Speak Out On Suicide: Your stories
Published Thursday, October 6, 2011 10:34AM EDT
Canada AM and CanadaAM.ctv.ca received a number of compelling emails from viewers and readers who have lived with the effects of suicide -- either through their own struggles with mental illness and thoughts of ending it all, or dealing with the loss of a loved one who took their own life.
We are compiling their stories here. If you would like to make a submission, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Last year, I was a full-time student, supported by a national scholarship award for leadership. I was required to "create change" in my school and community, while carrying a full-time course load.
With a history of suicidal ideation throughout my teens and early twenties, I had always suspected that the depression and anxiety I felt was more than most. I always just hid from the world until I felt better, and became an expert at ‘faking it ‘till I made it.'
Throughout my life, when I spoke about my insecurities, people said, "You're being too hard on yourself," "You're choosing to see the negative," "You're such a perfectionist – lighten up!" "You're such an intelligent, articulate and capable woman. You just don't see it" and "Of all the people on this earth, YOU can do it. Just believe in yourself."
I didn't know what to believe – was I incredibly talented and capable of anything or did I desperately need help? It was a permanent state of confusion, instability and feeling like a fraud that I hid all too brilliantly; and at 32, the ship finally broke. The pit of darkness that would swallow me without warning would never go away, no matter how much I devoted myself to personal growth and positive thinking; and no one was willing to admit that something could be wrong with me.
I attempted to end my life four months ago because I saw no hope for the end of my confusion, self-sabotage and isolation.
I have now relocated to a bigger city with better mental health care; I am living with my mother, receiving social assistance and therapy.
I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Type II and finally, what is still currently referred to as, Borderline Personality Disorder.
The award was definitely the breaking point for me; but having survived it, I am grateful for everything that brought me to this point in my life. I am no longer suffering in silence. There is a name for what I am going through, and others who can understand me.
I hope that my experience will enable me to recognize when a friend or colleague might need some help, and know how to get it for them. I hope I'm not going to be the person who tells them to just think more positively, look at the bright side, or buck up because everyone else has and because this has become the norm.
I think it's time to question our society's habitual rewarding of over-achievement, and people who over-extend themselves. Stress and over-work must not continue to be the norm; they are signs of ill health and isolation, which can push anyone over the edge. We need to be there for each other, watch eachother's backs a little more.
No one ever wanted to be the one to tell me "I think you might be experiencing mental illness; I think you might need help." And so, no one helped me; I fell through the cracks and miraculously lived to tell about it.
In my blog at www.heartjunky.wordpress.com I wrote:
"If I am mentally ill, then mental illness is just not as scary and horrible as most of us have been lead to believe. The gap is not so wide. It is not such a dramatic leap I am making; I am still me. No one is crazy, or we all are; it depends on whether the glass is half empty or half full."
From: Karen Hebert
During a recent Mental Health Gala sponsored in my local community the focus was on suicide. The organizer of this gala asked if I would" share my story". I have inserted the speech I gave that night. It is graphic and harsh but that is the reality of suicide.
Good evening every one
I would like to thank Missy Woods for organizing this event and appreciating the affects that suicide has on those of us that are left behind. Suicide is not a pretty subject; it is hard to talk about, and it brings back some painful memories. So some of the memories I will be sharing are difficult, and some of the details are harsh, but my story is what I had to live through.
Why? Why would you want to die? How could you leave me? Think of all of things we will miss sharing together! What were you thinking? How did I not know that you were thinking of committing suicide? What signs did you show that I missed?
My brother David committed suicide on March 5th, 1981. He was just 23 years old. Those questions ran through my mind so often after his death. There are always unanswered questions with a death by suicide. Learning to live with those unanswered questions was very difficult for me.
For those of you who don't know me, my name is Karen Bjornson Hebert. I was the youngest of three children and we grew up in a home where alcohol was abused. David himself had a problem with drugs and alcohol but at the time that David committed suicide I thought that he was turning his life around. He was going to university and doing well. I thought I knew what David was thinking and feeling at the time but I was wrong, I didn't.
David shot himself in my parent's basement, fifteen feet from my bedroom. It was difficult to sleep so close to where he died, yet not be able to be close to him, ever again. I wasn't home at the time David shot himself and the police came to get me from my fiancé's home. They said I needed to go with them, my brother had an accident and they needed to get me to the hospital immediately. The fifteen minute ride in the police car was the longest fifteen minutes of my life. When I arrived at the hospital David was unconscious and died shortly after. My big brother, my protector, gone!
On the day that David died he had agreed to be an usher for me at my wedding. My wedding day was June 6th, 1981 just three months after David's death. I couldn't understand how he could go from committing to being an usher for my wedding to committing suicide within eight hours. My wedding day was a happy day and a sad day, someone was missing and there was nothing I could do to change that.
