Talking About Suicide

The Interviews

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Here are the people who have spoken with me so far. Almost all are fellow attempt survivors:

Karen Bufford Bogue “The problem with it is, it’s a lot harder than people think to die. You just end up with a lot of things to deal with in addition to the problems you started with.”

Terry Wise “Being alone and suicidal is a lethal combination. It’s something very liberating to find someone else. That can be a lifesaver.”

Kristina Yates “If I was feeling suicidal and you said to me, ‘You could end up brain-damaged, quadriplegic,’ I’d say, ‘I don’t care. Do you have a better plan? I’ll try harder.'”

Hugh Massengill “I was surprised when I first did a psychology class. I asked who had had experience with a suicide that affected them deeply, and about three-fourths of the people raised their hands.”

Cindy Myron “People are afraid I’m looking at them, ready to press a button and send them to the hospital if they say the wrong words.”

Davey Davis “I got lucky enough again that I was able to realize my mistake and learn from it, which I shouldn’t have been able to do. And I was able to build off of that experience instead of having that experience be part of what made life worse. Which I think is really rare.”

Trish Lane “I get a lot of grief for saying this. Death is not a bad thing, and I do not feel I have a right ultimately to tell someone how to live their life or that they have to choose life. What I do feel is that people shouldn’t make that decision in crisis, and that living life means making decisions with as much information as possible.”

David Lilley “I wanted this to stop, I wanted this to stop, I wanted this to stop. I didn’t want my wife to see this, my kids to come home to this. I think you’ll find this in anyone you interview. In some way, whatever they are going through, they want it to stop.”

Patty Overland “When people ask, “Why are you in a wheelchair?” I just tell them the truth.”

Enoch Li “no one tries to understand why we tried to kill ourselves and at the same time, it’s hard to ask someone to imagine what it feels like depressed or not being in control”

Dese’Rae Stage “pretending that it hasn’t been a problem all along and then sensationalizing it when one group starts to off themselves in larger numbers? c’mon. or, alternately, ignoring it for fear that talking about it will inspire the masses to jump off bridges? equally idiotic.”

Heidi Bryan “Maybe you’re too young, but when I was young, people didn’t talk about cancer, either. They whispered it. And look at where we are now.”

Sabrina Strong “They spend so much time in the waiting room that they start thinking, ‘Maybe I’m not suicidal. Maybe I’ll just go home.’ And if you don’t have health insurance, nobody wants to take you. A lot of people are falling through the cracks.”

Cory Cobern “Everyone pretty much says, ‘Why would I want to attempt again when everyone here has failed?’ It’s kind of a twisted way of thinking, but wow, here’s eight people who tried an average of four times, and none succeeded. They laugh about it now: ‘We tried so many times and still couldn’t end it? There must be a reason.'”

Katie Ayotte “When you live in a society where you can’t mention the word ‘suicide,’ or live in fear of saying the word ‘suicide’ and there being some negative consequences _ as long as you live in that kind of world, you’re not going to be able to prevent it.”

Ginny Sparrow “They were so angry at this girl, they could hardly contain themselves. They wanted to yell at her, they wanted her to know exactly how much pain she had caused. I had the opposite reaction, I wanted to hug her and thank her for giving me a window into my mother’s world.”

Joseph Olzewski “I used to be one of those people. I used to mock. There’s a moment where people can be reached, but they have to make the choice to understand. And a lot of people are really unwilling. Those 80 percent still don’t want to talk. If I show them all of this, they’ll just be like, ‘Great, Joey, see you later.'”

Yvonne Bergmans “So many care providers only see people when they’re not well. They don’t get to see the other side. The gift I have, I get to see all sides.”

Mike Stutz “Talking frankly about it really helped, allowed them to open up about their stories, so they’re not treated like, ‘Oh my God, you’re such a freak, how did it happen?’ Who ever wants to feel that way?”

Carolyn Edgar “There can be dignity in those decisions. I think no one wakes up and frivolously says, ‘I’m done.’ It comes after a lot of soul-searching, facing a lot of truths that are personal.”

Cathy Read-Wilson “I started Googling ‘suicide survivors.’ Everything that started coming up was those bereaved by suicide, and I got rather ticked off at that. No, I’m a survivor, too. I’m not going to keep quiet about it.”

Phillip Garber and Janet Berkowitz “Come on, guys. If we had more groups for people who are suicidal, we wouldn’t need all those groups for people who lost someone to suicide.”

Shari Sinwelski “Definitely there’s some energy out there. I think people definitely need some place to go and are finding nowhere to go.”

