7 People Talk About What It's Like to Lose a Loved One to Suicide

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There is one death by suicide in the U.S. every 13 minutes, according to Suicide Awareness Voice of Education (SAVE). Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. for all ages.

BuzzFeed recently sat down with 7 people to talk about what it’s like to lose someone to suicide. They spoke about how they found out, the feelings of loss and heartache that ensue and what they’ve since learned about mental health.

I think dialogue is the key,” Says Peta, who lost her daughter to suicide a year ago, in the video below. “I think conversation is the key. I think asking your friends if they’re OK and then listening is the key.”

Watch the full video below:

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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What It's Like Going to the Emergency Room for Suicidal Thoughts

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When someone’s actively suicidal, we often tell them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 9-1-1 or go to the local emergency room. These are all correct responses, but they’re also scary, big steps for someone in a mental health crisis.

To demystify what happens in the emergency room, I want to share my own experiences. Every hospital is different, but here’s what happened to me when I went to the ER because I was feeling suicidal.

1. I had to tell the ER staff why I was there. 

Whenever you go to the ER for any reason, you have to tell the staff why you’re there. You can word this however you want: I’m feeling suicidal. I have a suicide plan. I’m having suicidal thoughts. I’m feeling really depressed. I went with my parents, so they talked to the staff for me. (If you feel as though you need support, it’s a good idea to go with your parents, guardian or someone you trust.)

In my visits to the ER, a mental health crisis professional came to evaluate me to determine what level of care I needed. This means you should be extremely honest  — they’re trying to get you the help you need. I was asked if I had a plan, if I had previous attempts/thoughts/hospitalizations, what medications I was taking (if any), any issues going on in my life and other questions to determine my mental state.

2. Once my level of care was determined, they found me a place where I could receive it. 

In mental health treatment there are different levels of care, determined by how much supervision and treatment you need.

Inpatient hospitalization means you spend both days and nights at the hospital. Depending on your area, it may be a floor of a regular hospital or a free-standing psychiatric hospital. Inpatient hospitalization is for people who are deemed “high-risk.” The length of stay varies.

You also might be enrolled in an intensive outpatient program which is outpatient day treatment. Outpatient means you sleep at home, but go to programs during the day.

3. If you have to go to inpatient, it’s to keep you safe and it’s OK.

Each time I’ve been to the ER for suicidal thoughts, the evaluator decided I needed to go to inpatient. I was in the ER for several hours while they found a bed, and while I was waiting I got blood taken and they ran some tests. My inpatient program was not in the hospital the ER was in, so I was transferred by ambulance.

The rooms are usually plain looking and empty, but not scary like old photos of “psychiatric wards” you see online! I had one roommate and decorated with quotes and pictures.

I’ll be honest, inpatient hospitalization is not a vacation. You lose a lot of freedoms in inpatient treatment. In my experience, they took away anything I could possibly hurt myself (or others) with — shoelaces, strings in clothes, belts — anything sharp and anything long. But, I had to understand it was for my safety. I was monitored closely to make sure I was safe.

4. Whatever happens, don’t be scared of getting the help you need.

While inpatient hospitalization can be scary, it can also be life-saving. I’ve been in this type of treatment several times after going to the ER. Each time has been different, but each time I learned something valuable. It was there I first experienced art therapy. I played piano and basketball. I made a good friend and had conversations that helped me. Leaving everything you know and love with scarce contact with the outside world sounds terrifying, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need.

When you’re in a mental health crisis it can be hard to see clearly. Research local hospitals beforehand and find out how they handle behavioral health cases. Some hospitals may be more equipped for mental health crisis situations than others. Here are some questions you or someone you trust should ask during these times. If you’re someone who lives with suicidal thoughts, knowing what to expect can help ease some of the burden of getting help.

Don’t hesitate — you can do this!

Editor’s note: This piece talks about a specific experience regarding suicidal thoughts and hospitalizations. Not all experiences will be or are the same.

