Within the first three months at college, I found myself slipping into depression.
I made an appointment with the on campus therapist. With the exception of a one-time meeting with a therapist my dad got me in touch with during high school, I’d never sought out professional help. Maybe I can find the courage to tell them, I thought to myself. Maybe there’s something they could do. Maybe there’s a cure.
After waiting for nearly two hours, I was called to the back room, where I waited another 45 minutes for a therapist to greet me. Once inside, I noticed that this room much more resembled doctors’ offices I’d been in than what I imagined a therapist’s office would look like. I sat on the table, paper rolled across, trying to find the words to say. The therapist, a man in his mid-50s with short, salt-and-pepper hair seemed rushed.
I began telling him how I’d felt, and within 10 minutes, before I’d gotten around to telling him of any of my gender-related issues, he’d decided that I had social anxiety disorder. As soon as he’d come to his own diagnosis, I was sent down the hall where a medical doctor scribbled some words on his prescription pad.
I filled the prescription, but only took the pills sporadically. I missed my follow-up appointment, and I stopped going to class. My roommate was out of town for several days, and so I was completely cut off from the world. Somewhat amazed, I realized that no one had attempted to make any sort of contact with me during that span.
The feeling of complete self-induced isolation was somewhat surreal. My mind began to wander, imagining the end of my own existence. I began searching the internet to find out whether taking all my medication at once would result in my death. Could I do it? Could I save up enough pills to make that happen? I’d try.
Weeks went by, and I saved every last pill I had. I kept debating at what point to pop the pills. I didn’t want them to go to waste by living through my overdose. If that happened, I’d need to start from scratch, start collecting the pills one by one. I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid of living through my attempt to reach death.
Choking on a 2-months’ supply of antidepressants, washing it down with vodka, I went to sleep that night hoping for an endless dream.
Obviously, I woke up, and I’m grateful for that.
I’m not alone in my brush with a suicide attempt. According to the American Association of Suicidology, one suicide occurs every 14.2 minutes in the United States, making it the 10th leading cause of death across the general population. In individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Nearly 1 million Americans attempt suicide each year, and an estimated 5 million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves during their lifetimes.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has some excellent resources for individuals who are contemplating or have attempted suicide and their loved ones. I wanted to share some general suicide prevention warning signs and suggested actions if you suspect someone you know is at risk.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Talking about wanting to kill themselves or wishing they were dead
- Equipping themselves with the means to commit suicide, such as stockpiling medicine or buying a gun
- Discussing a specific plan to kill themselves
- Feeling hopeless, without a reason to live
- Feeling trapped, desperate, in need of escape from an impossible situation
- Increased anxiety and/or panic attacks
- A loss of interest in activities, an inability to experience pleasure
- Becoming socially isolated, withdrawn from friends, family and others
- Acting irritable or agitated
- Showing rage, talking abut seeking revenge for negative situations in their lives
What should you do if you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide?
- If they tell you about a desire to kill themselves or a specific plan to commit suicide, take those words seriously. 50 to 75% of all people who attempt suicide tell someone beforehand
- Ask questions, show concern, let them know that you care
- Reassure them that they are not alone
- Encourage professional help
If you or anyone you know may be at risk of suicide, please utilize the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
We’re never alone.