text reads: 41 secrets of suicide attempt survivors

41 Secrets of Suicide Attempt Survivors


It’s a heartbreaking and complex phenomena: the only way to truly understand why someone would take his or her own life is to also be suicidal or experience suicide ideation. While suicide attempt survivors crave understanding and empathy, they by no means wish their feelings of hopelessness on anyone else.

But they need to be able to talk about them.

A stigma of its own exists around someone who has attempted to take his or her own life, but survived. “How selfish!” “How could you do that to us?” “What is wrong with you?” But if others were able to genuinely understand the mindset one has when attempting suicide, the judgments may not come so quickly. The criticism may lessen. And by spreading real understanding, we may be able to take steps to help those still struggling.

We asked suicide attempt survivors what they wish others understood about their experiences. Their answers are heartfelt and difficult to read, but so, so 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. You are so important. Please stay.

Here is what our community had to say:

1. “In the mind of the person thinking about the act, it is the complete opposite of a selfish decision. In that moment, we truly feel the world would be a better place without us. It’s a situation I’m glad some people don’t understand because it means they’ve never felt those feelings, but one which people who have never experienced themselves shouldn’t be so quick to judge.” — Jen D.

2. “For me, it’s less about death and more about ceasing the pain. It’s difficult to explain how death would make you feel more alive than ever. I wasn’t running from my problems. I was desperately searching for a way to conquer them.” — Kacie S.

3. “It will never leave the back of your deepest thoughts. And on days of depression it will fly into the foreground in an instant. It has its own eyes, ears and voice. It will try to lure you back. You have to be strong enough to acknowledge it’s [sometimes] a companion for life. It will stick with you through thick and thin. Don’t let it fulfill its quest to destroy.” — Andrew G.

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4. “It wasn’t really about dying. It was about escaping unbearable pain when I couldn’t see any other option. And I was convinced everyone would be happier if I was gone, that I was doing them a favor by unburdening them. This is why guilt trips like ‘think of what you’re doing to your loved ones’ don’t work for me… I’m so grateful to still be alive today. The pain did fade. I found other options. And I want to stick around, to see how this life of mine will play out.” — Erin L.

5. “Do you understand how much it hurts to be criticized for having this in our past? Do you know how much it hurts to be called ‘selfish,’ ‘stupid’ and ‘crazy?’ If you have never had suicidal ideation, please do not place judgment on those of us who have, because of course it doesn’t make sense to you… it doesn’t make sense to most of us either. Unfortunately it still happens, and we deserve help, not hate.” — Kerri S.

6. “My attempt had nothing to do with how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ my life is. It came from being tired. Tired of being me, tired of pretending, tired of being depressed.” — Valerie S.

7. “We each live with our own reality. The emotional pain we feel becomes physical and it feels like there is no light at the end of our tunnel.” — Christine G.

8. “I have [attempted suicide] numerous times and am not ashamed to admit it anymore because yes, sometimes I feel like I don’t want to be here or that people are better off without me.” — Simon H.

9.I shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for what I did. I tried the pills, exercise, getting out more, I worked through the lists of the ‘acceptable’ courses of action. It felt like my last resort.” — Lindsey G.

10. “Sometimes it is not just trauma that causes the thoughts or actions. Sometimes it is a medication that causes it too. Don’t make judgment calls on others who are going through it. Ask what you can do to help. Try to understand that they may not know why the thoughts are coming into their heads. Just be there for them to support them when needed.” — Solana C.

11. “When I tell my story, it’s not for attention. It’s a way for me to reach out and make others realize they’re not alone. I want my story to inspire others to keep going, to continue to fight, and to take the steps towards a happier and healthier life.” — Megan D.

12. “I wish people knew that it didn’t mean I didn’t love them. At the time, I honestly believed I was doing everyone a favor. I wish people knew the thoughts will always be there for some, and we deal with it day by day. It can be a lifelong process, almost like a recovering addict. I don’t think I’ll ever fully heal.  I wish people would stop calling it selfish. Stop acting like it is something we’re doing to smite you. It’s. Not. About. You.” — Moranda J.

