Five Pieces of Advice From People Who Have Survived Suicide
Tell the truth about your pain.
Of all the advice given by those who have recovered from suicide, this is likely at the top of the list. Our greatest fears associated with mental health are often what people will think about us, but silence is the greatest accomplice to life-threatening mental illnesses. Kevin Hines survived his suicide attempt in 2000 and went on to create the documentary film The Ripple Effect, which Art With Impact featured on its blog. Since recovering from his leap of the Golden Gate Bridge, Hines has become a globe-trotting advocate for conversation, believing that honest dialogue can – and does – save lives. “During my talks I will say, ‘If someone is in danger right here, if you are in great pain, please stay afterwards and talk to me, as we want you to be safe’,” he says. “You’d be surprised how many people stay,” Hines said. Acknowledging your pain to others can truly be one of the most transformational, revolutionary events of your life.
Don’t overlook or discount your experiences.
If you have just lost a loved one, friends and family will probably understand your feelings of despair, but might scoff at your sadness if they feel that there hasn’t been an incident that calls for it. Don’t let them. Mental health doesn’t run across a logical scale, nor does it conduct a market analysis before taking a turn for the worse. The frontman of Years and Years Olly Alexander spoke about this “all-better” expectation in his documentary Growing Up Gay, which Art With Impact highlighted after its release. Despite the gains in gay rights and the perceived enlightenment of society, Olly explains, “I personally have yet to meet an LGBT person who hasn’t been unscathed by growing LGBT.” It’s important that you understand that your feelings and experiences do not need to be legitimized or justified. Please don’t shrug off your sadness because you believe you don’t deserve to have it.
Understand the nature of your disease.
Those who have made suicide attempts often speak of their efforts to escape the relentless nature of depression. Though mental health issues might not erode 100%, many people who have been driven to a breaking point have gone on to live fulfilling, purposeful lives, once they understand their disease and learn its behaviors, quirks and personality. The creator of the brilliant short Hanging, which Art With Impact announced as its September 2017 film winner says this: “[Depression] doesn’t necessarily stop and it is not this perfect, wonderful life — you know you are going to have your ups and your downs — as long as you can expect them and handle them you will get through it.”
Don’t underestimate your meds.
Prescription medications are powerful. They can rescue you and support you, but if you don’t respect them they can take your feet out from under you. Too many people quit their antidepressants cold turkey, which often triggers withdrawal-like symptoms that can look and feel a lot like depression – and sometimes an exacerbated version of it. This causes many to succumb to feelings of hopelessness. Francis Arevalo, the creative mind behind the Art With Impact-featured The Lion, says, “If you want to make any drastic changes to your medication, do it with supervision and let your support group know before you do it.”
Try to keep an open mind when people say you’re not alone.
Anyone who has ever survived suicide or overcome suicidal thoughts finds that there were allies who were waiting all along the way – some strangers, as depicted in Art With Impact’s brilliant October 2016 competition winner The Letter, or other friends, family, colleagues or classmates – who can and will jump at the chance to help you. It may feel as if this doesn’t apply to you, but please realize that in all the stories of survival, finding people who want to help is not the exception but the rule. Please open up, reach out, and take a chance on any of the resources that are waiting for you.
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