Recently, a member of my family attempted suicide.

To say it scared me is an understatement. To say I knew what to do or say is a lie. I can’t begin to imagine what she was feeling or how dark a place she must have been in to feel that was the only way out.

tunnell

What do you do? What do you say? The emergency part had been covered- an ambulance called, loved ones with her. I was in another state. I couldn’t do anything except wait. So, like the rest of the family, I waited and I hoped for a positive outcome. And it was positive, in that she didn’t die. But it’s really not as simple as any other medical emergency, where a person can be helped by surgery or some other medical intervention. The medical intervention part can save a person’s life then and there- and I’m so thankful for that. The thing with mental illness is that there is no quick fix, one-off treatment. The solution is not the same for everyone. Will the person need medication? Maybe. Will they need therapy? Almost certainly. But the reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all way to help people who are living with a mental illness and contemplating suicide.

My family has been affected by mental illness. My darling Nan lived with schizophrenia. Various other family members have lived with or are living with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Mental illness? We know what it is. Even if we don’t know the ins and outs of a person’s condition, we get it. It’s an illness; people living with mental illness benefit most from our empathy and our compassion. Not our judgement or our derision.

So many people think that those who attempt or commit suicide are selfish, cowardly or weak. And that is a bullshit generalisation. A couple of days after this happened, my family member shared this on Facebook, because she is brave and she is strong, even though she is struggling:

On the 31st of August 2015, I tried taking my own life for the 4th time since I was 18 years old.

I am not going to lie to myself or anybody else anymore. I am very sick. I have depression, ptsd and anxiety. Mental illnesses should be spoken about. Not hidden, it needs to be understood better and fixed.
That night I stared into the mirror and spoke to my reflection.
“Are you ready for this?”
“Yes”
“You may not wake up this time”
“I know and I’m okay with that”
I popped all my pills into my hand, stared at myself and nodded.
I was ready for whatever was going to happen.

I swallowed those pills, said my goodbyes by sending everyone a text message saying that I loved them.
I went downstairs to my beautiful gf and told her I loved her. I would of fallen asleep in her arms peacefully, I would of loved to have died like that.. But she wasn’t silly. She knew I had done something.

I’ve never had a good relationship with medication and razors. I am not a selfish person, nor an attention seeker. Mental illness is real and is alive in a lot of people’s lives. I am lucky to have my close friends, family and gf to support me during this time.

I thank you for your understanding and love.
I will get better. I will find the right help for me to recover. I have a long life to live with so many goals to complete.

I’ve lied to myself for too long. I need help.

(Reproduced here with permission)

Things like self-harm or suicide or any other sort of self-destructive behaviour exhibited by someone living with mental illness are not signs of weakness. It is not selfish or cowardly. It is a symptom of a serious illness. When a cancer patient is in pain, do we chide them for not being braver? When someone with epilepsy has a seizure, do we accuse them of not thinking of how that might make others feel? When a diabetic person has a hypoglycemic attack, do we tell them to tough it out?

SUNSET

Mental illness is no different. Dismissing feelings of depression or other symptoms of mental illness can make matters much worse because it contributes to the isolation the person may already be feeling. This can make them even less likely to seek help.

Today is R U OK Day and it’s as good a time as any to ask the question if you suspect someone you know might need help. It’s scary to ask if someone is okay, because what if the answer is no? What do you say or do? What if you make things worse somehow? I think the best thing you can do is to arm yourself with knowledge and then to make some time to have that conversation.

Conversations Matter has a great fact sheet and some podcasts you can listen to. The R U OK website has a great list of resources as well as advice on how to ask.

If you are feeling depressed or suicidal- please talk to someone. Call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14. If you need immediate help, don’t hesitate, call 000.

#WWU @ Melting Moments

#FYBF @ With Some Grace

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  • TeganMC

    I’m so sorry to hear that someone close to you attempted suicide. I do hope that they are able to access therapy. It sounds like she already has a lot of love and support.