13. “I don’t really want to die. I just want to kill the way I feel, shut up the incessant chatter in my brain, have a break from feeling like the worst most unworthy and unlovable creature on earth. It is not selfish nor cowardly. It is not to hurt you. It is pure unadulterated desperation.” — Andrea T.

14. “My depression, my anxiety, my PTSD are just as serious and devastating as a physical disability. Suicide is not the coward’s way out. It is real. The pain, the emotions, the devastation. I’m blessed to have survived my attempt, but I still battle with the demons in my head. I don’t think there may be anything more devastating than having two beautiful amazing kids and still feeling like suicide is the only answer. The pain is so real, and it’s something I deal with on a daily basis.” — Lindsey J.

15. “When I attempted suicide, it was because I was so engulfed and overwhelmed with something I had absolutely zero control over. It felt like I was being controlled by a source and that’s what it wanted me to do. Fortunately, I [survived]. Fortunately, I live to tell the tale. And to whoever is reading this, even if you don’t believe it gets better, at least you’re not alone.” — Marlene J.

16. “I truly believed I was doing what was best for my family. When people say that suicide is selfish it bothers me. I can honestly say I wasn’t thinking at all about myself.” — Jessica M.

17. “It’s not a cry for attention. It is the never-ending pain of trying to live in a world you believe you don’t belong in.” — Abbie M.

18. “I can honestly say it was never because I couldn’t speak to anyone or because people weren’t saying the right things. It was by far my anxiety attacks that would drive me over the edge. The pain that goes with anxiety it wicked and debilitating. I just wanted to feel normal again. I wanted the anxiety to go away. I tried everything to fix it. Eventually I felt hopeless and felt the only way to stop it was by taking my own life… There is hope and there is help. Reach out.” — Lisa B.

19. “The mind totally shuts down in the act of self-harm or attempted suicide. I wish people understood that saying, ‘Think of your family/friends” doesn’t work because there is no thinking going on. I was a zombie. All I knew was I wanted everything to stop. I didn’t want to be lonely or ‘in the way’ anymore. I wanted everything I was and had become to just stop. I just wish people understood that depression and suicide go far, far deeper than ‘it gets better.’” — Ida M.

20. “You never forget about it, and you’re never quite the same as before the attempt. You carry it around like a weight on your shoulders. Some days are harder than others, and some days you don’t have to carry the weight alone. Many are quick to judge, but if we don’t speak out about our experiences, how are we able to expect others to understand? Education is the only thing that can combat ignorance.” — Rebecca R.

21. “It becomes additional trauma to deal with.” — Beth W.

22. “I desperately wanted the soul-crushing pain to cease, and in that moment I was only focused on stopping the pain. I was not thinking of the consequences of my suicide.” — Mary Z.

23. “I have felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest. I have fallen to the floor crying uncontrollably. I felt like I was drowning and like no one could save me. At that moment, all I felt was anguish.” — Helen Z.

24. “It’s not something to be joked about or looked over. I wanted to stop being a burden to those around me and to silence the pain within me. I felt tired of feeling like a failure or a pest to others, even though I wasn’t. It’s a serious thing. Do not joke or roll your eyes at those who’ve attempted. You don’t know the constant battles we endure on a day to day basis.” — Liza G.

25. “Some people ask, “how could you ever give up on life?” They don’t understand the fact that the will of a suicide is more than just a simple desire. Even though you try not to think about it, even though you don’t want to do it, there is this strong and hopeless feeling of just… doing it.” — Daniel S.

26. “Attempting suicide is not weakness. It can be a cry for help, which takes much strength to ask for when your mind does not want you to. It is a lack of understanding within yourself and from others. It is confusion when you constantly feel like a failure. It is a permanent solution to a temporary feeling that doesn’t feel temporary at all. It is so much more than a mere escape from suffering, and it is sometimes the only conclusion our brains with illnesses can make for ourselves when we don’t know what else to do.” — Sami S.

