When a Suicide Attempt Has No Warning Signs

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Suicide. It’s a terrible word. One of the worst words for a parent to hear. As I was writing this, I received an email from the National Alliance on Mental Illness about suicide prevention. There are tons of posts on social media about suicide prevention because reports just came out about suicide rates being at an all time high.

This post is different than most posts about suicide. This is about impulsive suicide.

Last February, I got a call from my son’s school telling me I needed to come there.

They did not tell me why. When I got to the school, they told me to come sit down. I knew something bad had happened. They told me I needed to get my son evaluated. Wait, I need to go to the ER? I was so confused and disoriented. Everything had been OK. He was fine that morning. He was fine the day before.

The school informed me my son had suddenly tried to take his own life by running into oncoming traffic.

We went to the ER. They would not let him go home. I asked what would happen if I
tried to take him home. I was told that was not an option. The hospital psychiatrist actually kept using the word suicide attempt. It was so hard to hear. He had talked about wanting to die before, he would bang his head for long periods of time trying to hurt himself, but suicide attempt? That is not something that any parent wants to hear.

As a parent of a child diagnosed with a mental illness, losing my child this way is my worst fear. Even just hearing him say he wants to kill himself is excruciatingly painful. He’s not currently in crisis. If you asked me today he’s suicidal right now, I would tell you no. Not at all. If you asked him, he would say he is fine. That day in February, I would have told you he wasn’t suicidal either. He would not have met any warning signs.

But my son is impulsive. His moods change rapidly and he gets angry and upset without understanding why he’s angry and upset. If something triggers him, his anger and sadness can quickly escalate.

Most suicides are planned. These can be prevented. You need to listen to people, take people seriously and look for the warning signs. This is important and crucial. We need to advocate for funding, for reducing stigma, for early intervention and resources.

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But in some cases, suicide or suicide attempts are impulsive, unplanned acts. Some happen within five minutes of thinking about it for the first time. An article recently published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology states that “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents, and impulsivity has emerged as a promising marker of risk.”

So what do we do about that?

When the incident happened last February. I was devastated. I was scared. He was
scared. We were all scared. He acted impulsively. He could have died. Did he truly want to take his life or was he just angry and at that moment that was what his impulses told him to do? His flight reflex. I fear it will happen again.

Luckily, I was right there and was able to calm him down within an hour or so. But what happens when I am not there?

Suicide prevention is important. We need to know the warning signs and what to look out
for. But we also need to learn more about the underlying causes of impulsivity and the illnesses that result in our children acting this way. We need funding for more research for mental illness in general — the causes, medications and therapies.

For now, how do we prevent that from happening again? I do not have the answers, but
this is why I am doing what I do. More research needs to be done. As the email I received from the National Alliance on Mental Illness says, we need to advocate for funding, for answers, for the stigma to go away, for awareness.

We have to be vigilant. We have to learn triggers, continue to work on coping skills and how to manage and teach these children and make sure that behavioral programs in schools are adequate and appropriate.

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.

Follow this journey on Think of Happy Things.

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The X Ambassadors Song That Reflects How I Heal From Suicide Loss

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You know how it is. Sometimes you’re driving along in your car and a song comes on the radio that touches on something deep within. And before you know it, your vision is blurred as you drive through your tears.

One year has passed since my father’s suicide. More than 365 days since the call that changed my life forever. The ground shifted beneath my feet the moment the words were spoken. And I’ve not known what it feels like to be on solid ground since.

How do you love someone through a loss like mine? It is fraught with so many layers, pitfalls and obstacles. You can’t walk this path for me. You can’t drag me along at a pace that you believe will hasten my healing. But you can accompany me.

The song by X Ambassadors is called “Unsteady.” Today was the first time I’ve heard it. The chorus is simple, yet deeply profound.

Hold on, hold onto me
‘Cause I’m a little unsteady
A little unsteady

And that is all I ask. In time, I will find my footing. I will learn to carry this altered sense of self with strides that are more certain and strong. I will wear my status as “survivor” with a greater depth of purpose, but a lessened degree of palpable pain. I’m learning. It is still new. And I am hurting, even as I am healing.

