Fives Years On

At this moment five years ago, I had two living sons. In two hours from now I will not be able to type the same statement because my youngest son took his own life within that time. This decision by my son brought my family to its knees, left us shattered, confused, consumed with fear, swimming in guilt and filled with unanswered questions. We were hurtled to the brink but managed to drag ourselves back into the light, into life and continue living. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Five years! It seems like a lifetime in many ways. Yet in others it was only yesterday. I clearly remember my meltdown at the news, I will forever hear the screams of my mother when I had to break the news to her, I will never forget my best friend throwing up when she was told, not to forget the sobs of anguish when I told his father. How could I forget the images of the viewing? I wanted to, yet I didn’t. I needed to see him for myself, but I never ever imagined viewing his dead body. Never! And the loss of memories left me feeling defeated. My body’s attempt to help me, only made everything so much worse. It was over a year before the memories started filtering back into my mind. Then there was the fear I carried for my surviving son. Every time I heard a car pull up or the phone ring, I was certain it was the police about to give me bad news. I couldn’t sleep and when I did manage to get a few hours, I was assaulted by nightmares.

The first two years were the worst. After that things started to improve, we learned to cope and managed to continue living our lives.

Now, we miss him just as much as we did then. We will never forget his laughter, his smile, his joking about. I will always feel proud that everyone told me Barry was friendly, polite and helpful. I will always wonder what he’d be doing now if he were still with us. And I will always carry a hole in my heart that can never be filled because Barry’s death took part of me too.

Today, I feel the need to make sure other people know the signs of suicide. The information is already on this site but here it is again:

  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Problem behaviour and substance misuse
  • Apathy in dress and appearance, or a sudden change in weight
  • Sudden and striking personality changes
  • Withdrawal from friends and social activities
  • Increased ‘accident proneness’ and self harming behaviours

Did you know that 80% of youth tell someone of their intentions prior to taking their own life? It’s true, what should you do if you are told?

  • Listen and encourage them to talk, show that you are taking their concern seriously
  • Tell the person you care
  • Acknowledge their fears, despair or sadness
  • Provide reassurance, but do not dismiss the problem
  • Ask if they are thinking of hurting or killing themselves, and if they have a plan
  • Point out the consequences of suicide for the person and those they leave behind
  • Ensure they do not have access to lethal weapons or medications
  • Stay with the person if they are at high risk
  • Immediately tell someone else, preferably an adult
  • Get help from professionals, offer to go with them to provide support
  • Let them know where they can get other help
  • Provide contact numbers and assist them to ring if necessary

Be suicide aware and maybe you’ll save a life.

Note: The two lists in this posts are courtesy of Better Health, Victoria.

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WARNING Signs of Suicide

By: Dr Mike Shery

Suicide is among the scariest words in our language; it inspires an immediate horror among the family and friends of the victim. People frequently experience a gut-wrenching dread, denial, shock, fear … and even guilt.

It is a word so charged with universal dread, guilt and burning emotion that people will avoid talking about it almost at all costs. It has become an intractable taboo.

We must discuss it, however, because the statistics are staggering: In 2001 suicide was the 11th ranked cause of death in the United States, but shockingly, it was the third leading cause of death for 10-23 year olds.

One group in the United Kingdom which provides confidential emotional support for those suffering from a crisis estimates that more than 100,000 people attempt suicide each year there. And, of these attempts, over 6,500 will eventually succeed.

Even worse, some estimate that as many as 20% of those who suffer from bipolar disorder will succeed in killing themselves. NOTE: One out of every five!

It has also been estimated that as many as 50% of all bipolar patients may attempt suicide at least once in their lives. This appalling figure shows the urgency required to properly screen, diagnose and treat the suicide-prone patient.

Therefore, it is as clear as a flashing neon sign that suicide is not something to be cavalierly ignored; it is not going away. As socially responsible family members and friends, each of us must make a commitment to be aware of the warnings signs of suicide-prone despair.

We must do our duty by being prepared to help a friend or family member in crisis. But to do so, we must be able to identify that cry for help for what it is-desperation and not be quick to cavalierly trivialize it.

