valentine's day postcard saying 'if you're contemplating suicide, we have some messages for you'

If You're Contemplating Suicide, We Have Some Messages for You

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Each year, 42,773 Americans die by suicide. For each suicide, 25 attempt. But with early intervention, support and treatment, suicide is preventable — and those considering it need to know they’re not alone.

To send messages of hope to those who might need it right now, we teamed up with PostSecret to collect images and notes for those who are contemplating suicide. Because suicidal feelings or ideations should never be a secret. We need to talk about it, and let others know it’s OK to do the same.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or just needs someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To learn more about the warning signs of suicide, head here.

If you’re feeling hopeless, here are some things you should know:

“I almost took my life four years ago. The suffering felt inescapable at the time. Things have gotten better since then. In fact, my life is better today because of the great depression I passed though.”

note reads: "I almost took my life four years ago. The suffering felt inescapable at the time. Things have gotten better since then. In fact, my life if better today because of the great depression I passed through.
submitted by PostSecret

“My father died by suicide. Before he did it he told me he felt broken and that everyone was against him… I didn’t know he was going to die later that night. I never got to say goodbye. He left a hole in my heart. He was my best friend. I wish I had told him, ‘You are not broken. I love you more than you can imagine. You have always been my hero, and even hero’s fall down sometimes. Please hold on, please lean on me. The darkness doesn’t last forever. Even if the rest of the world is against you, I’ll always stand by your side.’”

Man on a mountain. The view shows tress and hills.

“A few years ago, I sat on my bed with pills in hand ready to end the pain. Then my cat crawled into my lap and pretty much knocked them out of my hand while wanting to be pet. I looked at his sweet face and thought, ‘Who the hell is going to feed you if I’m gone? Will you end up in a shelter?’ That was my moment to reconsider my worth. Someone (my cat) truly needed me. I know it seems simple and contrite, but it was my truth. I was needed and I was loved. This is my story and you have a story, too. You have worth. You are needed! Please, if you need to talk, call me. Let’s talk. Or, call someone you feel can help. We are here.”

Pualette's cat, Beck is black with white paws.

“Everything is temporary, including suffering. Trust the process. Let go of your need to control how things go. Just live until something changes for the better, because it will. Love, a cancer patient and formerly suicidal 23-year-old who cares about you.”

Sarah in a hospital gown.

“A week before my 19th birthday I was diagnosed with HSV (herpes). I contemplated killing myself because of the social stigma of STDs. I went to counseling, eventually started a herpes support blog, now have 1,000 followers, have found a community and have talked others out of killing themselves because of their herpes diagnosis. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.”

Post card written in blue pen: "A week before my 19th birthday I was diagnosed with HSV (herpes). I contemplated killing myself because of the social stigma of STD's. I went to counseling, eventually started a herpes support blog, now have 1,000 followers, have found a community and have talked others out of killing themselves because of their herpes diagnosis. there is always light at the end of the tunnel."
submitted by PostSecret

When I feel like I can’t bear any more… seeing something awe-inspiring brings me back and able to make it through the day. That’s all I have to do. Make it through today.” 

sunset

“I had a friend who was suicidal. As I like to travel, my advice to her was… ‘There’s no point leaving the world until you have seen it.’ This seemed to give her the glimmer of hope she needed for really dark times and to hold onto the thought that there is a big beautiful world out there.” 

Girl in a colorful hat, smiling.

“When I was 20 I was staring at a handful of pills, thinking the abusive man I had just left was right — I was useless, stupid and he was the only person who would want me. Now, I just celebrated my 26th birthday with my adoring boyfriend and my best friends. Last year I was her maid of honor. Things get better. Life is beautiful and imperfect and terrible, but all of that let’s you know you’re alive.” 

Aly and her boyfriend, smiling

You’ve got this. It may not feel like it right now. But just know you will; you have what it takes. And if you need a reminder, just yell; someone will be there. Because they’ve got you.”

A dark sky. The sun is behind a cloud.

“My son came home from school one day and told me he has no friends, that absolutely no one likes him… I handed him his baby sister who instantly flashed him a smile similar to this, and I told him, “She loves you and that’s all that matters…” He thanked me and now he can’t wait to come home so she can smile and babble at him… So just remember there is someone who loves you as much as she loves her brother.” 

