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On the Suicide Hierarchy: Serious Attempts Versus Non-Serious Attempts

(This post was originally published on the Live Through This blog on September 5, 2020.)

So, let’s talk about this weird hierarchy around “serious” or “medically serious” suicide attempts versus “non-serious” ones. In short, it’s harmful to all of us with lived experience of suicidal intensity of any kind.

Based on what we know about suicide attempts, there are over 1.2 million each year — and those are the ones we’re able to count. Many folks attempt suicide and don’t seek care — because they’re afraid to tell anyone, because they’re afraid they will be hospitalized against their will (and such disruptions could end up with results like job and income loss, which could put a person already in distress in further distress), because they don’t think it was serious enough. I’d wager that “serious” or “medically serious” attempts are in the minority. …


The suicide rates keep rising, so why do we keep doing the same things over and over?

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I hate National Suicide Prevention Month.

(This post was originally published on the Live Through This blog on September 1, 2020.)

I always feel so pressured to participate in Suicide Prevention Month when I don’t particularly want to and don’t, at this point, see much value in it.

The reality is that all the same messaging goes out over and over and over, from every possible suicide or mental health adjacent org. …


Suicide is all over the news this week. It’s hard to avoid right now. It’s a difficult topic to think and talk about on the best of days, let alone when you’re being bombarded left and right by news reports and social media posts.

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Photo: David Scott Holloway

As with Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain’s suicide death is hitting a lot of us pretty hard. First, know that it’s okay to step away from social for a little while to practice some self-care — whatever that may look like for you. Second, please be informed regarding how to share this news with your networks. …


You’ve probably heard by now that Kate Spade died from suicide. Please be informed regarding how to share this news with your networks. So many of the media articles coming out are filled with sensationalistic garbage that misses the point, which is that she was in deep despair and, for whatever reason, couldn’t find her way out of it.

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Photo: Danielle Kosann

Here are a few pointers for sharing on the topic and the conversations to follow:

1. Learn and use appropriate language around suicide. We’re moving away from “committed suicide” because it’s pathologizing, and it implies sin or crime. …


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I learned last night that Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, died by suicide last week. In sitting with the news and trying to find clarity, I keep thinking of my colleagues. Suicide prevention work is done almost exclusively by people who have lost someone to suicide or who have experienced their own suicidality. Often, the calling to suicide prevention comes close on the heels of a near miss with an attempt, or the suicide death of someone we love, and it comes with urgency. In that way, it puts many of us in a precarious position: we so desperately want to save others from suicide that we forget to save ourselves. …


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It’s been two years since Robin Williams died, and I still can’t watch anything he’s been in without feeling a deep pang of sadness. For decades, we watched him play characters that touched different parts of us. The range of emotion he masterfully portrayed over the years — and in so many genres, though he was primarily a comedian — is no doubt why we felt so attached to him. Robin, through his work, reflected our various selves back at us — hilarious and vulnerable, a little off-kilter, addled, wild, hopeful.

Now that he’s gone, it’s plain how ubiquitous his work is, how he infiltrated our hearts. Flip through Netflix right now. The Crazy Ones. Insomnia. Good Will Hunting.


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NYPD officers in riot gear at #blacklivesmatter protest on July 10, 2016. Photo courtesy Dese’Rae L. Stage.

I’ve been watching the headlines, the hashtags trending on Twitter, the growing list of names of black people whose lives were taken by law enforcement officials (Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Melissa Ventura—all in one week) out of fear, lack of training, institutionalized racism.

I’m a white woman. I will never know the brand of adversity that comes with living in a black body. I want to help, but I don’t often know what to say or do.

There is nothing I can say that could appropriately express the hurt I feel with the news of every new death; every new, violent video showing the truth of a black man being murdered by police; every statement a newly grieving mother should never have to make. …


Ten years ago today, I tried to kill myself.

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The discharge papers I received from the hospital after my suicide attempt, June 27, 2006.

Then

I was flailing.

I was three years into a volatile relationship with a woman who swept me off my feet and into a whirlwind romance in the summer of 2003. We lived in a one bedroom apartment, all wood-paneled walls and low-pile beige carpet, in downtown Johnson City, TN. …


How to end myths, misconceptions and negative attitudes towards mental health and suicide

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Photo: Live Through This

In response to an essay published on xoJane Thursday entitled, “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing,” two mental health activists who have lived the struggle discuss the power and potential of language and attitudes to harm and to heal.

Dese’Rae L. Stage is an artist and the creator of Live Through This, a series of portraits and true stories of suicide attempt survivors across the U.S. Leah Harris is a writer and advocate for holistic and creative arts approaches to healing from trauma, addiction, and emotional distress.

Des: Leah, why do you do the work you do?
Leah: It’s because of my own direct experiences, as well as a long family history of such experiences. I first remember feeling suicidal at the age of seven, and attempted suicide several times in adolescence. I was given a ton of psychiatric diagnoses and lots of prescriptions, but no one taught me how to cope with the things that happened to me when I was very young. So I continued to use drugs and do self-destructive stuff to soothe myself. I was one of those people who was written off as “beyond help.” At 18 years old, I ended up in a disgusting, squalid “board and care” home. My treatment team told me that I would likely need to be there for life. It was a miracle that I got out of that place. But that was just the beginning. The shame and self-hatred were harder to get rid of. It would take years for me to believe that I could have the kind of life that others take for granted. Eventually, I proved everyone wrong about my prognosis. This is not because I am some super special person; it’s because I finally got the non-judgmental support I needed. I was able to connect with other people who understood what I was going through and believed in my capacity to heal. They created the space for me to begin to trust myself. It was all pure luck that I was able to reverse that horrible downward spiral, but it shouldn’t be a matter of luck. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I experienced. …


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Image courtesy Chris Maxwell

In June 2006, at 23 years old, I survived a suicide attempt. I felt hopeless, futile, unloved, unworthy, without a future. I thought there was nothing else I could offer the world, or the world could offer me. So I tried to die.

A CDC report released today shows a steady 24% increase in suicide rates from 1999–2014. The media are already running in some dangerous directions with this information.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, in partnership with several leading suicide prevention organizations, released a statement in response to the CDC report, urging safe, hopeful media coverage:

“The CDC data remind us that there is more we must all do to prevent suicide in our communities. However, it is important to be aware of data that indicates suicide prevention is effectively occurring daily, in ways that are rarely finding headlines. For every one person who dies by suicide in the U.S., there are approximately 278 people who have moved past serious thoughts about killing themselves, and nearly 60 who have survived a suicide attempt, the overwhelming majority of whom will go on to live out their lives. …

About

Dese'Rae L. Stage

Dese’Rae L. Stage is an artist, mom, suicidologist, speaker, student, & activist based in Philadelphia, PA. deseraestage.com & livethroughthis.org

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