Journey to Mental Health Recovery

The 4-Part Combo That Leads Some People to Die by Suicide

Published 2 months ago • 4 min read

TW: Contains discussion and reference to suicide.
If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out. You’re not alone, and trained experts are waiting to help you (resources in the US and UK)

Suicide isn’t often caused by one problem. No matter how big or impossible the issue may seem, we can devote all our mental resources to it if other things are going well.

The damage happens when multiple problems besiege you.

. You lose your job

. Your partner leaves you

. You become homeless

Now you don’t know what to focus on first. Problems are piling on you from every angle.

I’ve isolated four key factors that, when combined, can be deadly.

1. Mental health problems.

Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide. If you have depression, your life doesn’t need to be bad to feel unbearable pain.

Just waking up every day is devastating.

There’s a brief moment when you open your eyes where you don’t feel that heavy weight crushing your chest and where you don’t long for oblivion. But then the sorrow runs through you for another day.

People with poor mental health have to wrestle with being an outsider while their mind plays cruel tricks on them. They have to take medication and risk side effects, and it’s too easy to be forgotten by the system and society.

I have PTSD and Schizo-Affective Disorder. I’ve heard voices, thought random people were going to kidnap me and ship me off to a Siberian Gulag and felt a magician was reading my thoughts.

From the outside, life looked good, but in my mind, I was in hell.

People with mental health problems often have poor access to treatment. A Psychiatrist hasn’t seen me since pre-Covid times. It suits me because I am much better now, but I wouldn’t know who to turn to if I were struggling.

It’s easier than ever to fall through the cracks, and the treatment isn’t even good in the first place.

It’s a damning indictment of the mental health system when people are relieved to have been forgotten.

The problem is when being forgotten spreads. Society casts many of us aside, and our resume is forever darkened by mental illness. Some people with mental health problems never see a single person who cares about them.

2. Trauma.

Linked to mental illness, experiencing traumatic events such as abuse, crime, witnessing death or destruction, etc., can have a crippling effect on someone and push them further down the path of suicide.

In the extreme, trauma can turn into post traumatic stress disorder. I’ve had this for 20 years.

The pain of PTSD comes from reliving the traumatic incidents that caused it over and over.

You might experience one actual trauma but relive it a million times. Each time adds more trauma in a never-ending cycle. And you never know when it’s going to hit you.

You can go ages without a flashback, then one hits you out of nowhere. They can be caused by triggers or nothing at all. As long as they cause you pain, you’re at their mercy.

How can you be expected to move on when flashbacks anchor you to the worst of your past? How can you see a future free of pain?

By this point, you feel like a coward. I used to cry most days, and I felt pathetic. Influenced by society's standards of masculinity and the macho culture of my job as a police officer, it was shameful to be caught crying, so I did my best to mask it.

But those that loved me always knew.

3. Circumstances.

Painful life events can trigger mental health problems or make them worse.

You may find a coping mechanism for your Depression or Anxiety that gets you through each day.

But what happens if you lose your job?

What happens if your loved one dies?

What do you do if you’re being bullied?

Suddenly, the status quo is over. For me, this feels like spiraling down a black hole. Out of control, and my mind abandons me. I become incapable of rationality, and everything seems irredeemably broken.

When I lost my job as a police officer, I sank into a ten-year Depression. I’d lost more than a job — I lost my identity.

But my family never abandoned me, and although I felt suicidal, I never acted on it because I had love and support.

4. Hopelessness.

This is the big one that ties all the others together. The main reason some people die by suicide is the belief that things will never get better.

If I were told I had to endure the worst depression in the world for 1 hour, I would manage. But if I was told that depression would be limitless, I might consider suicide.

Humans are resilient. We are capable of more than we think. Every day we tolerate setbacks, crises, and personal disasters. We do so because we hope things will get better.

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the top hotspots for suicide in the world. Most people don’t survive to tell us what they were thinking, but one man did.

This survivor said he boarded the bus to the bridge that day to kill himself, but if one particular thing happened, he would abandon the idea.

All someone had to do was smile at him and ask how he was.

As he got to the bridge, he paced back and forth, building the courage to jump when a woman approached him.

She smiled at him.

This was it. Tears welled in his eyes as he saw an escape from the nightmare. But then he heard these words, “would you take our picture?”

He took the picture and then jumped.

Luckily he survived and could speak of his regret the second he jumped. The main reason for his attempt was hopelessness.

When you take away hope, you’re left with nothing.

Remember this in your daily interactions with others. You can save someone’s life if only you can give them hope. The best way to provide this hope is with empathy and genuine kindness.

It costs you nothing and means the world to them.

Journey to Mental Health Recovery

Leon Macfayden

Schizophrenia and PTSD survivor sharing my journey to recovery. Join over 800 subscribers learning to improve their mental health. Every week, I share personal stories and effective tips to help you and your loved ones live the life you deserve.

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