Suicide Prevention Week:

1. Educate yourself about the signs of emotional distress, and be prepared when you see them.

“Everyone faces emotional challenges, but if you have a gut feeling it’s more than the everyday ups and downs, it’s important to reach out for help,” Dr. Victor Schwartz, Medical Director of the JED Foundation, told The Mighty in an email. He urges young people to take action this Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. “Learn about the warning signs of emotional distress and the steps you can take to get the support you or a friend may need. You don’t need to be an expert to make a difference.”

Schwartz recommended some resources that might help:

  • Read the Help a Friend in Need guide to learn how to identify potential warning signs a friend might be in emotional distress and how to find help.
  • Check out Half of Us for more information on various emotional health issues and how to be there for a friend

Helping a friend can also be as easy as texting. Text “START” to 741-741 if you’re worried about yourself or someone you know. Confidential support is available from Crisis Text Line 24/7.

2. Tell someone you’ll see them tomorrow and bring a World Suicide Prevention Day pack.

Tomorrow15-ProfileImage

Above all else, we choose to stay,” wrote To Write Love on Her Arms founder Jamie Tworkowski during last year’s Suicide Prevention Week. “We stay because no one else can play our part. Life is worth living. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

These words inspired this year’s To Write Love on Her Arms suicide prevention campaign. Their goal is to raise $75,000 by selling suicide prevention packs. According to their website, all the profit will go to treatment and recovery.

updatedpack

Each pack includes a shirt, a bracelet, three posters and informational cards. “Use them as conversation starters, encouraging reminders and informative tools to share with others,” its website says. Packs will be sold until September 13.

3. Join the conversation with #ReasonsISpeak

Why is it important to speak up about suicide? Join Active Minds and share your reason using the hashtag #ReasonsISpeak. The conversation is already happening. Here are some examples below:

4. Get creative and give someone a reason to stay.

Project LETS Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports students and young adults with mental illness, is collecting artwork, poetry, stories or anything that might give someone who’s considered suicide a reason to stay.

“It’s so important for us to know what keeps us alive and thriving. What makes us excited to continue living in the midst of what we deal with?” Stefanie Lyn Kaufman, founder of Project LETS Inc., told The Mighty. “In collecting reasons to stay, we hope to offer tidbits of wisdom, a collection of real, honest and true reasons to stay.”

You can submit your reason here, or share your reason using the hashtag #ReasonsToStay.

5. Encourage your school or workplace to get screened. 

Created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Interactive Screening Program is an evidence-based way of reaching people who are at risk for suicide and connecting them to support and help, according to the American Foundation for Suicide’s website. The screening is in the form of an anonymous online self-check questionnaire, and universities and workplaces can use it to determine if someone in their community is at risk.

A counselor reviews the answers and provides an individualized response, opening the door to an anonymous online dialogue. This conversation could be the first step in receiving help.

Screenings not only identify individuals who might need help but also send a great message that your classmate’s or colleague’s mental health is important.

6. Support means restrictions.

A number of studies indicate that means restriction — taking action to limit fatal and often public methods of suicide — is a productive means of suicide prevention. California made great strides for suicide prevention recently by approving funding to build a suicide barrier at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Cornell University has made similar modifications to the iconic Ithaca, New York, gorges. In the spring of 2010, Cornell installed chain link fences on seven bridges on or adjacent to the Ithaca campus.

If there’s somewhere in your town that’s known as a common spot for suicide, encourage officials to find a way to limit access and lower suicide rates.

7. Do your part to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

An overwhelming majority of people who die by suicide — 90 percent or more — had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. But for those living with mental illness, suicide is not inevitable. When we speak up about mental health and create a culture where people can get help without shame, we give those with mental illness an opportunity to recover, manage and live their best life possible. Suicide is preventable, and we can work to make sure those at risk know they are not alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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5 Things I Want Someone Who's Been Diagnosed With a Mental Illness to Know

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When I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and panic disorder at 15 years old, I had no clue what to expect. I knew my parents had depression and took medicine from time to time, but I didn’t know anyone else. I tried so hard to hide my diagnosis, making sure no one saw me taking any medication. I never wanted to answer questions like, “What are you taking? Are you sick?” Looking back, I wish I had someone there to tell me what it was going to be like. Here are five tips to keep in mind if you have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

1. There’s no “happy pill.”

Upon being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I thought, “Great! I will get a ‘happy pill’ and be on my merry way!” I quickly learned this wasn’t the case. Some antidepressants take up to six weeks to start working. These six weeks are frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is finding out some of the side effects — some medication makes you sleepy, have no sex drive, gain weight and make you feel like vomiting. You will either get over the initial side effects, or you’ll have to endure another six weeks on another medication. The most important thing to know is that it’s worth it. When you finally find a medication that works with your body, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

2. Some people will not understand.

Even though talking about mental illness is less taboo, there’s still a large stigma attached to it. Since the signs and symptoms of mental illness are mostly internal, some people will not understand. They can’t see your daily struggle to drag yourself out of bed. They can’t see you telling yourself you can get through one more day or working up enough courage to get through the door at work. Because they don’t see it they’ll think nothing is wrong, maybe even that you’re faking it. Do not listen to these people. You keep fighting your fight and pay no attention to the naysayers. They haven’t walked your path and therefore have no right to judge.

