Much is written about happiness. Books. Articles. Songs. Videos. Happiness seems to be a universal pursuit and one that has existed through ages; indeed, it was a frequent topic among philosophers from the ancient worlds of West and East and has been pursued without pause since then. No one has yet to discover a single answer to how to find happiness. Russ Harris, a important leader in acceptance and commitment therapy, wrote a book entitled The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living. Is happiness attainable, or is it a trap, a sham? Read More...
Quietly, almost pleadingly, he asked, “What, exactly, do you suggest I do right now? I can’t be here in Fairmont. It hurts too much. I am completely and totally devastated. What you are telling me makes a little sense, but I just don’t know how to go on.” (Oliver Graham in Leave of Absence)
Devastation. Uncertainty. The desire to die simply to end the pain (in Oliver’s case, of loss and depression). The lack of understanding of how to continue to live. This turmoil is common for someone considering ending his or her own life.
The following account of suicidal ideation is based on thoughts and feelings of someone with whom I’ve spoken, someone who wishes to remain anonymous but has given me permission to write this perspective based on our conversation. We’re sharing this on World Suicide Prevention Day to help shed some light on a dark topic.
On the outside, everything looked normal. Or at least I thought it did. I thought I hid all of the chaos going on inside, but maybe I didn’t hide it. I don’t really know, and I guess it really doesn’t matter. I had been going to work, doing my job, coming home to family stuff, and starting over again every morning. Over the course of several months, my job was becoming increasingly stressful. There had been multiple layoffs which had everyone on edge. My workload was increasing, I didn’t like many of my new tasks, and I was afraid to talk to my supervisor about it because I didn’t want to be the next one laid off. My spouse and I have four kids, and we can’t do without my income. I did think about switching jobs, but that was depressing. It would just be the same thing in a different building. I wanted to look for something completely different, a different type of career, but I’m not qualified for anything else and I can’t afford to go to school. I mean, we’re saving for college for our kids. Who am I to selfishly use those resources? More and more I started to feel trapped and powerless. I saw a therapist twice, but it didn’t do any good. I knew it wouldn’t. Who was I trying to fool? I actually have been diagnosed with a mental illness (I’d really rather not say what one), but I don’t take the prescribed medication. Sometimes I really think I don’t need it because I feel great and things are fun again, but other times I know that’s a joke. It’s not therapy I need, it’s medication. Maybe it’s both. But I don’t feel like doing either. I want to feel better again, but I just don’t have much hope that those will work. I continued to feel worse and worse, and I felt like I had no options. I wasn’t being a good parent or spouse or employee and I came to realize that none of this was worth it. I couldn’t take it. And what kind of an awful person thinks that? I believed my family didn’t deserve me and would be much better off without me. If I made my death look like an accident, they would get my life insurance money. In a lot of ways, they’d all be way better off without me than with me. The more I thought about it, the more I thought suicide would be the right thing for all of us. Part of me still wasn’t sure, though, so I called an old friend. This friend got mad at me, though, and we haven’t spoken since. That hurts, and at the time it just further proved to me that I’m not good enough to be alive. One evening, I told my family I needed to run to the store. I left, and I wasn’t planning on returning ever again. Then the image of my kids popped into my mind. I saw all four of them sitting in a row on the couch, crying. I realized that they wouldn’t understand. They’d be hurt and confused and angry and would have to finish their childhood with only one parent. I turned around and went home. Later that night, although it was difficult, I finally talked to my spouse. I’m getting help. It’s still difficult and my thoughts of suicide sometimes return. But I stay connected, I’m following through on the help I need, and I hold onto the thought of my kids. It’s a slow process, but I’m glad I’m alive for it.
Myth: Suicide can’t be prevented. If someone is set on taking their own life, there is nothing that can be done to stop them.
Fact: Suicide is preventable. The vast majority of people contemplating suicide don’t really want to die. They are seeking an end to intense mental and/or physical pain. Most have a mental illness. Interventions can save lives.
See this and other important information at The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
For immediate help (24/7), call If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For a powerful video slideshow set to music that provides information and resources, watch this goose-bump-inducing video from MrBandKid2012. It only takes four minutes of your life.
Suicidal thoughts are serious, but they don’t have to be the end.