First, I want to say that if you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, having suicidal thoughts, or engaging in behaviors that point to suicidal intent, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or 911 (in the United States). Please get help. You are loved.
Suicide. It’s a taboo subject that no one wants to talk about. There’s an invisible shroud of shame surrounding those who suffer from suicidal thoughts or ideations. So, let’s start the conversation here and now. Hi. My name is Amanda Yeary and I have suffered from suicidal ideations at many times in my life starting at 15 years old, and I have attempted suicide more than once. There, I said it. That one statement is hard to write. Why? Because those moments in my life are the darkest times I’ve ever experienced, and just to acknowledge them makes them real. If I don’t acknowledge them, I can wrap them up in tiny boxes with lovely ribbons, throw them in the attic, and forget they ever happened. Once I acknowledge that they’ve happened, I can’t do that anymore; I have to face it.
Suicidal ideations is a term used to cover a broad spectrum of thoughts and wishes and a preoccupation with death and suicide. Generally, suicidal thoughts turn into suicidal ideations when a person starts planning, writing letters, and giving away possessions, along with other things that point toward a serious contemplation of suicide. There’s a difference between passive and active suicidal thoughts. Passive suicidal thoughts are thoughts like, “If my heart stopped right now, I would die and that would be a relief,” or, “If my car veered off the road I might die and I’d be okay with that.” While any suicidal thoughts are serious, passive thoughts are considered less urgent than active suicidal thoughts which tend to involve a thought out plan of how someone would end their life. I have suffered from both chronic, passive suicidal thoughts, as well as active suicidal thoughts. I have been hospitalized twice due to suicidal ideation and attempts. My story is a long, hard one to tell, but just know that I have been where so many people have been before, and will be. I’ve been where maybe you’re at right now. I have been at the crossroads of life and death. Three times I chose death, but it didn’t defeat me; and I’m thankful for that. When I’m well it’s hard to believe I was ever in that state at all, but I was, and there’s truly no shame in it. At least, there shouldn’t be.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2021 48,183 people died by suicide and there were an estimated 1.70 million attempts. People with bipolar disorder have a 10% chance of dying by suicide. With statistics like these, it’s hardly believable that there is still such a stigma surrounding suicide. So, what can we do about it? The most beneficial thing that can be done to break the stigma surrounding suicide is for those who have attempted, and family and friends who have been impacted by suicide to speak up. When faces are put with words, they become infinitely more powerful. Tell your story. Write that blog post. Write that book. Have that conversation with your spouse, friends, and family. Tell those around you that you struggle, or have struggled with suicide, but you have no let it defeat you. You’ve come out victorious. Only when thousands of stories are told will the stigma truly diminish, and the statistics can lessen. If those of us who battle depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and so much more speak life into the world, speak with strength and courage, and stand up without shame we may be able to inspire others to be strong and courageous as well.
Of course, I can’t close a post about suicide without encouraging others to go to their Savior and ask for help and guidance. When I am in my darkest places I feel shame in going to Jesus’ feet, but that is wrong. There is no shame in Christ, and He will walk with us in our darkest of times. He will comfort us and care for us. That doesn’t mean that we won’t struggle or even choose the wrong path, but it does mean that there is always someone there who loves us and understands when no one else can.