Thoughtful Thursday: Suicide

Today I am not sharing my regular weekly P366 blog post, I will share that tomorrow. Today I am consumed with sadness and heartache and need to write about it. An 8th grade girl, a student at Dominic’s middle school, took her life Tuesday evening. She was 12 years old. Of course this hits home.

It used to be that people with special needs were institutionalized, hidden away, and not acknowledged or talked about. But things changed. As a society, we started being more inclusive. We still have far to go, but the progress in my lifetime has been wonderful. We need to do the same thing for people who have mental health issues. Neurological and physical challenges are no different than mental health challenges… our children didn’t ask to be sad, lonely, and hopeless. We can’t be afraid to talk about depression and suicide. It has to be discussed with every single one of our children. They need to be taught to recognize the signs of depression. They need to know that their feelings don’t make them a freak and that they aren’t alone. They have to be taught that they can ask for help and how to do it.

Teach your kids how to include children who seem alone or sad, teach them to stand up for kids if they are getting bullied or teased, teach them to tell a teacher or other adult if they see or hear something that worries them. Talk to your children today. This is too important. After we moved to New Braunfels, a 13-year old 8th grade boy named Peyton took his life in Georgetown. My kids would’ve gone to his middle school had we moved forward with building our house there. Peyton’s mom, Jacki, started a movement called Kindness Matters. It’s not about the bullies, it’s about the kids that take a moment to ask, “How are you?” “Can I get that for you?” “Would you like to sit with me?”

All that these kids need is a little hope. The chance for one more minute, one more hour, one more day… then things might be different. Let’s not lose another one.

Suicide is not the easy way out or a cowardly act at all. It takes enormous strength to hang on day after day while feeling like there is no hope for you. That is the definition of strength. Asking for help takes Herculean effort. There have been two mothers that I knew personally, young moms with small children, who have taken their life in the last two years. Think about that. They had everything to live for, seemed very happy, yet were hiding these incredibly dark thoughts in their minds. Think about how lonely they must’ve been in their souls, that they could leave behind their children, that they believed their families would be better off without them. It breaks my heart. If mothers can’t ask for help, how can we expect our children to?

I’ve shared both of these links before on Facebook, but the message is important enough to share again…

From The Mighty:

Knowing a loved one is suicidal is scary — there’s no clear instruction manual for making it all better. It can put you under enormous pressure when the stakes are so high, and you might not know what to do or say.

But if there was one rule of thumb, it would be this: We have to listen.

So, we did. We asked people in our community who’ve felt suicidal what they needed most in their lowest moments. Everyone’s different, but these answers might give you insight into what someone who’s suicidal really needs.

If you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, you can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Validation. People don’t get to the point of suicide because they are petty or selfish. It happens when you honestly cannot imagine a way out of what you are going through. Appealing to the benefit of those potentially left behind isn’t helpful because when I’m suicidal, I honestly believe those people will either not really care or will be better off. Simply trying to understand and acknowledging the feeling is so important. Then, and only then, can you talk about a way out, a light at the end of the tunnel, the value of living and how to get help.”

SF1 copy

2. “I just need someone to be there, to listen, to not be judgmental. I feel that there are people out there who see suicide as a weakness. I believe it is just that someone has got to a point where they can’t see a future for themselves. In my experience, there have been times when I’ve been suicidal and someone just telling me they care and love me has helped. If someone tries to make me feel guilty for my feelings, that will just make things worse. I know what it’s like to love someone who has died by suicide, so I already know the effect it would have on others. I just need to know there are still people around who care about me and love me just the way I am.”

3. “Be there for me to ramble on to if I need to verbally vomit everything going on inside my head… or be there for me to sit quietly with while I work out my own emotions. Just be there for me. Don’t rush to any judgments concerning what I may or may not need or what you think I may need. Just be there for me.”

4. “Remind me I’m not a burden. Remind me how special I make your life by just being in it.”

