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Why Suicide Prevention Month Is Difficult as a Suicide Attempt Survivor

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I feel I must begin by stating I am not currently suicidal.

But, the constant bombardment of suicide chatter all month threatens to push me over the edge.

Please don’t get me wrong — I find it wonderful the powers that be on social media have chosen a month to focus on suicide awareness. There is so much stigma surrounding mental illness, every dialogue is a blessing. However, this month is extremely hard for me. I have stood on that proverbial ledge and contemplated jumping. This month is a steady reminder of how close I came to ending my life. Each new post or tweet renews those feelings, each time I speak up, I tear open old wounds.

When Suicide Prevention Month hits, I find myself confronted with the topic of suicide from all angles, inside and out. Much like being surrounded by the sights and smells of delicious foods makes you hungry, the steady barrage of posts about suicide brings my consciousness right back to that deep, dark place I struggle to avoid at all costs. My mind is already inundated with thoughts of suicidal ideation, that little demon that tries to lure me in with abstract ideals. That imp swears that death would be freeing, drifting away into peaceful nothingness away from all the pain. I already struggle to push those thoughts away, choosing to continue my struggles rather than surrender to that beast. Yet during September, I not only have to battle my own mind, but external sources as well.

I know I’m in the unique situation to give insight into suicide because I have attempted it myself. I try to reach out and speak up when I am able because I understand how important it is to talk about, but it is draining beyond explanation. Imagine taking your worst days, your biggest traumas, and rehashing them again and again for a month. Imagine spending a month seeing those around you tweeting and retweeting about that pain, encouraging you to talk about it again and again. My own mind already haunts me, tormenting me regularly with the traumas of my past. On top of that, I am now bombarded with well-meaning people who want to discuss suicide. Many truly do not understand mental illness so they cannot comprehend how hard that conversation is for me to have once, let alone repeatedly over the course of the month.

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I imagine things aren’t any easier for those who have lost someone to suicide. Hearing the topic discussed for weeks must tear open the wounds and begin a month of steady mourning. I see them, too, trying to speak up about their experiences and their loss. Grieving is hard enough to do on your own terms without having to do it publicly again and again. My heart always goes out to them.

I try to stay strong, to remain positive, to not let it eat at me, but that little demon already has ideation playing in my mind on a loop. It doesn’t take much for suicidal thoughts themselves to start digging their way into my psyche, as well. Each story shared by others is heart-wrenchingly relatable, and each time I speak up, it’s beyond devastating. As much as I want to get involved, to speak out and help others, I know my limits and cannot share as much as others may prefer or believe that I should. I know the upcoming battles others face because I’ve fought them all before. As much as I know this month is beneficial for so many, it is pure torture for me. I spend the month feeling raw and glaringly alone.

Please be patient with the survivors of suicide, whether we kept living after attempts, or have survived the loss of people we loved. Talk to us and make sure we’re OK. Keep us in your hearts, thoughts and prayers. Speak up when we cannot. This isn’t a battle just for the survivors of suicide. It is important that everyone keeps living and keeps fighting so together we can make the world a better place. Even one more life lost because someone feels worthless and alone is one life too many.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Image via Thinkstock

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Your Story Matters, No Matter What

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Navigating through life is hard. There are so many bumps and waves and moments on this journey where the end of the tunnel is dark. Moments ingrained so deep in anxiety and panic that the brain shuts down.

Where the end of the maze isn’t reachable because it feels as though it’s never-ending. Moments where the trauma and pain is overwhelming. Where the smallest event or word can set off a trigger. During these moments, ending everything may seem like a solution because the darkness is overwhelming. Though each experience is different, I promise you it will get lighter even if things are pitch black right now.

I want you to know I don’t have the answers. I’m not even sure if I have one. Our stories are different. Your anxiety may be different than mine. You may or may not have been affected by suicide. You might not have had an eating disorder. But regardless, no matter what I’ve been through or what you’ve been through, our stories are so valuable. No experience is identical, but that’s what makes them full of worth.

That’s what makes our stories matter.

