Why I'm Telling My Mental Health Story After My Brother-in-Law's Suicide

1k
1k
0

I imagine depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders as a dark shadow looming over you, whispering your biggest insecurities, worst fears and deepest scars in a continuous loop. Sometimes the voice mimics people from your past, even loved ones. The worst and most frequent is your own voice. How do you ignore your voice? You isolate yourself because you feel inadequate, but the more you isolate yourself the louder it becomes. You want help and often know you need it. Someone who is depressed isn’t always capable of opening up. Asking for help means burdening someone with your problems. It’s also risking they wouldn’t understand and might treat your issues as insignificant. It will pass… until it doesn’t. 

Brian Heng was my brother-in-law for many years, and he called me his sister even after my divorce. I watched him graduate from high school, and we had our noses pierced together. A wonderful uncle, Brian loved each of his nieces and nephew dearly. He loved writing poetry, drawing and painting. On October 23, 2014, at the age of 35, after a life-long battle with depression, Brian took his own life. He left behind his mom, his dad, his stepmom, two brothers, three nieces, one nephew, three sister-in-laws, a ton of devastated friends and other extended family members. There is not an easy way to sit down with your children and explain their uncle took his own life.

Man wearing a green hat and a green button up shirt.
Brian

I found one of my old journals while searching for something else in a closet. I thumbed through my words, written around age 18. “I enjoy imagining my suicide. The shot, footsteps running, finding my body. Calling everyone and telling them. The funeral. Mom and Dad would be devastated.”

I read my words, remembering how it felt to hear the dark shadow whispering to me. I had never told Brian about any of it. If he had known my story, would he have talked to me? I will never know the answer to that question, but I know Brian would never want anyone else to follow his path.

The journal entry I read wasn’t uncommon. I skimmed some of my older books, finding similar entries at low points in my life, as early as age 14. I wrote poetry about death, day-dreams about razor blades, pills and guns. At one point I had even cut. These things were all symptoms of something bigger, which I was unable to see at the time. Around the time of the journal entry mentioned above, I was 18, and living in my first apartment all by myself in another state. My dad and stepmom lived in one state and my mom lived in another. I was completely on my own, but I was independent and stubborn. After a series of poor decisions, the results of self-destructive behavior that pushed away most of my friends, I lost my job and feared I would lose my apartment. Feeling like a complete failure, I attempted suicide.

Sitting in my dark apartment, I thought about my parents, my friends and everything I would be leaving behind. I picked up the phone in my haze and called my best friend. I don’t remember what I said to her, but she was at my door within the hour with her mother.

A rescue squad took me to the hospital. “You’ll remember this for the rest of your life,” one of the nurses said. I’ll never forget that line. I realize now they were trying to scare me so I would never try to harm myself again. While my life has been far from perfect, it has been filled with perfect moments; amazing people, laughter, creativity and love. I am thankful every day to be here. If I would have succeeded, my daughters never would have been born. Raising them has been the most wonderful and challenging thing I have ever done. I tried not to discuss what happened. I worried people’s opinions of me would change if they knew about what I had done. 

I think one of the best things you can do for someone with any sort of mental illness is stop trying to fix them, and let them know you will be there no matter what happens — no judgments. All of us were so determined to get help for Brian that we lost sight of what he really needed — our love and support. There was so much more to him than his depression.

I feel those of us who have struggled with any kind of mental health issue have to be brave, uncomfortable, and therefore we must be vocal. Silence only serves the illness, feeding the isolation and self-destruction. After his death, I realized it was time to share my story in order to help others. I realize now I am proud of all aspects of myself, the dark and the light — even the shadows.

A little boy and girl lay on the floor with a framed picture of a man.
Peyton and Ayden, with a picture of their uncle. Photo by Photography by Bethany.

For those who have never suffered from depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders, here is a link with more information about mental health disorders: Suicide Prevention Toolkit.

A version of this piece originally appeared on Family Fusion Community

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.

1k
1k
0

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What the Media Shouldn't Forget When Covering the Rising Suicide Rate

3k
3k
6
Text reads I Lived over the image of a wave.
Image by Chris Maxwell.

In June 2006, at 23 years old, I survived a suicide attempt. I felt hopeless, futile, unloved, unworthy, without a future. I thought there was nothing else I could offer the world, or the world could offer me. So I tried to die.

