“Happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.” Poppy Jamie
How did I go from being suicidal at 19 to a pretty consistently happy person today? Why is our country experiencing a 25% increase in suicide rates since 1999?
As a suicide attempt survivor, I personally get the pain that can cause someone to feel so hopeless and alone that they believe ending their life is the best option.
At 19, I was carrying a lot of stuff inside from growing up with alcoholic parents, being a trauma survivor (though I didn’t know what that meant at the time), I had a 2 year old child, and didn’t have a clue help might have been available. Pain overcame rational decision-making and at 19 we just don’t know a lot.
If you want to know more about how I got from pain to purpose I write about it and share more life coping skills to release pain and increase happiness in Intentional JOY. I’m grateful to have survived and eventually learn how to build a happier and more functional life.
Why Such High Suicide Rates?
Here are some factors I’ve observed in no particular order:
We’re surrounded by people, but often feel isolated and alone (We lack a sense of belonging).
The internet and social media superficially connects us but doesn’t allow for deeper, real time connections.
There are MORE people – everywhere – but not necessarily ones we know, like or trust, or who value us.
The 24/7 news cycle that is focused on what’s WRONG with everything. Stressful!
There is less church attendance which traditionally has provided a sense of community.
Families are often scattered around the country.
Economics – The middle class IS shrinking, jobs don’t pay as well, affordable housing is a problem, so there’s constant money stress & pressure.
Celebrity Glamour ENVY – we see others lives that look so PERFECT – we wonder what’s wrong with us that we can’t seem to create that for ourselves. (Believe me, everyone has their challenges!)
For Teens & Parents:
Let's remember that the teenage brain is still developing. Teens are present moment oriented and so can feel hopeless, stuck and like the pain will never end. They don't necessarily tell anyone how they're feeling and are impulsive. They need problem solving skills that will help them cope with pain and life's challenges.
I want to go back to the first statement above – we’re surrounded by people, but feel isolated and alone.
Clay Routledge in his article “Suicides Are Up, states “…it isn’t enough to simply be around or even liked by other people. We need to feel valued by them, to feel we are making important contributions… (to them and to the world).”
With so many of our connections happening via screens, how is it that we feel truly valued or that who we are has meaning and purpose? Because we have lots of likes on a FB post? FB has it’s place, but is that enough to create meaning in our lives?
Brene Brown's book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, discusses why people are feeling so “spiritually disconnected” “…the only thing that binds us together now is shared fear and disdain, not common humanity, shared trust, respect or love.”
A reality of life that we don’t talk about enough is that life is HARD! Harder for some of us than others because of things we don’t control – the family we're born into, addictions, abuse, bullying, poverty. Even with the best of parents and circumstances, LIFE has it’s challenges.
Unfortunately, there’s no perfect instruction manual for how to deal with the pain and difficulty we face and climb through to the other side.
Also, America has particular myths about the value of independence. Be strong, don’t need anyone, pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Myths don’t get us through the tough times. We need concrete, specific support. We need love and belonging and to be VALUED by ourselves and each other.
What are The Solutions?
I dislike blogs or articles that spend the whole time laying out the problem and never offer any solutions. There are no quick fix answers though and each of us has to find the path that works for us.
What I know first is that the suicide survivors I’ve talked with all agree they are SO glad they didn’t succeed. I’m with them!!
First Things First:
If you are currently feeling suicidal call the National Suicide Hotline. They are amazing. Our local hotline helped my sister through many a dark night.
Know getting to a better place is a process. There isn’t a quick fix, but if you take your life – there’s no fix and the devastation is ever-lasting.
Deal with the Crisis First – Call the Hotline, talk to a friend, or family member, a counselor – tell them you’re having a tough time. Tell them the truth – I need help.
Go to an Emergency Room or call 911 and ask about mental health help in your community. Stanislaus County help lines.
If you’re reading this and concerned about a loved one or friend - the risk factors are a history of suicide in the family, if someone is a victim of violence, bullying or abuse, if there’s been a divorce, break-up or job loss, or death. If there’s a serious illness or chronic pain. Ask if they’re feeling they could harm themselves.
Safety first, then over time, work on building life skills to deal with stress, ups and downs and to learn how to work through emotional upsets.
Life Skills Article – Great article if you prefer over a book.
For Teens Specifically:
Talk to them. Help them express their feelings and know feelings are a normal, healthy part of being human.
If they're in immediate danger, get them to an emergency room for an assessment or to a therapist or mental health worker or call the hotline in this article.
For anyone that's suicidal take it seriously. Ask if they have a plan of how they would do it and make sure to get any weapons or drugs out of the home.
Here are a couple of books I suggest:
“Our brains are Velcro for negativity and Teflon for positivity," says Rick Hanson, author of Buddha Brain. We don't change from negative to positive over night. Re-training our brain to be more of a friend and less of an enemy takes time, practice and patience. Pick one of the Happiness books, or apps, and just start with one phrase: "May I be free of suffering. May I be healed. May I be Happy." Repeat throughout the day whenever you're glum.
Hang in there. Things tend to get better, but it takes time and work. We need help in the beginning because it’s hard to get better alone. If you had a friend or loved one that was feeling suicidal – you’d be there for them, right? So, let someone be there for you. That includes Hot Line folks.
You are worthy. You deserve to be happy enough. We all have a purpose – look for yours. You’ll find it!
"Let peace extend from my mind to yours". Course in Miracles
Blessings - Lynn
For more specific stress and anxiety management strategies see my book: Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom.
Click here to get a FREE MP3 Download- 20 minute overview of Intentional Joy, including Research Based Stress & Anxiety Reducing Guided Imagery.
Please feel free to email or text me 209 505-2675. I’ll point you in direction of help or if you’re in my area perhaps be able to see you myself.
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