There are days where I’m in a heap in the middle of the floor feeling like my legs can’t hold me up because the weight of the world is crushing. Days where I question everything I’ve ever done in my life, days where I worry incessantly to the point where I become physically ill, and days where I feel like I’m not good enough and am stuck in a self-loathing cycle.

Losing my dad to suicide fractured my life is so many places. I’m still trying to figure out how to put them back together, where they all fit. Sometimes I start to put them back and they slip out of my hands, shattering back on the floor. But in trying to put the pieces back, I’ve learned that speaking out, becoming a catalyst for change, is so important. For years, I was quiet about suicide because of the stigma. I was worried about what other people would think of me. Worried that people might think I’m being dramatic or pitying myself. But in actuality, none of those things were correct. My irrational mind was speaking, silencing my rational mind. Now, I am relieved to have found my voice. Suicide is such an important matter, and I hope more people will start to speak out.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

I only knew my dad for eight years. I have a letter I kept when he was in the hospital dealing with bipolar and depression. He wrote to my sister and I, “I’m working on being a better daddy to you girls. Please be good for Mommy and know that I love you and Mommy very much.” For years, I held such anger towards my dad for leaving us. Anger because I didn’t understand why or how he could do this. It took time, but I’m no longer overcome with anger when I think of my dad. I’m sad that he couldn’t overcome his demons. My dad fought. He wanted to get better, but he just couldn’t get out of the dark place. I know he wanted to be the best dad he could to my sister and I. I know he loved us.

Speaking out about suicide, telling my story and becoming a catalyst for change and prevention is a part of my healing. I will always love my dad and hope we can get people the resources they need to get better, to feel like they’re not alone.

Though Suicide Prevention Month is in September, let’s continue to use our voices throughout the year to incite change. Our stories are different, but they’re all important.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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What We Can't Ignore About Suicide and Access to Guns

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In the five decades since my father’s suicide by gun, I have made my peace with his deliberate death. I had told my son Peter just how devastating my father’s death was to me as a young girl, so it hurt me that much more when he followed his example in 2012. I tried my whole life to not let suicide be my family legacy and I felt like I failed. I realize my son’s tragic act was not about me, but that knowledge hurt, too. Of course his ultimate rejection of life, family and love will affect me to my core for as long as I live. We mean more to each other than we can ever know. I wish everyone realized how much.

Like most survivors, I searched high and low for an explanation — anything to make sense of my son’s incomprehensible act. No doubt the fact that Peter knew what my father had done influenced him, although it’s beyond me whether the cause lay in his genes or in his awareness of suicide as an option. But as I combed through the details of my son’s life to find answers and then dug into the research, one thing became clear — the fact that he kept a gun in his house increased his risk by making suicide too easy, quick and certain. The science on this is settled — the longer it takes, the harder it is to do and the more lives are saved by an intervention or a change of mind.

About blame, love leads me to forgive and release any offense. All his suicide note said by way of explanation was, “Something is wrong with me and life seems like too much of a burden.” Likely it was depression that hid from him his own capacity to get better. I believe he did not know how to handle his emotions and was ashamed to ask for help. How I wish he’d told someone how badly he felt. I know he could have found relief, a way forward and eventually joy. I have learned that darkness cannot claim a monopoly over us forever.  It takes its place within a rich spectrum of experiences.

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As for guilt, I made plenty of mistakes as a parent. Most of all, I regret I did not speak up more about the risks and odds involved to counter the mass marketing of guns for protection. Peter bought his gun just after buying a modest home just outside Baltimore. In the city, gun violence disproportionately takes the lives of black males. Much less in the news are those lost to suicide — more than homicide with white males over-represented in this toll. I’ve made it my mission to share what I’ve learned the hard way. It’s not about blaming myself, my son or the gun. It’s about saving other people’s fathers and sons, as many as possible, by taking simple precautions that cost next to nothing.