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“On a day about a year ago, I was at my absolute lowest. I was nothing — an empty shell and I felt so insignificant, that no one could see me, so why was I even trying to be here? I walked outside and literally on my doorstep was this arrowhead. I clearly understood. You are not invisible. I am seen. We all are. We are all visible and beautiful parts of an unimaginably complex universe.”

A white arrowhead

“You are not alone in the feeling of desperation and hopelessness. Your mind is playing a cruel trick on you. Try to think of a few things, anything, to be grateful for. That helped me the most in those darkest moments. And just to lighten the mood a bit, here’s a picture of my dog taking a selfie.”

Light brown dog taking a "selfie"

Ask for help. No one will look down on you. In fact, the right people around you will help you stand up. You write your own story, but sometimes, the story needs an illustrator. They don’t write the main story; they just help you see it better. And never be ashamed of who you are.” 

semi-colon tattoo on an arm

“Don’t forget how wonderful you are. As horrible as it can get, as much as it can hurt, as alone as you can feel… there is beauty out there only you can see.”

View of the water at dusk.

“The man I love attempted suicide before we met. I am thankful every day he didn’t [die]. He brings me so much joy, so much perspective on life and so much love. We would have never had our love story if his life had ended. Love yourself and allow yourself to be loved. You could be someone’s forever.”

Briana and her boyfriend, smiling

“Need a friend? I’ll be one. Like coffee? Let’s get some. Hungry? I’ll have lunch with you. Want to sit alone? I’ll be quiet. Sad? I’m a good listener. Hopeless? But there are so many sunrises and sunsets to look forward to… Need me? I’m here. Always.” 

sunset at the beach

“‘Please don’t. We will not be better off without you. Our world would implode if you left us. Nothing will ever be the same for any of us, ever again and we will miss you every minute of every day. You are loved and cherished and important, and we look up to you and you’re the exact person we need in our lives and there’s so much more that we want to say to you and we want to help you get through this. Please. Just please don’t leave me. Don’t leave me alone. Don’t go. We need you. Here.’

What I would say to my brother, if I could go back in time.” 

Erin, her husband a little boy smile in a cafe.

“One deep breath at a time… One day you’ll pick your chin up and realize that just the sight of wispy clouds against a vibrant blue sky is a gift to be grateful for. That’s what happened to me. Every once in a blue moon, on a bad day, the thought will pass – you must let it pass. Love and be loved!” 

A picture of Somer, blue sky in the background.

“Depression lies. It will try to convince you that you shouldn’t exist and that nothing matters. But, it is a liar. The truth is you are important. You are loved. You are needed. You are noticed. You have a purpose for being here. You have a place in this world, and if you haven’t found it yet, it’s still there, waiting for you. You can make it through. You are strong and capable. The darkness will pass, and the light will shine through. You can do it.” 

light shining through the darkness of the cave

I’m a pediatric home health nurse. I work with children who are dying. I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts my entire life. The kids I care for give my life meaning and purpose. I have to live because in living I make their lives and their parent’s lives better. The pain is real. The desire to end the pain is real. Love is real too. Hope is real. Find a purpose greater than the pain to live for. Lose yourself helping others live.”

Tattoo of a flower with the words, "Healed"

“Sometimes it seems like an endless battle that is fought within the mind and fueled by the emotions. Slowly it chips away at you piece by piece, but underneath all of those layers is where you begin to find the truth of who you are, what you have been carrying with you all of this time, and when you reach the point where you feel as though you have nothing left to lose, that is when you must hold on the most because profound changes are just around the corner waiting for you to take that leap, not to your death, but into a new life. You are not alone in this process of waking up, and you are loved more than you could possibly know by people you may never expect. Every act of kindness you have ever done has made this world a better place and we need more of that, we need you.”

A stone woman. Pieces of her head are crumbling.

“My mother attempted suicide when she was a teenager. She was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that I inherited. I have never attempted suicide, or even considered it. But if my mother had died, me and my siblings would not be here. My father would more than likely be in prison, because meeting my mother changed his life. If my mother had died, my niece would not be here. And she brings a beauty to this world I have never imagined.”