A CDC report released last week shows a steady 24 percent increase in suicide rates from 1999–2014. The media are already running in some dangerous directions with this information.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, in partnership with several leading suicide prevention organizations, released a statement in response to the CDC report, urging safe, hopeful media coverage:

“The CDC data remind us that there is more we must all do to prevent suicide in our communities. However, it is important to be aware of data that indicates suicide prevention is effectively occurring daily, in ways that are rarely finding headlines. For every one person who dies by suicide in the U.S., there are approximately 278 people who have moved past serious thoughts about killing themselves, and nearly 60 who have survived a suicide attempt, the overwhelming majority of whom will go on to live out their lives. These untold stories of hope and recovery are the stories of suicide prevention.”

Ten years after my suicide attempt, I can say with confidence that life is good. It was worth sticking around for. I wish I could say I was cured of the depression, self-injury or of the suicidal thoughts, but I’m not. They still pop up occasionally.

The difference is that I have tools now I didn’t when I was 23. I have a community. I have people to turn to. So, even when my mind is trying to sabotage me, even when I think I’m the most useless, burdensome human on the entire planet, I know better. I use my tools: I feel my feelings; I wait it out; I get a giant, too-expensive Starbucks coffee and I wander around; I talk to my wife or my friends or my mom or my therapist; and eventually, it’s OK again. It’s not always better right away, but it’s OK enough to live through for another second, minute, hour, day, week.

I think you get it: we can live. It’s not easy. We’ll still suffer. But we can live.

Please remember when you read the sensational stories, the gross stories, the emotionally manipulative Shonda-style stories, the media can do better than this. They can report the facts, but they can also instill hope in those who need it. We all need it sometimes.

Today is a day when we need to remember those we’ve lost, and those who continue to live.

As loved ones of those lost to suicide, as those with lived experience of suicidal thoughts and attempts, as loved ones of those who struggle every single day, our voices are important. Our voices can inform and guide productive change. Let’s raise them, because our stories can save lives.

If you want to raise your voice right now, get on Facebook, get on Twitter, Tumblr, MySpace (wherever it is that you go and talk to people), and post something about how you lived through your own suicidal thoughts, through your own attempt or through the loss of someone you loved. Use the hashtag ‪#‎ILived‬ (as well as ‪#‎suicide‬ — activity on that one is skyrocketing this week) and this beautiful image made by Chris Maxwell.

Roar! This is how lives get saved.

If you’re in a rush, here’s a quick, pastable tweet to use with the image below: “For every person who dies by #suicide in the US, 60 will survive a suicide attempt. livethroughthis.org #ILived”

If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255 or Trans Lifeline at 1–877–565–8860. If you don’t like the phone, check out Lifeline Crisis Chat or Crisis Text Line. If you’re not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world.

For true, honest, hopeful stories of those who lived through suicide attempts, take a look at Live Through This.

If you’re a journalist and aren’t sure how to report on suicide, here are recommendations compiled by the world’s top suicide prevention organizations: http://reportingonsuicide.org.

This piece originally appeared on Medium.

Lead image by Chris Maxwell.

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.

3k
3k
6
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To the Teenager Who Thought She Didn't Want to Live

162
162
0

Dear teenage me,

You don’t have to have all the answers all the time. You don’t have to be everyone’s definition of perfection and constantly changing for the guy you’re with right now. You don’t have to change who you are for a single soul. Be yourself, darling. You are so perfect just as you are. You don’t have to be friends with people who are mean with you or shut out those who are nice just because the mean friends don’t like them.

You don’t have to stay in that relationship with that person you don’t love. You don’t have to be in relationships with men you don’t like just because they anger your parents. You will have a relationship one day with a man you love, who treats you so wonderfully you’ll think you’re trapped in a dream world. You won’t even believe he’s real. He will save your life eight times. You will finally realize he really does love you and you don’t have to live in fear of losing him.

Sweetheart, put the knife down. Put the pills away. You don’t have to hurt yourself. You don’t really want to die; we both know that. I can promise you it really does get better. I know you think all that “It Gets Better” stuff is bull, but as your future self, I can promise you it is most certainly not crap.

My love, you will live through all the horrible, traumatic, hard things you’re going through now, and you will be so happy when you’re 25. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will be worth it, and for the first time in your life, you will go a year without suicidal thoughts and two years without acting on any self-harm thoughts. Though there will be some struggles, it is all so very worth it.

Yes, you absolutely are strong, but, you do not have to be the strong one all the time. You are allowed to break down sometimes. You are allowed to break down in front of more than just your very best friend or yourself. Let more people in; it’s so worth it. You will find a wonderful community, amazing friends, the most beautiful love and last but most certainly not least, you will find yourself and start loving yourself. Please, be here for that. You can do this. We can do this. We have the strength of a thousand storms inside of us; we’ve seen it when we’re angry. Let’s use it to keep the fight to live going, OK?