Daniel Alland “Just because you suffered mental health issues doesn’t mean you’re an incompetent oaf.”

Paul Quinnett “Having made and survived a suicide attempt is a long way from being a badge of honor for courage, but the sooner it’s part of the normal human experience, the better it will be for those headed down that dark road.”

Cheryl Sharp “I don’t think you have to have your act totally together to speak out about it. After all, does anyone?”

Judy James “Honest, heartfelt conversations don’t kill. Ignorance and stereotypes and silence, those things do kill. So let’s start the conversation.”

Wendy Matthews “I no longer was asking my doctor that forever unanswered question of ‘When will I be better?’ It just didn’t matter anymore. My illness wasn’t who I was. It was just a part of me, sometimes big, sometimes small.”

Laura Carbonell “Being an alcoholic, even a recovering alcoholic, years ago was seen as a weakness, an embarrassment, etc. However, now people look up to some of these people and praise their strength. There is more understanding. Same would go with suicide if it were more openly talked about.”

Alicia Raimundo “I got frustrated sharing my story like Spider-Man, anonymously, on blogs here and there, hiding. It was really stupid. I wanted to be like Ironman, in front of a crowd.”

Janice Sorensen “We’ve realized with the groups that suicide does not discriminate. We’ve had elderly, young, gay, straight, people of color, male, female, transgender, and so often I wish I were, you know, able to record some of the amazing conversations that go on in that space.”

Arnold Thomas “As I told one of my mentors, I’m tired of talking about suicide! That’s all they want me to do, is tell my story!”

Tom Greensides “I guess what’s been really helpful is to understand that if they can stick two electrodes in my brain and relieve the depression, it’s likely that I didn’t cause it. It’s a chemical imbalance, or whatever. It has nothing to do with anything I did in the past.”

Craig A. Miller “I think how I need to do it is to discuss my story in its raw truth, be myself and let people see the whole picture. It’s not just a suicide attempt that I survived, it’s life that I survived. … The book shows the darkness, but it brings the light back into it, and ties it all together. You need both sides.”

Joel Kobren “I said, ‘Well, if you’re looking for me to be really glad I made it, you’re talking to the wrong person. You know, I can tell you that unless I find a good reason not to do it again, I’m as good as dead.'”

Michael Woods “It’s hard to think my life actually improved, but it has. I’d probably have ended up in jail or dead by other means.”

Kevin Sheffield “The biggest thing is to get people into an environment where people actually listen. Not, ‘OK, we should medicate you, give you ECT, lock you up because you’re going to kill yourself.’ It should be more of, “Who are you? Why are you feeling this way?'”

David Granirer “People, when we’ve gone into psych wards, they love us, you know. The patients love it, the staff loves it. Let’s face it, it’s not a lot of fun to be in a psych ward, and it’s not fun to have a mental illness. People are dying to laugh.”

Mic Eales “I’d like to work with other artists … who have attempted to take their own lives and would like to create to express what the experience was like and how they moved on to live an inspired life, a meaningful life.”

Erminia Colucci “When I saw there was a great response of people about the way we wanted to talk about suicide, in a creative and nonthreatening and nonjudgmental way, for us it meant we were on the right path.”

Konii Burns “I found the work of all the artists involved deeply profound and at the same time uplifting, as they are all still here to tell their tales.”

Natalie De Stefano “’Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.’ Well, this temporary problem was going on for over 20 years.”

Mike Bush “I changed from being a senior psychiatric social worker one day to being a mental health user the next day on the opposite side of the table. A very strange kind of bizarre experience.”

Brandi Care Hicks “It’s not something you can just snap out of. That’s really hard for people to get. Some people think it’s almost a choice, choosing to have a bad day. It’s so much more than that.”

David Parnell “When I quit everything and started studying this guy who
said he loved all people, no matter if they’re homosexual, prostitutes or whatever,
what I got out of it was a lot better than what I got from preachers. I thought, ‘Maybe he
loves me, too.'”

Cathy Naughton “I feel like in the peer-run place, I can be more like somebody that has faults. Whereas in the more traditional crisis respite house where I also work, I feel like I have to be more of, you know, a staff person.”

Jim Atkisson: “If it’s the guy down the street, it’s OK to talk about him. But if it’s a son, a husband, it’s unacceptable. Because that would mean something’s wrong.”

Andrew O’Brien “I kept trying to ignore it. I was trying to fight the battle in my mind by myself.”

Sue Martin “The fact that I had to start all over again and learn absolutely everything once I couldn’t see, that’s what pulled me out of the depression.”

CW Tillman “I think once you enter a unit and that door locks behind you and you know you can’t get out, there’s a certain amount of dignity that you lose.”