At the time that David committed suicide no one discussed the issue of suicide. Our society wasn't comfortable dealing with suicide and how it affected those whose lives were touched by it. People didn't want to discuss it with me and were often unable to even approach me. It was like we were all supposed to just forget it. Someone dying is never easy but it was even harder then if it was a death by suicide.
I remember my first public outing after David's death; a friend and I went for coffee, when we walked into the coffee shop the room fell silent, you could have heard a pin drop. The conversation started up shortly after we were seated. I knew that my family was the topic of most of the conversations but still no approached me to discuss it.
I learned many things from David's suicide:
-You don't always know what someone is thinking or feeling.
-Sometimes you have no idea what someone is going through unless you experience it yourself.
-When someone is hurting-don't turn the other way-a smile or a hug can be very healing.
-Discuss your memories about the person that died, those memories are very comforting for the family.
-The most important thing that I learned was: living with Choices made by others.
-There are things that happen in my life that I have no control over BUT I do have control over how I CHOOSE to let them affect me.
Dave chose to take his own life. Dave's choice was his choice. It was a choice that I had no control over. I don't like the choice he made but that doesn't change the fact that I loved him very much. It was difficult for me to come to terms with David's choice and be at peace with my love for him.
When Missy asked me if I would like to tell my story I thought to myself, yes Karen you can do this! Well this has been a difficult healing process for me even thirty years later. I would like to think, that times have changed and people are more open to discussing suicide and approaching the subject. I hope for the families and friends of those who have committed suicide that my story will help you in some way. Please reach out to someone. Give a hug or just sit and listen.
Even though my time with David was not the length I had hoped it would be, I still have my memories.
In Closing: To quote a very special friend" It is what it is"
From: Bob Thomas
I watched the story this morning about the 11-year-old who took his own life after being traumatized by a beating from a bully. It pushed me to go ahead and send this email.
I know how hard it can be to overcome a traumatic event. I know what it's like to be bullied as well as the pain of abuse and the pain of losing a child.
I was sexually abused as a small child by my father, and I was not the only one. It went on for many years before someone came forward; I fear the number of people who he probably abused as well. Many of my memories are still dim, in fact they were completely repressed until a few years ago. My father killed himself the morning of his court appearance to avoid justice. I knew he was guilty but I couldn't figure out why I had been the only one not abused. Later I realized the power the mind has to block out experiences that it can't process. After his death and the foreclosure on our house and family business, I lost what little hope I had of living a happy life. I started abusing drugs and alcohol and attempted suicide numerous times. Finally one morning, while standing in a lake, ready to drown myself, I stopped and decided to give life one more shot. I packed up my few belongings and started over, living with relatives and going back to college.
Life normalized and things were pretty good until 2002 when my two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. The next nine months was hell, but I treasure every moment we had together through her treatment. Immediately after she passed away, I had what can only be called an epiphany. As I held her for the last time, my gown stained with her blood, I flashed back to the moment of her birth. She was an identical twin and there was a twin transfusion during delivery; she arrived grey and seemingly lifeless. I thought she was gone before she ever took a breath. Miraculously she recovered and everything was fine, until her completely unrelated diagnosis with Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.
I set my mind to figuring out why she would be given to us for three years and then taken away. I realized that we hadn't been robbed of a lifetime with her but granted an extension of her life rather than dying at birth. Next I worked on the why. As a motorcyclist with event planning background, I came to the conclusion that I was meant to start a fundraiser ride to raise research money. I suddenly had a purpose, a meaning for still being on this planet, and her death would not be in vain. We have raised well over $200,000 for research in her memory so far and we won't stop until our money is no longer needed. My life will result in the saving of children; I am still here for a reason.
Last year, I was invited to speak at a local school about abuse and suicide. Sharing my story and admitting for the first time in public that I was abused was difficult but an important part of my own healing, and the response was excellent. If even 1 or 2 of those kids were abused and reach out for help, or consider suicide and remember my story of hope, then it's all worthwhile. No matter how dark it can be, no matter how long the horror lasts, it can end, and you can make a new life, you can be happy and you can be a positive impact on the world.
Reaching out when you need help can be hard. You feel like you are to blame, you're ashamed that it happened and maybe that you didn't speak out earlier. You think people will laugh, think you are weak or will treat you differently. Whether it be abuse or bullying, the longterm psychological effects can last a lifetime; keeping it a secret won't make it go away.
When my world unravelled and everything I thought I could believe in came crashing down, suicide had seemed like the only way out. I thought nothing good could ever come way and I had nothing to offer the world. I was wrong. When you live in the darkness for so long, you can't imagine what the light feels like and question if it even exists. Looking back, I see how close I was to missing out on all the great things lin life. It is so easy to lose perspective, a temporary problem can block out all the good. Stepping back to see the big picture, realizing what really matters and letting others in, that's how you can turn your life into something worth living. Change can be unbearably slow, but things will get better. You can make your life better, one step at a time. Reach out, don't give up, you deserve love, you deserve life, you can make the world a better place; just don't give up. Please.
