The following post talks about suicide. Please ensure that you are in a safe place mentally before continuing. If you are struggling with thoughts of self harm or suicide then please call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit your nearest emergency department.
I have attempted suicide in the past. I won’t go into great detail about how I did it, but it will say that I attempted to overdose on medications. I was refused bail, and put in prison during a suicidal period in my life because I attempted to rob a chemist to gain access to medication.
The last time I made an attempt on my life was 7 years ago. That was the last time I knowingly did it anyway. I spent the 12 months after that time trying to destroy my life, if I happened to die while I did it, then that was a bonus. That last statement sounds callous I know, but it’s an accurate description for that time in my life.
I just wanted to stop feeling. I hated myself and I believed that I didn’t deserve anything that I had. I was hell bent on destroying and pushing everything away that was good in my life. If I had nothing, and no one then I could slip away. I often thought of disappearing, never to be found again.
A lot of people believe that suicide is selfish and it’s the cowards way out. I can see where they are coming from. Until you walk in those shoes, or lose someone close to you, it’s easy to sit back and think that it’s just so easy to give up the life that you are living. It can seem the easy way out to just quit. Especially when people relate it to their life experiences and their understanding of what it means to quit.
On the surface, suicide is the ‘easy’ way out. Of course it is easier to be dead than to deal with the emotional turmoil that leads a person to suicide. However there is nothing cowardly about it. Imagine being so desperate to end the thoughts and overwhelming emotions (and that is often what suicide is about, rather than death) that death seems like the only viable option. It goes against every instinct we have as living creatures.
Suicide is such an emotive topic and it’s hard to talk about it without upsetting anyone. We all have our own experiences and beliefs about it. We are all affected by it in different ways, there are no two people alike. I think that is why we need more people talking about their experiences because just maybe someone has a story that is similar to yours. Just maybe, you will realise that you aren’t completely alone in this world.
They say that what we need when we are suicidal to finally tip us over the edge is the feeling that anyone in our life would be better off without us. Once we can believe that, we can give ourselves permission to die. I attempted suicide in my late teens and early 20s. I dare anybody to tell me I was being selfish. They can make those ridiculous comments, so long as they don’t mind hearing my response.
Things not to say to someone who has attempted suicide:
1.Why? – Why do you think? Do you imagine there will be some big reason they can pull out of their arse? That they will come up with a reason so you can dismiss it and cheer them up? Or that it will make sense to you suddenly? Probable answers are because they no longer wanted to live, or possibly were in such desperate pain that this was the only thing they could think of to get your attention.
2.Any attempt at guilt: Unless you want them to try again, that is.
3.Any attempt to make it about you. It’s not. And if, in some way, it is, you both need a professional mental health expert to guide you through that.
Things you could possibly say: I am sorry you are in so much pain. If you want to talk, I will listen. And then do so, without offering “solutions”. Acknowledging a person’s feelings, their pain and their right to those feelings is important. Trying to cheer them up is a horrible idea.
This is a true story I was told by a respected and trusted mental health professional recently. An older woman had been battling serious depression. Her family wanted to “cheer her up”. They took her to the Gold Coast for a family holiday and rented and apartment in a high rise. There were about 10 of them, kids, adults and the gran. During dinner one afternoon, she jumped off the balcony. A few things were probably going on here. She was desperately, desperately depressed. The cheery family gathering was making her feel worse. She did not want to be there and this was certainly a way to let them see that. Her feelings had been minimised and they were attempting to fix her rather than listen to her. She just wanted to finally escape.
I know that when I have been in that terrible, dark place any attempt to minimise my feelings and tell me how I should feel, tell me to look on the bright side, concentrate on the positives has served to add an overwhelming rage to my utter misery. You might as well be watching a person have her leg sawn off and tell her to look on the bright side, at least she has another one and the pain will stop soon.
I would highly recommend – if you are on the Gold Coast – the Paradise Kids A.S.I.S.T course. It’s a two day workshop on suicide intervention and is a practical and fantastic learning experience. It’s also pretty full on, so please do make sure you are in a safe place mentally before going on the course. Lifeline also do some great courses. These workshops are First Aid for suicide intervention. They do not aim to make you an expert, but they do give you skills so you know what to say and what not to say to a suicidal person and how to identify someone who is at risk of suicide. It’s all about keeping them “safe for now.”.
Anyway, hot button topic for me, apologies for the length of the comment Teegs As always thank you for your interesting posts.
I would point out, I feel desperately sorry for that woman’s poor family and that does not come across well in that comment. I realise they were, god help them, just trying to help. I tell this story in an effort to make people realise how dangerous it can be to minimise a suicidal person’s feelings.
Yet again another controversial, thought provoking topic. Your openness is amazing.
I also like Alison’s comment. I have to say I really feel for family and friends dealing with a loved one who is severely depressed and considering suicide. It must be so overwhelming to not know what to do in such situations. And given that there is information out there about what NOT to do, as well as advice for what to do, it can seem a little confusing. It is human nature to want to help and I believe that suicide is not discussed because people can become paralysed by fear of getting it wrong. The unfortunate outcome of this is guilt that perhaps they did nothin or contributed in a negative way.
I love Alison’s suggestion of just listening, but I would also ask what happens after that? How does that interaction end, because this is often the hardest part for people. They are very willing to sit and listen, but how can we close off that particular session without wanting to dive into making a plan to fix things? Does this question make sense? One of the questions that families most often asked of me as a mental health professional (after the initial “what can I do?”) is “what happens next?”.
Thank you for being open and honest about such a difficult topic. While I may not have made an attempt myself, I do understand the depth of feelings behind why people do attempt it. And I have seen how it affects the family up to 3 years after someone has committed suicide. The feelings of guilt were extremely strong. And your courage to share your experience and how you felt at the time is inspiring. Well done.
You know my story and probably the only good thing that’s come from it is that I’d never be able to go through with committing suicide myself because I know what its like for the people who are left behind. When I was first diagnosed with PND I was so depressed I thought Hayley would be better off without me, but I never thought about killing myself and thats probably the most depressed I’ve been. It might’ve been different if I hadn’t had the life experiences I’ve had, but then I might not be prone to depression if I hadn’t had those experiences too, who knows.