The Importance of Stories From Suicide Survivors

One of my favorite articles was written by Scott Anderson and published in the New York Times Magazine in 2008 called “The Urge To End It All.” It discussed, among other things, researchers who study people who attempted suicide and who have survived and several survivors themselves. In virtually every one of these cases, the people who survived were thankful. They lived to witness the positive changes in their lives. Their lives did get better.

One of the reasons why the stories are so important is because too many people don’t realize that their lives can get better. They develop a sort of tunnel vision about the course of their lives leading them to believe that it won’t improve and that suicide is the answer. Most mental health problems are highly treatable. People need to know that their problems are solvable and the stories of suicide survivors are proof of this. Counseling is a great place to start.

Recently I received another story from an individual who survived a suicide in her youth. She gave me permission to post it on my website so that other people can see that there is hope even during turbulent times. You can read that story, titled August 2016: Kathy’s Silent Cry For Help: A Painfully True Story, here. Thank you, Kathy!

Your survival stories can make a difference. 

Message Board

The message board was damaged and I have spent the day trying to fix it. I am doing my best to preserve the board. I will have it up and running as soon as possible. I appreciate your patience.

Update: I spent many hours trying to save the old board to no avail. I was sad to see all your posts go. The new board is up and running. It’s rudimentary at this time but I will continue develop it and make it better. I find great value in your discussions and hope you will re-register. Thanks so much for your patience.

Why Aren’t There Homicide Prevention Hotlines?

Suicide prevention telephone crisis services exist but there are no comparable services for individuals who have homicidal thoughts. Perhaps that is the job of 911 or phoneemergency services.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, it is estimated that suicide call centers receive approximately 1,800 calls a day; that’s 54,000 calls a month.

The purpose of suicide prevention crisis call centers are multi-fold but mainly it’s to talk someone out of ending their life. Suicide prevention workers also provide much-needed emotional support and link callers to psychological treatment centers.

Why are there no comparable services for individuals who have homicidal thoughts?

I suspect that if such services were available, they would be highly utilized. There were approximately 165,000 murders in the United States (data excludes Florida) between 2000 and 2010. It is conceivable that at least some individuals could have been talked out of taking someone’s life or talked into seeking psychological help.

Studies have shown that after calling telephone crisis centers, callers experience a reduction in suicidality. There might be a similar reduction among callers experiencing homicidal feelings, especially since many people who are homicidal also report feeling suicidal.

Anecdotally speaking, it seems as though there is a non-negligible number of people who have homicidal thoughts. There are no official statistics but I receive many of these types of letters. Below are four excerpts from those letters:

“I have no feelings toward people. I want to kill people I want to toy with them give them hope and then watch the hope drain from them. [the abuse I sustained has been] coming back to me and its making it harder for me to keep the mask on. I want to kill so very badly I’m losing myself.”

“On the outside, my life appears to be great, but in my mind, I struggle. I have strong desires to kill. I do not want to, but in my mind, it is almost like 2 people instead of one and they always argue.”

“I want to kill and not just people who have slighted me (even thought the worms deserve it) I mean people in general and I’ve been planning how, when, where and everything else you can think of, I want to feel a person’s blood on me and watch them die, I know this is not normal.”

“I’ve spent the last thirty years living with…suicidal and homicidal thoughts…[lately] my homicidal thoughts have grown stronger. I’ve thought I could control what was going thru my head but the last couple of months it’s been a real struggle… Where can I turn to for help? I’m afraid I will actually harm someone.”

Many of these individuals want help. Their questions typically involve wanting to know whether their feelings are normal and how should they seek help. My general response is to strongly encourage them to seek immediate treatment.

The Domestic Violence High Risk Team Model (DVHRT)

There is one homicide prevention model in existence called the Domestic Violence High Risk Team Model (DVHRT). The high risk team is interdisciplinary in nature. Teams are comprised of individuals from victim services, probation, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, batterer intervention programs and local hospitals. The team assesses, identifies and assists victims who are high risk for homicide. The team also identifies high risk offenders and utilizes pretrial conditions to keep these offenders in custody. Between 2005 and 2011, one study showed that the team managed a total of 106 high risk cases. Their outcomes were impressive: None of the women were killed, 90% were linked with crisis services;  92% were not re-assaulted by the offender; and 93% did not find it necessary to relocate to a domestic violence shelter for safety.

Perhaps the DVHRT model could be utilized and expanded to prevent homicides beyond domestic violence situations. The drawbacks of such a model may be that it is costly and labor intensive.

It would be advantageous to institute homicide prevention telephone services. There’s no way to know with certainty how many suicides hotlines have prevented but it’s likely a significant number; a comparable homicide prevention telephone service could have that same impact.

