Happy Valentine's Day

I hate Valentine’s Day. I never cared much for it growing up except that my elementary school teachers forced us to make crafts with hearts aglow and such to present to our parents. But that’s not the reason I hate it so much.

Suicide jumpOn February 14, 1996, I tried to jump off the balcony on my mom’s 4th floor apartment. I’d left my friends goodbye messages but one friend was so concerned she called the police who promptly showed up at the door to make sure I was okay. My mother, who normally works during the day, took the day off just because she “felt like it.” (Which if you knew my mother, never happens and was very out of place.) When the police showed up, she had no idea that I’d been leaning over the rail outside on the balcony staring down at the concrete four stories below. I didn’t fall; I never leaned myself over the rail enough. And by the time I walked back inside (which wasn’t very long), the police rang the doorbell.

My mother looked like she had been hit by a truck. Why would her daughter want to kill herself? She and my father, immigrants from the West Indies, had worked so hard to provide me with a comfortable life, my own bedroom, my own TV, my own video game system, my own stereo, a Catholic school education… everything. Why this?

Not long after, I tried to jump out of the second story window at my high school. The students “tattled” and I suddenly found myself in the guidance counselor’s office. And my mother suddenly found herself sitting next to me as well, disheartened and dismayed.

Why? What prompted all of this? Was it my mental illness? No.

I was lonely.

A new freshman in an all-girls’ school, one of two black girls in the school and I just couldn’t find a way to make lasting friends. The friends that I did make weren’t in any of my classes apart from Music and everyone else seemed to enjoy taunting me and tormenting me. So essentially I had no one to talk to or sit with during lunch. The one girl I’d known from junior high who attended the school with me suddenly turned on me and became hostile. (I’m so forgiving, though, she’s one of my Facebook friends now.)

Broken heartSo on Valentine’s Day, girls got flowers and balloons from their boyfriends who attended other schools and friends showed other friends their affection by giving them cards or funny trinkets. I gazed out the window right before school ended only to see parents pulling up to the school with Lexuses and Benzes while a few guys following behind with their BMWs.

I didn’t speak to anyone the entire day and no one bothered to speak to me. Here’s a bit of TMI: You know that grimy feeling you get in your mouth after you wake up from sleeping during the night? Yeah, I had that by the end of the school day.

Our slim lockers were crammed all into one room so at the end of the day, you had to wait or fight your way to getting to your locker. I distinctly remember bending over while I was packing up only to have someone pinch my backside. Of course, stupid me, I turned around trying to figure out who it was but all I could find were girls chattering excitedly everywhere. Optimists would call it an accident; I dealt with enough that year to know it wasn’t and one of those girls had a few people laughing behind my back.

So when I hear of Valentine’s Day each year, I think of my first official suicide attempt. Nothing serious that landed me in the hospital but it was the first in a string of attempts to come. (I’ve never mentioned the knife-throwing incident at my friend’s 16th birthday party, have I? Well, that’s a story for another day.)

Oh and by the way, have a Happy Valentine’s Day.

(first photo of a Norwegian man jumping to his death; second from lifeofworship.wordpress.com)

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Loose Screws Mental Health News: Suicide slide

congregationA new study from the University of Manitoba shows people who regularly attend some kind of religious service are less likely to attempt suicide. The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, surveyed 37,000 Canadians and their connection with spirituality, religious worship, and suicidal behavior. Those who simply said they were spiritual but didn’t attend religious services did not show a reduced risk of suicide attempts. However, I was dismayed to read that researchers didn’t investigate why regular church attendance decreases the risk of suicide attempts. (Note to self: Go to church each Sunday!) (pic via www.assumpta.fr)

Alison Go of U.S. News & World Report cites a study from Academic Medicine (originally reported by Inside Higher Ed) which suggests depression affects 21.2 percent of medical students. The rates is 11.2 percent higher than that of the general population. And unfortunately, 13 percent of black medical student reported suicidal ideation in the survey, suggesting that the demographic is more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts.

And yet another study about suicide… The University of Gothenberg in Sweden performed a study on people who had nightmares following a suicide attempt and found out that they were five times more likely to try committing suicide again. The conclusion is based on a meager sample size of 165 patients but I suppose it’s a start.

While it appears that other sleeping obstacles do not raise the risk of multiple suicide attempts, patients who have attempted suicide seem to battle sleeping problems on a regular basis.

It is normal for patients that have attempted suicide to suffer from sleeping difficulties. Some 89 percent of the patients examined reported some kind of sleep disturbance. The most common problems were difficulty initiating sleep, followed by difficulty maintaining sleep, nightmares and early morning awakening.