I love you, always and forever,

Scarlett

A version of this post originally appeared on survivalscars.

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.

162
162
0
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

You Can Now Donate Your Social Media for Suicide Prevention Research

2k
2k
4

When someone you love dies by suicide, unanswered questions may overwhelm you. But according to psychologist Dr. April Foreman, after the shock, many go on to ask: What can I do so this doesn’t happen again?

A mom who had lost her son to suicide was trying to answer this question when she approached Chris Maxwell, Coordinator of Member Engagement for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. She told Maxwell she had some money she was interested in putting into an app. She wanted to create technology that would allow parents or friends to get notified if their loved one was planning on taking his or her life.

Maxwell called Tony Wood, co-founder of Suicide Prevention Social Media Chat, who called Foreman. All three are interested in the overlap between technology and public health, specifically suicide prevention. As they discussed the idea, they realized the issue wasn’t the app itself. It was that with lack of current research on suicide, they had no way of building an app they were confident could work.

“You know what would be more useful?” Foreman said, thinking out loud. “If we had her son’s data, so we could get a greater understanding of her son’s death.”

Data, meaning his social media accounts, and what Foreman calls the new “fossil of human behavior,” is what researchers need to get into the minds of people who have died by suicide. To learn about their behavior. To see if they can notice patterns. To see if they can then use those patterns to develop techniques or technologies to actually lower suicide rates, which despite the growth of technology, has increased by 60 percent worldwide in the last 45 years.

Then it hit them — maybe to fill the lack of data that has delayed substantial suicide research, they had to simply ask for it. Ask people to donate it. Like you would a kidney, or blood.

“It’s a game changer for suicide prevention researchers,” said Glen Coppersmith, CEO and founder of Qntfy, the company that took Foreman’s musings and made it a reality. “It’s the current day version of organ donation. And for people who care about suicide prevention, this is a way to help people who are suffering in a real way. I don’t want your money, I want your data.”

The process is much simpler than donating blood. Anyone interested can go to OurDataHelps.org, and in less than five minutes become a “data donor” by supplying your social media links and filling out a quick survey that includes your age, any mental health diagnoses you have and how many times you’ve attempted suicide — although even if you haven’t attempted suicide, Coppersmith said, your data can still help. You can also donate the data of a loved one who died by suicide, if you have access to his or her social media accounts.

Once you donate your data, the site automatically anonymizes the data by removing indicators like photos, names and e-mail addresses — any information that could reveal your identity.

“It’s an opportunity to make a real impact in the research,” Wood told The Mighty. “There’s simply not enough data available now. With the data that’s available now, you can do this kind of vague analysis, but you can’t really get into nitty gritty stuff. In order to push forward and get real results, we need data from real people. And we need a lot of it.”

Once enough data is collected, they plan to give it to leading suicide prevention researchers. They hope the information will be a big leap forward for developing technologies that can help prevent suicide.

“We have never found a way to put a dent in the suicide numbers,” Foreman said. “The only thing standing between us and using these new technologies is having enough information to study. And if you donate your or a loved one’s social media data, we maybe be one one step closer to saving someone else.”

If you’re interested in donating your data, visit OurDataHelps.org. There, you can read Frequently Asked Questions, and to learn more about how your data will be used, read their Privacy Statement.

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.

2k
2k
4
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Choice I Made After My Suicide Attempt

270
270
0

This is my story. But it’s not over yet.

Seven years. That’s how long I’ve lived with multiple chronic illnesses, along with depression, anxiety, OCD and ADHD.

Infusions every month. My veins that once were great now don’t look like they belong to a 16-year-old girl anymore.

Holidays in the hospital. More than once. You forget what day it is while you’re in there. You suddenly realize it must be Valentine’s Day, but the only way you know is because of the sweater the clinician who just took your vials was wearing.

Traveling all over the country to see yet another doctor. Just to find that they, too, have the same answer as all the others: “I don’t know.”

A year of intense suicidal thoughts. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. Everything was getting worse, and no one understood the fiery pain I felt inside. I overdosed. In the hospital for five weeks. Intensive therapy — inpatient and outpatient. Lots of tears. Lots of thinking. Lots of pain. Lots of hurting.

But this is my story. It’s not over yet.

You get to that point and you have to make a choice. You didn’t manage to die, so now the question is clear: Are you going to try life again?