Please note the following warning signs and red flags. You may just save the life of a loved one.

Situational Red Flags

1. Victim of Sexual, Emotional or Verbal Abuse
2. Sudden or Unexpected Death of a Loved One
3. A Terminal Illness Accompanied by Drastic Deterioration in Quality of Life
4. Sudden Detrimental Change in Financial Status
5. A Condition of Chronic Debilitating Pain with No Relief in Sight
6. Talk about the Possibility of Suicide
7. Extraordinary Withdrawal or Sullen Behavior
8. Traumatic Loss or Disintegration of a Relationship

Emotional Signs

1. Depression
2. Feelings of Futility
3. Oppressive Feelings of Guilt
4. Pervasive Melancholia or Sadness
5. Feelings of Hopelessness or Helplessness
6. Overwhelming Gloom

Recovering from Depression!

Sometimes as a person begins to recover from a depressive episode the possibility of a suicide attempt may increase. This may happen because when a person finally makes up his mind to actually kill himself, he sometimes becomes oddly resigned and at peace with the situation; his mood can begin to elevate slightly.

Also, the depressive lethargy may start to lift, and where a person may not have been able to find the energy to carry out suicidal plans before, he now may have it. However, regardless of the reason, this can be a very crucial stage.

Behavioral Red Flags

1. Hoarding Prescription Drugs which Can be Lethal when taken En Masse
2. Obtaining Possession of a Weapon
3. Overt Attempts to Bring Closure to Personal or Business Issues
4. Sudden Attention to Ones Will
5. Increased Reading or Conversation about Suicide
6. Gifting Away Personal Belongings
7. Reconciling with those who are Estranged
8. Sudden Interest or Attention in Ones Insurance Policy
9. Excessive Withdrawal or Isolation from Others

Thoughts and Comments to Note

1. I wish I had never been born
2. This life is a pile of crap.
3. I wonder what the best way to kill yourself would be.
4. My kids are the only thing I live for.
5. I can not see any way to get out of this mess.
6. Nothing ever gets any better
7. Nothing is worth living for.
8. I just do not care about anything anymore.

Of course, none of these signs by themselves are absolute proof that someone you know may be considering suicide. Any of these may be present individually, and a person still may have given little or no thought to suicide.

However, if any clusters of these are present take particularly strong note.

It is also possible that a person may give little, if any, warning of thoughts of impending suicide and still attempt it.

So, how can you be sure? Ask directly. Share your observations tactfully and honestly. Be open to talking about this with your loved one.

Is it awkward? It certainly can be, but even more important, it could save the life of someone you love.

About the Author:

Dr Shery is in Cary, IL, near Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Marengo and Lake-in-the-Hills. He’s an expert marriage counselor and psychologist. Call 1 847 516 0899 and make an appointment or learn more about counseling at: http://www.nextdayappointment.com

Most Suicidal People are Not Mentally Ill

Because suicidal behavior isn’t seen as normal or healthy, many people mistakenly believe that suicidal people must be “crazy.” They lump suicidal people together with those who are severely mentally ill. Some even think that suicidal people are dangerous to others as well as to themselves.

Suicidal people can behave in a “crazy” or “sick” way, but their behavior doesn’t necessarily spring from a diagnosed mental illness. Instead, their actions and thoughts spring from something that’s gone wrong in their lives. Also, most suicidal people are not dangerous to others. They may be angry, but their anger is directed at themselves.

– from The Power to Prevent Suicide: A Guide for Teens Helping Teens by Richard E Nelson and Judith C Galas

Since the suicide of Barry I have had many people say to me…

“He must have been sick.”

“He must of had bad depression.”

And my reply is always, “No, he was a healthy, happy teenager who, at the time, thought he had no other options.” I lived with Barry for 18 years. I know he didn’t suffer from depression. Of course he had days when he felt depressed, but don’t we all. Feeling depressed is a normality in life. He had dyslexia which he had hidden from his teachers for his entire school life, but he managed to finish high school. His parents were divorced, but that made him fit in with most of the other kids in school – it certainly didn’t set him apart. He was popular and had lots of friends – of both sexes. He loved comedies and enjoyed seeing people laugh and would often do and/or say things for that reaction. Everything about Barry was just how it should have been because he was a normal teenager.

