Updated: Oct 1, 2019
Today the news was full of the story about the second Parkland shooting survivor who apparently committed suicide. I find this particularly difficult to hear as I am a suicide survivor.
I am one of the lucky ones who either didn’t try hard enough or God decided to spare. But this doesn’t change the fact that I am suicidal and it’s something my family has to live with every day.
I first attempted suicide at 17 using pills. Fortunately, I lived and I overcame the need for many years. Then, after I became disabled, I tried several more times. Understanding why someone attempts suicide is difficult and if it would help anyone out there, I will explain it in another, longer blog. What I hope to get across today is that once you begin having suicidal ideation (planning the different ways you might kill yourself) you are in danger. And this thinking almost never goes away. It can be easily re-triggered.
It is critical for anyone who experiences trauma to seek mental health care. And he or she should continue it until a medical professional determines one is safe. And even then, a suicidal person must continue to practice the tools to keep the mind healthy. Being suicidal is no different than being an alcoholic. You have to work your program.
The best program I found was Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT. Many good mental health centers in your area should offer it. The program is generally covered by health care. DBT offers a proven set of tools to manage suicidal thoughts and understand the reasons for them and how to let go of them. There are often groups around to help people continue working on the skills.
This is why everyone should be supportive of affordable health care – particularly mental health care – in this country. Without it, we will continue to lose friends and family to this illness.
We also need to become more comfortable talking about it. That’s why I am coming out today with this message. I don’t mind if you know I have this illness. I only mind if we don’t work to help others that are suffering from it. I lost a very dear friend to it. We knew each other had this illness and talked about it regularly. But that still wasn’t enough. She re-triggered and kept it quiet until she shot herself.
I also have used the suicide prevention hotline. It really helps. I keep the number by my bed. In case you need it, the national number is 1-800-273-8255.
Finally, if you are concerned about anyone experiencing suicidal ideation get this person to a primary care physician or hospital immediately. Don’t wait. You don’t know how long your loved one has been making plans and only intervention can prevent death.
For those of you who are suffering, please seek help. People really do love you. Give them the chance to tell you. Don’t lose hope. Focus on creating a life worth living. You can do it. I know. I have.