For the first time since my son’s death, I feel I can relax a little now that two powerful organizations have taken up this cause. The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention is teaming up with the National Shooting Sports Foundation to educate gun owners and sellers on the risks, signs and steps to reduce the terrible toll of lives lost to suicide by gun. The most effective step is to remove firearms from the home if someone is known to be suicidal.  Always, store guns unloaded, in a safe. Keep ammunition locked up in another location lest this terrible urge come without any obvious warning.

This piece originally appeared on Alliance of Hope.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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A Letter to My Suicidal Thoughts

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To My Suicidal Thoughts:

You’ve been in my head for the past few years, as a constant thought and stream of consciousness. You are a part of me. I spend so much time talking about you and what you do to me, that I’ve never actually addressed you.

I’m angry with you. Of course there’s obvious reasons why I’m upset with you. You don’t make me feel good. You make me question myself. You put a shadow over my happiness, and you torment me with myself. But that’s just the surface. I’m angry because there’s apart of you that provides me with comfort. You’re a warm blanket on rainy days in bed. You’re a cup of coffee in the middle of the night. You’re not good for me, but I still have a soft spot for you.

I don’t know how it’s comforting to have you around. I think part of it is because I’ve made you my truth. You’ve infected me with thinking there’s no other way out. You’ve caused me to think you’re the only answer; that I’m destined to follow through with you. I fantasize about you. You’re a dark day dream.

But as I grow older, I’ve come to realize you don’t love me back. You’re abusive. You’re mean. You don’t want me to enjoy my family, or friends, or follow through with my passions. You want me to stay with you, drown with you, be engulfed in you. That’s not love. That’s control. All these years I looked at you for an answer, but all you wanted was to be the dominating thought in my brain. You want to win, and that’s your end game. You want me to die. And that’s not the kind of love I’m searching for from myself. I don’t want to take my life; I want to live it… even if you try to tell me differently.

I want to leave you; but the truth is you will always be part of me. You will come back in dark times, and you will float through my head even on wondrous days. I don’t know if I will ever be free entirely from you. You have grown roots within me, and I will have to do a lot of work to have you gone. You’re not something I can just shut off. Even though you infect me, you’re not an infection. You’re chronic, and I don’t have much control over when you come. I would banish you if I could. That’s just not how you work. You’re an unwelcome permanent guest.

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I’m sure you’ve noticed me drifting away. I’ve noticed you trying to come back to me stronger than ever. Yes, I can hear you, but I’m choosing to ignore you. And it’s hard, because you try to reel me in with such sweet words. You entice me with empty promises. But I’ve fallen in love with something else; life. Life doesn’t provide me with comfort; it pushes me outside to dance in the rain instead. Life makes me think hard about the future, and all the destinations I will reach, not just my last stop. Life is scary, because it’s unpredictable; but I’d rather take the gamble than succumb to your darkness again. Life will be my secret weapon to live long, and happy. Life is the reason I will win against mental illness. I know even though my choice is Life, you will still come back to haunt me. And I know someday you may take over again, and I may lose briefly. But you’ll never defeat me. You will never fully have me.

You are tempting; but you won’t take me. And I’ll spend the rest of my life fighting against you, if that’s what it takes. 

-A Mental Warrior

Follow this journey on Taylor’s site.

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

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

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When the Suicide Statistics Are Stacked Against You

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As a transgender person, I have a 41 percent chance of attempting suicide. As a youth transgender guy, my changes are even higher. As a high school student, I have an increased chance of attempting suicide; one in six high school students seriously consider suicide, one in 12 attempt suicide. All of the odds are stacked against me, yet I’m still here.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t imagine my dog going to my bedroom door and me not being there to let him in.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t put my parents through that pain. I couldn’t imagine how they would live without their only son.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t let him be the last person who talked to me, leaving him wondering what he missed. Leaving him wondering how he didn’t see I was at my breaking point.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t leave them up at 2 a.m. every morning, wishing for a text. Their phone would never buzz.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t leave her alone, without a best friend. No one should have to lose their best friend. Not like that.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t have him questioning every day how “Are you OK?” wasn’t enough to say, “I need help. I need help staying alive.” I couldn’t let him regret caring.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t let God let her down. Leave her without a friend who helped her keep an open mind and an open heart. I couldn’t let her think God had failed her. God makes no mistakes.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t let the younger transgender kid at my school think that’s just the way the world works. Some of us live, some of us don’t.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t miss out on my infinite opportunities despite my situation.