    As you know mental illness is something very close to me too. It’s something that I talk about often, especially when it comes to breaking down stigma. So when I logged on to FB last night to discover a relative of mine (one who knows quite well my history) had shared an R U OK Day post in order to make fun of someone I was pretty pissed. I messaged my mum about it who thankfully was able to articulate better than the swearfest that was going through my head to this relative that the post wasn’t called for.

    • Oh man, some people are so thoughtless. Glad your mum stepped in. What a careless and hurtful thing to do.
      My cousin is able to access support though it’s not nearly as simple and accessible as it should be, in my opinion. I believe she will get there, though, she’s a gutsy woman and has taken all the right steps to get help.

    • LydiaCLee

      ?? That’s pretty weird (the RUOK to make fun of someone?) Whether they’re friends with you or not….for the top of the tree, we’re pretty stupid…

  • I wish someone had asked my dad.

  • Great post Amy, sorry to hear about your relative and I hope things are looking up for her now. xx

  • LydiaCLee

    Wow. Generous post. I’m doing a parenting course at the moment and as an aside (it was on how to listen to your teen) she said that kids are less likely to get suicidal if they feel they can talk to you (and you listen without judgement or trying to ‘fix’ it). Obviously in broad brush strokes there, but the gist was that they may have anxiety or depression but the talking was a huge help…I hope your family member is in a safe place now. (in themselves, not location)

  • Great post. It’s wonderful that there is so much discussion about mental illness now. Slowly the tide will turn and acceptance and assistance will become the way.

  • Thanks for this. You’ve helped me understand just that little bit more. Very brave family member to share.

  • I had a conversation with someone yesterday who was in the exact same bad position I was in at the start of the year. I gave them the names of the people who helped me and encouraged them that they were on the right track and they would feel better once they were out of that situation. I hope they feel better today for having been able to talk.

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    I am crying my friend.. such depression, such heartache ago think the only way it will all disappear is by leaving your life.

  • Wow this just gave me chills. It certainly get real when it is someone you know and love. The post on facebook is incredible. Brave to say the least. I hope she gets better x

  • Such an important post and how brave of your relative to post that. Hopefully this admission of her need for help will be a turning point in her life, I sincerely hope so.

  • Everything I write here sounds wrong. So I’ll just say I’m glad she’s ok for now. I hope she continues to be ok, and eventually becomes more than ok.
    Thanks for sharing. xx

    • Hugzilla

      I’m having the same dilemma. It’s one of those topics that’s hard to articulate, because the stakes are so high.

  • writeofthemiddle

    I’m so glad your family member was not successful in her attempt to take her life. Sadly, I do know that dark place where she goes. I know it well. I myself suffer from depression now and then and anxiety quite a lot. I recently spoke out about it on my blog. I did this not to get attention but because I really want to raise awareness of this insidious disease and #SmashTheStigma !! The best advice I can give people on how to help someone with depression is this: don’t ask RUOK and think that your job is then done. If you suspect depression don’t be fooled by their “happy face”. They become masters at putting on their “happy mask”. I am a supreme master at the “happy mask”. Check in with them regularly, provide them company, support them, follow up!! Thank you for talking about this and I do hope your family member will be ok! xo

  • Great post. I’m so glad your relative has decided they need some help to get through this. I think removing the stigma from asking for help is very very important.

  • Well written yet again. I’m glad your family member was able to get help and can continue to get the help she needs so she can achieve her goals. I also think that the saying or assumption ‘suicide is selfish’ is masking over that persons pain of losing or nearly losing someone to suicide. It’s still not right to say though. Suicide hurts a lot of people, that’s why it’s important to have the conversation and be armed with what to say if someone says no they’re not ok. X

  • This is an amazing post. It’s hard to know what to say, but I’ll say I’m so glad you shared this as it definitely needs to be said – and said more often. I’m also very glad your family member is here to get help. Thank you for sharing

  • Wow Amy. Thanks for sharing this, as heavy as it is… its so important to continue talking about. So glad your cousin is ok anf getting the help she knows she needs. Xx

  • Such a great, timely post. I’m glad they reached out when they needed to. Mental illness is hard to understand when you’ve got it, let alone getting others to understand. You often feel alone and consumed by your thoughts. To get out of that head, the negative space, the never ending self doubt, the constant busyness. It’s the quiet that people search for. I’ve been there once and I’m glad my husband is so wonderful. I’m glad I talked about it. Thanks for creating an awareness.

