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Suicide Attempts September 20, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Depression, Suicide.
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A good friend’s 19 year old son has been suffering from depression for a few years now.  Recently he started making suicide attempts.  His mother is beside herself, not knowing what to do or where to turn.  Her son is in counseling several times a week, and is now on antidepressants after checking himself into a mental hospital for five days. But he still talks about suicide.  His psychiatrist recently added Lithium to the equation, which tells me just how serious the situation is. Lithium is a drug of last resort because of its severe side effects.

During the course of my involvement with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), I met a surprising number of people who lost children to suicide. Although these children were almost all over 18, that doesn’t make their deaths less painful. I know I can never truly comprehend the horribleness of the death of a child, but death by suicide is probably more painful, given the parent’s “beating themselves up” for their inability to stop it.  Until their dying day, they will be asking themselves whether there was anything they could do to prevent it.

In my own case, the Haldol I was taking as part of my treatment (right out of the hospital) caused me to want to commit suicide. It’s difficult to put into words, but  it’s an itch that has to be scratched. It turned out that a desire to commit suicide can be a side effect of high doses of Haldol or other drugs. My experience taught me that anyone, given the right brain chemistry, can be induced to want to commit suicide.  It can be created by chemicals and stopped by chemicals (in many cases).

When my husband told my psychiatrist that I was suicidal, he said to stop taking the Haldol immediately. But it took days to get it out of my system, so I was in danger that whole time.   My family wouldn’t allow me unsupervised access to my medication,and my guns were gone (they had to be gone before I was released) for obvious reasons, but they allowed me to take my dog for a walk, something that seemed harmless enough. After all, how much trouble could I get into by walking my dog? It turns out I could have gotten into quite a bit of trouble. I had a tremendous desire to walk in front of a fast-moving car. That would probably have done the trick.  The only reason I didn’t do it was that I was worried about what would happen to my dog. Ironically enough, I didn’t want to hurt him.

While in the mental hospital, I met lots of people who had tried to commit suicide. They are what is called “unsuccessful suicides”. Because so many people who try to commit suicide end up at mental hospitals, the place is so structured and prison-like that it’s stifling.  For example, no shoe strings or hair dryers (hanging) or glass bottles or forks (stabbing) are allowed, and everyone is checked on every fifteen minutes by the staff.  Many of those who tried to commit suicide were homeless. That makes it at least a little understandable. But some were not.

While there, I met a handsome 60+ year old man who ended up at the mental hospital because he tried to get the cops to kill him. There’s even a term for it. It’s called “suicide by cop”. He wanted to do it himself but was too chicken (his words).  His big problem, after he got involuntarily committed (something he hadn’t counted on) was that he had to miss his return trip on an Alaskan fishing boat because he was locked up.  He wanted to die, but he didn’t want to miss work. Go figure.

Suicide attempts, like relatives who have a mental illness, are more common than people realize.  In fact, it’s the tenth leading cause of death among Americans.  There are far more suicides each year than homicides. In 2009, the number of suicides was  about twice that of homicides. More than  36,000 people kill themselves each year. There are an estimated 12 attempted suicides for every one suicide death, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-to-24 -year olds.  Those are scary numbers.

My friend’s son has had two attempts so far.  I just hope they remain in the “unsuccessful” category while he tries to get his brain chemistry under control. He seems relatively stable at this point, but that could be a well-constructed illusion on his part.  With those who want to commit suicide, danger is just a pill-swallow or car “accident”- away. She’s on pins and needles, and so am I.



1. Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC - September 28, 2012

Thanks again for the post. I truly hope your friend will reach out for her own help in going through this with a therapist.

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