The song says:

If you love me, don’t let go
If you love me, don’t let go

Hold tight to my hand. Walk with me in loving silence. Open your heart and listen. Let me tell you my truth. I do not trust this ground quite yet, lest it shift once again just as I find my stance. What was never supposed to happen, did. My faith provides no clear compass through this new terrain; like the GPS when I make a wrong turn, it is constantly recalculating.

So how do you love me through this loss, this unfamiliar terrain of suicide loss? The song says it all…

Hold on, hold onto me
‘Cause I’m a little unsteady

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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.

This blog was originally published on Reflecting Out Loud.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To the Survivor Who's Just Lost Someone to Suicide

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To the new Survivor of Suicide,

I was you. 

We will be Survivors for the rest of our lives, but in those first moments, everything is too raw to really understand what that means. So take a minute and breathe. Your life has just completely changed, but you will be OK.

The first person I called was a best friend, hoping she would tell me my boyfriend is probably fine behind that locked door to our back office. But she said she and her husband were on their way, and I needed to call 911. It’s OK if your first thought isn’t to call 911. What’s happening is  traumatic, and you’re in denial. You’re probably hoping the situation can be anything but what’s actually happening. Your first acceptance that you’re encountering a serious situation is tough, and it’s about to get tougher, but you will be OK.

“I’m sorry to say this, miss, but your husband — I mean your boyfriend is deceased.” When the statement finally comes, and your loved one’s death is confirmed, brace yourself for reactions you don’t expect. I was oddly silent. Maybe you’re hysterical. Nothing about the situation will be what you expect, but just remember to breathe. It might seem hard to believe in this moment, but trust me, you will be OK.

I walked outside to sit on my stoop, and a young officer followed and told me he’s not supposed to leave me alone. “When my friends show up, can you tell them?” I asked. It’s OK to ask for help. No matter what, you need to ask for help. It’s time to put humility aside and let people go out of their way for you. You need to heal, and eventually, you will be OK.

My friends arrived, and the officer pulled them aside. A gasp and suddenly there were arms around me. You will receive so many hugs in the coming days. A hug is someone physically telling you that you are loved. Don’t you ever forget that: You are loved and you will be OK.

My friend kept telling me when to breathe in and out. I’m pretty sure I would have forgotten if she wasn’t there. Basic things might seem hard for a while. If this happens, don’t be embarrassed. People love you and are sympathetic. If they can remind you how to do something simple and it’s successful, that’s something to celebrate. But maybe later. I know right now it seems like celebrations will never be possible again, but as time goes on, you’ll learn to love more and not get upset over the little things. You will be OK.

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Another friend showed up. I handed her my phone and told her I didn’t want to see it for a few days. She needed to make The Call. I threw up. Staring at the concrete and vomit, I suddenly thought of some of his and my friends. Where were they all in that moment, blissfully unaware? I envied them. I gave her a few names, knowing others could help spread the word. The Call is not fun, so don’t do it if you don’t want to. Always ask for help when you need it. Keep yourself in a safe place so you will be OK.

I realized I still hadn’t cried yet. “What is wrong with me?” I thought. If you experience this, it’s OK. My therapist would later tell me that is normal during shock. You’re not broken, just hurt. The crying will come tomorrow, and every day for a long time. But crying is healthy, so you will be OK.

Over the next several hours and days, people from all over the country were suddenly here. I dreaded the thought that everyone would eventually go home again and leave me all alone. But know you are never alone. You are loved. There is always someone who loves you. I love you. You will be OK.

I am sad to say I had some scary thoughts in those first two days and am eternally grateful no one left me alone long enough for me to process those thoughts fully. Suicidal thoughts are normal in the aftermath of a suicide, but you must not believe any of it. You are valuable. You are loved. There is help. I know suicide is suddenly more real than it ever has been before, but please believe me, you will be OK.