27. “Honestly? I was angry. Angry [I survived]. Embarrassed that my family would learn of my ‘failure.’ Terrified to talk to my friends because I didn’t trust them enough with the full depths of my disease. I felt like a fraud. And even though I fight it, every single day a part of my hates myself. And sure… sometimes it gets better. In fact, it can be amazing. You just have to be patient through the pain and wait for the good to come again.” — Jailyn M.

28. “For me it was about wanting the voices to stop. I felt like I didn’t belong. I still feel like that most days. It was about wanting the pain to dull just for a moment so I could breathe long enough to catch up. It wasn’t about being selfish in that way. I always thought my family and friends would be better without me. I still struggle every day, and my scars are proof I survived. I don’t want people to understand. Just listen and respect.” — Cassandra R.

29. “I wish others understood I am not a danger to them. After my attempt, my friends kept me at arm’s length rather than drawing close to me because they were afraid I would hurt them too. It left me feeling more isolated and rejected than ever. I also wish people understood the power of what seems like a simple little thing. A hug. A text. A phone call, even if I can’t bear to answer and you get my voice mail. Tiny little things that are actually huge things because they say, ‘I want you here, I want to help you fight.’” — Jennifer K.

30. “It’s wrong to presume I had a precise handle on my thoughts and knew exactly what I was doing. I didn’t. I still don’t. Every time I recollect it, there’s a new explanation, a new piece. There will always be new pieces, and that makes you so tired. But when you try to forget, it comes back to you some other way, always, every day. Nothing and nobody else can stop it, so you need to learn to quell it… It’s the hardest, most confounding thing I’ve ever done.” — Keisha F.

31. “By the time you get to that point, you’ve been exhausted for what feels like your entire life. Sisyphus with the boulder. Just getting out of bed to pee is so f*cking difficult. You can’t be convinced life is ever going to get better, and you’re so certain that your very existence is only dragging everything down with you as you continue on.” — Myrlyn B.

32. “It was an instant regret. I was in so much pain I wanted it to stop, but as soon as I took too many pills, after I thought, ‘Oh my God what have I done?’ I want people to know it’s not all about dying. We are all just trying to end our emotional pain.” — Teresa A.

33. “It’s hard for people who have not felt those depths to understand how someone could possibly think taking your own life is the answer, especially when [that person is a] parent. ‘How could you do that to your son?’ ‘Your son needs you!’ and so on. In those moments, when my depression has control… I truly believe my son would be safer, healthier and happier with out me.” — Samantha L.

34. “It’s not cowardice. I didn’t want to put [my family] through all the badness and turmoil I was and still am going through inside my head. It’s been a long, hard road for me to realize that suicide is not the best option.” — Chris M.

35. “Nothing about suicide is selfish. All of life seems to be selfish. We all have to take care of ourselves. And suicide is the only option I knew to fully and completely take away the pain I feel every moment of every day… We need compassion, understanding, caring and nurturing.” — Marco O.

36. “Suicide is not the ‘easy way out.’ It’s about being in a moment where I cannot think clearly and where I see suicide as my only way out of whatever I am dealing with. I am not weak. I am stronger than you ever could imagine for having lived as long as I have with my own demons and as my own personal enemy.” — Yael G.

37. “I am not fragile! Not in the least bit! I have weak moments, as does everyone. My attempt does not mean you need to be careful around me or coddle me or walk on eggshells around me. I am not going to ‘crack’ if you hurt my feelings or have a differing opinion. I have spent every moment since my last attempt growing stronger and stronger, and the idea that I am delicate and breakable couldn’t be farther from the truth.” — Jessica J.

38. “I wish my friends and family could understand that it’s not their fault. It wasn’t that I didn’t know they loved me; it was because I was buried so deep. It was too dark for me to see or feel their love. It’s a totally different reality. I just wanted all my struggles and their feelings of helplessness to end. I didn’t want to leave them. I just didn’t have it in me to keep fighting my monsters.” — Artie K.

