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When Father's Day Becomes Fatherless Day

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I just realized that this will be my second fatherless Father’s Day. I knew the holiday was approaching, but I guess I was subconsciously blocking that fact. I was looking forward to spending the occasion with my husband and kids, and then I just felt sadness. The same sadness that came with that dreadful phone call. My emotions came in hard, like a fastball to the chest.

My daddy was the best daddy a girl could ask for. He loved his kids and worked hard to make sure we had everything we needed as well as almost anything we wanted. He was the cool dad, everyone wanted to hang out at our house. All of my friends were his extra kids and they saw him as a father figure. He was full of guidance and support and wouldn’t judge you for anything. He was a shoulder to cry on and always on time with a joke to cheer you up. He touched the lives of anyone who was fortunate enough to know him.

I was a daddy’s girl from start to finish. For a long time, we were all each other had. We knew everything about each other’s lives and we were always there to lift each other up. We would just hang out for hours on end, no matter how old I got. We watched movies and played chess and just talked. He was my best friend.

He was 56 years old and had been fighting his mental illness for as long as I can remember. His body was failing and his mind was following right behind. I just didn’t suspect it was quite that bad. My daddy lost his battle with depression, on December 8th, 2015 and I lost my hero. I always knew he would go out on his terms, but no one saw it coming so soon.

I always took him out to eat for Father’s Day, usually with his money because he, of course, wouldn’t let me pay. He never wanted anyone to do stuff like that for him, never wanted gifts. He never even cared to get recognition for the things he did for others. I always got him a new pocket knife, or some t-shirt with a funny saying, even though his response was always, “I told ya not to get me nothin!'” I miss those dinners and buying those gifts. Twenty-six Father’s Days were definitely not enough for me.

This holiday will be a tough one, but I will push through for my husband and our girls. I will keep him on my mind and in my heart. I will remember all of the Father’s Days we spent together and I will try my best not to cry, no matter how much it hurts.

Thinkstock image via Maria Kuznetsova.

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

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

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5 Things to Remember in the Wake of the Michelle Carter Verdict

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On Friday, Michelle Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, died by suicide in 2014. She was charged when text messages revealed Carter had urged Roy to kill himself, and had done nothing to help her boyfriend, who had confided he was feeling suicidal and told her how he was going to do it.

This is tough to swallow, and tough to talk about, for many reasons. First, when someone dies by suicide, it is a tragedy. Period. Suicide is preventable, and it’s heartbreaking when someone falls through the cracks and doesn’t get the support they deserve.

Then, if the person’s death makes its way through the national news cycle, it can be tough for people who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts, have attempted suicide or have lost someone to suicide to watch a story like this unfold. For one, the fact that suicide is being mentioned at all usually means someone died, which can be discouraging for those fighting their own battles with suicidal thoughts. On top of that, finding a piece that actually covers suicide responsibly is nearly impossible. (In CNN’s story about the verdict, they reveal the suicide means in the first graph, breaking one of the reporting on suicide guidelines.) Coverage of suicide rarely is informative about the nature of suicide, offers little hope or information about how we can prevent suicide and oftentimes doesn’t even provide resources for its readers.

A “viral” story about suicide also opens up the door for beloved “takes” from the peanut gallery. Whether it be co-workers, family members or people posting on Facebook, some people feel like they have to weigh in on a trending story. While this can be a chance to engage in productive conversations, we often have to weed through ignorant and hurtful comments to get a chance to educate — which is exhausting to do, especially if you’re not someone who’s open about suicidal thoughts or a past suicide attempt.

The story of  Michelle Carter’s conviction has an extra layer of complication because it really isn’t a story about someone who died by suicide. Instead, it’s being presented as a Nancy Grace-esque courtroom story about whether or not, legally, it’s possible to be responsible for someone’s suicide through a text.