Interesting observation considering that I have pretty much all of the common problems with the exception of early morning awakening.

Finally in a semi-cool story, a 22-year-old New Jersey guy who was friends with an 18-year-old Californian over the Internet called California police when he found out the 18-year-old said he would attempt suicide. Although it sounds like the teen (his name was not disclosed) is pretty upset about being saved (I know the feeling), it’s a (somewhat) happy ending compared to what happened in November when a Florida teenager streamed a webcast of him committing suicide by dying of a drug overdose. The Florida teen died before police arrived.

Golden Gate Bridge Barrier Update

The San Francisco Chronicle’s site has an update on the GGB barrier debate. Unfortunately, most people don’t want any kind of barrier at all. However, of the design options, the net is proving to be the most popular. Likely because it doesn’t affect the aesthetics of the bridge by much and it is still considered a suicide prevention mechanism.

Golden Gate Bridge net barrierI’d initially cited concerns about how jumpers would be pulled out of the net. Rachael Gordon, the Chronicle’s staff writer, got chief engineer Denis Mulligan to provide an answer:

For starters, he said, once someone jumps over the Art Deco span’s 4-foot railing, it could take rescuers several hours to get to the scene to retrieve the person from the net, which essentially would envelop the person and make it difficult but still possible to clamber out.

“It wouldn’t be like a trampoline, that once you jump onto, it would be easy to jump off,” Mulligan said. But, he added, “If you’re very agile, very strong and focused, you may be able to climb out.”

I hope it’s as hard to climb out of as Mulligan cites. Just the wait to be rescued alone might get jumpers to think twice about trying again. But here’s the process in more detail:

During a rescue operation from the net, authorities would shut down a lane of traffic. A specialized vehicle, called a “snooper” truck, would be brought in. Outfitted with a mechanical arm similar to a cherry picker used by utility crews, two specially trained rescue workers would be lowered down to the net in a bucket to pull the person out.

Authorities said they would have to convince pranksters and daredevils that jumping into the net would not be a pleasant experience.

“It would hurt,” Mulligan said of the 20-foot drop into a net made out of marine-grade stainless steel coated in plastic.

This article also uses another bridge — a former suicide hotspot — as an example to show that suicides can be prevented.

In Switzerland, researchers found that just the presence of the net stopped people from even trying to jump off the Munster Terrace, a medieval cathedral located in the old section of Bern, from which two or three people had been leaping to their deaths every year. They also found that the net did not shift suicides to other locations.

And that the implementation of barriers in other places have also proven successful:

Other well-known jump spots, among them the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York City, were long ago outfitted with suicide barriers. Like the net attached to the Gothic cathedral in Bern, studies have shown them effective in thwarting impulsive suicide attempts.

I’m not so idealistic to think barriers will keep suicidal people from committing suicide. Rather, I think they’re worth erecting for “thwarting impulsive suicide attempts.” Who knows how many people are still alive as a result?


The general public is welcome to vote for a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge and provide additional comments (ie, you don’t need to be from California or San Francisco). Visit the Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Deterrent Barrier site to make your opinion known on this issue.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

John Grohol at PsychCentral reports that the fate of the mental health parity bill is uncertain as its main champion, Sen. Ted Kennedy, takes a leave of absence to focus on treatment of his brain tumor. I echo John’s thoughts in hoping to see that other senators are willing to carry the torch and pass this important piece of legislation.


I came across a post from Kalea Chapman at pasadena therapist in which she linked to a WSJ article on whether veterans suffering from PTSD should be awarded the Purple Heart.

Supporters of awarding the Purple Heart to veterans with PTSD believe the move would reduce the stigma that surrounds the disorder and spur more soldiers and Marines to seek help without fear of limiting their careers.

Opponents argue that the Purple Heart should be reserved for physical injuries, as has been the case since the medal was reinstituted by Congress in 1932.

I side with the opponents. The Purple Heart should be awarded to be people who have visible evidence of bravery. With the rising number of PTSD prevalence, I’m afraid that the award would be handed out like candy. The rising number of veterans with PTSD on disability has caused enough of an issue that a Texas VA facility wanted mental health officials to stop diagnosing veterans with the condition.


Jordan Burnham, an 18-year-old student who survived a nine-story jump from a building, plans on walking at his graduation with the assistance of two canes. A family who used to attend my church knows this family and put him on my church’s prayer list. It’s a small world, after all.