39. “People think it’s all about wanting to die. No, it isn’t. I’m quite scared of death, if I’m totally honest, but I faced that fear because it [felt] easier than living a lifetime full of pain and exhaustion. It seems like the best and only way out at the time.” — Alex H.

40. “I believed my existence was doing more harm to those around me than good. I believed the pain of dealing with my death would be temporary, but if I stayed I would cause more harm to those I loved. It was not a cry for attention. I just saw no other way.” — Carl S.

41. “I carry the guilt of attempting to leave my loved ones with me every day. When they say, ‘you tried to leave’ — that hurts me more than anything because it wasn’t ‘me.’ It was my illness overtaking my being… I wish others would understand that they might not understand. And that’s perfectly OK. I wish others would understand I still have as much excellence and potential within me than before the attempt. After all, the illness was there before as well. I am the same.  Living is hard. But it is making me stronger. I wish others would understand that I am still a person. Not a monster.” — Alexis B.

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




41 Secrets of Suicide Attempt Survivors

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A Suicide Loss Survivor's Challenge for Suicide Prevention Month


September has and always will be one of the most difficult months of the year for me. It marks the end of summer, but more importantly, it’s Suicide Prevention Month. I am a suicide loss survivor. I’ve never really called myself that because it feels foreign and wrong, but that’s what I am, and I’ve come to terms with it. I lost my dad to suicide on January 20, 2000. I can remember that day so vividly, and I haven’t been whole since.

When my niece turned 8 years old in June, I cried. I cried knowing she had become the same age I was when I lost my dad. She’s a little girl full of life and love. I was once that little girl, so innocent, but that was taken away from me so fast.

For so long I’ve belittled myself. I’ve belittled myself for still hurting, for still feeling like I’m broken and bruised. Watching my niece turn 8 was hard, but at the same time, it was almost as if I had an awakening. It was then I finally realized the strength I have, the courage I’ve gained. I started to give myself credit for weathering this tumultuous storm. Though I am riddled with anxiety and panic, the lasting effects of trauma and many insecurities, I’ve continued to put one foot in front of the other.

I am a work in progress. It took me 16 years to realize what I experienced was real and tough and hard. I’ve started to give myself credit because at the end of the day, I’m coming home to myself. I’ve weathered the storm, and I plan to keep swimming through the waves no matter how big they get, no matter how hard they try to swallow me whole.

Through my journey of losing my dad to suicide, I discovered that many people dance around the topic of suicide. There’s so much suicide stigma; it’s taboo to talk about, and people often feel uncomfortable when it becomes a topic of conversation. But it needs to be a topic of conversation because it’s an epidemic; suicide rates have climbed substantially over the last few years, and they will continue to climb if those who are in need of help cannot get the help they need.

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We live in a world where judgment is a common theme, where others can be so hateful and hurtful and have no remorse at all. It’s hard to live in a world where people spew such venom and hate. Suicide is not something that should be thrown around with a grain of salt. Instead of leading with negativity and hate, I challenge everyone to lead with kindness. When you ask someone how they’re doing, mean it. Sometimes we get caught up in day-to-day conversations, where “how are you?” just fits in the mold of the common conversation. Don’t just say “how are you?” because it’s a conversation filler. Say it because you mean it. Those three words could make a difference in the life of another person who is struggling; you may not even know it. Compassion and kindness always trump hate.

It’s so important to keep the conversation about suicide awareness and prevention going; don’t go silent. I recently read a book called “Reasons to Stay Alive” by Matt Haig. In it, he writes, “Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.” Suicide Prevention Month is about hanging on and finding the worth in life again if you’ve started to question it. It’s for people to start a dialogue about suicide, to share their stories, to let others know they’re not alone. When the dialogue starts, that’s when the real change occurs.

Always remember, no matter how dark it gets, no matter how long the tunnel may seem, you’re never 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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The Most Meaningful Question I Can Answer After My Suicide Attempt


With World Suicide Prevention Day coming up next week, I get the opportunity to talk about something most people don’t know about me: I am a survivor.

