Leaving out the real cause of death made me feel like talking about it was not allowed. Leaving this information out allows mental illness to remain a silent killer. It perpetuates a disease that kills. We want to initiate honest conversations. Honesty brings the opportunity for something positive to emerge from a devastating loss. It opens the door for awareness, more funding, and education. It’s a missed opportunity and we can’t afford any more missed opportunities to end this stigma.
I have been in emergency services for over 32 years, the last 15 as a Fire Chief during that time I have experienced so many tragic events and I have held it in all of these years and not even talked about them with my family or even my closest friends. Over the last three and a half years I had major back surgery, I learned that I was allergic to seafood, nuts and nut products, I have been hospitalized and intubated 11 times for a total of over 40 days. The trauma and stress of these events have triggered the traumatic events that I have been involved in over the last 32 years.
I was born in 1972. It’s an important fact that I’ll come back to later.
At 12 years old, I recall feeling disconnected. I couldn’t relate to those around me, my ability to participate socially was compromised, and I found myself in a dark place that didn’t make sense. Throughout my teen years, I went through various stages of withdrawal, sadness, confusion, and moments of joy that didn’t seem deserving. I was filled with self-doubt and insecurity, but I also felt graced because I could articulate how I was feeling—even if I only explained it to myself.
At Suffer Out Loud, we are BIG fans of the Crisis Text Line . This is a resource we promote frequently in our Suffer Out Loud community. According to their website, “The goal of any conversation is to get you to a calm, safe place. Sometimes that means providing you with a referral to further help, and sometimes it just means being there and listening. A conversation usually lasts anywhere from 15-45 minutes.”
A member of our Suffer Out Loud community recently checked in with the Crisis Text Line for some encouragement and wanted to share her experience.
To begin my story is to go all the way back to the very beginning - I was abandoned as a baby, and turned into Wesley Hospital in Wichita, KS. It just so happened that an angel was looking to adopt a newborn. The catch? She was married to a devil!
By Jessica Kane
If you’ve a family member, friend, or someone else in your life that appears to be thinking about suicide, suffering from suicidal ideations, you naturally will want to reach out to that individual. You may wonder about how you can go about talking to a person who is laboring under suicidal ideations. There are 10 tips that you will want to consider following to talk a loved one struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Perhaps the most important element to bear in mind when talking to a person laboring under suicidal ideations is to be yourself. If you are like nearly everyone, you will struggle trying to figure out precisely what to say to a person thinking about suicide. (Suggestions regarding that are presented shortly.) In the end, it’s not so much what you say but how you say it. The tone of your voice will convey that you sincerely are concerned about the other person’s situation.
Even before considering what to say, a key part of being there for a person thinking about suicide is to listen – listen without judgment. Let the person speak, vent, and unload their sense of despair. It makes no never-mind if everything coming out of the person’s mouth is negative. The fact that a person contemplating suicide is talking about his or her feelings, thoughts, or the situation more generally is a positive step.
A key factor to bear utmost in mind when talking to a person thinking about suicide is to be empathetic and compassionate. Do not be judgmental. You need to be calm, patient, and accepting.
Specific Statements and Questions to Consider
Before diving into a list of 10 statements and questions to consider using when talking to a person thinking about suicide, you must never read from a script when reaching out to a person in this type of situation. You must not merely memorize these statements and questions. As was noted previously, you need to be yourself. You need to be empathetic. Running through a script is neither being yourself nor acting in an empathetic manner.
These statements and questions were developed by psychology professionals who specialize in working with people who are laboring under suicidal ideations. They should be used by you as suggestions for formulating your thoughts in a general manner before talking to someone in your life that is dealing with suicidal thoughts.
The 10 statements and questions to consider are:
1. I’m glad you feel comfortable to talk to me about thinking of suicide.
2. I’m very sorry you’re hurting.
3. What’s going on that makes you want to die?
4. When do you think you’ll act on your suicidal thoughts?
5. What ways do you think of killing yourself?
6. Do you have access to a gun?
7. I care about you, and I would be so sad if you were not around.
8. Help is available.
9. What can I do to help you?
10. I hope you’ll keep talking to me. I really am here for you.
A couple other points need to be made about these statements and questions. First, you need to put these questions into your “own words.” Again, these were written by psychological professionals. Second, not every question should be used in a conversation with an individual contemplating suicide in some manner. As can’t be said enough, you need to be yourself, be compassionate and empathetic, and listen.
Share with an individual suffering from suicidal ideations that “things will get better.” Let the person know that support and help is available to him or her. Emphasize to the person that he or she is not alone, that you care about the individual, and that other people do as well.