5. “If I say I’m suicidal, take it seriously and don’t assume I want attention. You don’t know how far in the hole I am so don’t leave me in a room alone to wander with my thoughts, even if I request it. If you can’t be there physically and you’re unsure if anyone can, then just talk and listen over the phone. If anything else, encourage me to get outside and walk around and to focus on hobbies. Try to make that person feel accepted or welcome — and it’s OK to be direct.”

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6. “Remind me of how strong I am. Remind me of who I am.”

7. “Let the professional take care of me. Pack some socks, underwear, sweat pants, shirts and sweatshirts. It gets cold in there. Make sure that bag of clothes goes in ambulance with me.”

8. “Hold me while I cry, cry with me, don’t tell me things aren’t that bad. Even though I may know it. Tell me I’m not the horrible person I feel I am, although I will never believe it. Maybe point out some of the good things I have accomplished, because I cannot for the life of me think of one!”

9. “Be physically present. That means coming over. Staying with me until either the urge passes, I have an appointment with a therapist or decide to go to a hospital. And if I do decide to go to a hospital, come with me. Don’t leave me alone during that process.”

SF3 copy

10. “Remind me the hospital is a viable and safe option. It might seem extreme, but when you’re that far in the dark, the hospital is a really great place to fast-track the care you need.”

11. “Just having someone to talk it out with can be helpful. I have a friend who told me I always have options and choices, and it helped me realize I wasn’t helpless.”

12. “Keep in close touch, even if that means a text every few hours, even if I don’t answer back. Remind me there are professionals who can help guide me through this difficult time. Send me a crisis helpline number and remind me there is no shame in reaching out for help.”

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13. “Distract me. Ask to get food or bring food to me. After asking me how I’m feeling, ask me a question about anything other than how I’m currently feeling to change the subject. Sometimes I just need my mind to wander somewhere else.”

14. “Please don’t tell me how selfish I’m being. In my mind I’m making things better for everyone else.”

15. “Be there and spend time with me. I don’t want them to preach why I need to be alive. Show me why. Actions always speak louder than words. My friends and family have shown me this.”

Copy of treat yourself meme

16. “Realize that this feeling isn’t me ‘fishing for compliments’ or ‘throwing my own pity party.’ This is a genuine feeling. Please just listen to what’s making me feel this way.”

17. “Don’t be as scared to use the ‘s-word’ as I am. If you ask me if I’m suicidal I’ll tell you, but I can’t bring myself to actually say it.”

18. “Don’t try to understand. Don’t try to fix my life situations or me. Just love me and listen to me. Just let me know you care.”

19. “Remind me I am a mountain and that all storms, even the most challenging, will come and go. The clouds will break and the sun will eventually return. We just have to white knuckle it sometimes and hold on till it passes.”

Copy of treat yourself meme (1)

20. “Simple yes/no questions such as, ‘Are you safe?’ ‘Can I take you to the hospital?’ etc.”

21. “Keep checking in. I don’t want to feel like the needy one who has to keep asking people to hear me out.”

22. “Talk to me. Like really just have a normal conversation. ‘How is the weather? Guess who I saw at Walmart? I did my lawn work today!’ I don’t want a sermon. I know I have people and things to live for. I want normalcy, nothing exceptional.”

23. “Please don’t tell me I’m being selfish and judge me. I don’t want to hurt you, I just can’t handle that my head and heart don’t always work together.”

24. “Listen, validate and believe.”

Copy of treat yourself meme (2)

*Answers have been edited and shortened for brevity.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

So often our children stay silent because of social stigma and are afraid to ask for help. They feel all alone. Connect.

From Via 9gag.com on Facebook:

Suicide

Be your child’s stick.

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  • jon - anonymous - Hello,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, found you on youtube.

    Sorry to here of this loss.

    ————
    My comments on raising awareness, stigma around mental illness…

    What I’ve found is that the greatest obstacle to getting mental health professional help or any kind of health-related help is that the greatest obstacle isn’t stigma, it’s patient rights and poor quality of care.

    No one wants to get their rights taken away.

    Trust is a major issue. The best form of help out there comes in a trusted person one can confide in without fear of being force or coerced into something regardless of how serious the issue is.

