Ending the silence: the times I tried to kill myself

By Joseph Pratt - [email protected]



Ending the silence: the times I tried to kill myself

Joseph Pratt

“I burned it reaching into the oven.”

“I had an accident when I was younger.”

“I fell through a window.”

These are some of the lies I tell people, when I’m asked about the ugly scared gashes that cross my wrist.

The truth is, a few years ago, I was sick and I did it to myself, in an attempt to escape from everything I was dealing with. I was desperate and I took my life into my own hands, cutting my wrists, and bleeding enough to pass out, but waking up knowing I needed help.

This is also the only visible clue of an attempt at suicide. The first attempt, when I overdosed on prescription medicine, requiring activated charcoal in the emergency room, doesn’t demand so much secret covering, but I live knowing it happened.

This is going to be the most honest column you’ll probably ever read in a small town newspaper.

Why am I writing it? No, it isn’t a cry for help or attention. It isn’t even something I feel comfortable discussing. In fact, I want to vomit as I think of what word I will type next, because I’m truthfully writing this before I chicken out.

The fact I am typing, though, says I’m not as afraid to discuss this any longer. I think this I because I consider myself pretty healthy now. I am happily married, even with its naturally expected hurtles. I am not only good at my job, but I love it and the people I deal with. I don’t suffer with the instabilities I used to and I feel like I never thought I would.

I am writing this, because I’ve been thinking about the topic a lot and I feel responsible to do so. Sure, this is a taboo topic of discussion, but that is exactly why I am writing it. It shouldn’t be.

Over the weekend, we paid tribute to National Suicide Awareness on September 10. For a day, we looked at a serious issue that plagues 15 million Americans a year.

On that same day, a high school friend of mine was missing, after leaving behind a suicide note. This came a week after another friend came to me and mentioned crushing depression, immediately apologizing and saying she didn’t know why she was telling me something so personal.

I wanted to write on this topic when that first person came to me, but I did not. When the second friend had her problem, I felt guilty for looking the other way, having decided against a column out of personal fear. So, here I am, writing about one of my most personal secrets, in hopes of helping even just one person.

On Friday night, I kept thinking that I could have been there for that friend. I could be there for a lot of friends who are suffering, if I only knew they needed me.

Most people don’t realize an issue with communication and mental illness exists, because we, as a society, are afraid of the topic. It is stigmatized and we don’t completely understand it. It is an emotion and we control those, right?

We’ve been taught that depression is a symptom of weakness and not a serious malady in itself, so we remain silent.

No one would think twice about a person talking about their battles with diabetes, but anyone who seeks help for depression is often seen as seeking attention or not dealing with an emotion they should be able to handle or turn off.

In all of this, I believe depression is made worse by the loneliness and solitude that comes with it.

How many people would be alive today, if they could explain their symptoms to someone else? If someone was there to tell them to stop listening to their dark passenger, maybe they wouldn’t have walked off the ledge.

When one faces depression, they are often completely alone in the battle and that loneliness makes them their own worst enemy. They are left awake at night, wondering what is wrong with them. Everyone else is so happy, so why aren’t they? Life can’t get better. After all, it hasn’t already, right? They need to end the weight and pressure building in their chest that keeps dragging them down.

When I’ve mentioned dealing with depression, I’ve had friends tell me I don’t know what depression is. I laugh and joke all the time, and I have a great job and life, so I’m obviously not depressed. The problem is, when one is depressed, they have to work extra hard to show they are fine, which only makes things worse in the end.

Depression comes in many forms and people show it in many ways.

I do have a good life and I don’t take that for granted anymore. I don’t know why I get the way I do, and I can’t help it. I’ve grown to realize that I am just different and I require the help of medication to feel comfortable. It has taken me even longer to realize there is nothing wrong with that. With the help of my friends at SOMC, I am able to feel normal and live life, even if it took a lot of trial and error to find the right medication balance.

The problem is, some people don’t feel comfortable speaking to anyone about their problems. They don’t want to depend on a medication to be healthy, despite the fact that most would say it would be completely insane for a diabetic to say they didn’t want insulin for the same reason.

We also belittle these thoughts around those who talk about them. We treat these feelings as a selfish act. They aren’t thinking about anyone else, but themselves. They are giving up.

We need to stop pretending anyone else owes us anything. A person who feels so bad that they want to end their own life doesn’t need help feeling worse. All they need is to know they have support and they need to be given space until they decide to embrace it.

I am writing this column to expose myself. Not for my past, but as someone here to help. If anyone needs to talk to someone who understands what they are going through, I am available on Facebook at any time of the day. I know what it feels like to feel alone, with something inside dying to get out.

If you are someone who has faced these problems, be a voice for those who need help.

If you are someone who currently suffers, realize things aren’t as bad as they seem at night and know you are absolutely far from being alone.

If you are neither of these people, and you haven’t dealt with depression, then just be a friend. Don’t demand and expect anything from anyone. Don’t judge. Just realize this issue is serious and give that person your kindness, because that is honestly all they need.

Also, if someone jokes about or mentions suicide, take it seriously. Chances are, the person has it in the back of their mind and feels too pressured to remain silent that they won’t ask for help.

The silence and taboo, pertaining to mental illness, needs to be ended on both sides.

As for me, I’ve taken a lot of medication to find my footing and I am in a much better place than I’ve been. I’ve suffered from depression since I was 13, and, yes, I still have bad days and sometimes weeks, but I’m in a much better place at 24. I’m happy for all the beautiful things and great people I’ve experienced since I’ve beaten depression.

I hope that anyone else who feels the desperate need to end their life can find the help they need to one day say the same thing. Until then, know that you have support. If in no one else, then in me and everyone else who understands you are not alone.


By Joseph Pratt

[email protected]