I get to talk about one of my favorite nonprofits (To Write Love On Her Arms), and I get to talk about hope. I use my story to get people talking about how much we can do for the people who are still stuck in that place. According to the TWLOHA website, suicide is at an all time high, and I believe that’s something that can absolutely be changed.

It’s been 10 years since I sat on my bed, wondering how scary death would be. I still think about it sometimes — about the way I felt so hopeless and depressed, about how I just wanted to be happy and not depressed each and every day. All these years later, I can empathize with wanting my sadness to end. When I was living in the immediate aftermath of my suicide attempt, I got a lot of judgment but an even larger amount of questions. Of those is one that I still reflect on today.

What made you decide to live?

At first I felt like I had to give these ultra meaningful responses. I tried to come up with something spectacular that might actually convince people I’d had an experience so profound I would never venture down that dark road again. And thinking back on it now, I know I was just afraid of more judgment, but that there was more than one reason and none of them particularly special. I was in a couple extracurricular activities, I had pets that depended on me for affection. I found a beautiful song that spoke right to my soul, and I wanted to buy it when it was released.

It doesn’t matter how magnificent or grand you feel like your reason to live is. Maybe the only thing keeping you from going over the edge is the fact that no one else will do dishes. Maybe you want to find out who wins the game on Saturday. Maybe you just want to make it to the next episode of your favorite television show.

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The secret to making the decision is that there is no secret. There is no such thing as a bad reason to live, because you’re living. You’re fighting. If you find one single way in which you matter, that’s enough. Your reason to keep living is entirely valid — just like you are.

It no longer comes up often, and most of the people I interact with on a daily basis do not even know about my attempt, but on occasion I get asked that very same question: What changed your mind?

Instead of looking for the end-of-life revelations, the life-flashing-before-my-eyes moments, I no longer hide away from the truth. I tell them exactly what happened and why I decided to keep fighting.

I kept on living because I’m worth something. 

It’s been, as I said, a decade since I almost was no more. That’s long enough to think about the way I wanted my life to be, and I am using the next 10 years to add meaning to my choices. I can’t remain silent when there are so many people who are sitting where I did (metaphorically) and don’t know that they don’t have to find the meaning of life. They just have to give life meaning. So this September 10, I’m not going to be silent. I’m going to be the change I want to see in the world. And that makes all the difference.

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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To the 20-Year-Old Who Needs a Reminder That Life Is Worth It


Dear 20-year-old self,

You look scared. Everyone keeps saying suicide is selfish. Suicide is greed. But what’s selfish is how some keep driving you to feel that way. That’s not OK.

I want you to know it’s OK not to be OK. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK tell someone you’re hurting. You don’t have to fake a smile. You don’t have to hide your scars. I can tell it’s more exhausting at the end of the day to pretend to “pretend.”

I want you to know, life really is worth it. You’re probably asking why because I know you. The answer is because you are worth it. You may not know it, but someone needs you, someone needs to hear there is hope, and that will only come from you. You can hear that this or that person cares — but someone out there needs to know you care.

Don’t let this world break you. Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride.

Love,
Your 25-year-old self

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.

Why I Think of a Magic Trick as I Reflect on My Father’s Suicide


When I was little, my father had a magic trick. He would light a cotton ball on fire and put it in his mouth to extinguish the flame. It never failed to impress.

Then one day, an actor who was famous at the time for his role in “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” had an accident. A flaming drink set fire to his beard, and he was hospitalized with severe burns. News of that accident caused my father, who also had a beard and mustache, to stop performing his magic trick. It turns out that trying to swallow fire could be far more dangerous than he believed.

I think of that trick often these days as I reflect on my father’s suicide. Depression is the flame not extinguished when swallowed. Rather, it grows and festers in the darkness. And in time, it was the depression that consumed my father. Like a sweeping brushfire, its power was overwhelming, and it progressed too fast to be put out. Anxiety, an added accelerant, fanned the flames, further and higher. A wildfire bent on destruction of spirit and soul. Still, he kept the full truth of it contained.