Finally, it looks like expecting moms should have no fear of causing birth defects in their baby while taking antidepressants, according to a study being published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

A research team from Montreal University studied more than 2000 pregnant women on antidepressants and discovered the drugs did not present any adverse effects. However, it sounds like they only oversaw the women while they were pregnant in their first trimester. I haven’t seen the actual study but it doesn’t seem to mention whether the women discontinued the antidepressants after the first trimester.

Suicide Attempt: 1,346,985 (number is an exaggeration)

I had a serious mixed-mood episode during the weekend. I remember wanting to buy brownie mix at 1 am and refusing to answer my
husband’s question, "What’s your mood rating at?" because I knew I’d
answer 10. But then my husband woke up in the middle of the night to find his cell phone charger cord wrapped around my neck as I tried to strangle myself. I vaguely remember it.

Abilify is starting to sound better. Abilify or brain fog on Lamictal? I can’t decide. Sometimes, I do wonder if he’d be better off without me. I often think I’d be better off without myself.

Current Mood Rating:
4.9

"You can do this"

From October 10, 2006:

carI’m tempted to go crash my car.

Again, the boy cried wolf.

Except I’m a girl.


Right now, I’m going through what my old pastor used to say is a “spiritual winter.” I just fall into moments when I just cease praying and reading my Bible for whatever reason. I’m not mad at God or anything; I still struggle with believing in a God that I’ve never seen with my own two eyes. But then I think about the specific events that have taken place in my life and I know He exists.

With that being said, I sat in my car this morning with the ignition turned on, ready to drive my car over the bridge into the Schuylkill River. I was ready to run home, make the stupid “goodbye world” post on this blog, text my husband “I love you. Goodbye” and then ram my car into a divider on I-76. It’s the worst suicidal thought I’ve had since I ended up in the hospital in October 2006.

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God and mental illness

Thanks to Gianna for sending me a link to an ABC News article about the relationship between religious faith and depression. The article analyzes whether faith can help or exacerbate a mental illness. The exacerbation, as referred to in the article, mostly comes from the stigma of mental illness within the religious community.

“You might be shocked to find out there are some denominations that do harm to people,” said Patricia Murphy, chaplain and assistant professor of psychiatry at Rush University. “Some congregations teach that depression is a sin … that’s the reaction they get when they turn to their pastor.”

Being punished by your religious leader for an unavoidable disorder sounds bad enough — yet it’s often compounded with tacit warnings against leaving the condemning sect.

“Studies have shown that faith leaders are least supportive [with mental health problems],” said Gregg-Schroeder. “There’s this attitude that if you pray harder, you’ll be able to pull yourself out of it. I’ve gone to funerals of people who were told to just pray to Jesus and stop taking your meds.”

praying dogI’ve been told that I suffer from depression because I didn’t pray enough or I wasn’t “right with God.” When I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after my high school graduation, I found my pastor and church noticeably absent even though they were aware of the situation. When I was depressed, I’d get verses like Proverbs 15:13, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Great. That’s helpful. Especially when I don’t have a “merry heart.”

When I was forced to leave a fundie conservative Christian college midyear because of my depression, my pastor at the time was clearly disappointed with my decision not to return the following year. I decided that attending a college close to home as a commuter student would be better for my mental health. There was no need to scare more roommates with my occasional mixed episodes. I felt like I’d failed my pastor, my church, and my God. God more so than anyone else. I convinced myself that He must be upset with me – disappointed in me. It’s not easy to recover from depression when you feel like the One who dangles your life from His fingers is pretty pissed at you.

(Image from AP via Yahoo! News)

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Loose Screws Mental Health News

Note: I’m manually typing HTML through my e-mail so if any of the formatting is funky, I apologize in advance.

1) It seems that FDA black box warnings on antidepressants targeted for teen use have led to a decrease in adults being diagnosed with depression. In all honesty, I’m not sure how a black box warning leads to a significant decrease in diagnoses, but I’m not a researcher from the study.

2) Doctors at McGill University in Canada are holding out hope for a faster-acting antidepressant. Most antidepressants take up to six weeks to finally kick in while the seemingly promising compounds, RS 67333 and prucalopride, appear to act “four to seven times faster” than regular antid’s.

3) Sad news: While American suicide rates overall have dropped, the rate of suicide among teenage girls have increased. The preferred method of dying? Hanging.

4) Recent reports have been released that Owen Wilson’s Aug. 26 suicide attempt wasn’t his first – in fact, it was his third.

Official reports confirm Wilson attempted suicide, and now a family friend has told The National Enquirer that the recent incident wasn’t Wilson’s first cry for help.

