Tag Archives: suicide

Suicide as a Human Right: What We Can Do to Support Folks Who Consider Suicide

January 20th, 2020

We live in a world that is inherently traumatizing. There is no life on Earth in which trauma does not exist within. There are people murdered everyday, there are people dying that have no food, fires spreading and killing entire towns of people and wildlife. In a world in which things like this happen multiple times a day, it is impossible for me to blame people who want to kill themselves.

When I say I cannot blame anyone for having the urge to die, or for choosing suicide over living, I am not saying it doesn’t break my heart. I so heavily relate to the feeling that not being alive would be an upgrade from living on this planet.  What I am saying is that suicide is, and should be recognized across the board as, a human right. No one chooses to be brought into this world. Who is to say that we don’t maintain the right to live, or die, on our own terms?

My issue with most “suicide prevention” organizations is that suicide always being an option is not openly spread to folks. What is pushed instead the statement “You don’t want to die, you just want to escape your pain,” which completely negates the fact that for a lot of folks, life is pain. There are many folks who actually want to die, and telling them they don’t simply invalidates their experiences and shuts them off to discussing how they really feel.

What the organizations who push the message of preventing suicide should be saying is something to the tone of “Suicide is always an option, and we should not blame or shame folks who choose to die on their own terms. There is something very powerful, however, about knowing the option is always there, but choosing to live despite.”

No one wants to feel like they cannot escape. A statement I also disagree with spreading is “Everything gets better. Give it time.” That is a dangerous assumption, for unfortunately, lives can and do get worse for some folks. Sometimes escaping abuse, neglect, or your own demons just simply doesn’t happen, and it is unfair to tell people that they don’t have the power and the option to leave.

I’ve lost two of my best friends to suicide. Both under the age of 22. And as much as it hurts me that they are gone, and I miss them every day, I cannot get behind making people stay alive for the comfort of others around them. People say “you have so many people who love you” but when you grow up in environments in which it is ingrained in you that you shouldn’t love yourself, it makes life very difficult. I tell people often I want to stop living for others and start living for myself, but as someone who has endured lifelong trauma and degradation, it is still such a challenge to even like myself.

I’ve been fighting hard to love myself, and to put myself first. I know so many other people who are too. Since we live in a society in which, the vast, vast majority of folks have been taught that they are not good enough, through actions and through words, it is hard sometimes to believe anyone can love themselves.

Trauma is a human trait in which all of us have a piece (or 5) of. Instead of shaming folks for leaving, a better idea, a healthier idea, is to acknowledge trauma as a uniting force, and well as a systematic failure within all systems that need to be broken down and rebuilt.

 

Maxxwell LaBrie (pronouns: they/them/theirs) is a young adult whose passion for peer advocacy and youth voice fuels their dedication to writing. They are a psychiatric survivor and a certified peer specialist who thrives to support young adults in all avenues and through any struggle they face. They also serve on the Youth MOVE National Board of Directors.

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We always wonder why

November 19th, 2019

Nobody talks about wanting to die. There’s a dark stigma around it, like it’s a contagious disease. It’s as if by talking about it, we have something to lose, when in reality, if we don’t talk about it, we’ll continue to lose many lives. We’re always surprised when somebody dies by suicide. We wonder where the signs were, we wonder how no one noticed something was off. We wonder why. We always wonder why.

Some days, I wake up and the thought of having to go through the motions again become almost unbearable. Get up, shower, try to eat breakfast, go to work, try to have a social life, go to bed and think about how much I don’t want to do the same thing day in and day out for the rest of my life. It all seems so tedious – especially when I’m also dealing with constant anxiety and treatment resistant depression.

There are even days when I just want to die. I’m not saying that I’m suicidal. I don’t have a plan of action. I haven’t written my final goodbyes. I’ll be honest – I don’t even think I could bring myself to do it. The thought, though, is almost cathartic in a way. It’s like looking forward to taking a nap after you’ve woken up too early for a breakfast party that you didn’t even want to attend in the first place. When I’m at my lowest, I constantly think, “I didn’t want any of this. I didn’t ask to be born.” Often, I’d rather face the pitch black of uncertainty than deal with being depressed and crying myself into an uneasy sleep night after night.

I’m finding that this is a fairly common train of thought – especially in my peers. We’re exhausted, overworked, underpaid, unfulfilled, overmedicated, undermedicated, stressed out, angry and depressed. There’s not enough time in a day to get everything one wants and needs done. By bedtime, we’re so frazzled that we’re overtired, our thoughts going a thousand miles an hour, with nowhere to go except around and around. That’s not good for anyone’s mental health, and it can seriously start to bog anyone down. I can’t tell you how many of my peers have ‘joked’ about killing themselves just to ease the stress of living. Maybe the thought of suicide hasn’t been in the forefront of their minds- but it’s definitely there.

When you type ‘not suicidal’ into the Google search bar, the first three suggestions that come up are:

“Not suicidal but tired of life.”

“Not suicidal but wouldn’t mind dying.”

“Not suicidal but wanting to die.”

