• Jo Rust

I've survived 8 suicide attempts

**Trigger Warning**

SEPTEMBER IS SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS MONTH

Some facts you should know about suicide.

Before Covid-19, a person would take their own life, somewhere in the world, every 60 seconds. Since 2020, those numbers have increased by over 30% to a person taking their own life every 40 seconds in 2021. More than 800 000 people die by suicide every year. And the numbers are climbing. On average, men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Though in teens, females are at greater risk. One-third of hospital admissions for suicide attempts involve teens. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years.


There's no way of denying that suicide is a pertinent issue on a global scale. The sad reality is that, although suicide is a very treatable and preventable condition, we're still lightyears away from adequate education and treatment options being available to the general public. Apart from that, the general negative attitude and stigmatization of mental illness is, in my opinion, greatly due to a lack of education, and in turn, true understanding among the general populous. This is slowly changing as there are more policies, treatment options, and campaigns being implemented worldwide. Though, again, we're lightyears away from where we need to be. Mental health education and treatment is a basic human right. And considering the staggering statistics of people suffering from mental ill-health, big change is needed.


Suicide is a silent killer. It's a silent killer because we don't talk about it. We don't talk about it because it's considered taboo. Though the only way we can raise more awareness for the prevention of suicide is to talk about it. Suicide doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care about your race, gender, income, status, religion. Sure, some factors do play a greater role in causing someone to become more susceptible to struggling with suicidality. Like exposure to violence, either as a witness or personally. Poverty. Trauma. Sexual abuse. Gender-based violence. Drug and alcohol abuse. Though it's such an intricate issue with many factors at play.

To understand suicide: look to the survivors. Doctors and professionals have a lot of textbook knowledge on the matter and knowledge shared by their clients and patients. Though unless you've been there, you cannot truly understand. One of the things that have really stood out for me in the last few months of offering online therapeutic mental health coaching is that there is a major gap in the treatment of mental illness. This gap being: empowering clients/ patients with practical therapeutic tools to cope with everyday struggles in a healthier manner. In my personal experience, the most effective combination for successful treatment has been three-pronged. 1. Psychiatric/ medical intervention. 2. Counseling/ talk therapy. 3. Intensive ongoing coaching. I have survived a total of 8 suicide attempts in my life. I have lost 3 family members to suicide (all men). I lost the first man I loved to suicide. I have offered emergency suicide counseling to many people who have struggled with suicidality. Suffice it to say, I know suicide very intimately. The reason behind my suicide attempts? Well, there are a number of reasons. Over the years my fields of interest have been: psychology, neuroscience, psychiatry, epigenetics, and psychoneuroimmunology. I'm a critical thinker with an analytical mind. A problem-solver who needs to understand the why, the cause behind an effect. For most of my life, I've been trying to understand why it is I have such adverse emotional reactions when experiencing challenges, mostly within relationships, so I could change the reaction. I so often consider that, had I been born into a different family, I'd probably be a doctor now. Though I'm grateful for my journey and all its adversity. Alcoholism, absent parental figures, emotional abuse, sexual abuse - just to name a few. It has given me a greater understanding and invaluable insight into how trauma affects us as human beings. How difficulties in one's early developmental years cause other difficulties in adulthood. A deeper understanding of how mental illness affects one's life every single day. As a little girl, 'psychologist' was a curse word in our house and therapy was not an option. So I had to resort to figuring it out for myself. In my mind, I figured that if I could learn how to control my emotions, it wouldn't be as overwhelming. Easier said than done for an HSP. (Highly Sensitive Person - those who are thought to have an increased or deeper central nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli.) To attempt to overcome my claustrophobia, I would lock myself in my closet so I could teach myself how to control my breathing and calm myself down at age 8/9. To overcome my social phobia, I got a job as a cashier at our local supermarket at age 13. To overcome my anxiety and suicidality, I rode around the entire African continent on my own. A little extreme, I know. And I'm in no way saying exposure therapy is a fix-all approach. It just works for me. By exposing myself to that which I fear or struggle to deal with, I am able to learn more about the cause for my reaction and thereby change it. It is because of my decades of extensive experience with mental ill-health (Anxiety, Depression, CPTSD, Dissociation, Suicidality) that I started coaching others on how to cope with mental illness and overcome certain aspects of difficulties we all experience in life. It is also why I started a Non-Profit organisation (Mental Health 4 All) and currently lobbying for the implementation of mental health education in schools throughout South Africa. (Sign the Petition) And it's why I am studying psychology and aiming to enter medical school after completing my degree in psychology, to ultimately specialise in psychiatry.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUICIDE

PEOPLE WHO TALK ABOUT SUICIDE DON'T MEAN IT/ ARE NOT SERIOUS This is not true. If someone talks about death or suicide a lot they should be taken seriously. So often people will say that there were no warning signs because they are maybe not aware of the warning signs. But if someone talks about suicide, it's on their mind. PEOPLE WHO COMMIT SUICIDE ARE SELFISH People who commit suicide or attempt to commit suicide are people suffering from an immense amount of pain. People usually attempt suicide as a last resort as they feel helpless or hopeless. They feel alone and like there is no other way out. From my personal experience: my attempts were as a result of an inability (at the time) to regulate my emotions in a healthy manner due to very deeply seated complex trauma that I experienced over decades. In those moments, I truly felt hopeless. The pain I experienced in those moments was unbearable and suicide would seem like the only escape. SUICIDE ONLY AFFECTS INDIVIDUALS WITH A MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION Not all people who attempt or die by suicide suffer from mental illness. Many times it's as a result of a response to a transient event. For instance: loss of income, divorce, loss of a loved one, a traumatic experience like a violent attack, a debilitating illness, rejection, sexual abuse etc. MOST SUICIDES HAPPEN SUDDENLY WITHOUT WARNING Most suicides are preceded by some form of communication, either verbally or behaviorally. Many people who are suicidal might only show warning signs to those closest to them. In my case, I never communicated my intentions, on account of not wanting to cause concern to those closest to me. Though if you had to look through my browsing history at the time you would've seen online searches that clearly communicated my intention. I would also withdraw socially. Isolate myself. Become uncommunicative. 'Cut off'. TALKING ABOUT SUICIDE WILL PUSH SOMEONE 'OVER THE EDGE' Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma, but also allows individuals to seek help, rethink their opinions and share their story with others. We all need to talk more about suicide. In my experience, it was a relief when someone spoke to me about suicide from a caring, non-judgmental place. If someone made me feel like they truly wanted to understand and help me, I would be more open to talking about it. ONCE AN INDIVIDUAL IS SUICIDAL, HE OR SHE WILL ALWAYS BE SUICIDAL The act of suicide is often an attempt to control deep, painful emotions and thoughts an individual is experiencing. Once these thoughts dissipate, so will the suicidal ideation. While suicidal thoughts can return, they are not permanent. An individual with suicidal thoughts and attempts can live a long, successful life. The proper treatment can help to reduce symptoms. This includes counseling, talk therapy, coaching, psychiatric intervention, support groups.


WARNING SIGNS TO BE AWARE OF

Comments or thoughts on suicide - also known as suicidal ideation - can begin small, like: "I might as well not exist", "no one cares about me", "I wish I wasn't here". But over time they can become more explicit and dangerous. HERE ARE A FEW WARNING SIGNS: * Increased alcohol and drug use * Lack of self-care, binge eating, not caring about hygiene etc. * Aggressive behavior * Withdrawal from family, friends, and community * Dramatic mood swings * Hypersomnia (Excessive sleepiness) * Impulsive or reckless behavior SUICIDAL BEHAVIORS: * Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon * Giving away possessions * Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal paperwork * Saying goodbye to family and friends RISK FACTORS: * A family history of suicide * Substance abuse * Intoxication (More than 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are under the influence of alcohol at the time of death) * Access to firearms * A serious or chronic medical illness * A history of trauma or abuse * Prolonged stress * A recent tragedy or loss WHERE TO FIND HELP?




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