Q. Why do people attempt suicide? How does someone sink so low in an abyss of darkness and despair that suicide seems to be the only way out?
A. A suicide attempt is a clear indication that something is gravely wrong in a person’s life. No matter the race or age of the person; how rich or poor they are, it is true that most people who die by suicide have a mental or emotional disorder. The most common underlying disorder is depression, 30% to 70% of suicide victims suffer from major depression or bipolar disorder.
Many (or most) people cannot identify with the person who sees suicide as an option to flee from their life pain.
I do understand that pain because I too have suffered with depression all my life. I was depressed as a child. It became my normal. My 20’s were a tumultuous time filled with drugs, alcohol and extremely risky behavior. I was deeply lonely even though there were people around me. One day the pain was too much; my Elavil that I was taking for depression became my vehicle to end this pain. I remember how I began to feel when the medication started causing extreme drowsiness, I became scared and I reached out.
A friend arrived and took me to the hospital. I remember people holding me down as I was fighting the procedure to pump my stomach. I remember someone calling out to get the crash cart and the number 40. I later thought maybe it was the top or bottom number of my blood pressure.
I woke up in the intensive care area of the psychiatric unit. I felt physically terrible. Emotionally I wasn’t sure. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks and discharged to outpatient therapy, which I desperately needed.
I understand people who make that choice. The demons that become too big. The blackness that becomes too dark.
But I am thankful that I reached out. It was not the right choice.
Anxiety and depression are very real. So is loneliness and despair. Posting the national suicide hotline is a great resource, but I encourage everyone to do more. Talk about it. Encourage employees to use EAP resources. Talk to people – get to know them, express genuine interest, ask questions, follow up, never be too busy to care. Put down your phone, really listen, make eye contact.
As a mental health provider, I am often asked what type of therapy I practice. The theory comes from Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) but what I think is more important in helping people find hope again is the real life therapy I practice; acceptance, kindness, non-judgement, encouragement, support and love. These are often deficient in the lives of people who are struggling, I know, I have been there.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
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