Although I am blessed not to have gone through the loss of a child, I have sat on the floor many nights over the past 5+ years holding my child (who is now 16) as he talked about the darkness spreading, not having hope, and not being able to continue on.
As my child was not deemed at immediate risk to himself, there was little we could do other than hold him, talk to him, reassure him, tell him to make me his reason to continue on when he felt he had none, and have our regular meetings with therapists and psychiatrists (which was a tremendous feat to find them at the outset) -- and try new medications (a nightmare in itself at times). M
any a time I had to ask my child if he was thinking of committing suicide and being afraid of the answer I would hear but at the same time needed to hear. This was a question I never imagined myself having to ask my child -- and yet I did ask, because I needed to.
Over the years I have learned that the simplest of things could cause his mood to drop -- a friend forgetting to call back or having to leave, having a teacher question him on his work or forgetting to hand something in and being afraid to tell the teacher, or even the dog not wanting to play. I learned transition is not easy for youth dealing with mood disorders and how they address it is a skill to be developed
Over the years if I knew it was a sad day for him I worried if he came home a little later than usual, or if I heard an ambulance in our neighbourhood as I drove home, I prayed to God it was not going to my house.
I watched as he was bullied because he was shy, cried easily or would withdraw. I watched as he became more isolated and the smiles became less and less.
I became educated on the topic; I became an advocate for my child and others with mental health, I became a social worker, a caregiver. I found strength in myself that I did not know I had and rediscovered what a great groups of friends I have that were my lifeline somedays -- along with my husband. I met with the school(s) and the teachers to ensure they knew what we were dealing with and to educate them. I networked and looked for options and resources to help my son. I joined a parents group, attended seminars and workshops. I spoke out -- with great trepidation in doing so -- but in a way to keep my child safe (the stigma is there). I navigated a system that was and still is at times unnavigable.
As services were not in my community that would assist him when the start of 2011 turned into a particularly bad year (but he was still not deemed immediate risk), we drove him daily for 16 weeks from Oakville to Sunnybrook hospital to have him get a 'fresh start" after we were fortunate enough to get him in their Fresh Start program (he was off school from Nov 2010 - June 2011). That was achieved by looking, asking, networking -- otherwise I never would have found out about it. During those 16 weeks we logged more than 21,000 kms (and hours too numerous to tally) to ensure our child had a chance for a future. (The program does not run in the summer, only has a max of 8 students at any time (rolling admission) and is tied to funding from the TDSB .)
Children wait for treatment, or for programs that will give them the support they need ongoing. Families can get services to a point and then, in some cases, have to pay for ongoing support (which is not cheap for psychologists, or support workers and which some families can't afford to the detriment of the child). Imagine being told if you have a broken arm to come back in 3 - 8 weeks (or longer) for an assessment? The uproar would be tremendous, and yet, we have children and youth who are suffering who are being asked to do that very thing when their brain is "broken". The Kirby Commission Report was in 2006 and 5 years later we are no further ahead except more reports and promises of money for programs -- but in the meantime 100-150 youth commit suicide in Ontario each year. Not only is the child / youth impacted by the mental illness, but so are the family, friends, and community.
Our son is back in his regular school this fall and so far -- although a few valleys, all is so far OK (with a network of support around him that we have worked to put in place).
Still, everyday I get up and I hope that it is going to be a good day for him; and everyday I worry that it won't be.
My dad has struggled with depression since I was a child. Mental health, while not overly discussed, was never hidden in my home. I could talk to my family if I needed. But in 2004 I lost my first pregnancy at 19 weeks, a girl. We were warned very strongly to watch for post-partum depression, but when it started I never told anyone else.
They knew I was terribly sad, but no one knew I had started having suicidal thoughts. I fought them quietly, and went back to work early rather than be alone with the thoughts. Eventually I began to cope with my life again, and had two more children.
In 2009, after 17 years, my husband unexpectedly left our marriage. Through my shock I knew I would need help, if not for me, then for the kids. I was afraid the thoughts would come back and I wouldn't be strong enough this time. I couldn't risk my kids. I saw my doctor right away, he sat and listened, gave me some anti-depressants, and made it known that he would help any way he could.
I fought a second major depressive event in my life with help. Medication and counselling helped me and my children. I wouldn't be afraid to reach out for help again. Most people in my life still do not know how bad it really was. I'm not ashamed that I needed help, now I realize I was strong enough to reach out, but so many people still do not understand how depression works. How you can't just snap out of it?
Mental health in this country is still a dirty topic. Depression is seen as a weakness, anyone with something more serious is just a nut. Hide it, don't talk about it. Diabetes and cancer, also illnesses created by your body, are not viewed this way, why is a depression diagnosis still so shameful? We will never make serious gains against this disease until the stigma is removed. Thank you for giving this topic more face time. Thank you to those big names that have started coming forward to help start this discussion and stand tall against the stigma. There are thousands of us that are standing right behind you.