  • Thank God your cousin is OK and getting the help she needs. Whilst RUOK is such an awesome initiative, what happened with your cousin is such an important reminder that we may need to ask this question every day not just one day a year xx

  • What a great post and more importantly that Facebook post, BRAVE, I wish your cousin all the best to get well and find the right things to help her.
    And when she does, even while she is, she should think about telling her brave story to school kids and more people, because she has a gift to help other people ask for help too. Heaps of virtual hugs and thank you for sharing xxx

  • Thank you for sharing this Amy. I lost a partner to suicide when I was 24 and a few years ago, my sister tried to take her own life. Yesterday, I found out that one of my son’s friends from kinder lost her father to suicide just last week leaving behind 3 beautiful kids and a gorgeous wife. No signs, it just happened. We need to keep raising awareness. It is everywhere and it breaks my heart.

    • Oh no, I’m so sorry to read that it has affected you so much. I hope you, too, are supported and have someone to talk to xx

  • Oh Amy how awful. I almost lost a friend to suicide nearly 20 years ago. I was there and took her to hospital. On the way I remember her saying “I’m sorry. I don’t want to die. I just want it to stop.” That quote from Tiffanie really rings true.

  • I wish your family member and all of you the strength you need to surf through this. Thank you both for sharing such a personal story. A powerful post. Much love Xx

  • I read this the day you posted but only now have a chance to comment. Sorry to hear that your family member is going through so much crap at the moment…it really sucks. Thanks to you and her for sharing her story. And yeah, for most people, it’s only at times like these do we realise that we don’t actually know what to do when someone is suicidal. There’s still so much fear around talking about suicide. For me, due to work, it’s become part and parcel of life to enquire if someone is suicidal irrespective or their mental health diagnosis. So if a friend or family member were to tell me they are sad or anxious and have been for a while, I guess my work-mode would kick in to check. At least, I hope it would!

    Oh and I’m so glad you mentioned it’s not cowardly because a lot of people still think that. I know I used to think it too before I studied psychology and only then did I realise just how much guts it took to end your life. And just how hopeless and helpless you might be feeling to do so.

    • Thanks Sanch- I think the idea that it’s cowardly is still so common.

  • Grace

    So sorry to hear about this, Amy. Your family members a so very brave to post her message on FB. I hope she’s getting all the help and support. And it looks like your family are giving her all that and more x

  • Sorry to hear about your family friend – is he/she getting help? So very brave to post about it publicly. A wonderful post to help lift the stigma of mental illness.

  • Great post raising awareness of a serious illness in our society. The more people realise that depression and mental illnesses are valid medical conditions of chemical imbalances in the brain, which require ongoing medical treatment the better.

    I’m glad your family member is receiving treatment and has the support of her family.

    • Absolutely- still there is so much ignorance and stigma around it

  • Great insight. I hope your family member gets the help they need and gets better. This is an important post for RUOK day.

  • I hope your family member keeps receiving the help she needs, Amy. The subject of suicide is becoming a little too everyday now, and I’m not sure that we’re shocked enough about it any more. Each and every attempt has to be taken seriously and followed up.
    Two members of my immediate family lost their personal battles, and I’ve lived with a partner dealing with addiction and mental illness. There’s nothing pretty about any of it.
    More articles like this make it real and hopefully shocking to those who are unaware of the depth of the issue.

    • I’m sorry to hear of how it has touched your family Lisa xx

  • Thank you for sharing this and I sincerely hope your loved one finds her way on a journey to wellness, no matter how long it takes. I have not tried to take my own life nor suffered depression, other than a really bad bout of post natal depression and it was hell. It’s not easy to understand but I know that it is real and should be taken seriously by EVERYONE.

  • Coming in very late to comment Amy. Sorry to hear about your relative and she is very brave to post publicly about her battles. I agree with what Lisa says that maybe we are becoming immune to the impact of suicide because it is now more common to talk about it. But it isn’t a concept or an issue it is the real-life stories like the one you shared.