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 Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

This post originally appeared on the Active Minds blog

The Mighty wants to hear about your experiences in psychiatric hospitals. 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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'I Survived a Suicide Attempt'

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This is powerful.

BuzzFeed recently interviewed four suicide attempt survivors in a moving video. Each spoke about the challenges they faced that led them to attempt to take their own lives, and then about the ways they’ve learned to cope since then.

It gets better,” one of the interviewees, whose name isn’t shared, says in the video below. “You are worth life. You are worth living. You are worth breathing.”

In the comments section below the video, other suicide attempt survivors chimed in to share their stories and to show solidarity.

“It’s the best thing to choose to be alive when you realize you could’ve lost it all by one attempt,” Christine Ann Basile wrote in the comments. “To those who are still trying to survive, just know there’s more to life. I’m a survivor too.”

I’m a suicide attempt survivor,” Siseneg Yanimir Berríos wrote. “I’m still trying to survive. But I’ve done it before and I will conquer this again. It will not win.”

Watch the BuzzFeed video below:

 

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 Myths About Suicide That Need to Be Challenged

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As we near the end of National Suicide Prevention Month, it’s important that we not only continue to talk about suicide, but also dispel some common misinformation surrounding it. The more we understand about suicide the less taboo it will become, and the more we can do for individuals who are at risk. In my work with the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Alberta, Canada, here are some common myths I hear and why it’s important to know the truth.

1. Myth: People who talk about suicide should not be taken seriously.

Fact: The American Association of Suicidology lists suicidal talk as a major warning sign for suicidal risk. This myth is dangerous because it suggests those who talk about suicide are just trying to get attention. Suicidal behavior should always be taken seriously. Suicidal talk often begins with suicidal thoughts which can escalate to suicidal acts such as attempted suicide if the appropriate interventions are not made.

2. Myth: Children do not die by suicide.

Fact: It is widely believed children are incapable of dying by suicide because they lack the mental development necessary to carry out such an act. This isn’t true – although there are few studies on the matter because it’s not perceived as a problem. We need to acknowledge that children are capable of suicide.

3. Myth: Talking to youth about suicide will increase suicidal behavior.

Fact: On the contrary, talking about suicide with someone who may be suicidal reduces the risk they may attempt. They should be asked directly if they are having suicidal thoughts or have a plan in place. It’s been shown when people at risk are given the opportunity to talk in therapy, their threat to carry through with suicide diminishes. 

4. Myth: Once someone has attempted suicide, they will not attempt again.

Fact: People who have attempted in the past have a much higher risk of a future attempt. The chief predictor of a future suicide is a past attempt. About 20 percent of people who die by suicide have made a prior suicide attempt. It’s particularly a harmful myth when studied in a health care setting. Sometimes health care workers view attempters as attention seekers instead of people at risk of dying. An emphasis needs to be placed on getting those who have attempted suicide the mental health attention they require.

5. Myth: The suicide rate is highest around December holidays. 

Fact: This is not true. In fact, the rate peaks in early spring. Some believe the holiday season can be a protective factor for those at risk. Dr. Thomas Joiner, a psychologist whose research focuses on suicide, calls it a “time of togetherness” that can lessen the chances of suicide. We should engage in open and honest conversations about suicide no matter what the season.

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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The Badass Way These Australian Bikers Are Bringing Suicide Awareness to the U.S.

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For Steve Andrews, founder of Black Dog Rider, it all started after his best friend’s wife took her own life.

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Steve Andrews photo: Sensis®

This wasn’t the first time his life had been touched by suicide — his own mother died by suicide years before. Andrews hadn’t known his mother was depressed until finding letters she’d written before her death. Similarly, his best friend Jack Michael’s wife Anna had kept quiet about her depression.

“There was all this depression, and the resulting suicides, and it wasn’t being discussed openly,” Andrews told The Mighty.