It certainly worth a try.

The 4 Best Questions To Ask a Teen Who Might Be Suicidal

Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health describe the development of a new and improved questionnaire to better assist ER doctors in identifying teens who are strongly at risk for suicide. In their study, four questions in particular where found to be the most accurate for identifying youth at risk for attempting suicide: Suicide Questions

The study authors estimated that without these improved screening questions, 14 patients would have gone undetected and thus untreated.

You can read more about the study here.

These might be the four most important questions you can ask a troubled teen. It could save their life.

Another study this week showed that one is 25 teens attempt suicide. One is eight teens contemplate suicide.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, seek help immediately. Go to the emergency room if you feel that you cannot protect yourself. Call 911 in immediate emergencies.


Highlighting Suicide Survivors

One of the purposes of this blog is to highlight cases of individuals who have survived suicide.

Most famous among the survivors is Kevin Hines.

Kevin Hines had been suffering tremendously with the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

He pretended to be taking his medications and following a treatment plan but he wasn’t. He was getting worse.

He then came to the conclusion, after hiding his symptoms for months, that he was not okay.

“I didn’t know how to cope,” he said. “I didn’t want to die, but because of my psychosis I believed that I had to die. I thought that everybody hated me, they were just pretending to be nice to me.”

He made the decision to end his life. It made him feel peaceful.

Hines says that many people who decide to end their lives feel peace with their decision. They believe that their pain will be gone.

He climbed over the rail of the Golden Gate Bridge and jumped.

“The millisecond I hit freefall, when my hands and feet left the rail, I said, ‘What have I just done? I don’t want to die. God, please save me,'” he said. “People get shocked into reality and they realize immediately they’ve made a mistake and I knew I made a mistake.”

Hines survived a fall that very few people ever survive.

He Wanted To Live

More than anymore, Hines wanted help.

He did not want to die.

“I said to myself, ‘If just one person, just one, comes up to me and asks me if I need help, I’ll tell everything…”

No one did and so he let go of the rail.

Devotion to Saving Others

His life is now devoted to preventing suicide. He says:

“If you’re considering suicide right now, if you’ve ever thought about suicide and it haunts you — suicide is never the solution for any problem. But when you feel that way, you have to know you’re not alone, there are millions of people who have thought about suicide,” Hines said. “Hope exists, and a future, while living with a mental health issue or a suicidal thought, exists. It’s not easy. You have to work hard.”

Read more about Kevin Hines here.

Read more about The Case Against Suicide.

The Vault & Threats to Members of Congress

The FBI has made thousands of files available in an online resource called The Vault. There is a great deal of interesting information in The Vault.

A file called “Threats To Members Of Congress -2003” revealed 58 threats. Here are examples of some of those incidents.

Victims: John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, and Joseph Lieberman 

A threatening letter was sent to both Lieberman and Kennedy that contained the following statement: “We Are Going To Kill You.” 

A different threatening letter sent to Kerry and Clinton contained the following message: “For you slowly trying to kill our son, we’re going to kill you…Your to die on the cross…” 

It was determined that the individual sending the letter was male but no other information could be identified through DNA analysis.

Victim: Senator Mary Landrieu

A threatening letter was sent to the home of the Senator that stated the following: “if you vote against invoking cloture against another one of President Bush’s nominees… I’m going to kill you. I will also go after your family, such as your husband and kids… I will kill them as well… If you care about yourself and your family, you’ll do what I say… If you vote against invoking cloture again, I’m going to track you, your family and even your staff down and kill them and you… I know where you live.” 

No DNA or latent prints could be retrieved from the envelope.

Victim: Congresswoman Maxine Waters

A phone threat was called into the Congresswoman’s Reno office and stated the following: “I’m going to kill you communist piece of shit.”

While being interviewed by the authorities, it was noticed that the interviewee had a book of photos in which the faces of Democratic senators and representatives had been stabbed and contained the word “dead” under each individual’s picture. Ultimately, the individual was seemingly no longer deemed a threat, perhaps due to the failing health.

Victim: Senator Mark Pryor

A letter was sent to the senator regarding an FCC rule change that stated the following: “it’s a bad idea and I’m counting on you to stop it. Do it or I’ll kill you. Really. I’m crazy. Just wait… Oh, and start an organization to save the jellyrabbit.” No additional threats were made and the case was closed. 

Victim: Senator Dan Inouye

An individual called the Senator to discuss healthcare. The individual identified himself as a medical doctor who said that he had been “illegally tormented by the FBI” and said “that if the senator did not call him back within two days, he would “take out” his family.” 

Some of the threats to members of Congress were relatively nonspecific, and some others received letters that were thought to have contained Anthrax.