“You matter. You’re existence matters. And life.gets.better. The dark place you’re in has an end. Because even though I’ve never wanted to end my life, I have seen the dark place .And what I know from that is that our will always get better. But if you end it, there is no chance it will get better. You will be someone’s someone. You matter.”

“No one in this picture would exist I if my mom [died after] her suicide attempt. You have a future. Live for it.”

Nicole's family

“I’ve experienced suicidal ideation since I was 14 years old. Over time, I’ve learned to live beyond those thoughts and urges. They haven’t gone away, but I’ve removed their power. I think of suicidal urges much like a flighty bird; they may choose to perch in my hair, but I refuse to let them make a nest there. Likewise, there’s an old Cherokee legend about each person having two wolves fighting to live inside them. One is Fear-Based (anger, envy, ego, self-pity) the other is Love-Based (joy, peace, truth, compassion, faith). The one who wins is the one you feed. Feed the Love. Starve the Fear.”

A big yellow sticky note that reads, "You know all those time you contemplated or attempted suicide, but did not die? That's your inner strength pulling you through. Your soul urges to live and shine. It's just sometimes your mind gives in to fear-based thinking. Your soul urge is stronger than your fear based thoughts. Especially if you start nurturing and feeding it, instead of the other."

“There is so much light and love in this world for you to add to and receive. You are a special part of it, and the world needs your spirit, love, creativity and light that you bring. So many people love you, and there are opportunities and experiences that are waiting for you. Just believe in yourself and the universe — this is not your destiny. (Said with much love to my friend who was suicidal a few weeks ago — and she is so happy she is still here with us!)” 

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“This is a photo taken of me less than a month before I attempted suicide. I always hated this photo because all I could see was the facade of happiness I tried to put on and it made me feel like a fraud. I looked at it again today, three years later, and realized that it is was not a facade. This moment that was captured by a friend was not a facade; what she caught was my small fleeting moment of hope that I could one day reach happiness. Two months after this photo was taken I checked myself into the hospital and three years later I can finally say I am happy with my life. I am happy with how far I have come and what I have achieved. Now when I see this photo I am reminded that even in my darkest moments I still had a glimmer of hope and happiness that, at the time, I didn’t even realize was there. Please don’t let your own fleeting moments of hope disappear.” 

Black and white photo of Jasmine, smiling slightly.

“‘Its not too late; its never too late.’ This is just a path in your great story. What is the lesson from all of this? Keep that pain, then you will use it for the future. Learn to walk through the rain, and know it was temporary, and there is a better day ahead. And walk your new path.” 

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“I lost my 16-year-old son to suicide, two years ago. If I could have said one thing to him, it would have been: Stay.” 

Jennifer's son, making a peace sign.

“Almost four year ago I tried to take my life because I felt I had nothing worthwhile to live for. Today, I anxiously await the arrival of this little guy any day now. I’m so happy I [did not take my own] life because now I get to bring new life into this world. It does get better.” 

Sonogram of a baby

“This is me… I didn’t intend to come home from this holiday; but I did. I’d like to tell myself that wanting to die won’t last forever; hours, or days later, it gets better; even if it doesn’t feel like I’ll ever climb out of the dark again.” 

Ashley, smiling by the water.

“I almost took my life more than once, but my mother once said: ‘I tried that, too, but then I decided I wanted to see how life worked out…’ We’re both here. I still have my moments. Life is a struggle, but you are the parentheses to that.”

A tree in the woods with red leaves

“One day, I was challenged to make a list of 1000 things I loved. These items could be trivial or profound, it didn’t matter. Focus on the little things that may mean nothing to anyone else but that give you a tiny boost. The smell of scotch tape can be reason enough to make it through another day.” 

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“No matter how bad things get, there are dogs out there that will tug on their owners’ leashes just because they want so badly to say hi to you.” 

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“Please don’t go. Close your eyes and make a wish. For tomorrow to be better. For someday to be better. Cry and scream and fight until your lungs hurt. Because I would do that for you. Empathy means I feel what you feel, I cry the tears you hold back and we are here for you. Don’t quit on your worst day.” 

holding a dandilion

“Your story is beautiful and needs to be heard, even as filled with pain and sorrow as it is. We need you here, to continue that story, and share it with the rest of us who also feel pain, and sometimes feel totally alone. It is only when we share in life together, without judgment, that hope is born again.”