The unnamed source tells the publication, “A good portion of his (Wilson’s) life has been dedicated to fighting depression and addiction… This is the third time he’s tried killing himself.”

When I hear of celebrities who openly admit to being depressed, I immediately get skeptical. Mandy Moore… Zach Braff… Paris Hilton… Depression is the “hawt” mental illness of choice. Everyone can have it and remain normal! Bipolar’s too crazy and schizophrenia is too psycho. Being bipolar means that you’re spontaneously moody and being schizophrenic means that you’re, well, just not all there. No one wants to be the last two. You can be “sad” and “suffer” from depression — that is, sad about your goldfish of 2 days dying. Mr. Wilson appears to genuinely suffer from depression (among other problems) and my heart goes out to him. As for Britney Spears: I’m fully convinced that the woman has a mental illness. No joke.

Suicide: Understanding and Intervening – Part II

In 10 years of struggling with suicidal thoughts, I’m practically a “suicidal” expert. (I said "practically," not actually.) I know quite a bit about suicidal ideations and many of the thought processes behind them. Jeffrey Black lists more common features in suicidal thinking:

  • Extreme psychological pain related to unmet psychological needs.
  • A view of self that says she cannot tolerate such intense pain.
  • An overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, and the belief that she is helpless to solve problems.
  • A sense of isolation or desertion accompanied by the belief that others cannot, should not, or do not want to offer support, nurture, or care.

Not all suicides are planned. I, for one, can attest to the fact that they can be impulsive. The combination of elements that Black identifies can seem to lead someone to a suicide attempt. Black’s pattern of identifying someone who possibly could have suicidal tendencies is as follows:

  • Sense of hopelessness
  • Pattern of poor coping skills
  • Limited tolerance for pain
  • Need to flee from help

All four are likely to be present to classify someone as suicidal. Two out of four does not a suicidal person make. Desperate, yes, but not undeniably suicidal.

“Hopelessness can be both a source of psychological pain and a result. A person’s belief in her inability to change things is probably bound up with her experience that the pain is intolerable.

Here’s the equation for a suicidal mind, here is the equation:

problems + inability to change problems = intolerable pain.

If the equation becomes problem + inability to change problems + intolerable pain, then the only solution – as perceived – is suicide. Black breaks down the facets of suicide:

  • The result of a continuous transaction between a person’s heart
  • The symptoms of depression
  • The kinds of stressors in the person’s environment
  • The strategies a person uses to cope with depression and other life events

A person turns to suicide if he is suffering from severe depression; has poor coping strategies; feels that his stressors are too much to handle; and in his heart, has decided that as a result of these circumstances and feelings, he must end his life.

Suicide: Understanding and Intervening Series

Beginning next week, I’ll be unveiling a series on a booklet that I read called, "Suicide: Understanding and Intervening," by Jeffrey S. Black. According to the booklet, Mr. Black pastors Calvary Chapel in Philadelphia and is an adjunct faculty member for the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation’s School of Biblical Counseling. (Since the booklet was written in 1998, I don’t know if the previous sentence still holds true.)

The book is directed at readers who want to know how to help a suicidal person. I quote much of the book and offer some comments, but I also try to add some important pieces that I think Mr. Black overlooked. The booklet relies on the Bible to support many of its points so it is heavily Christian-themed. However, there are other interesting tips that anyone – Christian or non-Christian – can use to help those who are suicidal.

I’ll be honest: I read the book myself, and as a person who struggles with suicidal thoughts, I found it to be disappointing. This probably stems from the fact that suicidal people are not the target audience. Those who care about suicidal people are. Regardless, reading the book allowed me to gain some insight into my thought processes when I become suicidal. These thoughts aren’t evident to me when I am suicidal, but they do occur. Perhaps the coming book analysis can be a helpful tool for readers of this blog, not only for those who want to help suicidal people, but also for those who have attempted suicide and are looking for a way to thwart the process.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

Since I was born on Groundhog Day (Google it if you don’t know when it is), I found this story about a groundhog so endearing. (And I make sure to turn around on my birthday to see my shadow.)

Cate BlanchettIf you’re over 50 and on antidepressants, look out – you might be doubling your risk for osteoporosis. Fracture risks seem to be unrelated to falls caused by dizziness and low blood pressure. CLPsych’s analysis is also worth a read. (Many thanks to Bob Thompson for the link.)

People has an article on Cate Blanchett talking about marriage:

“Getting married is insanity; I mean, it’s a risk – who knows if you’re going to be together forever? But you both say, ‘’We’re going to take this chance, in the same spirit.’”

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