Warning: This post has strong themes of suicide and self-injury within. It may contain potential triggers. Reader discretion is advised.
Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. In 2007, it was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 34,598 deaths.1
An estimated 11 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.1
Essentially, statistics indicate that there are 380,578 reported cases of attempted suicide each year. Personally, I see this as a gross underestimate. The botched attempts are the ones that end up in the hospital. But what about the folks who take a handful of pills, pass out, and wake up like nothing happened the very next day? It is in my personal experience, as a person who has never ended up hospitalized by a suicide attempt, that I would jump that number up by at least 20 times the amount of completed suicides.
Today is suicide prevention day. And today, I wanted to bare my soul and share my sordid past with suicide attempts.
Is suicide common among children and young people?
In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.1 Of every 100,000 young people in each age group, the following number died by suicide:1
- Children ages 10 to 14 — 0.9 per 100,000
- Adolescents ages 15 to 19 — 6.9 per 100,000
- Young adults ages 20 to 24 — 12.7 per 100,000
I started in the earliest age group. I was a deeply troubled young teenager. I have only written about this in a personal journal, but I feel it’s time to share.
It was a warm March Friday, humid after a fresh rain. I was rather excited for that Friday, because it would have been the first Friday I was released from my grounding since January. It was the truth that my grades had slipped into the toilet. But, so had my mental health. I dressed in my funeral best daily. Every single day was a day that I had wished, nay, prayed for death. Only a merciful God would release me from this suffering, I thought constantly. And as a result of my downward spiral, I felt the entire verbally abusive arsenal my parents had to offer.
Another bad progress report. I was failing math and gym. Truthfully, I wasn’t good at math. And what teenage girl in the entire world wants to be seen in front of all of her peers in a swimsuit? My “excuses” fell on deaf ears. This warranted more time in isolation. I begged. I pleaded. Just this one Friday, and then I will begrudgingly accept my punishment. I had surely earned it, after all.
I was berated for not trying hard enough. “Are you lazy or stupid? I can’t decide anymore.” The words stung, like a clean slap across the face. I lost my temper and started to storm up the stairs. I called back to my father, “You’re an asshole.”
“Get your little ass back down here!”
I glanced backward to see the furious, crazy look in his eyes. But, I was beyond caring. I was beyond fear anymore. I continued up the stairs as he screamed after me. Do your worst.
“You little bitch, come down here and face me!” he challenged.
I did. He grabbed my by my collar and snatched me up so close to his face that he spat every angry word at me. “Come on. Take a shot. The first one is free.”
I knew better. If I were to take the shot, that would justify any beating I would have received after that. I was only 4’9″, and he towered over me at a grand 6’3″. I was a little girl in comparison to this adult man. I stared into his eyes defiantly, gnashed teeth and a snarl. I never lost his gaze in that moment. I refused.
With one twist of his arm, he dragged me down the last three stairs. Violently, he pulled me into the air by my collar and thrust me into the kitchen wall. I was terrified, but I would never show it. I would not give him the satisfaction. I looked behind him to see my mother standing there, doing nothing to help me. She looked at me with these vindictive eyes and a satisfied face. He screamed in my face about disrespect, what an ungrateful piece of shit I was, and how I didn’t even deserve all of the things they had given me. I started to lose my air as my collar choked me. I panicked, as I started to black out. His words faded. I closed my eyes.
Thud. He dropped me three feet to the floor, and I hit the ground hard. I crumpled onto myself as he stormed off. I looked up at my mother who was looking down at me. And without a word, she walked away. My last hope of salvation had betrayed me. And I curled into a ball and cried.
(This part I have to omit because it is going to be in a future installation of “The Friday Confessional”.)
After I had been dragged home, I took refuge in my room. All hope was lost. There was no escape. There was no one who could save me from this. There was only one way out.
I went into the medicine cabinet and grabbed an entire bottle of Advil and another of Tylenol. I washed it down with another bottle of Nyquil and waited on the edge of the bathtub. This was going to be my way out. If God wasn’t going to come to my rescue, and the authorities felt this was a gross exaggeration of the truth, then I would take matters into my own hands. Let me be damned to eternal hell. It couldn’t be much worse than this.
I filled the tub and waited some more. I undressed. This should make the cleanup convenient, I thought to myself. I sure didn’t want my death to be a major inconvenience. Everyone would celebrate my departure. Everyone would be happier without me.
Botched. I woke up a few hours later and crawled into my bed for warmth. And I slept for over 24 hours. No one took any kind of note at the missing medications or my inexplicable hypersomnia.
That was the first in dozens of attempts to take my own life. At the young age of thirteen. The idea of suffering the abuse and neglect of my parents for the next five years until I was a legal adult was too much to bear. And I was absolutely convinced that I would be dead by my seventeenth birthday at the rate I was going. I had tried so many times that I eventually started calling it, “Flirting with Suicide”, just because there was something of a romance between it and me.
And every single attempt was the best I could possibly manage with the materials provided. I suppose a person can call that parasuicidal if they choose. Maybe it was. I’m not sure anymore.
I’m nearly twenty-eight now. All of that was nearly fifteen years ago. And the last time I attempted suicide was over a year ago, a few days before I started writing As the Pendulum Swings. In that year, I learned that I had a relapse back into a more serious cervical cancer. And it dawned on me that there was a possibility that I could one day die from it. I had resigned myself to life. If I couldn’t die on my own terms, a survivor of multiple attempts, then I would live.
In the end, I chose to live.
What are some risk factors for nonfatal suicide attempts?
- As noted, an estimated 11 nonfatal suicide attempts occur per every suicide death. Men and the elderly are more likely to have fatal attempts than are women and youth.1
- Risk factors for nonfatal suicide attempts by adults include depression and other mental disorders, alcohol and other substance abuse and separation or divorce.5,6
- Risk factors for attempted suicide by youth include depression, alcohol or other drug-use disorder, physical or sexual abuse, and disruptive behavior.6,7
- Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. A person who appears suicidal should not be left alone and needs immediate mental-health treatment.
Educate yourselves. Realize that every suicide attempt is serious and should be treated immediately. Realize that suicidal gestures, ideation, and plans are all extremely serious and significant. And find the courage to find yourself, a family member, or a friend immediate treatment. Suicide is completely preventable when people are educated.
Thank you for reading. Take care.