Michelle Carter and her attorney Joseph Cataldo stand to hear Judge Lawrence Moniz announce his verdict on Friday, June 16, 2017, in Bristol Juvenile Court in Taunton, Mass. Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the suicide of Conrad Roy III. (Glenn Silva/Fairhaven Neighborhood News, Pool)

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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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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To the Person Contemplating Suicide Right Now

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My dearest,

I don’t know you. I’ve never met you and I probably never will. But let me say this to you: I love you. I accept you as you are. I understand.

I understand because, for long periods of time in my life, I’ve contemplated the same thing. I’ve been torn between knowing that I will hurt the people who love me the most and thinking they’ll be better off without me. One voice in my head screams for an end of the emotional torment and another whispers at me to just hold on.

I’m so, so sorry you’re in pain. I’ve heard the demons in my head, too. I’ve heard them say I’m not good enough. I’ve heard them say I’m not worth it. I’ve heard them say I’m not worth life.

People have tried to help. People have pointed out how good our lives are. People have said there’s no reason for us to feel this way — that these thoughts are just thoughts. Let me refute them: your feelings are valid. Your thoughts are not silly. What you’re going through right now is horrible. Even I can’t completely imagine what you are going through.

You might have been told you have depression — you might not have. You might have abstract thoughts about the possibility, you might have made concrete plans. You might have been thinking about it for a long time or a thought might have crossed your mind a few moments ago. You might have attempted suicide before, you might never have entertained the notion. You might be absolutely determined, you might not even care whether you lived or not.

Whatever your situation right now, I’m afraid the only thing I can tell you is something a doctor said to me once. “There is no magic wand someone can wave or a set of words someone can say to you that will make you feel better.” I can’t propose a solution. All I can tell you to do is wait.

I know it’s impossible to see from where you’re standing. But your feelings will change. I know it seems like there is no end to the torment. That’s part of the lie. That’s part of the lethal deception that those demons feed you. That’s part of the blanket that smothers away hope. But hope is still there, even though it’s out of sight. It might take a long time. You and I don’t know when the day will come when you catch sight of that hope again. But that day is coming — I promise.

I wish I could gather you in my arms and just hold you. You’re still here. You’re still holding on. It’s a battle just to get to the end of each day. It’s hard —I acknowledge that. I cannot begin to imagine the strength and determination it takes.

Remember: you are loved. You are immeasurably valuable. You are worthy of life.

All my love to 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 or text “START” to 741-741.

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

Thinkstock photo via Archv.

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To the Suicidal Patient in the Emergency Room, I Am Your Nurse

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Hi, there.

I am your nurse. I am so sorry you had to come to the ER, but I am so proud of you. You are so brave. I know people say, “Just go to the ER,” but I understand how big of a step you just took. Thank you for choosing to come when death can seem better than living.

I don’t know what is going to happen after you leave the ER, but I can tell you what is going to happen while you are here. We are going to keep you safe. You don’t have to try so hard anymore. You can cry. You can scream. You are in the safest place you can be, in my nursing care.

I want to warn you a lot is going to happen and it is going to happen pretty quickly. If you have any questions, ask for me and I’ll be here to answer your questions the best I can. I’m here to listen if you want to talk, but silence is just fine, too.

The doctor will be in shortly and is going to ask you a lot of questions about your past. You see, sometimes medical conditions can cause depression and anxiety and we need to rule those out. The questions are personal. It is important that you answer honestly. You might feel you are at the end of your rope and I know it can be scary, but you deserve the help you need. You’ve jumped the first hurdle, getting yourself here. Other hurdles are coming, but I’ll be here helping you. You are my patient and I am your nurse.

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 dolgachov.

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