From: 'Jennie D'
Two years ago tomorrow, the biological mother of my four foster children committed suicide.
The kids and I had been away for the summer, and when we returned to the reserve where we live I could tell something was different about their mom. She seemed depressed, more hopeless, more withdrawn, more needy. We'd always had a good relationship, and she spent time at my house visiting informally with the kids, and it seemed she clung to them in a way that went beyond having missed them for the summer.
One weekend at the end of September, she called to ask if she could take them to church. I checked with the social worker and he said it was fine. When she arrived that evening, she was weaving and glassy eyed and I knew right away that she'd been drinking. I sent the kids inside and told her to leave. After a little swearing and yelling, she did.
The next day, Saturday, she called and asked if she could take them to church. I told her in no uncertain terms that my house was a safe place for her children, and that she was not to show up here under the influence, and that if she wanted to visit her children she was going to have to arrange it with the social worker if I couldn't trust her.
The Morning of the Geese
The next morning she called me again. The kids and I had been outside photographing some wild geese that were wandering around our yard. Their mom was crying, and saying she was sorry she had disrespected me, and she loved me for taking care of her babies. Could she come over, she asked, and bring some moose meat to apologize? Of course, I said, Come over. Don't worry. We'll look ahead, continue to work together for the best for the kids, put this behind us.
She arrived shortly. We hugged in the doorway and she cried and cried, saying how sorry she was, how much she loved me, how happy she was that the kids lived with me. The kids hugged her, we made tea, and visited for an hour or so. We chased the geese some more. Our Chihuahua sang along to a Patsy Cline song for her. We laughed and forgave and agreed to move forward. After more hugs and more I love yous, she turned to leave.
As she left, she hugged each of the children long and tight. She gave the youngest girl a necklace she always wore and told her not to lose it. She turned back as she was leaving and said to her oldest daughter, "I love you so much, my girl. Always remember that."
An hour and a half later, the phone rang. It was the social worker. "I have some bad news," he said. In the interminable silence that followed, I imagined a car accident, drunk driving, a domestic violence incident. "The children's mother has passed away," he said, and I felt the world spin away from under my feet. "She took her own life," I heard him say over the roaring of blood in my ears. "Unplug your phone and disconnect your internet so the children don't hear rumours. I'll be there shortly to tell them."
I took the children to a friend's house as I didn't want them to associate the memory of finding out with our house. I remember thinking, I don't have enough arms to hold all of them. We sat on the couch and I told them, "This is going to be hard, guys. There's bad news, but we're going to get through it. We're going to be okay." The kids nodded, looked at me, at their worker. The social worker broke the news to them as gently as he could, but there is no way to make that news gentle. They fell like trees, collapsing into me. I pulled them close and held them tight as they sobbed their pain, their confusion, their fear. "It doesn't get any worse than this," I told them, "But you're safe. You're safe. You're going to be okay."
The rest of the day is a blur in my memory. I remember snapshots:
Thinking it can't be real, even though it's true
The terror of the moment when the kids' world became divided by the time when mom was alive, and after she was dead
The youngest turning and digging into me like she might be able to bury herself away from this horror
Feeling the oldest go absolutely limp against my side, and feeling like I might never be able to hold her tight enough to save her
The heat of the oldest boy's face, and his cold hands
My oldest girl's light returning in her beautiful, beautiful smile
The love and concern and wisdom my son offered me
My partner standing against my back when I needed not to fall, and the children at my sides
The neighbourhood dogs lying down outside our fence, guarding the children
Their mom putting her necklace on her daughter, as she was leaving, an hour before she died, saying don't lose this
Their mom telling me she loved me for looking after her babies before she left for the last time
Their mom promising us she would never screw up again
The oldest boy's face, clenched like a fist in sleep
Oh my God, my God
30 September, 2009
As soon as we walked in the door we could see the casket at the front of the chapel. "Is that our Mom?" the youngest asked. "Yes." "Can we go see her?" "Of course. Are you ready?" "I don't want to see," said the oldest girl. "Are you okay while I go with the little kids?" Nods.
Catching up to the youngest ones. The girl froze in shock, then sobbed and sobbed, moaning "Mommy, mommy." The boy choked out a couple of gasping sobs, then forced the rest back in. The oldest girl came in and stood hesitantly about 10 feet back from the coffin. Their mom's hands were clawed and her face looked flat, her lips pursed. She was almost unrecognizable, except for the shape of her nose, distinctive from the many times it was broken, which tore my heart out.
The baby girl left the room and I followed her to the front of the funeral home then held her and rocked her, telling her this was maybe the hardest moment of her life, but she was strong and she was going to be okay. We were called into the chapel for prayer. I carried the youngest girl in and sat between the older kids in the front row. We were called to stand in front and people put their hands on our heads, asking for healing and blessings. The oldest girl shook and sobbed, the boy flushed, and the youngest clung to me, wailing and unable to look up.