We know words can really hurt and that cyberbullying is a real problem we can’t ignore. You don’t need to spend much much time in the YouTube comment section before reading the words, “Go kill yourself.” But this case, according to CNN, could set legal precedent for whether it’s a crime to tell someone to die by suicide. It’s important, it’s complicated, and it’s hard for people who are actually in the suicide prevention community to weigh in when a runaway train of a news story like this takes off. The fast-paced and sensationalistic nature of news makes it challenging for people with lived experience to take control of the narrative.

But when everyone is talking about a case that involves suicide, it is an opportunity for us to weigh in. So if you’re feeling lost about how to talk about this news story or if someone brings it up in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, here are some points to remember:

1. We can’t take the humanness out of stories about suicide. It’s not entertaining when someone takes their life, no matter how “interesting” or horrifying the backstory is. Beware of sensationalized versions of this story that paint the issue in black and white.

2. What we say to people matters. Alyse Ruriani, a suicide attempt survivor and activist, told me:

The bottom line is this: it’s incredibly sad and it’s a tragic reminder that words hold power and that what we do and say affects other people… from my perspective the story that needs to be told is more about how we need to remind people that how we interact with others and what we say can have a profound effect on others.

3. We need to educate young people about how to talk to someone who’s suicidal.

If you read the text messages Carter and her boyfriend exchanged (although I don’t recommend it), she actually starts by encouraging him to go get help in a hospital. When he refuses, she responds, “Part of me wants you to try something and fail just so you can go get help.”

That right there is pretty telling of the meager options available for people who are suicidal. While yes, most teens don’t encourage their peers to kill themselves when they don’t know what else to do, I think it’s fair to say most people wouldn’t be prepared in this situation. We need to do a better job educating young people about suicide so they better understand how to support a friend and themselves if this situation arises.

4. Suicide is never simple. Dese’Rae L . Stage, founder of Live Through This, told me, “Our job is to tell people that suicide is never simple, that bullying doesn’t cause suicide and that there are warning signs.” It’s hard to pick up the nuances of this in most news coverage.

5. There are resources for people who are suicidal. 

People who are suicidal need to know what resources are available. Here’s some resources they should know:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.

The Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting “START” to 741-741.

The Trevor Project, an LGBT crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline, 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386.

I didn’t want to write this story. News like this makes me want to get into bed, curl up in a ball and pretend suicide and bad people don’t exist. I see the news cycle passing before my eyes and I feel like I can’t catch it, can’t turn it into something good. But we can’t let the media alone dominate how stories about suicide are told. In the wake of stories that are hard to swallow, we need to keep telling stories of hope and of life. It’s OK to not have a polished, perfect answer, but we need to at least add a P.S. 

Yes, what a heartbreaking story. Wow, what an interesting verdict. But P.S. to you, you who’s losing hope, who’s feeling done — this doesn’t have to be it for you. We are here. We are listening. We are with you.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

Photo via The Associated Press, Glenn Silva/Fairhaven Neighborhood News, Pool

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The Conversation I Had With My Son About Suicide That Brought Me to Tears

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

“Do you have a few minutes to talk?” My son said when I picked up the phone.

Three months later, thinking about that conversation brings me to tears.

“Hello?” I said.

“Do you have a few minutes to talk?” My son said. He was crying.

“Of course. What’s wrong?”

There was a short pause and he said, “Dad, I am calling you… umm… because I promised you if I ever felt this way I would let you know.”

“Are you feeling suicidal?” I asked.

Yes… I didn’t want to let you down,” he said.

“Son, can you please wait for me to come home so I can talk to you in person?”

“No, I am just calling because I promised you I would. I don’t want to let you down.”

I had so much fear. I wanted to say, “Son please don’t do this to me.” I wanted to call the police to my house — to make him safe. I was thinking, Is this the last time I will ever get to talk to my amazing son, whom I love? How do I help him? How do I not screw this up? Will I ever get to hug him again? Please God, help me. I felt a rush of insecurity. All these thoughts played in my head.

Then I started to think differently. I have more training than most people in this area, and I have my own lived experience from a suicide attempt. What would I want and need?