Never assume that because someone has taken their own life it means they had mental problems. Yes, sometimes it might be true, but sometimes a person feels suicidal simply because they have broken up with a girlfriend and it feels that life will never be the same again. Most of us work through those feelings and soon realise that the love they felt for that person can be felt for another. It’s only a matter of time.

To say to a parent of a child who suicided that their child must have been “sick” is the biggest insult you can dish out. It’s cruel to say such a thing and do you blame me for getting angry every time the words are said to me? OK, for some the statement might be correct, for me the statement is so far from the truth it’s not funny. Barry wasn’t sick. He was confused. His family knows that had he given himself time – and I’m talking a few months only – then he would have gotten over the feelings he had for the girl. What’s more, he might have found someone who would have loved him with all her being. He would have been happy again. I know that without a doubt. Just like I know that Barry was no more sick in the head than any sane person.

Some Secrets Should NOT be Kept

The radio station I listen to has a thing called “Moral Dilemma”. Each morning they read out a listener’s problem and then briefly discuss it before taking calls from other listeners to hear other opinions.

This morning’s dilemma was written by a mother of an 18 year old boy who had broken up with his girlfriend three or four weeks ago. The young couple had been seeing each other for about a year and the families had gotten close. The girl had broken off the relationship, but the pair still hung out in the same social group and continued to be friends. The dilemma: The boy came home one night and told his mother that he had seen the girl take an ecstasy tablet. He was worried about her, but he didn’t want his mother to act on the information. She wasn’t sure what she should do, because she had been told something in confidence, but knew the girl’s parents should be told.

I feel compelled to share my thoughts on this situation.

Sometimes confidences have to be broken. If someone tells you they are thinking of killing themselves, you must tell someone. A life is in your hands and you cannot ignore that fact. If someone tells you they know someone who has started to take drugs, then you should tell someone. Maybe a life isn’t threatened in the same way as the first confidence, but in a way that life could well be permanently affected…for the worse and drugs do kill!

It’s not up to the mother in the dilemma mentioned above to make a choice; it’s up to the parents of the girl. They should be told so that they can do whatever they feel is right for their daughter. If the mother of the boy were to say nothing and something happened to the girl because of the drugs, then guilt would land squarely on her shoulders.

I realise that she doesn’t want to lose the trust of her son either. This is probably the biggest thing holding her back. She should sit down with him and explain her concerns. The son won’t like what she has to say, but if he really cares for the girl, he’ll see that his mother is right and they should tell the girl’s parents.

The reason I feel this way is because drugs change a person; it clouds their judgement and makes them think differently. Drugs can take a confident, healthy person and turn them into someone who is paranoid and unsure. Although I didn’t know what I was witnessing at the time, I saw the affects ecstasy had on my son. If someone had told me that Barry was taking the drug, I might have been more aware of the other trouble signs in his life. It might have made a difference.

Don’t play around with important issues. If you are told something in confidence and you are losing sleep over it at night, then deep down you know you have to do something and that usually means telling someone who can help. This is true in regards to suicide threats, drugs and abuse. Don’t keep it a secret. You might save a life…and I don’t necessarily mean from death either.

Reasons for Suicide and Attempted Suicide

Reasons for taking overdoses in high and hopelessness groups.

Each person was allowed to endorse as many as they felt fitted their case, so the numbers do not add up to 100.

The situation was so unbearable that I had to do something and I didn’t know what else to do – 67%

I wanted to die – 61%

I wanted to escape for a while from an impossible situation – 58%

I wanted to get relief from a terrible state of mind – 52%

I wanted to make people understand how desperate I was feeling – 39%

I wanted to make things easier for others – 36%

I wanted to get help from someone – 33%

I wanted to show how much I loved someone – 30%

I wanted to try and get someone to change their mind – 15%

I wanted to try and find out whether someone really loved me or not – 12%

I wanted to make people sorry for the way they have treated me – 9%

I wanted to frighten someone – 3%

I wanted to get my own back on someone – 3%

~ reported by Mark Williams ~

A Parent’s Forgiveness

I’ve had several people ask me if I feel angry with my son for taking his own life. When I say no, they can’t seem to understand why. Some even try to argue the point, obviously thinking I’m not in my right mind, saying it would be normal to feel anger towards someone who is selfish enough to do such a thing. This reaction angers me.