We went back to the coffin repeatedly. The youngest girl reached out hesitantly. I told her she could touch her mom if she wanted to. She said no but reached her hand out. She touched her mom's hand and recoiled. "Why's she cold?" "Because her body isn't moving anymore. It's like when a car is turned off. When they run, they're hot but when they don't run they're cold, right? It's like that. Do you want to hold your mom's hand?" "No." Reaching. "How about if I put my hand on your mom's hand, and you can put your hand on mine?" "Yeah." So we did that. And then she ran her hands over her mom's jacketed arm. "She's all stiff. What's that on her neck?" "That's the mark from the rope, honey." Oldest girl: "Don't look at that. It's too scary." "No, it's okay to look, girls. This is still the body that made you and held you all your lives. Your mom's spirit has gone on but her body is nothing to be afraid of." Then they started to touch her freely, holding her hands, stroking her hair, and kissing her. The oldest girl gave me her ring to put on her mom's finger, the ring my sister gave her in the summer, a beautiful West Coast native design. The kids alternated between playing around with their cousins and returning to their mom. We placed the teddy bear the oldest girl bought for her mom's birthday in the coffin. Other visitors placed flowers and sage.
Their stepfather finally arrived when the service was almost over. He is so startlingly tall, when he lunged towards the casket and collapsed into it, it was like a tree falling over. His grief was raw and terrible. The oldest girl sobbed and bent into me. I held her and rocked her and whispered to her, "It is terrible to see someone hurt so much, but so beautiful to see how much he loved her." She nodded and stilled. The oldest boy was beside her and I told him the same thing. "You were made from that love, son. That is such a beautiful thing."
And then, God, finally it was over. The oldest girl was flying back to our community with her mom's body, but the younger kids wanted to stay and celebrate the oldest boy's birthday. I asked the kids' auntie to look after my girl, and she promised she would.
Finally we could turn our attention to our boy, who was celebrating his 11th birthday that day, a birthday he shared with his mom, who would have been 31 that day. We went bowling, and met with the kids' cousins. Back at the hotel, the kids went swimming. We went for dinner after we gave the birthday boy the digital camera "from his dad" that he had so desperately wanted. During dinner the youngest girl collapsed a bit, needing lots of cuddling and asking many questions about her mom, why her body was so cold and still, why the rope burn didn't go all the way around. She asked what would happen if I died while they're still little, who would take care of them? Ain't gonna happen, I said. But lots of people love you. You'll always be taken care of. But nothing's going to happen to me.
And then… the day was over. I could go to sleep. But when I had the opportunity to sleep, I feel as though I were punched asleep and kicked awake. This wouldn't get easier for a long, long time.
And it didn't. Living in a fly-in reserve, resources were scarce and hard to procure. Our social worker moved on to other opportunities and the one who replaced him didn't have the same investment in the kids. We struggled to do the best we could, but little by little the oldest girl fell apart -- fighting, not coming home at night, a suicide attempt of her own. The kids moved out a little less than two years after their mom died. I send them all the love and healing and strength I can and I hope, oh God I hope that they can escape the cycle.
In August of 1995 my life forever changed. My brother Ronald jumped off a balcony at the St. Catharines general. He was fighting mental illness but lost. Just as I was starting to feel normal after my loss, in October of the same year another brother was pulled out of his truck at Michigan beach in St. Catharines lifeless. Suicide.
It took 5 years to get myself back on my feet. I decided to find out how to help myself from depression. I eventually learned more appropriate ways of coping with life with the help of medication and therapy. I married a good guy who I love dearly and we have a son. His name is Ronnie, after his grandfather and my late brother.
I'm sorry it took something like this to get my life straightened out. I always think of my brothers every day and wonder what they would be like today if it wern't for the mental issues they had or were able to use the technology that is available today if it were around in 1995.
When I was 15, my Uncle killed himself. This shocking tragedy was the result of a man who suffered from mental illness his whole life and never sought treatment. Then one day his terminal cancer diagnosis put him over the edge.
On a chilly spring morning, when his family went shopping, he polished off a bottle of alcohol to himself, went outside, grabbed a shotgun, and did the unthinkable. This event took place the same week that my estranged Grandmother died from complications of diabetes.
Five years later the brother of a close childhood friend hung himself on a cold winters day. He was 23, and suffered from depression. Three years later, another childhood friend committed suicide. And months after that, a very close high school friend's mother killed herself. I'll never forget the day I found out. I was driving my car, and it was pouring rain so badly I could barely see out of the windshield. I managed to make out a figure walking down the street with no umbrella. 'Who's this poor sap?' I thought.
Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a dear friend of mine, wondering in the rain with a blank look on his face. I pulled over and he hopped in the car, looked straight in my eyes and said 'My mom killed herself yesterday.' It was like a scene straight out of a movie, and it was a moment I'll never forget.
No one saw any of these deaths coming. They were as shocking as they were gruesome, and took a huge toll on the friends and family they left behind. How could this happen to anyone? Could it ever happen to me? It could NEVER happen to me! 'If only those people were stronger' I thought. Boy was I mistaken.
