Suicide: a How-To Guide

I came across a website today.  It’s all about suicide.  It provides a range of information – statistics about suicide; what causes it, who commits it, how they commit it. I read further and discovered several pages discussing the various suicide methods. There is even a table compiled, listing the fatality rate of each method, along with expected time required for death to take place and the amount of pain thought to be experienced from start to finish.  To my horror and disbelief, I also found a detailed guide on how to successfully off yourself using each method.

This website was one of the first to come up in a Google search for depression and suicide.  I imagined a person at their lowest stumbling upon this; a website to help them select whichever method seemed to best suit their death wish, and all the information required to implement their heart-breaking plan.  The worst possible form of “help” I could imagine for these poor souls.

It made me angry.  Livid. Why on earth would someone provide the world with information on how to end their own life?  How does this person sleep at night, knowing their words might have been (arguably) responsible for someone else’s death?  What in the world possessed them to create such an awful tool?

I continued reading, and I changed my mind.

On top of the how-to-suicide-guides, I found unbiased, factual information regarding the likelihood of failure (and potential lasting health implications) for each method.  For the particularly gruesome suicide styles (such as firearms, jumping in front of a train, or hanging), there was a section outlining what someone would be exposed to upon discovering the body – how it would look, the trauma the person may experience, and the clean-up they may have to do.  There were statistics, references and resources listed at the bottom of each page.

The website is written by a person with a history of mental health struggles and suicide attempts.  He shares a brief summary of his story on the website, carefully separating fact from opinion.  He describes his own suicide attempt, and his honest and raw thoughts upon realising he failed, “I woke up I don’t know how many hours later – it was still light on the same day … feeling like shit, and being bitterly disappointed I was still alive.” These words took me back to some of my own dark moments.

It’s not at all uncommon for a suicide attempt to fail.  “For every successful suicide attempt, there are 33 unsuccessful ones. For drug overdoses, the ratio is around 40 to 1. In fact, if attempting suicide, there is a much greater chance you’ll end up in hospital alive, with either short or long term heath implications, than dead.”

The author goes on to summarize these facts into one eye-opening statement:  “The first thing you should be aware of if you are trying to kill yourself is the odds are against you.”

On top of the suicide statistics, I also found information on the reality of mental illness.  The writer makes a comment many of us have likely heard before, comparing cancer to depression – both are real, diagnosable illnesses that have the potential to be deadly. He shares some referenced facts to show just how true that statement is, “According to the American Association of Suicidology, major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide. The risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population.”

To compare, the chances of developing and dying from cancer (of any form) in the United States is an average of 22.83% for men, and 19.26% for women. 

This information seems daunting at first glance – as though major depression were a death sentence, much like cancer can be.  Fortunately, the next paragraph presents us with statistics that prove otherwise, “The risk of someone suffering from an untreated major depressive disorder trying to commit suicide is around 1 in 5 (20%). However, the suicide risk among treated patients is around 1 in 1,000 (0.1%).”

So, this confirms that a depressed person has a 20% chance of falling victim to suicide, much like the average person has an approximately 20% chance of dying from cancer. The fortunate difference for those who fall into the former category is when depression is properly treated, the suicide risk factor is greatly diminished. 

The author writes in a way that is completely open: not encouraging, but also not directly discouraging, a person from committing suicide.  He writes in such a way that his readers are forced to take a step back and view suicide objectively; everything is to the point, and nothing is personal. 

While this website does provide information which could be used to end one’s own life, it also offers a refreshingly realistic and matter-of-fact discussion about suicide.  It allows suicide to be seen as the epidemic it is in today’s world, instead of hiding away from the reality we should not dare deny.  Instead of simply saying “don’t do it”, this website informs about everything that goes along with suicide – before, during, and after – to allow a person to really think strongly about what it is they are considering, opening their eyes to what suicide really entails, without attempting to persuade them one way or the other.

Suicide is a taboo subject, and the majority of articles online don’t go into too much detail – especially avoiding descriptions of how a person can successfully commit suicide.  One can assume this is because people are afraid of planting dangerous ideas into already unstable minds.  So, instead, they stick with the “just don’t do it” approach, which seems safe.