Don’t Offer Quick Fixes or Extensive Advice
In talking to a person thinking about suicide, you should not offer quick fixes or give them advice beyond considering professional assistance. In the grand scheme of things, there are no quick fixes when a person is thinking about suicide. Moreover, offering advice is not likely to be helpful and very well may drive a suicidal person away from you. As will be discussed in a moment, the only real advice you should offer a person thinking about suicide is to obtain professional help.
Absolutely do not lecture a person laboring under suicidal thoughts. Examples of specific examples of statements you should not make a person thinking about suicide include:
· Suicide is a sin or goes against God
· Life is too valuable to be thinking about suicide
· Suicide is wrong
· Suicide is selfish
When a person is thinking about taking his or her life, making these statements to them could do more harm than good. They are not likely to be helpful in moving a person away from his or her suicidal ideations.
Evaluate the Threat Level
In addition to having an idea what you should and should not say to a person thinking about suicide, you need to be able to evaluate the level of risk you think a person’s suicidal thought or statements indicate. Mental health professionals classify the suicide threat level onto four levels:
· Low: Some suicidal thoughts, but no suicide plan. Person states he or she won’t attempt suicide.
· Moderate: Suicidal thoughts. Vague suicide plan, but one that doesn’t seem particularly lethal. Person states he or she won’t attempt suicide.
· High: Suicidal thoughts. Specific suicide plan that is highly lethal. Person states he or she won’t attempt suicide.
· Severe: Suicidal thoughts. Specific suicide plan that is highly lethal. Person states he or she will attempt suicide.
Suicidal prevention specialists utilize a set of four questions to evaluate the threat level:
· Plan: Do you have a suicide plan?
· Means: Do you have the means to carry out a suicide plan?
· Time Set: Do you have a time set to carry out your plan?
· Intention: Do you intend to take your life?
Four common suicide risk factors:
· Mental illness, drug abuse, alcoholism
· Previous suicide attempt(s), history of abuse or trauma, family history of suicide
· Recent loss, recent stressful event, chronic pain, terminal illness
· Social isolation or loneliness
As part of talking to a person about suicide, you will want to suggest (not demand, suggest) that he or she consider thinking professional assistance. Be willing to go with the individual to an initial meeting with a professional.
Don’t Blame Yourself
Finally, you must not blame yourself for someone else’s suicidal ideations. You must not blame yourself if a person in your life does commit suicide.
If you find yourself in a position of being a survivor of suicide loss, there are resources available to you, many of which can be access through Survivors of Suicide Loss. You can also find a list of resources for those suffering with suicide ideation on our resources page.
Bryna is an inspiring member of our Suffer Out Loud community. She speaks openly and honestly about mental health and is passionate about ending the stigma associated with mental health. Please help her message reach our Governor Steve Bullock. He needs to hear stories like hers and acknowledge the crisis going on in Montana. We have the highest suicide rates in the nation and not nearly enough resources to meet the need:
By Cassie Jackson
Yesterday we celebrated a big milestone - We turned 1!
Last March we received our 501(c)3 status, were ramping up for our April launch, and were so excited to spread a message of hope to those in Montana! In this time of excitement, I received some bad news. Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, had died by suicide. I didn't know Amy personally, but she was a big inspiration behind Suffer Out Loud. Project Semicolon is a global nonprofit dedicated to presenting hope and love for those struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury. That's what we wanted to create with Suffer Out Loud. It was difficult to hear Amy had passed and it left me feeling a little hopeless. It was a complex kind of pain to lose someone in the suicide prevention community to suicide - the amazing community that we had been working so hard to join.
This same feeling of hopelessness fell over me this week. I received an early morning text from an old friend. She told me the news that her husband had died by suicide. In a way, I felt I was to blame. Why hadn't our efforts reached him? Why are so many people in Montana still suffering so badly that they feel they have no other choice? It is truly heartbreaking to me when I hear that we have lost someone to suicide. I remember all of the emotions that I felt when I received the news that my sister had taken her life. The text from my friend left me feeling like I had failed her, her husband, and so many others.
I have spent this week reflecting on the early conversations we had when starting Suffer Out Loud and how I overcame the hopelessness I felt when I learned of Amy's death. We knew in the beginning that reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness in Montana was going to be hard and it was going to take time. We felt that if we were able to reach just ONE person and convince them that this world needed them, it would all be worth it.
I started to reflect on what we have accomplished in our first year:
We have reached THOUSANDS of people this past year through social media and our website. The most visited content on our webpage? Our blog and our resources page. People are coming to the page to see how they can get help and hear other peoples stories. That's so huge!
We have assembled a board of amazing individuals to help us continue to grow this movement and reach even more people in our second year.
We have opened up discussions around mental health and suicide within our community that otherwise would not have happened through our educational events and workshops
We have given people an opportunity to share their personal story. The messages we receive are amazing! So many people have reached out to share their story. They say we have impacted them by letting them know it's okay to talk about the struggle. They say they know we won't judge them.