    If you tell a mental health professional that you’re considering suicide he or she is legally obligated to disclose it. If you’re deemed a threat to yourself or others you can be forcefully hospitalized/medicated. That in itself would cause more harm than good.

    Mental health professionals can be extremely coercive and manipulative. They’re trained to coerce patients into doing things they naturally wouldn’t do, all while claiming that it’s in the patient’s best interest.

    The other issue is quality of care.

    I don’t know much about the health care system in the united states, but where I am, canada, we have public universal health insurance.

    The insurance covers psychiatrists but not psychologists or other mental health professionals.

    Psychiatrists here are of little help for mental health problems which aren’t bio-medical. In fact they mostly see mental health problems from a bio-medical mechanistic perspective and just pathologize every issue. They prescribe medication to treat so called pathology -> effectively covering up mental health problems caused by bullying, destructive relationships, financial problems, other stressers.

    Another thing is that while intentions are good with respect to eliminating stigma, it would be better to focus on preventing mental health breakdown entirely. By the time help is needed the damage has been done.ReplyCancel

    • Holly - Hi Jon, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. Giving control over to your medical team is a very scary proposition. How do you know when you can trust someone else to make decisions for you if you are at risk of hurting yourself? It’s easy when the patient is under 18 and the parent is involved, but when the patient is an adult… you’ve raised some thought-provoking questions. Do you have any ideas on how to prevent a mental health breakdown? It appears that there is some genetic influences with regard to my family. How do I stay vigilant and get my children the right kind of support? This is somewhat of a rhetorical question, but I am curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment, I appreciate it very much.ReplyCancel

  • jon - I think that for any mental health intervention to be effective the patient has to be engaged and on board. Forced treatment shouldn’t be an option or legal in all but the most extreme cases.

    Sadly forced or coercive treatment is still a reality especially in cases involving hospitalization. If it wasn’t and rights were respected, more people would feel comfortable seeking help.

    Usually when someone is resisting treatment there’s actually a good reason and the case isn’t nearly as simple as it seems on the surface.

    I think patients under 18 (could be 16 or 14 in certain areas) can actually at the greatest risk because they under the eyes of the law, they don’t necessarily the right to make their own decisions. If a parent refuses the recommended treatment for a child (lets say due to risks and negative effects of certain drugs like anti-psychotics), doctors can easily get children’s aid involved. That’s a very dangerous.

    I don’t know if there’s anything similar to children’s aid for intellectually disabled adults where the legal guardian’s (and the patient’s) decisions can be over-ridden by a government agency, but hopefully not.

    For adults though if there’s a proper power of attorney set up (and everyone should have one) before a mental breakdown, I think a trusted substitute decision maker can step in and take charge of the patient’s care.

    —-
    As for the question of how to prevent a mental health breakdown, that’s a really tough to answer.

    If the mental illness is of a biomedical origin, I don’t think there’s much that can be done.

    Even for other cases you can’t really protect family members and friends from external sources of stress which lead to mental breakdown. The person him or herself has to admit that there’s a problem (not the same as concrete internal “disorder” or “defect” to treat) and be willing and open to drawing on social supports to change the situation.

    The best any family member or friend can do is not brush off mental health concerns and check in with people in a respectful** way. There needs to be a lot of trust, and often in a parent-child relationship there isn’t, especially if it’s the relationship itself or problems at home that are causing the mental health problems to begin with.

    **By respectful, I mean making sure that that anything being done is only in the person’s best interest and not just to control or get rid of what’s perceived as abnormal/undesirable/disruptive behavior. (the behavior is just a symptom after all especially if there’s substance abuse involved. ) The worst thing any family member can do is try and abruptly address poor mental health, “mental difference” or behavior as a simple, concrete “problem to be fixed” ->that’s damaging as often the patient is already fragile, has very poor self-esteem and is already all too aware of the dysfunction.

    I know this from my own experiences. I didn’t seek help out of fear of being judged or given trouble or worse being forced into medical or psychiatric treatment. (…and it wasn’t even suicidal depression or substance abuse, far less serious than that)ReplyCancel

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