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Why It Doesn't Matter Whether a Suicide Attempt Is a 'Cry for Help'

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I had so many people tell me when my daughter attempted suicide multiple times as a teen:

“She just wants attention.”

“She needs to snap out of this.”

“If you’d quit showering attention on her, then she’d stop.”

Or the kinder:

“It’s a cry for help.”

Well, yes. In a way, most suicide attempts are a cry for help. They sometimes are a cry for attention to the fact that we need help we’re not getting. Guess what? That doesn’t make them less valid.

In fact, anyone crying for help and attention that loudly needs to get help and attention. It seems pretty damn obvious to me. And every person who said those things would (I hope) have sung a different tune if it were their loved one, their child.

What happens when you don’t take a suicide attempt seriously, even a seemingly half-hearted one? Sooner or later, you might lose someone.

Suicide isn’t selfish. It isn’t about you or who they’re leaving behind. It’s about being in unbearable pain, be it physical, mental or emotional. They grasp for what at the time seems like the only choice.

I know. I’ve been there. I attempted suicide at age 19. I was lucky. I survived. But at the time, I didn’t feel lucky.

The only thing that kept me from trying again for years was the memory of the pain in my little sister’s eyes when I woke up in ICU connected to IVs and tubes. My own mental and emotional pain took a backseat to that. Years later, my kids’ struggles would shove my own issues to the back burner. They were more important than anything I felt, I reasoned. They were, no doubt.

Then, there was work. There was school.There was always a reason to keep going. Everyone gets stressed and depressed sometimes. I was fine. I was normal. I was OK — until I wasn’t.

Until suddenly, I was unable to work. I couldn’t continue college. I was living in the world of unexpected, uninvited chronic illness, and there was a lot of nothing but pain and time. Endless, endless pain, time and struggle. Treatments that were stop-gap measures at best. Chronic daily migraine is my monster, and it brought other monsters out to play.

Monsters like the depression I’d shoved in the closet for years. Monsters like suicidal thoughts, lots of them. Monsters I’d thought were dead, but were just hiding and waiting.

I’ve planned suicide twice in five years. Each time, I saw my sister’s pain-filled eyes, my daughter fighting for her life and my grandkids I’d never hold again. I got help. It’s not easy, but I’m still here.

A cry for help is just that, a cry for help. Don’t turn your back on it. Don’t turn your back on those who need it.

Image via Thinkstock.

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 can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Originally published: September 8, 2016
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