For starters, the person saying these things has never lost a child to suicide, so how would they know what I feel, what I should feel and what is normal. And then to top it off, that person has the nerve to pass judgement on my son – for that is exactly what they are doing when they call him selfish. And…it’s comments like this that cause a stigma.

I feel no shame for what has happened to my family. I will defend my son’s actions to the death. I cannot feel anger towards him. I don’t think he realised the pain he would cause, I do believe there were other options, but I love him and I can’t be angry with him. I want to protect him…even now.

A parent’s bond with their child, especially a mother’s bond because of pregnancy, is never broken. The child takes that bond and gives it to their partner in life, but for the parent, that bond remains forever. We never stop worrying and we never stop caring. I can guarantee this is true in life and it is true in death too.

Because of that bond I believe a majority of parents can forgive their child soon after that child’s suicide. It’s the only way we can carry on. Harbouring blame and anger will not change anything. It won’t bring our child back. It will not help us heal.

We forgive because it is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for our lost child. A person who dies by suicide had a reason for what they did. They were in turmoil and pain. They probably knew they were loved, but the love was overshadowed by the darker elements in their lives. As a parent, I will not condemn Barry in death. I cannot do that. I want him to find peace. I certainly don’t want him to suffer any more. And it is because of this that I was able to forgive Barry within moments of learning of his suicide.

As parents of living children, we are able to forgive their mistakes on a daily basis. Why should it be different in this situation? Being a mother of a suicided child, I was able to forgive Barry easily.

Of course, some parents do feel angry and this is nothing to be ashamed of either. In fact, it is normal. In my opinion, the anger it largely due to the circumstances surrounding the death, lost opportunities, feelings of being left behind. I believe most parents can find forgiveness for their children at some stage.

Crumbling Walls – The Book

On a couple of occasions I’ve mentioned that I am a writer. I normally write children’s fiction. I’m unpublished, but that won’t be the case forever. I’m working on that constantly.

My councillor keeps telling me to write, write, and write some more. She tells me it’s a way of relieving anger, stress, and heartache. It will also help put things in perspective.

Gary keeps telling me to write too. He insists that my knowledge of writing and my experience with the aftermath of suicide should be combined. He keeps telling me that other people need my help. He’s not saying this to pressure me, he’s saying it to encourage me to do something I obviously want to do, but don’t know how, because I’ve never attempted non-fiction.

I’ve spent two weeks researching “how-to write non-fiction” and have already made good progress. Many of the websites I’ve visited ask the same question: “Why do you want to write this book?”

Here are my reasons for wanting to write this book, which will be called Crumbling Walls after this website.

  • Because there is a market out there, unfortunately. I say unfortunately, because the topic is suicide and, in all honesty, I wish books of this kind were not needed. I wish our children, and our elderly, didn’t feel the need to end their lives prematurely for whatever reasons they have. But, in real life, it is happening…much more than any ordinary person realises.
  • Because it’s important to raise awareness about suicide and writing a book about my own experiences will open the eyes of other people…people who had never thought about the consequences of suicide, who also think it could never happen to them. It could.
  • Because writing this book will be therapy for me. Yes, it will make me revisit places I don’t want to go, but it will also make me face issues from all angles and maybe that will help me heal in the long term.
  • Because deep in my heart I know this book needs to be written, and I’m passionate to get the message across – there are always other options. Always. This is the most important reason of all. It drives me on. If I can help another family keep their child, then all the misery and heartbreak I’ve been through will not be in vain.

By turning the emotions I feel every day into something positive and worth while, I believe I will be helping me, but eventually I will be helping other families and that is reason enough to do this project.

Changes to Suicide Language

I have something I want to say about this issue, but I’ll let you read the article first. My comments can be found afterwards.

