Suicide Is Not An Escape Route

Suicide Is Not An Escape Route

Suicide awareness is so incredibly important and options to avoid it need to be known.
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Killing yourself is not a way out.

Suicide is a difficult topic to talk about, but even more difficult to witness.

I recently had a friend reach out to me to write this article in the hopes that no one else has to go through what herself and her peers have to go through. On November 14th, a Lake Minneola high school student came to school with a stolen gun and shot himself.

On December 4th, another student from the same high school hung himself. On December 14th, another student from the same high school tried to kill himself. This school isn't an anomaly, unfortunately, but a decent example of how often suicides occur. In reality, suicides happen so much more often than that every day.

I can't sit here and write this article saying that we need to bring awareness to suicide. Everyone knows what suicide is and what typically causes it. What I can and will do is talk about solutions and the effects of suicide. Most suicidal people see it as a means to end their personal suffering, but it isn't. It just moves your suffering and places it on someone else who is still alive. Suicide victims can create others to have a higher risk of attempting suicide as well out of grief. The grieving process (especially for immediate family members) can take years to overcome, if ever.

I have volunteered for Crisis Text Line (it's similar to the Suicidal Hotline, but you text instead of call. Free to everyone in the US, just text "HELP" to 741-741) for quite some time now and completed training on how to handle those who were contemplating on attempting suicide and/or self-harm. I don't think I need to mention this, but I will just in case. Never make someone feel stupid for wanting to act on these feelings. This will make them feel invalidated and cause them to shut down. Rather than berating the person, try asking questions to better understand what they are going through. Some examples include "I'm so sorry you've been struggling for so long. Do you want to talk about the reasons you feel like this?" or "It sounds like you're in a lot of pain right now. I'm wondering if you can tell me more about what's going on?" Open-ended questions (things you can't answer with a simple "yes" or "no") will not only show the person that you are genuinely interested in helping but will be easier for them to get things off of their chest.

Along with suicide, self-harm is a common occurrence and typically a warning sign for suicidal ideations. There are a lot of reasons for self-harm, and it can come in many different forms. The most common form of self-harm is cutting oneself somewhere on their body. Other forms of self-harm include scratching, burning, hitting/punching and pulling hair out. Less common forms are forms you may not think too much of. Eating enough to make yourself throw up, not eating enough and starving yourself, not putting a jacket on when cold, and not taking clothes off when hot are less noticed forms of self-harm. Some reasons for self-harm include anger, frustration, restlessness, sadness, depression, desire to focus, craving sensation, feeling depersonalized, dissociating, or just simply wanting to see blood/pick scabs. Identifying the emotion behind the desire can help in preventing a person from acting on their desire (refer back to the open-ended questions).

Some DIY activities for those wanting to self harm due to anger/frustration/restlessness includes hitting something physical that isn't directed at a living thing (pillow, bed, etc.), ripping up paper (old newspaper, phonebook, etc.), going for a walk/run, throwing ice in a bathtub or against the wall hard enough to shatter it, or getting silly putty and snapping it. For sadness/depression, doing something soothing (taking a bath), lighting sweet smelling incense/candles, listening to soothing music (not sad music ), rubbing lotion on the parts someone wants to hurt, or calling a friend and talking about the things one likes. For craving sensation/feeling depersonalized/dissociating, squeezing hard ice, biting into a hot pepper, slapping a tabletop hard, slapping one's wrist with a rubber band, taking a cold bath/shower, or focusing on how it feels to breathe. For the desire to focus, eat a fruit mindfully (notice how it feels in one's hands, try to mentally describe it, think about the texture as one eats it, how the inside is different from the outside, etc.), choose a random object and try to think of 30 different uses for it, or pick a random topic and researching it. For wanting to see blood/pick a scab, draw on oneself with a red felt-tip pen, paint oneself red with tempera paint, or get a henna tattoo kit (the henna can be picked off like a scab after it's dried and leaves a design underneath).

Much like the saying "you can lead a horse to water but can't make it drink", the same goes for those contemplating suicide. The best we can do is offer support, resources and a shoulder to cry on. You can't force someone who is suffering to talk if they really do not want to and you can't force them into therapy. The best one can do is offer and remind them how much you deeply care for them. If you believe someone you know is about to attempt suicide or seriously mentions killing themselves, you can actually call 911. Many people don't actually know that you can do this. Law enforcement will go the person's home and they may take them to be evaluated by a mental health professional. If they don't take them to a mental health professional, they'll talk to the person and try to get them into a safe state of mind. A good thing to ask yourself before calling 911 is to remember P.L.A.I.D:

Plan: Do they have a plan?

