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Disclaimer: Although I have worked with persons with mental illness for twenty years, I do not have a Master's Degree or a license. This is not meant to be a substitute for mental health care or treatment. Please obtain professional assistance from the resources listed on the right of the page, if needed. And call 911 if you or someone is in immediate danger.

A key word that you will see:

Fragmentation: a mental process where a person becomes intensely emotionally focused on one aspect of themselves, such as “I am angry” or “no one loves me,” to the point where all thoughts, feelings and behavior demonstrate this emotional state, in which, the person does not or is unable to take into account the reality of their environment, others or themselves and their resources. This is a term that my therapist and I use and is on the continuum of dissociation.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Suicide: Please, Hear What I Am Saying.

Suicide: Yes, I need attention. Please take me seriously, even if I don’t!!

I have a real pet peeve about saying that people who talk about suicide just want attention like it is a bad thing. Attention is not a bad thing (do not tell my therapist...he will use it against me) and all behavior is communication and usually indicates a need, so they need attention. But, let's get specific what type someone to talk to, a companion, someone to play a game with, someone to help them with their medications, someone to help them with something...it is always a an indication of a want or need that they find this is the only way that they can express it. What are they really trying to say.”

For me, my whole life has been impacted by “just for attention, it is not that bad, she has always been dramatic.” This is especially so when it came to suicidal thoughts and behavior. I have lived with suicidal thoughts my whole life (first active memory at age two). I won’t go into the details here and the younger thoughts were not really formed, but just a sense of not wanting to be. I knew that this was not normal, but I felt like I was defective.

I couldn’t really talk about just fun stuff without the risk of being ridiculed, humiliated, ignored or aggressed against when I was younger…even now with my mother. She has an undiagnosed and untreated severe borderline personality disorder and my step-father was narcissistic and abusive. After more than 18 years of active therapy, group therapy, and two hospitalizations, I still have constant thoughts of suicide. My brain automatically goes there and under stress and especially highly emotional events I feel like I need to die.

In high school, I took an overdose of Tylenol before church, so my friend’s parents took me to the hospital and called my mother. Both step-father proceeded to yell at me about being stupid, etc… My mother was hysterical and angry and yelling at me. The emergency staff led them out of the room to my relief. Now, I would have been admitted, but back then they released me and told my mother to take me to see a therapist who I saw twice. I told him I was fine and just wanted some attention. He just took at that and I never saw him again. (I now know that he was sort of incompetent especially working with teenagers). Just adds to my brain that wanting attention is not important. Also, my mother never talked about it again…to this day. She can’t even handle that I’m in therapy and not working. If I bring it up I get ignored.

A few months after that, two of my friends approached my mother and told her that they thought I was suicidal. Well, my mother dismissed them saying, “Well, CC has always been dramatic. She should have been an actress. She is just fine, but thank you for your concern.” Right now, I can barely feel the pain of the disappointment that maybe this once she will listen to someone else.

The thoughts and planning increased through high school and college continuing to go unheard and my wanting so much just to talk about it. After numerous false starts and wrong fit therapists, I began seeing the therapist I now see and it took me over a year to tell him that I even had a suicidal thought. Even now after knowing him for more than 20 years, I am just beginning to talk to him. Still sometimes I “forget” to tell him and try to handle it on my own just like before. And my head and feelings go, “he doesn’t believe me, he thinks I’m being manipulative or dramatic, he is going to yell at me or hit me, it isn’t that big of a deal, and I’m fine, I should not have talked about it.”

After much time in therapy and trying to talk about it, which I am still in the process of doing, I'm finding that I am actually saying, “I feel hopeless. I'm in pain. I'm in so much pain that I'd rather die. I want ultimate control because I don't feel in control.” This all is rooted in my childhood trauma. Nonetheless, I am now taken seriously and am encouraged to talk about it which is such a relief to me. My therapist does not over react and he trusts me and we do talk about whether hospitalization is necessary. Most of the time, it isn’t but he and I monitor the situation. It feels so good to finally be heard!!!

What to do if you think a person is having suicidal thoughts? I obtained this information off the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) site. You cannot predict death by suicide, but you can identify people who are at increased risk for suicidal behavior, take precautions, and refer them for effective treatment.

Ask the person directly if he or she (1) is having suicidal thoughts/ideas, (2)has a plan to do so, and (3) has access to lethal means

Ask “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” “Have you ever tried to hurt yourself before?” “Do you think you might try to hurt yourself today?” “Have you thought of ways that you might hurt yourself?” “Do you have pills/weapons in thehouse?”

This won’t increase the person’s suicidal thoughts. It will give you information that indicates how strongly the person has thought about killing him- or herself.


Ideation—Threatened or communicated
Substance abuse—Excessive or increased

Purposeless—No reasons for living
Trapped—Feeling there is no way out

Withdrawing—From friends, family, society
Anger (uncontrolled)—Rage, seeking revenge
Recklessness—Risky acts, unthinking
Mood changes (dramatic)

If it is then, call for help. The following are some resources most of which are international:


“As anyone who has been close to someone that has committed suicide knows, there is no other pain like that felt after the incident” ~ Peter Greene

Is Suicide a Choice? "No. Choice implies that a suicidal person can reasonably look at alternatives and select among them. If they could rationally choose, it would not be suicide. Suicide happens when all other alternatives are exhausted -- when no other choices are seen."
~ Adina Wrobleski Suicide: Why? (1995)

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
~ Norman Cousins

“Have the courage to live. Anyone can die.”
~Robert Cody

"If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide."
~Mahatma Gandhi


Immi said...