My choice was yes.

My choice was to pick up all the broken pieces that were once my heart. One at a time, I held each piece. Each one was bruised and broken, and it looked like they were beyond repair. But people started stepping in — one at a time — and they each picked up a few pieces. They brushed off a little bit of dirt and handed the pieces back to me. I smiled as I put them back together. Maybe people were willing and able to help after all. Nurses, social workers, friends, family, therapists, clinicians — everyone picked up a couple of pieces. Some picked up more than others. There are lots of pieces. Millions. Scattered everywhere. Most of them I have to pick up myself. But at least, this time, I have help, and I know how.

It’s like trying to climb up a downward escalator. Sometimes you have to sit down and catch your breath. You might not ever quite make it to the top, but at least you can stay off the bottom. You realize the small things are truly huge victories. A genuine smile, a true laugh, a spark of hope. Some of the most incredible things in this world are taken for granted so very often.

I’m by no means past this. The escalator likes to match my speed sometimes. Some days I just feel stuck. But that’s why there’s help. Find someone who can help slow the escalator down a bit. It might never stop. But it doesn’t have to be so fast.

If my story sounds anything like yours, I know it’s hard. I know it hurts. I’m so sorry you’re in so much pain. But please, make the same choice. Because this is your story. It doesn’t have to be over yet. Find help. It’s out there. I promise. The broken pieces won’t ever look the same. But just maybe, they’ll end up even more beautiful.

This is my story. But it’s not over yet.

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.

270
270
0
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Dear Suicidal Self, From Your Well Self

313
313
0

Dear Suicidal Self,

You’ve been down this rugged path before. You’ve been gripped by the darkness, buried in your own tears and rendered helpless in days gone by. But today you have a friend in me, Your Well Self. You don’t have to face this alone. I am here to remind you not every day will be this way. You must put your faith in me and keep on fighting.

You have pulled yourself out of this situation a number of times. Self, you can do it again. This need not be the beginning of the end. Allow there to be hope for us, and for our future together. It’s your only sensible option.

Please Self, give us a fighting chance. This hurt and pain will eventually subside. This sadness may be chemical, or circumstantial, but don’t let it rob us of our future together. Self, if you have the strength for one thing, call the doctor. If you can’t do that, call a friend.

There are people out there who want to help you. You must believe it and embrace the fact during this difficult time. Think of the times before you didn’t let these intrusive feelings win. Muster up that strength again, Self. Because your life depends on it. Your loved ones depend on it.

You are not alone in this fight and battle for survival. People around you will help you put one foot in front of the other in the days to come. Self, you have dreams. Don’t let them dissipate into nothing. You want to be happy again, so take a chance on that.

Take a chance on your loved ones, that they will support you in this. Take a chance on your future. Allow your hopes, dreams and ambitions to resurface. They can still come to fruition. Self, this is all still possible if you just head my advice. Phone a trusted confidant, and let them in on your situation. You don’t have to face this alone. You are never alone. 

Sure it’s clichéd, but Self, seeking help is the first step towards a recovery journey. Take a sensible option and reach out. You’ve done this before and you can do it again. You’ve got this Self. We’ve got this together. I’m here for you. I’ve got your back.

Self, never, ever allow it to be your loved ones who are missing that someone special at their birthday or Christmas table. You wouldn’t wish that loss on anyone, would you? Don’t let your mind play tricks or games on you, pretending your absence would go unnoticed. It’s the furthest thing from the truth and Self, you know it deep down.

I know you just want the hurt to end Self, but suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. Can you imagine Self, right now, the news of the loss of a loved one? The reality of not seeing them again would be crushing. It would jolt you at the core. Don’t let that scenario play out for your loved ones. And don’t you dare let it play out for yourself.

Conserve that energy that’s occupying your mind on a way out, and save that thought space for recovery. You might hate me right now Self, for not allowing what you deem to be an “easy way out.” But trust me when I say, one day you will thank me for being with you through this, and speaking truth through my voice of reason.

One day soon Self, you will thank me for reminding you life is worth it. Your loved ones are worth it. You are worth it. Thank you Self, for remembering me and believing in me enough to read these words again. Hopefully you will not need them in the future. But if you ever happen to do so, they will be right here, waiting, to gently remind you that you are not alone. Never alone. 

Together we can still fulfill our dreams, but only if you trust me when I say there is so much more to live for. Sending all my love and strength to you My Suicidal Self. I’ll be waiting for you. I am hear waiting for you now, and on the other side of this.

Your Well Self.

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: 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.

313
313
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.