3. It’s OK not to be OK.

After hearing words like, “You have depression and an anxiety disorder,” you may feel like you’re finally on the mend. You now have a reason for feeling the way you’ve been feeling. I always feel like since I’m on medication and in therapy I should have it all together. But there will be days when you don’t. There will be days and maybe even weeks you relapse into a deep depression or mental breakdown. Take this time to work on yourself. Take it one day at a time. Write a list of things to accomplish that day and don’t think any further than that. My lists are as simple as “get out of bed, take a shower, get dressed…’” One time I had to take a month off of work to just get my life back together. But I’m learning I can always work though it. 

4. You will want to give up, but you’re stronger than that.

At times, you’ll feel like giving up. You’ll feel like no one understands, that no medication will ever work or that you just can’t live this life anymore. You are wrong. You are strong enough. You are important. You are loved. You will get through the feelings of hopelessness and doubt. There are better days to come. I’ve been through some really dark darks, and I’m so happy that I didn’t give up. So many people will be proud of you for getting through yours. Never give up.

5. You are never alone.

There’s always someone out there rooting for you, someone to talk to and someone who understands. Reach out to these people. It may be a stranger or it may be your best friend, but there’s always someone. You don’t have to go through this battle alone.

This advice is based on one person’s experiences, and should not be taken as medical advice. 

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Mighty is asking the following: Give advice to someone who has just been diagnosed with your mental illness. What do you wish someone had told you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Why I'm Speaking Up About How Suicide Is Discussed in the Emergency Room

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As a nurse working in the emergency department, I frequently see people come in for suicide attempts. I’ve noticed there’s a stigma surrounding some attempts, and many colleagues agree there’s a difference in the way patients are treated depending on the type of attempt.

From what I’ve seen, a patient whose attempt is more “serious,” with visible life-threatening injuries or potentially deadly pathology results, is more likely to be treated with understanding, compassion and patience. It’s as if serious injuries validate the mental illness, making the inner turmoil visible to the outside world.

But the “less serious” the attempt is (for example, taking a non-lethal amount of medication or self-inflicted injuries that aren’t fatal), the less sympathy I’ve seen patients receive. This can also be said for patients who have repeat suicide attempts. I’ve heard these patients referred to as “time-wasters,” “attention-seekers,” “taking up beds,” and they’re described as “crying out for help.” Although it’s acknowledged as wrong, there’s still anger and frustration felt towards the patient. I’ve heard many question the reason for their behavior. But I believe anyone who intentionally puts themselves in harm’s way needs help, regardless of the intended outcome, and are still entitled to be treated with dignity, understanding and kindness. 

When I was 23, I tried to jump off a cliff after being discharged from a psychiatric hospital. I have bipolar affective disorder. I rarely call this a suicide attempt, although I would’ve jumped if it weren’t for a person walking past. If that person didn’t talk me down from the edge I wouldn’t be here today. I didn’t end up in an emergency department that night; instead the person called the local psychiatric triage team for advice and made sure I got home safely. The next morning my psychiatrist arranged for me to have electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

I was determined to take my life. However, just because I didn’t end up in the emergency department didn’t make my determination to kill myself less serious. For weeks afterwards I remained suicidal. It’s because of my wonderful family and excellent psychiatrist I got through those weeks alive.

According to the World Health Organization, 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and for every successful suicide there are many more people who attempt it. About 20 percent of people who die by suicide have made a prior suicide attempt. But the stigma attached to suicide can be isolating and discourages help-seeking behaviors.

When I was suicidal I was too embarrassed to ask for help from emergency services because I thought I would be judged. That night I stood on the cliff, dying seemed like the only way out. Like a lot of suicidal behaviors, the decision was driven by desperation and impulsivity. The method didn’t matter — only the end result. I was only seconds from death. By complete luck I survived that depression.

In seems people are fearful if we talk about suicide we’ll trigger risky behaviors. But if we don’t talk about it, how are we going to understand it? If we don’t understand it, how can we be compassionate and empathetic? And if we don’t treat those at risk with compassion and empathy, how do we expect them to seek help?

Most importantly, we need to make it known reaching out for help is one of the bravest and best things someone can do. I’ve heard nurses say it’s “heartbreaking” when patients die from a suicide attempt. But what’s more heartbreaking is how often I hear families say the person they lost had been “been unhappy for a long time’” or that “they tried suicide before.” We need to talk about suicide to offer people hope. The courage it takes to reach out must be recognized. 

Every suicide attempt needs to be taken seriously. People don’t kill themselves, mental illness does. The sooner we start understanding this, the sooner we can combat the stigma surrounding suicide. Decreasing stigma encourages help-seeking behaviors and leads to more widespread and compassionate treatment for those who need it. And this treatment needs to be available for everyone however long they need, not just for the people who end up with serious injuries in the emergency department.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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