What this approach fails to acknowledge, however, is that suicidal people are often so desperate that they are willing to try anything, and simple discouragement is therefore not enough to stop them.  Many suicides (attempted or successful) are done impulsively. If a suicidal person can’t find the information they are looking for at their moment of desperation, they will try whatever they think might work.  While their uneducated attempts will rarely result in death, there is a good chance they will experience other negative side effects – anything from superficial scarring to permanent brain damage.

The website I found today takes an entirely different approach – one I had not seen before, and one that is nothing short of controversial.  It takes the suicidal back to a child-like state in a way; offering explanations for everything from how to get things done, to what to expect in the (statistically likely) event of failure.  Instead of shunning away the notion of suicide, this website embraces it and creates an educating and empowering environment, allowing people to make sound decisions, rather than impulsive ones.

This website challenged my perspective on suicidal discussions and how we should approach the subject as a society.  Simply saying “no” without laying out the reasons why – in an unbiased, educational way – is a sure-fire way to lose the attention of a potential suicide victim.  This website shocked me into wanting to read more, and opened my eyes to the fact that there are many ways to help someone.  Sometimes, we need to shock people into realising what they are considering before we can expect to open their minds enough to truly help them.

For those of you who are interested, the website I have been referring to can be visited at:
http://www.lostallhope.com

Cancer statistics found at:
Lifetime Risk (Percent) of Dying from Cancer by Site and Race/Ethnicity: Males, Total US, 2009-2011 (Table 1.19) and Females, Total US, 2009-2011 (Table 1.20). 2014. Accessed at http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2011/results_merged/topic_lifetime_risk_death.pdf on December 27, 2015.

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Dear depressed me

Dear depressed me,

You are me.  I, however, am not you.  Not anymore (or at least not today).

I wish I could be the face you saw in the mirror, instead of that empty shell.

That look of pure nothingness; all excitement faded long ago. That blank stare. That twisted, screwed up face you make as you try to hold back your tears.  You look at your reflection and you try to be strong.  You stare into the mirror, hating what you see.  And still, you try and tell yourself you can do it.

One more day.  Push through one more day. Tomorrow might be the day things change.

But you’ve told yourself that same thing day after day, week after week, month after month, and it’s yet to prove true. You’ve yet to see me staring back at you.

I’m here. Somewhere. I am. And I’m telling you that one day I’ll be able to push back to the surface. That one day, I’ll teach you how to smile again, without dying inside as you do.

I know that right now you don’t remember me. You’ve heard of my existence, but you’re not convinced I’m real. You think you’ve always been a shell- you can’t remember being a warm and cozy home. You’re sure you’ve smiled before – there are pictures to confirm it. But you don’t think the smile was real – or at least you don’t see how it could be again.

You are me. Your thoughts are mine. My thoughts, however, are not yours.  But one day, they can be; they will be.

You will look into the mirror and you will see somebody new. You will see a reflection of your strength, in place of yesterday’s empty eyes.  You will see a smile staring back at you, just as you did before.

You will see me.

And then, you will remember that you are me – not the you you are today.

Leading up to the Psych Ward

When I finally got into a psychiatrist, one of the first things he told me was that he wanted me to spend some time in a Psychiatric hospital.

A thousand thoughts started running through my mind at once.  Was I going to have to quit my job?  How long would I have to stay?  Did I have to sleep there?  Was I allowed to leave?  Why did I have to go there?  Was I crazy?!

I started thinking to myself, “no, I’m not crazy,” and before I even finished the thought, I remembered that “crazy people don’t think they’re crazy.”  That worried me even more.  I was fully aware that I had already begun to lose touch with reality for short periods of time, but I was terrified that I was even further gone than I’d realized.

“It’s the best way to get a clear diagnosis,” he told me.  He assured me that I was still psychologically stable enough to make my own choices, and he therefore couldn’t force me into anything I didn’t want to do.  He couldn’t admit me to the hospital against my will.

My next thought was, “okay great, so I won’t go.”

He wasn’t about to give up that easily, though.  He listed reason after reason why it was a good idea for me to go.  And eventually, I agreed – not without reluctance, however.  This all took place on a Thursday afternoon, and my bed at the hospital was reserved for the following Monday.  I was to stay two weeks.