We have lost so many amazing people this last year to suicide but we have saved so many as well. It just means we have more work to do. We will continue to push forward, reach more people, start more conversations and save more lives.
How can you help end the stigma and join our movement of hope?
Share your story! - You never know who your story will reach. Help those who are struggling know that they are not alone.
Purchase a shirt! - Our shirts are a silent way to show support to others and a way to start a conversation around mental illness.
Donate! - We operate 100% by the efforts of our volunteers. A small donation goes a long way.
My name is Alexandra and I am struggling with depression and anxiety.
When others ask me about my mental illness I try to explain it as seeing light darker. I saw how everything that made me happy earlier stopped having any value. I felt like the dark was consuming me and taking all the light with itself. Sometimes I just say I felt sadness because it's kind of similar feeling to mine. But it's not exactly that and not only sadness. It's emptiness that is extremely heavy. I felt like I didn’t care anymore about anything. And that’s a feeling of being depressed. What about anxiety? In my opinion it's caring too much about everything and seeing it as impossible to do. That’s why it's hard to explain having both depression and anxiety – it's a mixture of a lot of different feelings that I haven’t known earlier.
Because of my depression and anxiety I struggle emotionally. I also have problems with learning sometimes because I can't motivate myself to get out of bed or I feel paralyzed by my anxiety.
My friends were telling me that I was quiet lately or that I didn’t have time for them. I was telling people that I was busy but I wasn't busy studying or developing new skills. I was usually busy calming myself down, overthinking lots of situations, etc. On the outside it probably looked like I was just lying in bed for hours while listening to music.
When I was diagnosed I told my friends about the way I feel. Over time I started talking more openly about it and what was surprising for me was that I found people feeling similar to me. Some of them told me their stories and I was and still am here for them. I found that helping other people makes me feel better. Plus it made me feel that I have someone that I can relate to. I have support from my friends and family and I really appreciate it but I was still feeling like I am the only one struggling with those symptoms. When I reached to others feeling similar I started accepting my illness much more.
I had obstacles with my social life when I was hiding how I am feeling. When I started talking and learning more about myself and my illness I felt better. Mostly because I could tell my friends honestly that I don’t feel like going out today.
After couple months of struggling with everyday life I told my parents about the way I feel. I went to see a psychiatrist. I have been taking medication for almost two months now and I feel relief as I get a little better every day.
Along the way I definitely learned to listen to myself and know my limits. I learned that if I feel like staying at home I can do it and accept the fact that I have a worse day. I stopped seeing myself like I am failing. I am not failing. I am healing. It’s a slow process and I have to be patient. I am getting better. I am healing and I can recover.
I started noticing positive aspects of my life. Every day I try to find something I am thankful for. I am trying to celebrate every little success. And I definitely feel thankful for the fact that when I wake up I have energy to get up. When I don’t I am thankful for that I am able to motivate myself to do it. When I am not able to get up anyways then I am thankful for that I find enough strength to just hold on one more day.
In my journey with mental illness I learned a lot. But most of all I have learned to accept myself and my imperfections. I'm not perfect but it makes me unique. It makes me who I am. I also have learned that I have more strength than I think. When I have, for example, a panic attack I feel like I won't survive and I still surprise myself when I do. But I survive every time, no matter how hard it is.
I used to think that I can't change anything about my mental illness. I used to think that I can't win with it. Then I thought about suicide. Now I am really glad that I didn’t give up after all. I'm happy that I managed to stay alive for another day, because now, after many evenings spent dreaming about ending my life, I can't wait for tomorrow.
Why am I writing all of this? I'm doing it because I want to tell you, whoever you are: depression feels like constantly falling down. It’s a battle that seems impossible to win. But it is possible. It's possible to get better, to recover. You have a lot more strength in yourself than you think. I know it all seems pointless but there are reasons to stay alive. I love poetry so in some days I was just staying here to read another poem. There is always at least one little thing you should hold on for. Doesn’t matter if it's someone that you promised to keep on living for or if it's a new frappuccino at Starbucks. Just hold on one more day. Please. Get help. There is nothing wrong about taking care of yourself. If you need someone to talk to, I am here for you. I have account on Instagram where you can find me and message me. I admire you for staying here. You are strong enough to win this battle. I believe in you. Stay strong! <3 Instagram: @ordinaryextraordinaryhuman
Lori Jo grew up on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Wolf point, MT and her time there helped fuel her passion for helping people - both physically and mentally. Lori Jo is grateful to be a part of the team at Suffer Out Loud and believes that together, a difference can be made. She stands behind their mission to reduce suicide rates in MT and looks forward to the journey. She resides in Bozeman with her husband, Trent, and two children Hazel and Violet.