Not long after these events took place I witnessed my grandmother die right before my very eyes (not from suicide, thank goodness). Soon after I was diagnosed with severe depression and an acute anxiety disorder. It was horrible, for the first time in my life I had suicidal thoughts. Scary, uncontrollable thoughts. They were impulses that would surface in my mind. 'You have a way out of this', I would think. 'The suffering can stop. Everything can stop.'
I knew these thoughts were not normal. The pain and suffering of my loved ones would exact a huge toll, one I was not willing to burden them with. These thoughts were terrifying to me, yet they would not stop. But the physical symptoms of going through a major depressive episode equally horrifying: racing heart, shallow breath, pain in my chest, dizzy with every step, extreme exhaustion, extreme fear and sadness, and an inability to sleep. I just wanted it to end. I felt like my whole life had imploded and that there was no purpose or meaning in my life anymore. I wanted it to stop.
I refused to let these impulses overwhelm me. So I did the one thing I knew I needed to do; I sought help. Not without some resistance though. At first I was diagnosed with pancreatitis by one doctor due to the extreme stomach pain from not being able to eat. I explained all of my symptoms I was experiencing, yet I was not properly diagnosed. Unsatisfied with his diagnosis, I sought a second opinion and ended up getting the correct treatment.
The moral of my story? I am not invincible. Nor are you. None of us are. We are all human, and we are fallible. We get sick, physically, mentally, emotionally. And we need to know when to speak up when something's wrong and not be afraid to seek help. And those who do seek help should not be stigmatized.
Those four suicides were preventable. They also saved my life. Because of them, I knew not to give up and to seek help.
In a better world, there would be no suicides. Those who suffer from mental illness would seek and receive help when they ask for it. I'm making it my mission in life to help others who need it.
I'd like to see a better world.
I think it is wonderful that we are finally getting the word 'Suicide' out there. I lost my father to cancer June 2, 2010 and my older brother to suicide April 20, 2011.
The most horrible thing is to see two OPP officers staning in your family room telling you that your brother took his own life. The hardest part was going to my Mom's apartment and telling her that it hadn't been a year since my father passed and now she has lost her oldest son. My brother left us a note and his dog (which I had to put down due to health issues), but that did not make up for him leaving us. It has been 5 months now and we still have days when we break down and cry.
Suicide is not an evil word, it's a word that is for people who are so low and feel there is no way out of the tunnel. If they only realized that people loved them and would help, but they just don't feel that they deserve the help. One of my brother's friends flew all the way from out West to be at the spreading of his ashes. He never thought he had good friends, but was so wrong.
One of the hardest parts after my brother's death was also the people who avoided us. Most said they didn't know what to say? Well how about they were sorry to hear of his passing etc.
Again, thank you for talking on a subject that everyone seems to think is taboo.
Like so many our family has been deeply impacted by suicide.
My ex-husband was a funny, intelligent and dynamic individual. We married just after he graduated from law school. After a few years of marriage and two children we separated. We all worked very hard to make the situation as positive as possible for the children as well as all involved.
The boys' dad and my husband even spent time together, sharing in camping trips and outings with the boys. I always tried to put the boys first, never mixing my relationship with him and the one my children had with their dad. For divorced parents to say or extend any unnecessary negativity about that other parent to their child, is so very damaging to the child.
To cut down the other parent in any way, is to cut down your own child. I never knew how glad I would be that I had always worked to put my children's feelings about their dad first.
In 2003/2004 it became clear my ex-husband was suffering. I lived thousands of miles away, and at the time did not understand his torment. I viewed it as apathy and irresponsibility. There was no genuine medical support for him who was suffering so much.
His father died in July 2004, two weeks later he killed himself. It was devastation beyond belief. Having to tell my children the news was horrific. Some of the family even blamed me, everyone was completely shipwrecked with grief, guilt and loss.
To explain to my children who were 8 and 10 at the time, that their father had committed suicide was a complete nightmare. Their little raw wails and shrieks and cries are etched in my mind. The recovery for them took years, as they grieved differently at different times.
When my youngest was in grade 6 and needing some extra help and attention at school, the VP of the school told me "it had been two years since the boy's father died, he now needs to move on!"
My oldest was hospitalized for three months, just four months after his grandfather and dad died, for what doctors felt was a serious viral infection. After seeing specialist after specialist, having every test you can imagine, missing three months of school from being in hospital -- an intern approached me one night to chat.
After all the medical intervention, she was the first medical professional to take a few minutes to inquire about my child and our lives. I was too close to the situation, but once we began talking it did not take long to connect the dots. This child was physically suffering from the loss of his father. We checked out of the hospital that night and began the very long horrendous road to healing.
