Trigger Warning: Suicide, Suicidal Ideation, Death by Suicide
Preface: I don’t pretend to know what others go through during a depressive episode or why someone would want to die by suicide. These are solely my opinions, based on my experiences.
This is not an easy topic, nor is it a comfortable one to discuss, but that’s why we need to talk about it. The stigma surrounding depression and suicide leaves people feeling they can’t talk about it, and the silence is deadly. And so heartbreaking.
I think about Kate Spade‘s and Robin William’s suicides from years ago, and while most everybody was shocked, I really wasn’t surprised. In my opinion, the people who work the hardest, the most passionate and genuine, are the ones who struggle the most. I know it was hard for people to understand and I’m sure very scary that two such successful people could lose a battle to a little-understood enemy, that they could leave their seemingly happy lives and family, but it happens every day. Depression is an invisible illness that can completely devastate you, yet so many stay quiet because society as a whole doesn’t seem to want to understand. (Read about the history behind the stigma of mental illness here.)
It’s obvious that depression is misunderstood. It’s hard for people to understand that someone can make jokes and be depressed. Or that a person can be suicidal yet appear fine, even fully functional. Depression sufferers are good at hiding pain. I hid mine for years because I felt judged and ashamed. I felt like I was weaker than everybody else but that was the stigma talking.
I don’t get it. Is it ignorance or is society so fragile that people can’t handle knowing others are suffering so much? It’s 2020 — shouln’t we be more evolved, more enlightened?
It doesn’t matter why the stigma is there, it needs to end. In 2018 (the latest stats I could find) there were more than 48,000 recorded suicides, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. On average, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24-percent between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000, the highest rate recorded in 28 years.
Those numbers are from two years ago and have increased, no doubt. I imagine they will significantly increase this year due to coronavirus and the resulting problems, such as increased number of depressed persons from job loss, trauma, health concerns, etc.
But I digress. I’ve been suicidal more times than I can count. I haven’t talked about it a lot, but I should, especially since it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness month. The only way to normalize depression and suicide is to talk about it and help educate, so here I go.
My mind goes to a time where I was staying at my parents’ house. My parents had taken my two young kids to their lake house. My husband (who was back in Corpus) and I had gotten into a fight, I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember how alone I felt, so out of control. I had experienced bad postpartum depression a year before and it just lingered and worsened.
That night I was so sad, I could feel it in my bones. I was exhausted and it truly felt like I’d be unhappy forever. That argument sent me over the edge and all I could think about was I’d be better off dead, but I didn’t want to leave my babies. I didn’t want my mom to find me dead.
I ended up driving myself to the ER and was then sent to an acute behavioral hospital for two days.
Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. It’s painful to think about. I love my family more than anything and I don’t ever want to do anything to hurt them. Unfortunately, I’ll probably have more suicidal thoughts, but I don’t want to die. My brain is such a liar. Such a con artist, making me believe I’m not worth being alive. That my family doesn’t want me. It is my heart that saves me, helps me see through the bullshit. And that’s all it is, except it feels so real, and I completely understand how people could succumb to those big feelings and end their lives.
The people who die by suicide — they aren’t selfish, they were just sick and their illness just so happens to take over their brain. I think they just wanted to be free of the pain. Depression makes you hurt all over, and of course, the pain you feel mentally is pure anguish. It’s exhausting living with all that. I get it.
I feel like suicide could happen to anyone under the right circumstances. That’s why we need to eradicate the stigma and support those in need of mental health services.
Lives literally depend on it.
Risk Factors for Suicide Ideation and/or Attempts
- Family history of suicide or child neglect
- Previous suicide attempts
- History of mental disorders, especially clinic depression
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
- Physical illness
- Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
Read more about risk factors on the CDC website.
Warning Signs of Suicidal Ideation and Behavior
- Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves (like researching how to buy a gun)
- Talking about feeling hopeless or being in unbearable pain
- Increasing the use of alcohol and drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Extreme mood swings
Read more about warning signs and how you can help here.
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation, please seek immediately. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
There are better days ahead. Stay in the light, my friends.