I decided to say, “Son, I am so sorry you are hurting. I can tell how upset you are, I wish I could take that pain away from you.”

“I know you do, Dad.”

“First, thank you so much for calling me, I love you so much,” I continued.

“I love you too,” he said.

“Can you tell me about what you are feeling?”

My son shared with me some things that brought him to the point that he felt like suicide was his only option. After, he said, “Dad, I am so sorry.”

“Son, you have nothing to be sorry for. Again, I wish I could take this pain away from you, but we both know I can’t. I can’t promise you any type of quick solution, but I can promise you, I will be with you while you go through this.”

“I know Dad, but I just can’t do it anymore,” he said.

“Have you decided how you would kill yourself?”

He said yes and told me the means and that he was going through with it as soon as we got off the phone.

“Can you do me a favor?” I asked.

“What?”

“Can you please wait until I get home and we can talk face to face and then I can give you a hug? I am not saying you have to promise to never kill yourself, but can you please wait 90 minutes for me to come home and give you a hug?”

“I can do that,” he said.

“Thank you son, I love you.”

I sent a text his sister who lived close by and let her know briefly what was going on and asked to her to go to the house and talk to her brother about anything until I could get there.

My son called me and asked, “Did you tell my sister to come over here?”

“Yes, I didn’t want you to feel alone,” I replied.

“OK.”

“Will you wait for me to come home?” I asked.

“Yes.”

We talked a few minutes, and I told him I would call when I got on the road, but I needed to let my work know I was leaving and I would call back in few minutes. I called about five minutes later and he answered. I told him I was on the way. We talked for about ten minutes, and he was also talking to his sister. I asked him if he would please call me if things changed and he didn’t think he could wait till I got home. He agreed. I texted his sister and she was also going to call me if for any reason he tried to leave.

I arrived home. I gave my son the longest and probably hardest hug of my life.

We spent some time talking about his suicidal thoughts and plans, and we talked about future goals/plans. My son, daughter and I went for a late lunch and we talked about past and future vacations and family activities and that night we had dinner with some friends.

The next day my son said, “When my Dad got home, we had a hug out and the reason I didn’t kill myself was because I could truly see that my family — including my sister — loved me. Kinda brought me back to reality, I guess.”

It has been almost three months since that call. Is there still a risk of suicide? The answer is yes. But having the open communication and respect for each other, I am very hopeful that that risk will continue to decrease. I know he knows I will always be there to talk to.

I learned many lessons from this experience. I am grateful I talked to my kids about suicide and other mental health topics, including my own suicide attempt. I am glad I have had training in what to do and how to do it. Otherwise, I would have panicked and may have said things that made the situation worse. I learned that being a suicide prevention advocate does not exempt me or my family from mental health crisis. I learned truly just being there with someone is the best thing you can do, letting them know you are there with them and not being judgmental. Not rushing to extremes is important. I was reminded I don’t know what the future holds for sure, but I believe that my son and I having this experience has brought us even closer together. When he says he will call me if he ever has a plan to kill himself, I trust he will call me. And I hope he knows when I say I will be there with him through the pain, that I really will.

In this situation, there really was not clinical skill needed (I wasn’t being a therapist). The intervention I did was listen, not panic and be there. I encourage everyone to get trainings such as Mental Health First Aid and/or ASIST.

This post originally appeared on Listening Saves Lives.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via contributor.

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How Stephen King's Tweet Affected Me as the Mother of a Son Who Died by Suicide

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Dear Stephen King,

Words are your livelihood, but I ask that you please stick to horror. Please do not use comedy when it comes to suicide. When blocked by the president on Twitter, you wrote, “I may have to kill myself.” The sheer ridiculousness of that idea is what made it funny to many, since the cause was so trivial. But the root of ridiculous is ridicule, even if you did not mean to make sport of those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts. 

Given your great skill at finding words to arouse our fears, you have over three million followers. No doubt many of them chuckled at your tweet. For the one million Americans still with us who have attempted to end their lives plus the six million Americans like me who have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide, your words struck chords of excruciating pain. Far too many have left this world for reasons that may have looked “small” to most of us.