Since his death I have learned a lot. I have healed a lot. I read some books on grief by survivors like us. Coloring books are also oddly therapeutic. Stick to the things you love to do. Focus on you. Ask a friend to help you find a therapist, and if you can, one that specializes in grief. Finding the right therapist can be tricky and may take some trial and error, but when you get there, it is so worth it! There are support groups for survivors like us. Other survivors and myself are living proof that life after the suicide of a loved one is possible. I will always miss him, but I am OK, just like you will be too.

For life after those first 48 hours, I made a blog.

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 a Coldplay Song Taught Me About My Father's Suicide

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Music has the power to evoke such strong emotion. It can touch upon our deepest sorrows and our greatest joys. It might be intertwined with a cherished memory, bringing us back to the past, no matter where we stand today. Music can be part of our truth, our narrative of life. It can frame the way we see the world around us.

When I first lost my father to suicide I felt like an open wound. The words to a song could be a source of comfort or deepen my sense of pain. If the song, “Fix You” by Coldplay came on the radio, it would unleash sadness so profound it was hard to breathe.

And the tears come streaming down your face

When you lose something you can’t replace

When you love someone, but it goes to waste

Could it be worse?

Those words spoke to my loss. They were a reflection of the abundance of tears I cried day in and day out. It felt like such a waste to lose my father in this way, to suicide. And I could hardly fathom a pain that would feel worse. It was as if a song written years before my father’s suicide, were somehow written just for me.

And then came the part of the song that exposed my deepest wound, the profound guilt that I carried.

Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you

We, his family, were “home” for my father. He was tired. The suffering he felt as he fought a deep depression coupled with severe anxiety had most certainly reached in to his bones. “Bone weary” is the term that comes to mind when I think of how exhausted he must have felt. And oh how we tried to be the light in his darkness. With all that we had to give and with what we knew then, we tried to help him to heal and to find the strength to fight on. We tried to ignite within him that spark of hope that seemed to have gone out. He was caught in a storm, and we stood as a lighthouse, ready to guide him to
safety and calmer waters.

But it turns out we could not fix him. And because of that, we thought we had failed. Suicide leaves behind an abundance of blame that we took on as a family. As if our grief was not heavy enough, the missed signs caused our knees to buckle.

But I know today that we could not “fix” my father. He had an illness that required treatment. He would have needed to find the strength to seek it out. He would have needed to dig down into his already depleted reserves to find the resilience to work toward recovery. We could offer him love, unconditional and without judgment. And we did. We could reassure him that he was cherished just as he was. And we did. We could listen when he talked, hold him when he cried and support him on his journey to
wellness. And we did.

My father was not broken as a human being, though I believe he felt that way. And none of us is imbued with the power to fix another person, much as we’d like to in the face of such suffering.

It wasn’t our fault. I know that now. And I can hear that song today without allowing it to bring me back to that place. I cannot revisit that burden of guilt. The lyrics still evoke tears for the father I loved and lost. But it was not for me to fix that sense of brokenness. And I know  the love we shared, in the time we had, will never go to waste.

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: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with 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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If You Feel Like You're 'Losing' to Your Mental Illness, This Is Your Reason to Stay

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I’m sure you’ve stumbled across the photograph online, saying that if you’re looking for a reason not to hurt yourself, kill yourself or stay that “this is it.” I’m not going to post a photo. I’m going to tell you, one on one, why I need you to stay.

I know a lot of you reading this are struggling with mental health problems. We are all at different stages of our war with mental illness; some of us, however, are losing the battles. And it’s never simply “life is too hard.” It feels as though life is against us. It feels like everything we do is wrong, and slowly we end up thinking maybe the “something wrong” is us.

When you’re losing a battle, it can feel like your existence is the problem, and the only way to “fix it” is ending your life.

I’m here to tell you that’s not the answer. 

I, too, have lost battles before. I’ve relapsed and I’ve gone into dark places. I’ve been admitted into hospitals and I’ve attempted suicide, with plans, without plans. I have hurt myself and I have hated myself. I’m just going to be straight with you: it sucks. You feel alone, and you feel like you’re suffocating. You need a release. I get it. What you’re feeling, although terrible, is not unnatural or weird. It’s OK to feel this way.