And so I kept living.

I couldn’t turn my dreams into ashes.

And so I kept living.

And so I kept living.

And so I’ll keep living.

If you’re thinking about suicide, you deserve immediate help—please call the Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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If You're Unsure If You 'Deserve' to Participate in World Suicide Prevention Day

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A few years ago, on September 10, I messaged a friend to tell him I was glad he was still alive. I did this because this friend had survived an attempt to end his life, and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day – I thought if there was ever a day I wanted this survivor friend of mine to know he was loved, it was today. I hadn’t known him yet when he attempted and I never would have known him if he hadn’t survived. I wanted him to know my life was better because he was still alive to be in it.

My friend responded quickly and told me he didn’t know about the day’s significance, but he was really appreciative that I’d reached out. I smiled, glad to have encouraged him, but as I went about the rest of my day I had an anxiety nagging at me. Was it OK for me to celebrate my own life on this day, too?

I hadn’t (and haven’t) ever attempted to end my life, but I have spent entire years wrestling with the Liar that is Depression, and that Liar has displayed what seems like boundless energy and cruel creativity in talking me towards giving up. I hadn’t ever attempted, but suicide was a demon I had faced down with alarming frequency. I hadn’t taken any tangible action to end my life, but I had overcome persistent pushes toward a permanent ending.

But if I’m honest, I don’t think I was really wondering whether my struggle had earned me the title of Survivor or not. The issue wasn’t really whether my life had been sufficiently threatened, but whether my life was sufficiently valuable – whether the breath in my lungs was worth being grateful for. If September 10 were a day for us to acknowledge the struggling, to rally around them and tell them their continued existence was a precious, worthwhile thing, I wasn’t sure whether I belonged in either camp, the ones of the supporters or those worth supporting.

Thankfully, my life looks a lot different now than it did back then. I still wrestle with lies sometimes, but most days, I experience wellness. I even often experience health, and on days when I don’t, I think I see my struggle more clearly – as something that is not my fault and which is not a reflection of my heart, and as something I am far from alone in. September 10 doesn’t bring painful questions for me anymore, and I’m thankful for that. This letter is for those who are still unsure.

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If you experience depression, if your depression has tried to undermine your sense of safety or told you that you are better off dead, this day is for you.

If you have acted on those thoughts, this day is for you, but if you haven’t, this day is for you, too. Whether you are finally in a healthy space, struggling towards wellness, or just trying to keep the earth below your feet, this day is yours.

Whether you have people to acknowledge this day with, or if nobody knows your story, if you haven’t been able to open up yet: you are worth celebrating. You deserve to be known. You are loved. If nobody else has said this to you, allow me: this day is for you.

My hope is that the lie of loneliness will have less hold, year after year, until one September you are able to know without question your worth, and join those of us who are already grateful you are still alive.

If you notice money going to campaigns, hear conversations being had, if you see people sharing their stories, and you feel as though you are on the outside, or you wonder your place: the very reason this is happening is because your pain matters.

People are giving their money, time and words because your struggle matters. We are moving together to make hope and help known because your story matters and
we need it to continue.

Whether you feel a sense of triumph, or have mixed feelings about still being here, if you are not sure whether it’s a good thing that you are still around to see this day: this day is still for you. It is good that you are here to see it. You are not alone. You don’t have to feel a certain way about being alive for your life to be worth celebrating. Whether you are a victor in the clear, a warrior still in the fray, whether you can see the battle with clarity or if it’s impossibly dark, this day is yours.

There is no mold to fit. There is no prerequisite. Your life matters, and we say with greater intention on September 10 the things we feel just as much on every single day on the calendar. It is good that you are still breathing. Please keep being alive. The fight is always worth it. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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