This tells me that there are a lot of people, like me and my peer group, who are feeling the exact same way. It’s comforting, knowing that I’m not alone in my existential dread, but it’s also concerning. As a nation, we’re still not talking about suicide, and we’re certainly not addressing mental health. Not to mention that treatment for anyone who’s considered “high functioning” with mental health needs is almost non-existent for young adults/adults. Most of my friends hear the same script from their providers, “Okay, you’re depressed and having some minor suicidal ideation… but you’re out of bed, you’ve combed your hair, ate half a piece of toast, and you’re going to work still… so I’m going to prescribe you this antidepressant that’ll make you groggy and confused when you wake up, and let’s see how you’re feeling in a month!” Are we supposed to take that seriously if they’re not taking us seriously?

I don’t know how we fix this. Maybe we don’t. But! We can make it better. We start by having real, open and honest conversations about wanting to die, and we stop judging people and telling them that they’re weak. We start listening and stop threatening to send someone to the hospital every time they curiously utter the word ‘suicide.’ Be a friend. Be kind. Be supportive. Now, if you’re thinking that you can’t do this alone and you’re afraid to talk about it, don’t worry. I’ll start the conversation – my name is Chandra, and some days, I want to die.

Chandra Watts is our guest blogger. She is our Youth Development Specialist and draws on her own life to change how the world sees mental illness.  She is one of the founding members of Youth MOVE Massachusetts.

 

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Children, suicide and race

March 19th, 2018

When my son was 7, he tried to jump to his death.  He was climbing our stairs to a landing twelve feet above a tiled floor.  When he got there, he put his foot over the bannister and tried to launch himself into the air.  I was right behind him, grabbed him and yanked him back to safety.  As I held him he struggled, sobbing, “Let me go, let me go.  I want to die.”

My heart was pounding, time slowed and everything I saw and heard became sharper and more vivid.  There is no single word to describe how I felt.  It was some combination of shock, horror, disbelief, anguish, inadequacy and panic.  My young son, who until then had been school phobic with nightmares and sadness, had veered sharply into new, horrifying territory. It was his first suicide attempt, but not his last.  He got older and more sophisticated in his methods and I felt that combination of shock and anguish each time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate for children increased 64% from 2006 to 2016.  The rate for young children rose even higher. But the rise in suicides for African American children outpaces all other groups, rising 71% in the same time period.  Just like me, their mothers and fathers no doubt feel unprepared, in shock and disbelief.  We wonder how to make sense of this.

The Washington Post article, “He was happy. So far as I know” tells the story of 11 year old Rylan Hagan, an African American boy, who hanged himself last November. His mother found him and is devastated each hour and each day.

Rylan was loved, he had friends and did well in school and sports, even winning a trip to Disneyland that he never had a chance to take.  His mother is searching for clues she might have missed in the music he listened to, the video games he played and the movies he watched.  Once, when she asked him to do chores, he reacted emotionally, saying he wanted to kill himself. She wonders if she missed an important clue.

Parents look for answers everywhere after a suicide attempt and certainly after a completed suicide. Since we can’t look inside our children’s minds, we look at the things they surround themselves with, hoping to find leads.  We hope we will know it when, if, we see it.  A lot of the time, however, we don’t find what we are looking for.

Researchers don’t know why the rate of suicide for children has jumped and they can only guess why the rate of suicide for black children is even higher. They are alarmed by this spike and we should be too.  Researchers do suspect that racism plays a part as does an idea, a myth, that suicide is not a “black problem” and black children don’t kill themselves, says Rheeda L. Walker, a psychology professor at the University of Houston-Downtown. Myths like these mean that African American parents can be slower to get mental health care for their children.

Have you ever noticed that myths seem to congregate in groups? We believe groups of myths about food such as eating before swimming causes cramps and Twinkies don’t have an expiration date.  We believe clumps of things about animals including that toads cause warts or bats are blind.  People will still tell you that spicy food causes ulcers and carrots improve vision. No matter how often they are debunked, some myths seem to live on and on. If we believe one myth on a topic, we are more inclined to believe others.

We have a lot of myths about mental health, too, and they can encourage us to act or delay.  The one parents hear most often is that mental health issues stem from bad parenting.  Another myth is that mental health problems are a sign of weakness or only a phase.  Just wait, we are told, he will grow out of it. People will say with great authority, repeating common and false ideas, that therapy for kids is a waste of time and considering medication will lead to overmedicating. Just as people continue to believe that teaching sex education in schools leads to more sexual activity in teens, many also believe that talking about suicide will put that thought into a child’s head.  None of these myths are true.

Some of these myths are stronger and more persuasive for some groups of parents than others, but most of us buy into one or two.  No parent should be faulted for what they don’t know.  No one wants to believe that small people, children, can have big illnesses.  Unless you have a personal or family experience as a point of reference, myths guide us away from realizing what’s going on with our child. At least until it smacks us in the face.

Nikki Webber Allen created I Live For, a storytelling intiative to end stigma around depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders in teenagers and young adults of color.  When her 22 year old nephew took his life, Allen realized that remaining silent about her own depression had also robbed her of the opportunity to talk to him about his own mental health issues. Allen, an Emmy winning producer, is creating a documentary to tell the individual stories of people of color who have struggled with anxiety and depression.  She hopes it will help boost understanding and dispel myths.

