by Seth Allard, Zero Suicide Project Manager
Below is a true-life story from a member of our community who is also a suicide attempt survivor. This story is given to us by a compassionate person who wants our community to know, that while this experience may not relate to everyone, feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. Depression, suicidal thoughts, and experiences with suicide can touch us all. Depression does not segregate and isn’t biased – It effects everyone. If, during or after reading this story, you feel anxiety or feel that you need support, please seek help from our Behavioral Health Department at (313) 846-6030 or contact your current mental health provider. If you or anyone around you are having suicidal thoughts, call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text 741-741. Please continue to read below the story for more information on mental health and the power that you and your community have to recognize and help each other seek and receive the support that you need.
We all have difficult times in our lives. At that given moment it is hard to cope with the situation with no bright side of a conclusion. In that moment your heart is racing, having confusing thoughts and even trying to come up with an escape. Escape you may ask. What type? Are you meaning suicide? While suicide and mental illness to some may be taboo, or even something that should be a hushed topic it shouldn’t be at all. While writing this real case scenario that happened as long as 21 years ago, still lingers in thoughts but also serves as a purpose that I am truly a suicide survivor.
Recalling back, being a youthful high school teenage student, I wasn’t so popular with my classmates but had a small circle of friends. I was living in the mental reality that things weren’t so truly normal. You had your typical cliques, bullies and what you would call outcasts. Yes, I was one of those outcasts. It wasn’t truly as I was hoping to land in but it was fine by me.
Growing up at home was a different story. I went to school like nothing bothered me putting on this fake smile. The home front was what I was scared of more than school. Having individuals who never really supported you and also bashing you never helped. There was no encouragement or praise. Praise was a sin. Always bashing you for your faults was truly a common inspirational hymn around home. That was where the depression grew and I sank. I sank into a deep hole burying myself alive and trying to climb out. It was the quicksand to my mental reality. I knew I had to seek help. It’s truly remarkable when your child (myself) comes and asks for help knowing something is wrong to only be brushed away with, “oh you will get over it and it will go away.” With no help in sight, it grew worse and worse until the day that I began harming myself. I hurt myself more and more, which eventually led to me having physical and emotional scarring.
You are probably wondering what the reasoning was behind this? Depression has no reasons, it could be from happy and bad times or even both. Looking back at this and growing into the adult I am now, I am not ashamed to talk about this as it made me stronger and appreciative that I have living to do. Being a survivor gave me the compassion to talk about this and advocate for helping those who seek help and that mental illness shouldn’t be a stereotype, a stigmata, or even taboo. As human beings we all have feelings, we have compassion and we all have ways to help someone even if it’s a quick phone call, a shoulder for someone to cry on, or even little nice gestures like telling someone hello. We truly do not know what anyone is going through.
It is extremely important to listen to and understand the stories of fellow community members who have experiences with depression, anxiety, and suicide. From this powerful and open story, we take away many lessons, thoughts, and areas of further guidance – guidance for ourselves as we navigate our own mental health, as we help those around us. We also receive insight on how we can think about and discuss mental health, depression, and suicide in our families and communities. By sharing our experiences, we learn that we are not alone – or as alone as we may believe – when it comes to challenges to our mental health and wellness. Depression and anxiety are commonly linked and the most common mental health issues faced by Americans.
We must not be judgmental when those near us come to us for support. Instead of being dismissive when someone shows signs of depression or talks about their emotional difficulties, try to listen and be supportive. It is very important to not talk over someone, or begin “solving” their problems, while someone is sharing their story. Recognizing a person’s pain and experiences can be an affirmation of their experiences, and is one of the most important steps in gaining trust and helping somebody who is coming to you for support.
It is easy to dismiss signs or symptoms of depression – he/she is just tired, irritated, having a bad day. It can be easy to walk past someone or not pay attention to each other’s words, mood, and emotions, and as a result, we miss an opportunity to recognize the need for help. Sometimes a person’s crying out comes in the form of a whisper, substance or alcohol use, bent shoulders, self-isolating, or many signs that are not thought of as obvious indicators that help is needed. When we see signs or symptoms of depression, we must ask in a nonjudgmental way if the person can share his/her story. How are you feeling? Can you tell me how things are going? Do you want to share what is making you feel this way? Then we must listen to that story, and be supportive in helping our loved ones and friends receive information, resources, support, and care.
We must be especially mindful that those around us may be thinking of suicide. We cannot allow our fear of asking questions like, “Are you thinking of suicide?” to overshadow the need to ask such important questions. If you need support in approaching a person about thoughts of suicide, seek a qualified mental health provider, counselor, or someone who has received training and is experienced in discussing mental health for advice. Feel free to call the Lifeline (see number above) to ask for support or contact the Behavioral Health Department at AIHFS to receive information and support on how to approach your friend, family member, or coworker in a supportive, but direct way.
We must believe, and help others to believe, that there is Hope – Hope that even if we are experiencing deep depression, and even if we have thoughts that the only way to escape mental suffering, that there is a possibility of healing and strength. This is not the same as simply stating, “You’ll get over it” or “you’ll be fine.” Hope is the belief that there is something to live for. There can be a better tomorrow. There is a road to recovery.
Lastly, there are times when we, as friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, feel a sense of guilt or responsibility for the mental health challenges and anything that may have happened as a result of a person’s depression, anxiety, or mental illness. Did I do enough? What else could I have done? Where did I mess up? Is this my fault? These questions and feelings of self-blame are common after losing someone to suicide or after a loved one attempts suicide. It is very important, at that point, to seek support from a counselor or somebody with training and experience in discussing these thoughts and feelings.
To receive training in Mental Health First Aid or Suicide Prevention, please contact the Zero Suicide Project at email@example.com or call 313-846-6030.