When a child loses a parent to suicide, it is in no way the same as to losing a parent to a disease or accident. That child grows into an adult struggling with the fact that their parent did not love them enough to live. It is difficult to comprehend depression and mental illness when all you want is your dad. Grief for a child is developmental, children are always reminded, as if they could forget, that their parent is gone. Not just on birthdays or Christmas but every first milestone that a parent would be there for.
Suicide changed who my children have become, my oldest in particular. It has taken seven long years of working towards healing and attempting to understand. We had terrific support from Hospice Calgary -- programs that made all the difference for the boys and us as a family. We/they would not be where we are today without that program.
Those little boys have grown into thriving, ambitious hard working young men. They are honor students, with part time jobs, exceptional work ethics and compassion, with an excellent sense of humour and a love for life. We speak openly about their father as well as suicide. I want them to never be afraid to ask for help and always to know suicide is never an option.
As a side note, I cannot even begin to share how the suicide of my children's father impacted me. I am the ex wife, people did not understand my grief that was separate from my children. I had no right to grieve, my grief did not matter as far as most were concerned. Yet I had to be strong, loving and supportive for my children all while keeping everyone's dignity intact. I thought I would implode at times. I had to leave my job to care for my children in those first few years, the toll this loss took on my own marriage was difficult.
Educated, loving friends even made jokes. My ex's family and friends did not, and simply could not extend any support to the children or I. His mother blames me and has been cruel, understandably I suppose. But my children see that as a reflection of them. His sister is so very lovely which has been a blessing.
We are only given two parents in life, two people who will love you unconditionally for life. To lose one of those by suicide, leaves a void that can never be filled. To lose that partner who loved my children only like I could, is a devastatingly isolating place.
Thank you for allowing me, the ex wife and mother to share the devastating ripple effect suicide has.
From: Kristi Perrin
Firstly, I would like to thank Canada AM and its staff for choosing to focus on mental illness and suicide. This tragic illness and devastating outcome must be talked about openly and honestly in order to bring awareness and funding to assist individuals and families that are forced to deal with this issue.
I lost my 33-year-old husband and my boys, 5 and 2, lost their father on June 4th of this year when he took his life.
I first started noticing changes in my husband in October of 2010. He became very withdrawn from his boys and myself. He slept or just stayed on the couch after work. He began to get very angry over issues relating to raising the children, his family farm and our relationship.
He became very paranoid of relationships I had with male coworkers and friends. In March of this year I was sexually assaulted by him .. Something I never would have thought my husband would do. I remember one evening when he wouldn't let me out of our bedroom until I told him names of male coworkers I spent time with.
My husband and I would have been married 10 years this past august and his behaviour I witnessed earlier this year was not something I had ever witnessed before. I remember leaving with my kids for about 5 days after his anger one evening scared me to death. I just kept thinking that I did not know what was going on but I needed to make sure my children would not be witness to this.
I started individual counselling to try and work through what I was witnessing, to try and make sence of the assault, and to try and find a way to move forward. He finally agreed to couple counselling and our first session was april 30th of this year. For the last few weeks of april I had asked him to not stay in our home after the children were in bed as I could not put myself in another situation to experience his temper. On the morning of the counselling session he had told his father he was going to do bad things today. He started crying uncontrollably and could hardily walk to the car to get to the session.
Once in the session with our counsellor, which neither of us had met before, he started to have a complete breakdown ... He told us that people were going to die, and that his children were not safe. He continued to say he had done bad things and he was going to prison. 30 minutes into the session he asked the counsellor to call the police because he had done bad things.
Our life then became a nightmare. My children and I left our home ... This decision I made with the intention to protect our children. My days were filled with police officers, family and children's aid workers, detectives ... But first and foremost it was making sure our boys were ok. My husband was involuntarily admitted to a regional health facility under the form 1. They recorded him being suicidal and homicidal. He was then placed under a form 3 to remain in the facility. I had to go to court for custody of the children to ensure their safety was not jeopardized when their dad's mental state was not rational.
In the middle of May he was released from the facility on a leave of absence. He talked to the boys on the phone and I had a gut feel something was still not right. I made the heart-wrenching decision to go ahead and report the sexual assault hoping this would get him back into the facility that could help him. Unfortunately, although my detectives tried to get his terms to include returning to the facility, this is not what happened. He was released into the care of his father the middle of May. He took his life June 4th.
He left many letters written through May up until the day he took his life. He seemed to have been haunted by something and just couldn't talk or vocalize what that was. He was discharged from the facility 5 days before he died. When he was discharged he admitted that he still had suicidal thoughts but didn't think he would act on them .... Even though his letters he had wrote during these days state much different.
I have two boys that have lost a great dad to an illness that was not fully treated. A man that even though he tried to still tell people his thoughts he was still released and left alone to deal with his depression. The facility said he suffered with a deep depression with phsychotic tendencies.