When my son made his first suicide attempt, I looked for other parents like me.  They were very hard to find and in my search I was often met with disbelief that young children could be suicidal or depressed.  Even my son’s pediatrician and teachers were unhelpful, telling me I’d have a hard time finding other parents who were going through the same thing.  We need to find each other and tell our stories out loud. We all need to ask why suicide rates for children, especially African American children, are going up.  Parents are looking for answers. That’s what we do.

 

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Ramblings within a month-long depressive episode

July 4th, 2017

I’ve been wondering recently what it’d feel like to work in one of those call offices for suicide hotlines. I know the pay is crap and that shouldn’t matter but you must be pretty strong to help someone after they shatter.  The thing I love though is that the people who actually call those are trying to put their life back together.

I’ve been on and off suicidal for as long as I can remember. I’ve never attempted. I smile. I laugh. I lend every helping hand I have. My depression is caused by demons of my past that I almost got away from but they’ve caught back up to my present. I look to my past and see nothing but haunted houses and ghosts. I look to my future and see a vast, empty desert with no road. I am lost and I am scared. Imagine looking to your future and seeing nothing. Nothing but a death trap. I live in a house I fear I will never escape and the worst part is…it’s not actually that bad.

I learned how to be independent at a young age. With a father who was busy working so the family could have money, a mother who was all talk and no action and an older sister who never felt or acted older. I had no choice. I don’t remember when I first started questioning who would miss me. I knew my dad would be devastated and my mom would blame herself. My sister might try to follow me as well because I’ve always set an example. My best friend would feel like she lost everything and as much as we jokingly say we want to die to each other, I think she’d be upset she didn’t take me seriously.

I got a new therapist recently. She’s nice but when we talk I discover walls I never realized I built and don’t have the strength to knock down. I haven’t figured out how to vocalize my feelings yet and it’s much easier to write this thinking no one will be reading it. But people have to read it. I want people to know that it’s a good thing I’m scared to kill myself. I’d much rather a car hit me or a shooter shoot me. Although in some sense it’d be pointless because I believe in reincarnation.

I’ve been on medication since I was 8 and it really messed with my hormones and nervous system. People have suggested I look back into them but they honestly scare me. They messed me up so bad. They messed me up because my depression was situational. My depression isn’t caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain. It’s caused by me living in a city, a state, a place I hate. The real question is, though, Where do I like?

I have spent my entire life living because other people seem to think I should. I live to stop my family and friends from crying. I live because what if I actually am supposed to marry the kpop star Choi Minho in the future, I can’t leave him alone. What about the kids I haven’t adopted? What about the cats I haven’t pet? I live for all these reasons but none of them are actually for me. If you asked me what I want to be when I grow up I’ll probably lie. My real answer would be dead…or somewhere I feel alive.

The author would like to remain anonymous, but has been a long-time member of Youth MOVE Massachusetts and offers their support to other peers who may also be struggling.

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My dear friend: my experience with grief

October 24th, 2016

angel-and-griefI’m not a religious person. I don’t attend church, and I don’t pray before bed. Even though I am not religious, I do believe there is life beyond death. I believe there is a place where our loved ones can connect and watch us from above. If there is such a place, I know they gained an angel when my friend passed on.

One of my great friends passed away in April of 2015. The day I found out was the worst day of my life. I went on social media, and it was flooded with posts about her. She had committed suicide at the age of 17. I couldn’t believe the things I read. I cried all night long and school the next day was spent with counselors. I had never experienced the loss of a friend, and it tore me to pieces.

I attended her calling hours shortly after that. I cried with her mother, who gave me a huge hug. I cannot imagine the pain her mother was and is feeling. Losing someone is never easy, especially someone so young. Grief has stricken me ever since. I’ve spent the last year spending most of my days at home, crying because I miss her so much.

She was a remarkable person. She cared so much for others, but tended to neglect herself. Her smile was contagious and she always had something nice to say. I don’t think there was a mean bone in her body. That’s what made her such a good friend.

I’ve gone through all the “what if’s”. What if I could’ve done something? What if I had listened more? Even with those questions, I knew in the back of my head it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything wrong. However in the sad moments, your mind thinks of all these sorts of things.

Grief is always a difficult thing to cope with. More than a year later I still am trying to handle these feelings. I wish I could say I have come to terms with losing her, but every time someone brings her up, or when I bring her up, I feel an emptiness in my heart. I feel like a part of me is missing.

What I have learned is, it is totally normal to grieve for a long time. I like to take comfort in my belief that somehow, my dear friend is in a better, less depressing place. She deserves that much after what she went through.

For all of you who have lost a loved one, no matter the circumstances, remember you deserve to continue on. Try to make the world a better place, and never forget your loved ones.

Rachel LaBrie is our guest blogger.  Rachel is a young adult who strives to someday become an author. She also loves spending time with her 5 four legged friends.

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