Oh you have that right that it's a relief to finally be heard. I went for over a year with voices in my head telling me to kill myself. Why did I go that long? Because when I was a kid of 12 slashing her wrists, I got bitched out for "doing such a thing" to my mother. All too often people don't listen at all or react callously, even people in the MH field. I'm glad you finally got heard too! I'm sorry you still have constant thoughts of suicide, though.

Wandering Coyote said...

OMG - this post totally resonated with me. I'd be rich if I had a nickel every time my mother accused me of wanting attention and blaming me for being dramatic etc. after a cutting episode or suicide attempt as you describe here. Talk about INVALIDATING!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all of this information.

Your blog is so helpful for my understanding.

I know you don't do this for _me_ but I wanted you to know just how much you've taught me.

And it's a ton!

Unknown said...

There is a lot of really good information in this post. When I was still working I made sure that every single suicide thought or attempt was fully addressed by the fellow staff. The logic being I rather over react a thousand times then being wrong once and someone paying with their life. Normal healthy people do not think about suicide so if someone is then it has to be addressed. Take care

Psych Client said...

This is good information. I hate the whole "this is about attention".

In fact, that is WHY I keep these thoughts to myself and just try to get through it somehow.

I reached out to my T earlier this week and told him about my latest bout and paid for it dearly last night.

Is my path warm...hhhmmm. Does he care? Not from what I could tell.

When I was 16 I took a bunch of Excedrine. Note to self, never do that again talk about pain.

I didn't tell anyone in my house but my dad heard me getting sick and came in my room. I told him and he said "okay now we dont have to tell anyone about this ever".

He Got up and walked out. I laid there in agonizing pain for over a day. I should have had my stomach pumped but I didn't leave my room and he never came back to check on me either.

Until my current therapist, I never trusted anyone with my past attempt or my current thoughts.

And now, I doubt I ever will again.

Laura said...

During one of my hospitalizations a woman on the ward was extremely depressed and cut her wrists. Her nurse's response was strong anger. It ended up that another nurse had to write up a report on this nurse. Many people don't understand the whole issue of suicide. The most common comment I've heard concerning suicide is, "anyone who thinks of suicide is just plain selfish."

Clueless said...

@Immi. I used to help my coworkers with suicidal clients because you aren't really trained except for on the job experience. It is a really scary thing and MH workers often believe the myths too. I am so glad that I am heard. Thanks for reminding me how good that feels.

@Wandering Coyote. Oh, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. We are all listening now.

@Miss Ash. You are very welcome. It is really gratifying that my blog is helpful to you and others. I have some counseling student following my blog...what an honor as you are to me.

@untreatableonline. I did exactly the same thing for the same reasons. My therapist also is very cautious as while he was still and intern he lost one of his clients to suicide. It is a good thing I didn't tell him that I had constant active thoughts because he would have referred me to someone else. LOL!!!

@Psych Client. I left a reply/comment on your blog. Don't give up!!! I promise you it gets better...it really does, but it isn't easy.

@Drifter. I could do a whole post on that response...oh, that makes me so angry. It is like they need to compartmentalize it by over-simplifying it.

Missing In Sight said...


This is a very important post. I'm so glad you addressed the issue of suicide and attention. I've had multiple suicide attempts, not to mention suicidal ideations, and it wasn't for attention. Paraprahsing Syliva Plath in "Lady Lazarus," I meant to last it out, to die, and not come back at all. I rocked shut.

But here I am today, for good or bad, and I appreciate your post. It's very topical.


kw said...

Brilliant post. The last time I was in a psyche ward, it was for about three months. A few days before my release, I used a scalpel blade (provided by a patient) to cut my wrists.

As I was rushed to hospital, I chatted with the EMT. Nothing like getting out and the natural chemicals to make me feel better. It helped that I have a crush on service people.

At one point, he said that I had cut my wrists for attention. I shut up. Hurt, wounded and feeling betrayed I would no longer talk to him.

He said that he thought we were friends, to no avail. He struck a nerve so deep that no knife would ever reach.

As a child, I had psychosomatic illnesses. It was the best way to actually get my parents' attention.

As much as I have hidden my on-going self torture, it often has been the reason I have been admitted for a lengthy stay.

I have changed my SI MO, so I can continue undetected. Not so smart, but for me, impossible to stop.

If you are beginning to harm yourself and are reading this, stop. You may control it now, but it will control you in the end.

Mike Golch said...

good info.this is a fight that I have as well.Hugs my friend.

Clueless said...

@MIS. Thank you and I wish you well in your healing.

@Dano. I believe that you never have control of SI because that first whatever as a way to deal with you emotions hooks you and the cycle continues. For those, who do it for that purpose and not just because it is the "in" thing.

No one other than my therapist, knows where I injure myself now...not even my husband. I have always kept it hidden.

I am so sorry for your experience with the EMT. I would have done exactly the same shut up and never say another word to him especially in such a vulnerable situation. "Unsafe! Unsafe! Unsafe!"

Clueless said...


Yes, thanks! :-)

jeff said...

3 years ago, my then father-in-law took his life. I remember getting the phone call at work. I doubled over in pain as the mother of my children was telling me, Then i held the phone away from me and stared at it like it was a gun that had just shot me. Still after all this time, I am affected by it. We all are. It changed the lives of my children, removing any traces left of innocence as they made vital decisions about what to do with their lives at that time. They say it is a coward that commits suicide. I disagree, I think it takes amazing courage.

cc, don't publish this unless you think it is all right to do so.

Clueless said...

@Jeff. Thank you for sharing. What a painful experience for all. I actually get angry when I hear that people who commit suicide are cowards. Those that say that have never met the pain of hopelessness and depression.

susan said...

Great post

Well said on a sensitive subject. Good stuff.

Isaiah 49 :15 -16

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