Lethality: Is this plan truly lethal? Could they die from this plan?

Availability: Do they have the means to carry out this plan?

Illness: Do they have a mental or physical illness?

Depression: Do they have chronic depression? Or depression brought on by (a) specific incident(s)?

If you can answer yes to all of these, actions may need to take place whether it's getting a trusted family member/friend to intervene or calling 911. If it's a family or friend, remember to not seem pushy for the person to get help. Refer back to the open-ended questions and hear them out. Anyone and everyone is capable of helping those in a bad state of mind, but don't forget to take care of yourself.

Resource Links!

Resources for those affected by suicide victims include:

SOLOS, AFSP, Bereaved Parents of the USA, Cope Foundation, and Heal Grief.

Resources for those who have self-harmed or are thinking of self-harming include:

The Trevor Project, SAMHSA, Active Minds, AsIf, To Write Love On Her Arms, Recover Your Life, and SIOS.

Resources for those who have attempted or are thinking of attempting suicide:

The My3 App, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, Save, SPTSUSA, the Suicide Prevention App, and the Buddy Project.

Activities when having thoughts of suicide or self-harm:

Alternatives to Self-Harm, The "Hurt Yourself Less" Workbook, The Butterfly Project, 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercises, Journalate, Kindness, Neon Flames, Penzu, Grounding Exercises, SuperBetter App, Therapist Aid, This Is Sand, Time Managment, You Feel Like Sh*t, Your Life Your Voice, Silk, andthe Virtual Hope Box App.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Public Health May Be The Most Important Area To Focus On As A Society

I saw with my own eyes the importance of public health initiatives in villages throughout Honduras and Nicaragua.

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Medical exploration and healthcare management has thrived throughout the 21st century, with major developments in epidemiology allowing organizations such as the World Health Organization of the United Nations to track the spread of preventable diseases such as malaria and influenza across impoverished countries worldwide. I saw with my own eyes the importance of public health initiatives in villages throughout Honduras and Nicaragua when I traveled there as a Brigadier with Stony Brook's Public Health Brigade, a coalition organized by Global Brigades during the Summers of 2016 and 2017.

Working alongside other university collaborations such as Boston University, I was mesmerized by the impact that improvements such as clean water through mountain pipelines and sustainable housing could do in reducing the severity of Zika virus outbreaks in the region, as accentuated by the near 8,400 villagers with access to clean water as a result of our efforts.

These experiences demonstrated to me the value of preventative measures highlighted by the public health approach — by attacking the origin of a disease and the medium through which it spreads instead of merely treating the manifestation of its symptoms, a holistic approach would allow for the eradication of a malady throughout an entire region whilst educating the local populations about the importance of proper hygiene practices and fortified infrastructure to prevent its re-eminence. It is for this reason that I feel inspired to pursue a graduate degree in Public Health as a professional, so that I can help contribute to the eradication of preventable illnesses across the globe.

A specific area of interest that I wish to target as a field of study would be the impact of sustainable housing in the eradication of illnesses such as lead poisoning through contaminated water sources. My own experience in this particular aspect of Public Health Administration as a Brigadier with Stony Brook Public Health Brigade showed me the importance of secure infrastructure in the reduction of preventable diseases as an especially pertinent area of community health in the United States, highlighted by the water toxicity crisis in Flint, Michigan.

A recent study released by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha at Hurley Medical Center noted an uptick in the blood-lead concentration of Flint Children from 2.4% to 4.9% after changing their water source, with spikes as high as 10.6% in correlation with elevated levels of lead in Flint water. These elevated blood-lead concentrations put these children at higher risk for lead poisoning, characterized by reduced growth rate and learning difficulties. Purification of the available water sources throughout the region would be a comprehensive long-term solution to reducing elevated blood-lead levels amongst Flint residents.

My goals after my master's degree in public health would be to pursue a medical education and become a doctor, or go into Healthcare Administration and eventually work with the WHO of the UN to establish a more easily accessible Healthcare system across various countries to increase the number of people in impoverished areas that can be reached by doctors, nurses and other primary care practitioners. I feel that a proper understanding of public health would, therefore, be essential to establishing my career in service to humanity.

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