I left my appointment that day feeling like I had failed myself.  I never imagined that anyone would think it necessary for me to stay in the psych ward.  I had never pictured myself in the situation I was now finding myself in, and I didn’t like the way it felt.  I called up Nick and I cried on the phone to him, telling him everything that had just transpired.  As always, he was supportive however he knew how to be, and assured me that the doctors knew the best route to take.

That didn’t ease my mind.  Although I knew that at this point my visit was voluntary, I managed to convince myself that they’d find something seriously wrong with me and I’d never be let out.  I was going to spend the rest of my life locked up in the loony bin.

Hello, anxiety.  Hello, paranoia.  Hello, delusional thinking.

My mind was a roller coaster.  My thoughts were strapped in, looping around and around, up and down, shaking me up as they went.

By the next day, I was in a full-blown depression.  I was dreading the trip to the hospital, and I couldn’t focus on anything else.  I came home from work that Friday evening and decided to go for a walk to try and clear my mind.  I didn’t take anything with me – not my phone, not my keys, not even a jacket.  It was just me and my crazy roller coaster mind.

I don’t know how long I was gone.  I wandered aimlessly for hours.  I stood on the bridge overlooking the river, then walked down, staring at the water for far too long.  I must have faded away from myself for a while, because the next thing I knew, I was sat at the train station near my house, just watching the trains go by.  I was sat at the end of the tracks – I always did that, because if I ever got the courage to jump, I wanted to be close enough to do it before I changed my mind.

Thankfully I never got the courage.

I don’t remember much from that night.  I remember being at the subway station, and then I remember standing outside my apartment building, reaching up to ring my own bell.  I was buzzed in, and I slowly climbed up the stairs.  Nick was running down them, panic-stricken, asking me where I had been, what I had been doing, what I had taken.

“Out.  I don’t know.  Nothing.”  Zombie-toned responses, expressionless face.

Although I was completely out of it, I hadn’t actually taken anything that night.  There was an open bottle of ibuprofen on the counter, and Nick thought I had gotten into it.  I hadn’t.  I had learned by that stage, through trial and error, that ibuprofen was just not going to get the job done.

Nick brought me inside, questioned me some more, and told me he had been so worried that he had been asking everyone if they had heard from me – he even had people on their way over to help look for me.

I was mad.  Furious. How many times had I told him not to tell people things about me?

I went into the bedroom, and Nick retreated back to the kitchen.  His senses were always on high when I was in a state, so it’s no wonder he heard me opening up the window, and was back in the room with me before I managed to climb up into it.  He stopped me well before I even attempted jumping.

I stormed out of the bedroom, probably en route to the kitchen for a knife, and I screamed bloody murder when I saw a friend in our living room.  He had just come in – he was already on his way over when I stumbled home.  I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there with us, and it shocked me so badly that I was sent into a sort of panic attack.  It also sent my anger over the edge, and I was instantly determined to do something, I just didn’t know what.

I can’t begin to describe the thoughts that were going through my mind at this stage, because I sincerely do not remember.  I can’t put myself back into that moment of time, because I wasn’t there with myself.  That person was not me.

I closed the bedroom door, claiming I wanted to just be alone, and when I thought no one was listening, I opened up the window again.  I climbed into the window sill, stood on the ledge, looking down four stories, as the bedroom door swung open behind me.  Nick bolted in, got me down from the window, and begged me to stay away from it.

He told me the bedroom door had to stay open now – I had proved to him that I couldn’t be trusted.

He said he’d leave me alone, but he’d be in the next room, with plain-sight view of the two windows.

I told Nick that I wanted the friend gone.  He said okay.  He left the room, I heard the door, and that was that.  I calmed down.  I got into bed.

I was just coming back into myself when I saw two men walk into my bedroom.  I didn’t know them.

I sat straight up, bewildered, and they spoke to me, in German, asking if I was okay.

Paramedics.

I told them I was fine now.  I knew I had to admit what had happened, because I was sure they already knew.  I told them I had had a bad moment – that yes, I had attempted to jump from the window, but I wouldn’t do it again; that I was calm now; that I was okay.

They stayed there and spoke to me for a while, suggesting they bring me to a hospital in Nussbaumstrasse – the very hospital that had a bed with my name on it reserved for two days later.  I told them I was going there on Monday, and that I would be okay at home until then.

All they had me do was promise them that I wouldn’t hurt myself.  I promised.  I could have easily been lying.