A grey star that says, "Tell a beautiful story."

“I attempted suicide more than once. I am thankful every day that I didn’t die because I never would have had my beautiful family. This is my husband and I the day our daughter was born. Don’t give up. The beautiful part of life is right around the corner.”

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“If I had died the night I tried, this amazing creature would not exist today… and what a shame that would be. The future is beautiful if you just hold on.”

Sara's son

“Every winter, the Earth seems to die. Branches are left bare and blossoms are just a hazy memory. But remember that in spring, the ice thaws and things begin blooming again. Nature is not dead. It is going through a season which is necessary for new life and growth. You are the same. When the ice thaws (and it will) you will be new again, and your branches will grow taller and stronger than before, unburdened by the weight of last year’s leaves. You are not dying. You are changing. And it will make you stronger and more beautiful than before. Don’t give up just before the return of spring. You are about to find happiness you never imagined.” 

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submitted by Crystal Merreighn

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.

*Answers have been edited and shortened. 

Related: What to Do When You’re Worried a Loved One Might Be Suicidal

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When Facebook Suggested I Should 'Friend' Someone Who Had Died by Suicide

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My sophomore year of college, I decided to delete my Facebook. I was recovering from anorexia and wanted a fresh start. I hated having evidence of how sick I had let myself get; the pain that was visible through my eyes despite my smile, my protruding bones from my hips and back and how thin and brittle my hair had become were images I didn’t need to be reminded of.

However, once I had reached a healthy place this past summer, I signed up for Facebook again without any trace of the old me.

I started receiving friend requests and friend suggestions. Some people I knew, some I didn’t. I had transferred colleges after my freshman year, so I was excited to reconnect with my old friends.

Do you know Joe Smith? Yes. Add Friend.

Do you know Jane Smith? Yes. Add Friend.

Do you know…I stopped. There was his name. I couldn’t move. I just stared at his picture. He was smiling, as happy as anyone could look on social media. The only thing was, he was dead.

Rewind to 10 months ago, May 2015. I was in outpatient after having just been discharged from the psych ward. Depression had pushed me to the point where I had tried (and thankfully failed) to kill myself. I was feeling raw, exhausted both mentally and physically, and scared. Then, one of my best friends from my old college called me.

“You know Adam?”

“Yeah, of course! I love that kid. Why? What’s he been up to?”

“He killed himself last weekend.”

I dropped the phone. The emotions hit me as unforgivably as a storm recklessly crashing waves into whatever is in its path. I felt sadness, anger, anger at myself for being angry with him, shame, helplessness and, embarrassingly enough, a little jealousy. How could he kill himself? He had so much to live for, he could have been helped. But then again, how could I judge him? I just tried to do the same thing and here I was, being angry with him. I was drowning under all of these thoughts, the back-and-forth conversation in my head trying to reconcile my anger and jealousy with the sadness and grief I felt in my heart. He was gone, but I was still here to feel every ounce of pain and every real and embarrassing emotion there was to feel.

Back to the present moment, I was still staring at his picture. It didn’t feel real that he was gone. It still doesn’t. What if I clicked, “Add Friend?” Would he respond? I almost anticipated a response. Hey Britt! Long time no talk! How’ve you been? But deep down, I knew I wouldn’t hear from him. In reality, he was dead, but Facebook didn’t know that. Facebook still thought he would be celebrating his birthday with his friends and family, that he would still be tagged in photos where he looked like he was having the time of his life, that he would still get to experience seemingly irrelevant, but incredibly beautiful little moments of everyday life.

But that’s not the truth. He’s not here anymore.

Sometimes, I consider Facebook messaging him like he would actually read it. There are so many things I would say to him. It sometimes feels like someone is choking me, like I’m trying to scream but nothing comes out:

Adam, if only you could read this. I wish I had kept in contact with you after I left Richmond. I wish you knew how much you were and still are loved. You are such a beautiful soul, making anyone who met you smile from ear to ear. You had that effect on people. I remember the first time I met you; we were sitting in a dorm, all of us getting ready for a night out. You instantly struck me as a person who had known struggle, and yet you still had a light about you. It pains me that you were in so much pain. Though our experiences are unique and personal, I can empathize with how you felt. I wish you had a second chance. I just wish you were still here to see that it does get better. That the pain can and will go away. That the world is a little dimmer without your light.

