Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Elephant in the Room: Suicide (Part 1 of 8)

When I began to take a serious interest in my writing, approximately 12 years ago, I started out with poetry. Now, this began as a classroom assignment in my Language Arts classroom, but due to a wonderful teacher I was instantly hooked on poetry--and more importantly, writing about things that mattered.

When I started out, I knew that I wanted to someday change people's lives (I mean, who doesn't right?). What better way to do that than with written word--something that will be there until the end of time? So, to catch the interest of those that I knew best (my peers) I chose topics that most kids my age either knew nothing about or found to be "taboo". For this reason, and this reason alone, most of my earlier poetry and some short stories all revolve around death, self-harm, and suicide. Pretty morbid "topics of interest" for an eighth grader, huh? Most of my peers thought so too.

However, this morbid "topic of interest" that I had in suicide took a sudden, violent swing into becoming a passionate mission of awareness during my sophomore year in high school. A few months shy of having lived in Oregon for a year, one of my best friends from my hometown committed suicide.
Hanse Joshua Peterson
March 27, 1987 to February 4, 2003

I was shaken to the core by the devastating news from some of our other friends. I was overwhelmed with grief, confusion, and guilt.

I felt the obvious pangs of grief that most people feel when they lose someone close to them.  Disbelief, anger, sadness...All of it. I got stuck in my confusion for awhile, though. By all outward appearances, he was a happy and healthy teenage boy. He didn't broadcast his troubles or make extremely blatant cries for help (with one exception--he once ran away to another state during junior high school) so no one knew the pain he was feeling. No one. We all offered our advices and shoulders to cry on when necessary but without intimate knowledge of his situation, there was nothing we could do. This ran me head first into one of the longest guilt trips I have ever given myself.

I felt, as someone who considered themselves rather close with him, that I should have known his suffering and I should have been there for him. I also felt guilty because in the transition to Oregon I lost contact with so many childhood friends and he was one of them--which made it harder to know if he needed me to be there for him (and he obviously needed someone). I felt that I should have tried harder to keep in contact with him and that I should have tried harder to know what was going on in his life inside and outside of school. I felt that there was so much left unsaid to him...I felt sadness for all the things he would not experience...I felt anger towards his tormentors, those who drove him to thinking that suicide was his only way to peace. I felt so many things, all at once, that I could not even begin to put into words.

All of these emotions led me to a school project the following year that I used to try to help me deal with some of the grief and guilt I was feeling. I put together a suicide awareness power-point presentation for a computer class I was taking. I also put together and handed out awareness brochures and business cards with the prevention hotline listed on it. I realized it was a step in the right direction to helping heal the wounds I still felt from the loss of such a great person. Over the years, I occasionally have come back to knowing that there needs to be more awareness and have given a few speeches on the topic for many classes I have taken. Somehow, this doesn't seem like enough.

Jacob Wesley Saunders
April 11, 2012

I was reminded several months ago just how important suicide awareness prevention is when I learned of a suicide in my community--the third one in two years! I did not know the young man, but his death reopened old wounds for me. Many of my friends knew who this young man was and all of them were DEEPLY affected by his decision to end his life. Their grief secretly became my grief. Wounds I thought had finally healed after nine years were opened again--even if only briefly--and, now at the end of summer, I have been reeling from the emotional chaos ever since.

This emotional roller-coaster I have been riding had me in a very bad funk the other day (and almost derailed completely, if I may say so myself) when I received news from a family friend that her son--someone I consider the little brother I never had--was currently receiving mental health treatment due to a very recent threat to commit suicide. While I know that he is okay and getting the help that he needs to be getting, my heart is breaking for him. All of those ugly emotions of  confusion and guilt are starting to rear their ugly little heads again. I feel like somehow, I have to do something to help get the word out there to others that they are not alone and that they can find the help and peace they are looking for without ending it all.

Despite the frequent occurrence of  suicide in everyday life, it is STILL considered a "taboo" topic of discussion for MANY people, for MANY reasons. This perception of suicide NEEDS to stop. We have to get the word out and hope that it will help others choose to seek help instead of ending their lives.

September 9th through September 15th is National Suicide Prevention Week this year.