No, depression is not meant to be swallowed. It needs to be exposed to the light. Because left to smolder on the inside, its flame will smother the embers of hope and ignite despair.

Once upon a time my father knew that swallowing fire could be dangerous. Until one day, it was the fire that devoured him. And we who loved him most are left standing in the ashes.

This piece was originally published on Reflecting Out Loud.

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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Ambulance

What It's Like Going to the A&E After a Suicide Attempt in the U.K.


In 2015 I tried to kill myself. There’s no point in beating around the bush, or dancing around the words, I wanted to die and I tried to make that happen. It was the latest in a series of suicide attempts that have peppered my life from the age of 11 onwards.

The only difference between this suicide attempt and my previous ones was that I called the ambulance myself. In the U.K. we have a service called NHS 24, which means we can call a number anytime we want and speak to a doctor or a nurse about our condition. From there they will decide whether it’s serious enough for you to go to the hospital immediately, go and see a doctor in an out-of-hours service, or just wait until the doctor opens if it’s less serious.

I was alone all day, and quite quickly afterwards began to regret my decision. I was afraid, so I called NHS 24 where they advised me to dial 9-9-9 (the U.K. version of 9-1-1). The ambulance arrived around 45 minutes later, which wasn’t a problem, I had already told the operator what I had taken and she advised if there were patients that needed to be dealt with before me, they would be. But it was the attitude of the paramedics who picked me up that I took an issue with. By the time they arrived the pills I had taken had begun to take effect. I was slurring my words, my vision was blurred and I couldn’t move very quickly. They spoke to me for around 10 minutes and told me to follow them down the stairs to the ambulance.

At no point did they help me get to the ambulance, despite the fact that I was clearly struggling on my feet at this time. I walked down four flights of stairs, hanging onto the rail as I went and I could barely see the steps. They went downstairs ahead of me, and nobody offered to assist me in walking in anyway. As the female paramedic spoke to me she snapped, and acted like I was wasting everybody’s time. She was sighing and rolling her eyes at me.

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Once I was in the hospital things begin to get blurry, I only really remember being in a cubicle and lying on a bed. However I do have one memory of accidentally pulling the wire of the IV out of my arm and watching blood cascade down my skin – it was a genuine accident, but I was quickly reprimanded.

That night I was moved to a ward and had an IV in my arm, my stepmum came to visit and my throat was as dry as the Sahara Desert. I kept having to clear it or cough, there was no saliva in my mouth and I was feeling very uncomfortable. I kept asking for water and was firmly told “no” by the nurses.

The entire experience was traumatizing, not just because of what I had done to myself, but the general attitude of the nurses and paramedics who saw me throughout. They treated me like I shouldn’t have been there, like I was wasting their time when mental health problems should be just as important as physical ones. Personal prejudices should also not interfere with your professional job.

This is not a complaint at the U.K.’s NHS, I will be the first to say the day nurses on the ward were incredible and caring, and the paramedics who took me to the psychiatric ward the next evening were even more so. They engaged me, we chatted amicably the entire way and they were well aware why I had been in hospital. Did that fact that I was now being taken to a psychiatric ward alter their view of me? Did it make my condition more “serious”? It shouldn’t have.

There were more than 6,500 suicides in the U.K. in 2014. Female suicide rates increased by 8.3 percent on average. Suicide rates are getting higher, not lower, and the last thing victims need when they arrive in the A&E (Accident and Emergency, the U.K. version of an ER) is to be treated with scorn and contempt. We should be treated the same way as someone with a broken leg would be, or someone with cancer.

Just because I was under the influence of the overdose I had taken does not mean I will forget the way I was treated, and many health professionals are caring to the highest standard, but not everyone. This has to change. Perhaps more people would feel they could talk openly about their mental health problems, and it would never come to suicide attempts, if they were treated with more love and care in the health profession.

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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