While Facebook can’t be the method in which we communicate anymore, I hope he knows, deep beyond the pain, that he was and is still loved and missed greatly. Rest easy, my friend.

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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To a Friend Who Is Losing Hope: This Is What I Can Guarantee

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You said it didn’t matter. Not a single moment, not a single instance of your life mattered. You said you were ready to go, to leave. You said we didn’t really care, that we just wanted to wipe our hands clean of the blood that will surely flow before the end of the night. You said we were strong and we’d get over it quickly. You said we didn’t care. You said I didn’t care.

Every bone in my body wanted to object, to drive the two hours to get to you before the solid ground did. I wanted to get offended, to take it personally. I wanted to believe that all my work was for naught, that our friendship really meant nothing to you. But I couldn’t do that, because I remembered. I remember standing on the same ledge, with the same thoughts and feelings. I stood in a world without hope, without love, and it felt like all that existed was the endless pain that would never go away. You didn’t matter then, just like I don’t matter now.

I’m not going to tell you the same things I heard on that ledge. Voices telling me to step down, to remember better times, that the future holds a better view than the crappy one I see. I won’t tell you those things because there was no stepping down, except to go down. There were no better times, some of us are born in misery and it’s all we’ve ever known. And the future, it felt like the future couldn’t hold anything worth not taking that step. I understand those things, you probably won’t believe me but I do.

But here’s the truth. I’m not sure how the world will be after you’re gone. I don’t know if it’ll be a better place or not. I can’t guarantee I’ll survive it but, I also can’t guarantee I won’t be able to do something with this tragedy. I don’t know how this’ll affect me, because I rarely know how the morning will, or the night or my next meal, I can’t even begin to comprehend losing a friend. Because you are a friend, I can guarantee that. I can also guarantee that even if life is easier without you, it won’t be better. Everything else is hearsay.

I can guarantee that better does exist, but I can’t guarantee that you’ll reach it. I can guarantee that someone out there can use you in their lives. But I can’t guarantee if you will reach them. They might be on a ledge of their own, or they might be someone that lost someone to the ledge and they need you. Or it can be a billion different possibilities. I can guarantee that.

I can also guarantee my life would not be the same if you weren’t a part of it. I would not be writing about ledges and enjoying the view instead of thinking of stepping off. I would not be the me I am at this very moment if it weren’t for you. That I can guarantee. I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t have gotten here eventually, but it can never be the same. You are one in 400 quadrillion, I could never replace you. That I can guarantee.

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.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a love letter to another person with your disability, disease or mental illness. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To the Strangers in Whole Foods Who Surrounded Me After News of My Dad’s Suicide

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Dear Strangers,

I remember you. 10 months ago, when my cell phone rang with news of my father’s suicide, you were walking into Whole Foods, prepared to go about your food shopping, just as I had done only minutes before.

But I had already abandoned my cart full of groceries and I stood in the entryway of the store. My brother was on the other end of the line. He was telling me my father was dead, that he had taken his own life early that morning and through his own sobs, I remember my brother kept saying, “I’m sorry Deborah,  I’m so sorry.” I can’t imagine how it must have felt for him to make that call.

And as we hung up the phone, I started to cry and scream as my whole body trembled. This just couldn’t be true. It couldn’t be happening. Only moments before I was filling my cart with groceries, going about my errands on a normal Monday morning. Only moments before my life felt intact. Overwhelmed with emotions, I fell to the floor, my knees buckling under the weight of what I had just learned. And you kind strangers, you were there.