September 10, 2012 is International Suicide Prevention Day.

What will you be doing to promote awareness??

In honor of spreading the word on suicide and suicide prevention I will be posting something about suicide every day that week. This is only a small part I can play in helping to spread the awareness. Hopefully, you will do your small part to help spread the awareness as well.

If you need someone to talk to, please call the number above.
There is someone one the other end who WANTS to help you.
Suicide is NOT the answer.


  1. I've known several people who have committed suicide, two very close to me and I have attempted it myself 4 times in my teens.

    The fact is that it is a very hard thing to recognize. Those that are intent on doing the deed, will keep it to themselves least they be stopped.

    You're so right in that there needs to be more awareness about this, especially on how to spot the signs. People need to know that they are not alone in this and that there is help out there for them.

  2. Thank you for sharing that! While I have never tried it myself, I have had my fair share of those thoughts (I think most people do at one point or another right?) and I know many people who have tried. I have only personally known the one who succeeded. It is always a tragic loss felt by so many people :(

    With how prevalent it really is (and with how quickly it seems to be on the rise lately) I am surprised there isn't more awareness. It is a serious issue. There are so many who feel they are alone and that this path is the only one, I hope to be able to shed a little light on the matter and hopefully someone will benefit from the facts :)

    Thanks for reading Miss Lily!!

  3. I received your note on my blog, and I would be incredibly honored if you would see fit to use it, or any of my blogs, in any way that you feel would have an impact as it relates to suicide prevention. Thank you for reminding me that suicide prevention week is even approaching. I guess it is time for me to get out of the fetal position and actually do the same on my own blog. Thanks for writing, and for caring.

    1. Thank you so much for allowing me the honor of sharing your story with others! I truly hope that it does help anyone who stumbles across my little page. I hope everyone does a little something for that week! Any little bit is better than nothing right? I am hoping so anyway! Thanks again for reading this and letting me use your post!

  4. A young cousin of mine took her own life several years ago, and our extended family still feels the hole that she left. All of us have struggled with the why and wonder what we could have done to help. It's a terrible thing when a young person doesn't feel that their life will ever become better. My heart weeps for every family scarred by a loved one's suicide.

    1. Patricia, I am sorry that you had to feel that loss. Suicide is NEVER an easy thing to cope with. I am hoping that the posts I put out the week of Suicide Prevention Awareness will help someone to either reconsider suicide or let someone who has experienced a loss find support.

      To help with this I have asked my FB friends and family (as well as two wonderful bloggers) for their personal experiences with suicide (and have promised complete anonymity to those who wish for it); with your permission, I'd actually like to use your comment as an inclusion in one of my posts for that week.

  5. Thanks for commenting on my blog and I am glad you did - as it lead me to this :-) I applaud you for taking the initiative to post everyday during National Suicide Prevention Week.

    Creating an environment where people (both those who are contemplating and those who are concerned for others) are aware of WHERE they can turn to for help, and in which they can feel SAFE (rather than judged, or misunderstood) for doing so, is so important.

    I look forward to reading the posts during that week.

    Kind regards from Australia.

    1. :) Thanks so much Pauline! I hope to be able to help someone--anyone--who needs it. Sometimes all a person needs is to know they aren't alone...

      I rather enjoy reading your blog (I know I am a new follower but I can't stop reading!! LOL) and look forward to many more new and wonderful posts from you!

  6. As you may know, Chewie's bio-dad committed suicide December 23, 2004, if there is anything I can add during your incredibly selfless project, let me know. It is a devastating act that affects more folks than anyone realizes. Good on you for this terrific effort <3 HBIC

    1. I actually did know that from your award acceptance post (well I don't think I knew the time-frame (how crappy) but...). I would love to include anything you are willing to share. I feel it is easier to show someone who is thinking about something like this just how much other people really will be affected by their decision with real, personal stories rather than just saying, "It hurts everyone, not just you." I hope it really does. Thank you for wanting to help. You area a strong, courageous woman :) And thank you for reading! I hope this turns out great :)


I enjoy reading feedback!! Even if I don't respond, I do read and rather enjoy the comments!! Thanks again for reading and have a bitchin' day!!

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