The Board of Directors of Compassionate Friends, a nationwide, self-help support organization for families who have experienced the death by suicide, encouraged by members and staff, have officially adopted the terms “died by suicide” or “died of suicide” to replace the commonly used “committed suicide ” or “completed suicide.”

Currently all TCF publications and presentations are being updated to reflect the new language.

“Committed suicide,” with its implications of criminality, is a carryover from the Middle Ages, when civil authorities, finding the victim beyond their reach, punished the survivors by confiscating their property,” says Diana Cunningham, executive director of The Compassionate Friends. “Victims were forbidden traditional funerals and burials, and suicide was considered both illegal and sinful by the laws and religions of the time.

“Completed suicide” implies earlier suicide attempts when there may have been none.

“Both expressions perpetuate a stigma that is neither accurate nor relevant to today’s society,” says Cunningham. “We now know that many suicides are the result of brain disorders or biochemical illnesses such as clinical depression. But the stigma associated with suicide often forces family members to choose between secrecy about the death and social isolation. Their hesitancy to seek the support of the community increases their pain and makes their healing more difficult. Families who have had a child die by suicide are helped in their grief by the use of non-judgmental language.

The Compassionate Friends calls on all network and print media to follow their lead by adopting the new language in reporting deaths by suicide.

I don’t know if you noticed, but I changed the way I refer to suicide some time ago. Every time I said that Barry “committed suicide” I felt like I was accusing him of something sinful and this had a negative impact on my healing.

Some people will argue that Barry did commit a crime, so the terminology is correct. I say that Barry chose to die by suicide, and that was his decision to make. Although I believe he made the wrong choice, I respect his wishes and will never condemn him for what he did. And that includes the way I refer to suicide.

Please take a moment to reflect on how these words would sound to you, how they would cut you to the core, if you lost a child to suicide. Now would you prefer to hear “committed suicide” or “died by suicide”?

More on Sibling Grief

I found myself surfing from one website to another. There is so much information shared that I thought it would be a good idea to provide links to the site I find on sibling grief. Not all the sites are related to suicide, but grief is grief and I know sibling loss must be as devastating as child loss.

This is a War – Grief – When adults lose a sibling, they often feel abandoned by society. The sympathy goes to their parents, but brothers and sisters are supposed to “get over it” quickly so they can comfort the parents or replace the lost sibling. This is one of the reasons why adult sibling loss falls into the category of “disenfranchised grief”.

Teen Sibling Loss – You can’t imagine life without your brother or sister. Your whole world has changed and you don’t know what to do. It seems like you have no control over your life anymore. Things have changed and you just want things to go back to the way they were before.

When a Brother or Sister Dies – In a world suddenly gone crazy, how can you keep your balance? How can you cope with something that is shattering to you as well as to those adults closest to you in your world? We hope this brochure offers you some directions and some choices in order to help you find your way in a world that has changed in ways you never expected it to.

Surviving my Sister’s Suicide – As a survivor of my sister’s suicide, what became clear to me is the importance of telling one’s story as part of the grieving process. This process is too often shrouded by stigma and silenced by shame. I write this article at this intense time of year with the hope that by sharing my story and talking about suicide openly, you might learn a little bit more about suicide, which might help you assist someone in distress and guide you to save their life.

Sibling Grief

Recently, I was asked if I knew of any blogs written by siblings. Unfortunately, I don’t, but when I looked for other websites that might be helpful, I came up with these and thought I’d link to them here too.

The Sibling Connection – Michelle Linn-Gust is the author of Do They Have Good Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling She writes here about what it was like for her to be in college and have to cope with the death of her sister, Denise. Her story is one of hope for all bereaved siblings. If you look in the side bar you’ll find links to other sibling’s stories too.

Suicide – a different kind of grief – “We have found him, I’m sorry.” I heard the words. It felt like a nuclear explosion inside. Suddenly normality was shattered. The psychical and physical pain was unbearable. Many people don’t think of depression as a serious disease. Well, they are wrong. My brother chose death over life.

In Loving Memory of Todd E. Mills – This wonderful tribute to Todd was created by his sister Lori. The story within these pages is immensely inspiring and may be a help to those who are enduring the loss of a loved one to suicide.

Reflection – Grief from a siblings perspective.