You could have kept on walking, ignoring my cries, but you didn’t. You could have simply stopped and stared at my primal display of pain, but you didn’t. No, instead you surrounded me as I yelled through my sobs, “My father killed himself. He killed himself. He’s dead.” And the question that has plagued me since that moment came to my lips in a scream: “Why?” I must have asked it over and over and over again. I remember in that haze of emotions, one of you asked for my phone and asked who you should call. What was my password? You needed my husband’s name as you searched through my contacts. I remember I could hear your words as you tried to reach my husband for me, leaving an urgent message for him to call me. I recall hearing you discuss among yourselves who would drive me home in my car and who would follow that person to bring them back to the store. You didn’t even know one another, but it didn’t seem to matter. You encountered me, a stranger, in the worst moment of my life and you coalesced around me with common purpose — to help. I remember one of you asking if you could pray for me and for my father. I must have said yes, and now when I recall that Christian prayer being offered up to Jesus for my Jewish father and me, it still both brings tears to my eyes and makes me smile.

In my fog, I told you that I had a friend, Pam, who worked at Whole Foods and one of you went in search of her. Thankfully, she was there that morning and you brought her to me. I remember the relief I felt at seeing her face, familiar and warm. She took me to the back, comforting and caring for me until my husband could get to me. And I even recall as I sat with her, one of you sent back a gift card to Whole Foods; though you didn’t know me, you wanted to offer a little something to let me know that you would be thinking of me and holding me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. That gift card helped to feed my family, when the idea of cooking was so far beyond my emotional reach.

I never saw you after that. But I know this to be true: If it were not for all of you, I might have simply gotten in the car and tried to drive myself home. I wasn’t thinking straight, if I was thinking at all. If it were not for you, I don’t know what I would’ve done in those first raw moments of overwhelming shock, anguish and grief. But I thank God every day I didn’t have to find out. Your kindness, your compassion, your willingness to help a stranger in need have stayed with me until this day. And no matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life altering moment, it is not all darkness. Because you reached out to help, you offered a ray of light in the bleakest moment I’ve ever endured. You may not remember it. You may not remember me. But I will never, ever forget you. And though you may never know it, I give thanks for your presence and humanity each and every day.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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.

*Sign up for our Mental Health Newsletter*

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Why We're Losing So Many Men to Suicide – and What We Can Do About It

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In the United States, there are an average 117 suicides per day.

In 2014, 7 out of 10 of those deaths were men.

For many years now, this has been a theme: Men take their own lives at a rate nearly four times more than women. Suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for males. The rising suicide rates in men has been called an “epidemic” in both medical journals and newspapers alike.

What’s even more troubling in light of these statistics, is that men are still half as likely to be diagnosed with depression than women. This means that although men are hurting, they aren’t reaching out and aren’t receiving proper treatment.

We spoke to Dr. John Oliffe, founder and lead investigator of the University of British Columbia’s Men’s Health Research program, to explore some of the reasons why suicide rates are so high among men, and learn what we can do to support men in our lives who need to know it’s OK to reach out for help.

Here are some potential factors:

1. Symptoms of depression can be harder to see in men.

Dr. Oliffe explained that even when men do seek help, they often present symptoms we don’t generally associate with depression.

“Irritability, alcohol overuse, getting into violent situations. Those can be depressive symptoms in a man,” he said. “Even as clinicians, we don’t think of that.”

This isn’t to say men never cry or show what may be considered “stereotypical” symptoms, but it does mean it’s easier for warning signs to slip through the cracks. Dr. Oliffe said he’s found in his research men themselves have a hard time identifying when they’re depressed, and when interviewed, will rarely use the word “depression,” opting for “stressed.” 

According to HeadsUpGuys, an online resource for men facing depression and their loved ones, other signs of depression include significant weight change, loss in concentration, reckless behavior and physical pain like backaches and headaches — signs easy to overlook for those who think depression is just sadness.

2. If men are uncomfortable expressing their emotions, they’re more likely to isolate.

If a man feels like he has to be “strong” — and therefore not vulnerable — he may begin to isolate himself instead of opening up. This is especially dangerous, considering lack of connectedness is a risk factor for a suicide attempt. 

“It’s not just the lonely guy in the corner,” Dr. Oliffe explained. “They can have people around them, they’re just not connected.”

3. Men are more likely to attempt suicide using lethal means.

When attempting suicide, men are more likely than woman to use lethal means. One study found that 62 percent of males, versus 40 percent of females, used hanging or firearms in their suicidal actions. This means for every suicide attempt, it’s more likely a man will actually die.