My kids and I miss their dad everyday however, we also thank him for keeping all of us safe. I find it necessary to share my husband's story to try and find some purpose in this tragedy. I believe that we need to address mental illness openly ... Hopefully this will raise awareness and decrease the stigma surrounding this illness and suicide. Individuals who have a mental illness need to be surrounded by people who can accept the illness in order to support them and assist them in finding the help they need to fight this illness. We also need to increase funding for research and towards the facilities that are there to treat individuals suffering from this illness.
If my story can assist in anyway during your week of focusing on this illness and suicide I would be happy to share it. I hope that my children and I can assist one other person or family dealing with this illness. The way we can honour their dad is by remembering the amazing man he was and his big smile, but also by using his story to raise the awareness surrounding this illness and hopefully we can help in saving a life.
I am 20 years old and I am so glad to hear about the suicide awareness campaign that will be airing! I truly believe that there are so many senseless deaths that can be avoided if only certain people knew that they're not alone, that there IS a treatable or fixable problem and that it can be so easy to do, just as easy as a phone call some times. I am a survivor of depression and an attempted suicide. I'd like to start with the good news which I've been depression free for about 3 months and with the help of my doctor and some caring people I was able to beat the beast without any medication.
I was the victim of an abusive relationship, she had been abused a lot in her past which I assume caused her to project it on me. I guess you could call it one of those "I can fix her" relationships which are always unhealthy. When I found out the first thing I asked her to do was consider seeking treatment for her abuse, but that was not received well. I was scared to leave the relationship, I was belittled and made to feel constantly guilty and eventually she was the one who encouraged me to attempt suicide.
At the time I was working at a leadership camp where I lived and worked on site. The problem was despite what you would think about a leadership camp this was also an abusive environment. The senior staff would constantly abuse the hard working staff and allow privileges to lazy but favoured staff. When I brought up this injustice my response from the owner directly was "it has been worse". Which as you can imagine was not very encouraging.
Eventually I tried to leave her and she then chose to be with my best friend who happened to be one of the "privileged" staff. Living in such an environment of injustice combined with the constant abuse I had faced drove me to the edge. The thing I didn't realize was that I had a way out, I always had a choice to leave. The problem is I didn't want to let the campers that came through down.
I think this is common of suicide cases, the trapped feelings, a loss of control over ones life and often abuse from others. All things I feel were fostered by these two cases. I attempted suicide one morning when there were no children on site, I was unsuccessful and a dear friend brought me to the hospital. I spent a week and a half in recovery where I learnt that everything that happened to me was NOT okay. Which is something I usually find about cases like these that despite all the horrible things that are done the victims somehow still blame themselves. As a victim I never realized that all the help I needed was so close, that all it took was a trip to the hospital to find caring, concerned and compassionate staff just willing to help.
Thanks to some positive thinking and a fantastic hospital staff I was able to break out of my depression and I am happy to say I surround myself with loving positive people, I am right back into my studies full time (and doing well!), I have a fantastic job and I could not be happier!
Thank you so much for listening (or reading I suppose), I am excited to see this special and all the positive things that might come of it! This is a cause so close to my heart as I know a few families that were not as lucky as mine. This is truly inspirational thank you!
From: Denise Batters
I was very pleased to read about the initiative that Canada AM is taking with its spotlight on suicide. Perhaps you already know about my husband's story. In case you didn't, I wanted to email you about it. Maybe you will find that relaying this story will work with your upcoming programming.
I have taken a cue from my husband, Dave Batters, in demonstrating openness in discussing mental health and suicide.
Dave Batters was the federal Member of Parliament for Palliser from 2004-2008. After a struggle with severe anxiety and depression, Dave publicly announced why he was unable to run for re-election. Sadly, Dave took his own life on June 29, 2009. I issued a press release acknowledging that Dave had died by suicide.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended Dave's funeral, and delivered an important speech which dealt with depression and suicide. In June 2010, the inaugural Dave Batters Memorial Golf Tournament was held in Regina. With the money raised, a 30-second television commercial was produced and broadcast on CTV throughout southern Saskatchewan, which focused on awareness about depression and suicide. View the commercial on YouTube here.
Thank you for putting a spotlight on this important issue.
I'm glad that you are bringing these issues to light. My mom suffered from bi-polar for around 15 years. After multiple attempts over the years, she finally succeeded in ending her life in 2001. She suffered not only from a mental illness, but also the shame of that and I think it's incredibly important to inform the public that these people are not crazy, there is something that they need help with.
From: Mike Dineen
I am a 31 year-old man who has been struggling with depression, anxiety, borderline personality and 2 separate suicide attempts (along with self-harming behaviour) since I was a young teenager. In the past five years I have undergone pharmacological therapy, psychotherapy and multiple cognitive behavioural therapies--and along with a tremendous support system I have begun to live a well-adjusted, self-harm-free lifestyle--most recently completing a degree at York University (7 years later). Mine is a story of success I would like to share with others.
However, in contrast to my own story, when I was 21 years old, my 26 year roommate and friend committed suicide in our shared home. He suffered from depression and dyslexia, as well as a lack of acceptance from his family because he was gay.Mike Dineen