by Nikolas Pullen
Earlier this year, a friend of mine disappeared for about a month. Within a week or so into his disappearance, another friend decided to talk to our high school counselors and see if they knew anything about the matter. According to them, some variety of “medical emergency” had occurred of such severity that he needed to be airlifted from his home to a hospital. It was not until several weeks later, when the friend who had had the “medical emergency” was discharged from the hospital, he disclosed to me that he in fact had tried to take his own life.
In the following months, he made several more attempts at suicide. I was concerned everyday for his safety, wondering when I was going to next hear that he had made another attempt or that he was no longer living. Fortunately, with assistance and medication, my friend has at least stopped with the suicide attempts for now.
This experience is part of what has led me to write for the NoSchoolViolence.org blog, and now that friend has graciously provided me with a record of some of his experiences with depression and suicide as source information for an article to support those dealing with similar circumstances.
First, he wrote regarding his feelings towards his own struggle with depression, saying:
Living with depression is a nightmare. It’s always there. The meds don’t magically solve your problems, but they can help you to not feel CONSTANTLY depressed, but you’ll still feel depressed on meds. No amount of therapy, people loving you, people trying to cheer you up, “coping skills”, or meds can make it go away. Don’t get me wrong those things all really do help, but they aren’t the solution. . . . And you’re not going to be able to fight it back every day, you’re gonna have rough days, days where you feel like giving up. A lot of people don’t have the strength to fight it. Depression really is one of the most crippling mental illnesses. It takes away your hope, if you don’t have hope, you don’t have anything. Some days it’s hard even to get out of bed because you wake up and feel so bad. It’s also not just “feeling sad all the time”, it’s a lot of emotions and the smallest things can set them off. Some of the emotions you feel are emptiness, loneliness, helpless, hopeless, sad, angry, worthless, unlovable, and trapped. You start to feel suicidal when the “helpless” and “hopeless” gets too bad.
When discussing suicide, my friend also went on to explain how when one feels in the act of attempting to commit suicide. While he did make careful note to say that this is only true of his experience, it is likely true of many others as well. He states:
Some people like me feel complete emptiness when they are in the process of trying [suicide], some people feel . . . huge wave of emotions, so what I say about suicide isn’t true for everyone else, this is just my personal experience with it. When you are about to commit suicide, you feel 100% empty. When you’re physically in the act of doing it, you literally don’t think about anything. You don’t think about why you are doing it, or the consequences of it, or if it’s going to work or not, or the kids that bullied you at school today, or the financial problems your family is having. And after you’re done doing it and waiting to die, you feel this very comfortable feeling. You feel like everything is going to be okay soon because it’s all gonna be over in a little bit. You finally feel a little happiness. When you are to the point where you feel happy because you’re going to die soon, you know things are really bad for that person.
In the summary of his feelings regarding depression, one of the recurring specifics was that while medication, coping strategies, and therapy helps immensely, the inner feeling of hopelessness on some days is overpowering. The solution, he stated, is to have inner resolve to resist the urge to give up. There are a number of warning signs listed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) regarding suicide. These include open discussion of death or suicide, how they do not see much point in living, or fatalistic attitudes. Other signs include talk of being a burden to others, being easily agitated, too little or excessive sleep, and moodiness.
There are many suicide prevention methods as well. SAMHSA points out that suicide prevention efforts are most effective when they “Address individual, relationship, community, and societal factors while promoting hope, easing access into effective treatment, encouraging connectedness, and supporting recovery.” One such method is to simply listen without judgment to one’s troubles, showing you have a legitimate interest in their difficulties. If you have had strong suspicions that they might attempt to take their own life, SAMHSA also recommends asking the person if they are considering suicide. Asking this will not be likely to put the idea in their head. If they admit it, do not be afraid to discuss the topic in a considerate and, again, nonjudgmental manner. Do be wary if they answer dismissively and quickly; they may be afraid to admit such thoughts.
Looking out for signs of a propensity to suicide and attempting to dissuade one from such action is difficult, no doubt. However, by observing carefully for specific actions with perhaps now a greater understanding of what exactly goes through the mind of someone determined to erase their own existence, we can better address issues they might face or perceive to face. There are many different emotions and feelings connected with depression and suicide, but unexpectedly the smallest of reassurances and showing of concern can be what decides another attempt at life or death at their own hand for an individual.