All men are different. But if you have a man in your life you’re worried about, here are some things Dr. Oliffe said might help:

Don’t take away his sense of control: If a man is refusing to seek help, Dr. Oliffe suggests reaching out to him in a non-confrontational way. Encourage him to seek help in a way that gives him control over the situation.

Find him a community: Dr. Oliffe suggests offering alternatives to traditional pathways of receiving support. If a man refuses to see a doctor, maybe there’s a community-based service in your area you can point him to.

Follow-up: Recovery is a process, and just because a guy reached out for help and is acting more like “himself,” doesn’t mean there won’t be pitfalls. Continue to be supportive and patient throughout his recovery. There often isn’t an easy, quick fix.

Educate him about depression and mental illness: Depression and other mental illnesses aren’t weaknesses. It doesn’t make someone “less of a man.” Encourage him to learn about biological causes of depression. Point him to online resources like HeadsUpGuys, where real men are championing the conversation about depression.

Because the conversation about suicide needs to change. And it start with us.

To see more work from Dr. John Oliffe, check out his project Man Up Against Suicide, which is funded by the Movember Foundation.

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 Steps That Helped Me Recover After a Suicide Attempt

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Since I’ve begun sharing how I went from a being a pastor to being hospitalized in a psych ward, people often ask about my recovery. Everyone wants to know, is there a single solution? Where does the magic lie? How do they get their own lives (or their loved ones’) back? Or, as others have said, “What is the one thing that made you want to start living again?”

The truth is, there’s no magic formula, but here are some intentional steps that made my life better. I’m not a professional therapist, and everyone has a different recovery story. I can only share from my own experience.

Here are five steps that helped me recover after my suicide attempt:

1. Accepting treatment. 

If I had cancer, you can bet I would take chemo. I might also listen to the naturopath’s advice to drink special juices and cut out refined sugars, or to follow the path of meditation to wholeness. But I would still take chemo.

Mental illness is a real thing. A disease. When the doctor says the chemicals in your brain aren’t firing correctly and a certain medication will help level you out, listen to the doctor.

It took a few tries to find the meds that were right for me, but it’s worth the hassle. Some made me too sleepy, some made me too grumpy, but eventually we settled on meds that helped me find my new normal.

Again, I’m no professional, but don’t rely on your primary care physician to help you sort out the complicated maze of mental health. You wouldn’t go to your family doctor for cancer treatment, so why would you do that for psychiatric needs?

Counseling was also an important part of my recovery. After my suicide attempt, spending time with a professional saved my marriage and, ultimately, my life.

2. Stop apologizing.

When my son was a toddler, he went through a very difficult time with his stomach. Frequently, he would vomit and make major messes. Each time, he would cry. “Dada,” he would say, “I’m sorry I frowed up.” My son couldn’t control having stomach trouble any more than I can control a panic attack in the middle of the work day. Both are inconvenient and problematic, but I wouldn’t choose anxiety or depression any more than someone would willingly choose to vomit.

I don’t owe anyone an apology for my mental illness. You don’t either.

3. Find a strong support system.

There are those who care about your soul, and there are those who only care to know what’s going on. It’s important to know the difference. Surround yourself with those who are willing to walk with you through the hard days. Be gracious with those who love you, but can’t help you.

4. Practice self-care.

Get good, solid, uninterrupted sleep. Don’t stay up all hours of the night to binge on your favorite show or read just one more chapter. I find when I’m tired, my symptoms are worse.

I’ve also learned to practice better eating. I’m a busy guy, and I’ve never been a big breakfast eater. See how I just made two excuses? No more excuses. Take your nutrition seriously. I’m not saying you have to join a gym, or post before and after pictures on social media. I’m just saying to eat as healthy as you can and as regularly as you can. It will help you feel better and get the most out of your day.

As a person with mental illness, there are so many triggers I can’t control — but I do have control over how I take care of myself.

5. Focus on the recovery, not the stigma.

The stigma of mental illness sucks. But worse is not getting better. And all any of us really want is to get better. Remember this: you are not your diagnosis. So, use your diagnosis to design a recovery plan and keep moving forward. Mental illness is not a death sentence.

Follow this journey on I Am Steve Austin. Click here to sign up for his free “Manifesto for Hard Days.”

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.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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