But it’s not OK to act on these feelings. Although it’s best to talk to a therapist, or head to the hospital or even call the suicide lifeline, our society will still frown upon mental illness. It’s covered and dipped in stigma. We need the help for the terrors in our heads, but we’re too afraid to be called crazy or to go on medications. We’re too afraid of what others think.

For so long I was too ashamed to get help. It was easier to live in pain and to let myself suffer. After a suicide attempt and fight with a former partner, I ended up being arrested and held on a psychiatric hold. I stayed in the mental hospital for some time. I’m not proud of what happened, and I’m not going to sugar coat it, it wasn’t easy. But it was a blessing in disguise, and the greatest thing to happen to me. Because now, I am open about my mental health problems. I know I have a support system and doctors in my corner. I can openly speak to my doctor about medications and treatment options, and I can advocate. And I know now there is no shame in getting treatments for having a mental illness.

Now, I want you to forget the rest of the world. It’s only you and me:

Your health, your stability and your happiness come before anything else.

There’s no shame in being “crazy.” We are sick. And sometimes we need extra attention, we need extra care. It is OK. You can seek the extra help. I need you. I need to know you’re OK. I need you to know through all of this, through all of these scary thoughts, there are calmer days ahead. Please breathe. And please call for help.

If you need a reason to stay, please let this be your reason.

Please don’t hurt yourself. You are beautiful and you are loved. And I will be devastated if you’re gone. Keep fighting, stay strong. It’s OK to lose a battle; but please keep fighting the war. And please know, I’m on your side, fighting with you.

Follow this journey on Taylor’s site.

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.

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To the Friend Treating Me Differently After Finding Out About My Suicide Attempt

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Dear friend.

I know you care, and I know you’re concerned. I’m sure you have no idea what to do around me anymore, and I’m sure you’re just trying to do the best you can. I know something about your view of me changed when you found out I’d attempted suicide. I know because everything is different now. The way you look at me, our conversations, everything. I don’t know how you feel. I’m sure you’re in some sort of emotional pain, and I’m so sorry I’ve caused that for you. But what’s done is done, and all we can do is keep moving forward.

I just want to ask you one thing. Listen to me. Just for a moment. The girl you used to know, the one who dances around a store just because she likes the song playing, the girl who’s always smiling and chatting away, the girl who loves socializing and horses and dancing; the writer, the girl you used to call your friend, is asking you to hear her out. Not the new girl you look at cautiously, overanalyzing everything she says.

I’m still here. It’s still me. I still love horses and dancing and writing and talking and laughing. My words carry the same amount of weight they used to carry. My jokes are still real and aren’t some sort of secret cry for help.

Maybe I’m not the girl you thought you knew. Maybe you were one of the many people who saw my smile and took it at face value. Maybe you were one of the people who thought my life was going well and I was happy. Maybe you were one of the people who would guess out of a hundred people that I’d be the last one to possibly have depression or be suicidal. I know I don’t always show exactly how I feel. 

I’m not your friend because I want a person who’s constantly concerned about me. I’m your friend because I like spending time with you as you and me. Just two humans. Not one normal person and one suicidal person. I’m still a person. I’m still me. I’m still the girl you spent countless hours talking to about anything and everything.

friends at prom

I want you to know something else. I miss you. I miss my friend. Because you’re not the same person you were before you found out about my suicide attempt. You’re suddenly afraid and analytical. I’m still me. I’m still here. I want my friend back. I want the friend who would make a face at me from across the room just because you felt like it. I want the friend who would make jokes freely without overthinking them and laugh genuinely. I want the friend who would play a game with me and really play the game, not let me win out of fear that a loss would make my depression spike.

Please, just look at me. It’s still me. I’m still the same girl you always knew. I’m not a different person than I was before. But you are. So please, bring my friend back. I miss you.

With love,

Your old 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.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? 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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