Feeling inspired to take action, he organized a solo motocycle ride across Australia. He stopped across the country to talk about depression and suicide and raised $34,000 for the Suicide Call Back Service. Word spread, more people wanted to join him, and Andrews, naming his efforts the Black Dog Ride, turned the project into a national suicide prevention charity.

Since that first ride in 2009, Andrews has organized 73 Black Dog Rides, raising a total of over $1,700,000 for mental health services nationwide, according to its website.

Now they’re bringing the ride and the conversation to America.

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The ride kicks off in NYC

The group of 65 bikers, who left from New York City on Sunday, Sept. 13, are making their way to Los Angeles, tracking 4,350 miles in 21 days. According to its website, the group hopes to specifically engage American military veterans and first responders.

“The motorcyles create interest,” Andrews told The Mighty. “People see a group of bikes roll into town and they want to know what we’re about. Everywhere we go people talk to us.” 

The ride also creates a safe space for the bikers involved, many of whom have a connection to suicide and depression, Andrews said.

“It’s amazing how many people have a connection to a cause,” Andrews said. “They look big and tough and bulletproof, but you give them a safe zone and they just open up.”

On the group’s Facebook page, Black Dog Rider Anny Seaton explains why she joined, opening up about her own experiences with depression.

It gives me a choice,” she says. “I can spend a day or four in bed or spend four or more riding. That is a far better option.”

Black Dog Rider Anny Seaton experienced the pain of depression first-hand after developing symptoms when side effects of...

Posted by Black Dog Ride on Tuesday, 15 September 2015

 

You can follow the riders using their itenerary and also on their Facebook page. The proceeds raised from this ride will go to Mental Health First Aid USA, providing scholarships for first responders and veterans to be trained in Mental Health First Aid, helping communities respond to mental health crises. Donations can be made here. 

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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The (Literally) Sweet Way Bakers Honored Robin Williams on Suicide Prevention Day

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For those with a sweet tooth and a love for Robin Williams, a group of bakers crafted the perfect tribute for World Suicide Prevention Day.

Organized by bakers Jane Reyes, Laura Lynch and Mary Menkevich, the cake collaboration, called Legacy of Laughter, honors the life of Williams and the many characters he played — through incredibly designed cakes. 

“Robin’s death touched a lot of people,” Menkevich told The Mighty. “He was such a wonderful and colorful character.”

The pictures of the cakes were posted on the project’s Facebook page but also have a home on Depressed Cake Shop, a pop-up shop that sells baked goods for various mental health causes. Some bakers had personal stories connecting them to depression and suicide.

Robin showed us all that depression is something that the most unlikely people can be affected by,” baker Tanya Ross, whose cake depicted Williams as Teddy Roosevelt in “Night at the Museum,” said in her statement. “Robin, you selflessly fought through your own demons to bring happiness and laughter to so many. You put us first and shared your talent and joie de vivre while holding nothing back for yourself. Stars can’t shine without darkness…. And your star will continue to shine for us all.”

cake of robin williams in night at the museum

I wanted to create Ramon as a mosaic tile because I imagine Robin Williams must have felt a bit broken and pieced together. I wanted to reflect that but at the same time I wanted to show how beautiful the big picture can be,” said baker Zawadi Parizek, who depicted Williams as Ramon from “Happy Feet.”

happy feet

My suffering from anxiety and depression is what lead me to cake decorating in the first place…Hopefully this collaboration will help someone reach out before they are too lost,” Mary Tomczak said in her statement. Her cake shows Williams in “What Dreams May Come.”

robin williams in what dreams may come

“When I learned of his death my heart broke. When I learned he took his own life I sat with my head in my hands and I cried and cried,” said Jenifer Kennedy, who recreated Williams’ role in “Dead Poet’s Society.” “I wished I could have been there to tell him how much he touched my life.”

Check out more from the project below: 

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robin williams dessert

robin williams dessert

robin williams dessert

robin williams dessert

robin williams dessert

robin williams dessert

robin williams dessert

robin williams dessert

Related: Why These Depressed Cookies Are Good for Mental Health

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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