Charlotte Claire “Waking up on the other side of attempting suicide is when you have the toughest conversations with yourself.”

Linda Fuglestad “We’re all human beings, we’ve all had pain and suffering and sharing. And I think that’s just the human part that never should have been taken out of the counseling model in the first place.”

Jay Johnston “It’s probably the only disease _ and it is a disease _ where the more someone is suffering from it, the less likely they are to seek help.”

Samantha Nadler “A lot of people, including myself, expected I would not survive that part of my life. Now I’m being able to contribute in my own way _ another reason for it to be very healing.”

Tom Kelly “In my opinion, the professionals that work in the field only see people when they are doing poorly and in need of attention, help etc. They do not see people when they are doing well!”

Jessica Blau “I wonder if people know when they look at me. Can they tell? I have this knowledge that others don’t have. It doesn’t make me better or worse, but it’s just how it is now.”

Darick Reed “I didn’t want to die on my suicide prevention walk. It kind of defeats the purpose.”

Joel Phillips “You eat junk food, and your body doesn’t work right. It’s the same thing with your mind. Fill it with junk, and it doesn’t work right. I had to clear that out.”

Katie King “When it comes to suicide attempt survivors, we kind of get pushed under the rug or are tried to fit into some other mental health category. A lot of times there’s carryover, but not necessarily.”

Steve Harrington “Some of the most stigmatizing initiatives I’ve seen are anti-stigma initiatives.”

Taryn Aiken “Unfortunately, most people who experience suicidal thoughts get turned away if they don’t have coverage. Unless you go in actively threatening, you are told, ‘Nope, we can’t take you.'”

Andy Grant “Not ever seeing someone step forward with their real name and face and say, ‘Yes, I tried to kill myself, and I’m glad it didn’t work,’ left me thinking that feeling suicidal must be something that never goes away.”

Ted Spencer “In that group, the stigma is completely gone, because everyone has either thought about or attempted to kill themselves. It forms a bond, it really does.”

Nate Cannon “I don’t want people to be let down to learn that I’m not entirety cured, which is not going to happen to any of us. It’s human to struggle. It’s a sign of strength.”

Ameera Ladak “I hated the way people looked at me as though anything that came out of my mouth was a lie.”

Sandra Kiume Dawson “Peers have empathy, they’re not as scary, they understand and they can have intervention skills training.”

Alexis Wortley “Maybe the human spirit is also being strong enough to say, ‘I’m not as strong as I thought.”

Robert Scott Wall “I’m fighting for those people in shelters that will never get to live their dreams because they’re lost. No one speaks for them.”

Lilly Glass Akoto “There’s nothing to do with how to talk with somebody, give somebody hope. We were never given lectures on that.”

Sarah Yoon “At this moment, right now, I’m trying to figure out who I am. Again. I thought I knew.”

Latosha Taylor “Recovery from mental illness, those words just spoke to me. I had never heard that. I had always been made the problem.”

Jack Park “Nobody is ready for suicide prevention. There are some prevention experts, but they absolutely cannot do the job alone.”

Denise Kodi “They only put forward horror stories, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People think, ‘I must be alone, and this is the only way out.'”

Megghun Redmon “It’s kind of funny, but not really. They don’t teach you how to deal with a suicidal person in school. At least, not at mine.”

Louise Byrne “Like the gay rights movement, unless we stand up and are unashamed of our experiences, nothing will change.”

Shane Niemeyer “I wanted to change everything in my life, and I had the opportunity to do just that. And in prison, you have all the time in the world.”

Christa Scalies “When nothing else works, when life gets nasty bad, laughter is often all we’ve got to help us feel like we’re in control of an otherwise out-of-control situation.”

Rohan Kallicharan “To find a group of people around whom I was accepted made me feel normal again, human. It was the most incredible thing.”

Sarah Gordon “I think the fact that it is most difficult for mental health professionals to disclose is incredibly sad, because it reflects the stigma and discrimination that exists within the system.”

Amelia Lehto “When I received that first true suicidal crisis, it was terrifying. You know, you have this sense of responsibility, and it’s ultimately not your responsibility, all you’re doing is being there for another human being.”

Stacy Tirella “If I can help someone in the hospital get a voice, to me that defines success. Because they didn’t listen to me.”

Josh Walfish “Nobody is going to sit there and criticize a rape victim for not giving every single detail of the night they were raped. So why do we criticize attempt survivors for not going into the most painful place of their lives?”

Dior Vargas “This is NOT a white person’s disease. This is a reality for so many people in our community.”