More important than my personal sensitivity, I write to ask that you, who wield words with such power, never again make a public joke of suicide. I believe my son Peter, only 25, did not give any warnings or reach out to anyone precisely because he did not want to be laughed at for considering suicide. He was ashamed of struggling with his emotions in a world where men must be strong, always the hero. Asking for help may have been more painful to my son than ending his life.

Pete judged himself inferior for having suicidal thoughts and feelings, saying in his note to me, “Something is wrong with me.” We have to erase the stigma around suicide and mental illness. Fear of ridicule condemns them to struggle alone and be needlessly ashamed. Despair and pain are part of the human condition. Sadly, the numbers who kill themselves have been steadily rising, but there is much we can do to save many who become suicidal. Mental illness can be treated.

The impact of suicide is so horrific that most people only want to know enough about it to determine — mistakenly — that such a thing only happens to others who are not like them or anyone they care about. But I believe there is no complete immunity to suicide — seemingly happy, successful and well-loved people have been affected. Sensitivity is not weakness, it is a gift this world could use more of, along with compassion.

My hope is that suicide will lose its shock and comedic value, so that people who experience suicidal ideation can speak to others without fear they will not be taken seriously, or worse, become the butt of a joke. Suicide is deadly serious business, please handle the topic with care. At some point, most of us will entertain dark thoughts, and sometimes the only thing that keeps us alive is a kind word.

son

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Screenshot via Twitter.

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Why I Celebrate Two Birthdays as a Suicide Attempt Survivor

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Everyone has a birthday. A day that you celebrate being born into this world. A day where your life started. As a suicide attempt survivor, I consider myself to have two birthdays. One is the day my mother brought me into this world and the other is the day I survived trying to leave it.

Five years ago on June 12th, I attempted suicide. The following days, I laid in the ICU on an IV drip that was reversing the damage I had done to my body. When my body was well enough, I went on to start my journey into recovery. I spent a month in inpatient care for stabilization of my suicidal thoughts, self-harm and depression, and then boarded a flight to go hundreds of miles away for treatment at a residential treatment center for women. It was there I learned Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for the first time, learned of my own eating disorder, dove into art therapy and worked through the depression, anxiety and emerging borderline personality disorder (BPD) I had been struggling with for years.

All of this is why I celebrate the day I attempted suicide. It may seem strange — to celebrate that day — but it’s so much more than that. It is a celebration of a second chance, of a day I woke up again, of the start of everything that has led me to how far I am in my recovery today. I was given another chance at life at a time when I thought my life was not worth living. It was by the Universe or God or whatever you believe in, along with accessibility to healthcare, compassionate nurses and medical intervention, that I was able to live through it. And from there, I got needed treatment and was able to learn how to manage these illnesses to live in recovery.

I am alive, and that is something to celebrate. I use this second birthday as a time to recognize where I was, where I could have been, where I am now and where I am going. I use it to remind myself that even though I still struggle with depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts, and that even though I tried to end my life at 17 years old, I am strong and capable and worthy. I am breathing and I am fighting every day to stay in recovery. I think that’s worth celebrating.

Happy 5th second chance birthday to me, and happy second chance birthday to all the suicide attempt survivors out there, as well as anyone with that turning point that propelled their life into recovery.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via moodboard.

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Stephen King Upsets Fans With Trump Tweet About Suicide

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On Tuesday, bestselling author Stephen King tweeted he was blocked from following President Trump on Twitter, in a message many are calling insensitive.

“Trump has blocked me from reading his tweets. I may have to kill myself,” King posted.

Twitter was swift to reply to King’s tweet, with many people noting the author’s poor choice of words.

King has not addressed the controversy his tweets have caused.

It’s not the first time the author has been critical of the President, nor is it the first time he’s posted a questionable mental health-related tweet. In May, King, who holds no mental health qualifications, tweeted that Trump is a “textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder.”

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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