I have a real pet peeve about saying that people who talk about suicide just want attention like it is a bad thing. Attention is not a bad thing (do not tell my therapist…he will use it against me) and all behavior is communication and usually indicates a need, so they need attention. But, let’s get specific what type someone to talk to, a companion, someone to play a game with, someone to help them with their medications, someone to help them with something…it is always a an indication of a want or need that they find this is the only way that they can express it. What are they really trying to say.”
For me, my whole life has been impacted by “just for attention, it is not that bad, she has always been dramatic.” This is especially so when it came to suicidal thoughts and behavior. I have lived with suicidal thoughts my whole life (first active memory at age two). I won’t go into the details here and the younger thoughts were not really formed, but just a sense of not wanting to be. I knew that this was not normal, but I felt like I was defective.
After more than 18 years of active therapy, group therapy, and four hospitalizations, I still have constant thoughts of suicide. My brain automatically goes there and under stress and especially highly emotional events I feel like I need to die. I now know that it is my saying that “I am in pain,” “I’m hopeless,” or “I need some help.” This all is rooted in my childhood trauma.
In high school, I took an overdose of Tylenol before church, so my friend’s parents took me to the hospital and called my mother. My mother and step-father proceeded to yell at me about being stupid, etc… My mother was hysterical and angry and yelling at me. The emergency staff led them out of the room to my relief. I was released and my mother was told to take me to see a therapist who I saw twice. I told him I was fine and just wanted some attention. He just took at that and I never saw him again. (I now know that he was sort of incompetent especially working with teenagers). Just adds to my brain that wanting attention is not important. Also, my mother never talked about it again…to this day. She can’t even handle that I’m in therapy and not working. If I bring it up I get ignored.
A few months after that, two of my friends approached my mother and told her that they thought I was suicidal. Well, my mother dismissed them saying, “Well, CC has always been dramatic. She should have been an actress. She is just fine, but thank you for your concern.” Right now, I can barely feel the pain of the disappointment that maybe this once she will listen to someone else.
In college, I began seeing the therapist I now see and it took me over a year to tell him that I even had a suicidal thought. Sometimes I “forget” to tell him and try to handle it on my own just like before. And my head and feelings go, “he doesn’t believe me, he thinks I’m being manipulative or dramatic, he is going to yell at me or hit me, it isn’t that big of a deal, and I’m fine, I should not have talked about it.” My therapist takes me seriously and am encouraged to talk about it which is such a relief to me. My therapist does not over react and he trusts me and we do talk about whether hospitalization is necessary. Most of the time, it isn’t but he and I monitor the situation. After 25 years, it feels so good to finally be heard!!!
Please, read further if you want to learn more about what signs there are, how to help and places to go for more information and to obtain immediate assistance. If in doubt, always call 911, in the US, for assistance. There are some worldwide contact information as well.
What to do if you think a person is having suicidal thoughts? I obtained this information off the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) site. You cannot predict death by suicide, but you can identify people who are at increased risk for suicidal behavior, take precautions, and refer them for effective treatment.
Ask the person directly if he or she (1) is having suicidal thoughts/ideas, (2)has a plan to do so, and (3) has access to lethal means
Ask “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” “Have you ever tried to hurt yourself before?” “Do you think you might try to hurt yourself today?” “Have you thought of ways that you might hurt yourself?” “Do you have pills/weapons in the house?”
This won’t increase the person’s suicidal thoughts. It will give you information that indicates how strongly the person has thought about killing him- or herself.
IS PATH WARM?
Ideation—Threatened or communicated
Substance abuse—Excessive or increased
Purposeless—No reasons for living
Trapped—Feeling there is no way out
Withdrawing—From friends, family, society
Anger (uncontrolled)—Rage, seeking revenge
Recklessness—Risky acts, unthinking
Mood changes (dramatic)
If it is then, call for help. The following are some resources most of which are international:
Fact: Most people who commit suicide have given some verbal clues or warning of their intention.
Myth: The tendency toward suicide is inherited and passed from generation to generation.
Fact: Although suicidal behavior does tend to run in families, it does not appear to be transmitted genetically.
Myth: The suicidal person wants to die and feels that there is no turning back.
Fact: Suicidal people are usually ambivalent about dying and frequently will seek help immediately after attempting the harm themselves.
Myth: All suicidal people are deeply depressed.
Fact: Although depression is often closely associated with suicidal feelings, not all people who kill themselves are obviously depressed. In fact some suicidal people appear to be happier than they’ve been in years because they have decided to “resolve” all of their problems by killing themselves. Also, people who are extremely depressed usually do not have the energy to kill themselves.
Myth: There is no correlation between alcoholism and suicide.
Fact: Alcoholism and suicide often go hand in hand. Alcoholics are prodded to suicidal behavior and even people who don’t normally drink will often ingest alcohol shortly before killing themselves.
Myth: Suicidal people are mentally ill.
Fact: Although many suicidal people are depressed and distraught, most could not be diagnosed as mentally ill; perhaps only about 25 percent of them are actually psychotic.
Myth: Once someone attempts suicide, that person will always entertain thoughts of suicide.
Fact: Most people who are suicidal are so for only a very brief period once in their lives. If the person receives the proper support and assistance, he/she will probably never be suicidal again. Only about 10 percent of the people who attempt later kill themselves.
Myth: If you ask someone about their suicidal intentions, you will only encourage them to kill themselves.
Fact: Actually the opposite is true. Asking someone directly about their suicidal intentions will often lower their anxiety level and act as a deterrent to suicidal behavior by encouraging the ventilation of pent-up emotions through a frank discussion of his problems.
Myth: Suicide is quite common among the lower class.
Fact: Suicide crosses all socioeconomic distinctions and no one class is more susceptible to it than another.
Myth: Suicidal people rarely seek medical attention.
Fact: Research has consistently shown that about 75 percent of suicidal people will visit a physician within the month before they kill themselves.
Is Suicide a Choice? “No. Choice implies that a suicidal person can reasonably look at alternatives and select among them. If they could rationally choose, it would not be suicide. Suicide happens when all other alternatives are exhausted — when no other choices are seen.”
~ Adina Wrobleski Suicide: Why? (1995)
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~ Norman Cousins
“Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.” ~Robert Cody
“If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” ~Mahatma Gandhi