Personal Stories

If you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or text NAMI to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Jack's Story

One of my best friends died by suicide a little over a year ago; his death still haunts me today. There were many signs leading up to his death, but he had tried to end his life many times and most people in his life stopped taking him seriously. Jack struggled with mental illness most of his life and he had learned how to hide his true emotional pain and struggles very well. Only a few of us were let in and we tried to help him. He sought professional help several times, but he always felt judged by others and never stuck with it. He stopped taking his meds because of opinions of a close family member who believed if he only tried harder, the demons would go away. The family member told him that as a man and father, he needed to move on and never look back.  He just needed to think of his daughter. He was told to stop looking for attention and decide he was done with feeling bad. That was when Jack stopped being open with almost everyone in his life.

It was a Monday afternoon when Jack died. Everyone was shocked and did not know what to do; we were numb with disbelief. I have had many struggles with mental illness myself, so I knew there was still stigma attached to mental illness and suicide. But after he died, I was amazed at how much ignorance that still exists surrounding suicide. Even the word “suicide” makes many people feel awkward and unsure of how to react or know what to say. Suddenly, everyone was sympathetic and wishing he had reached out to someone, but at the same time they were extremely judgmental. At his Celebration of Life you could hear people speaking softly but with toxic words. “It is so hard to believe Jack would abandon his little girl like that,” “a good father would never do that to his child,” “he took the easy way out,” “he should not have let his weaknesses win,” “it was so selfish of him,” “why didn’t he think of his mother and brothers,” “he could have come to us” and on and on and on again.

Those of us who did know and understand his struggles were wishing we had seen the signs; asking all the questions you hear after a suicide death. He really did seem happier the last week or so; he had even started talking about finishing his book. He had us convinced he was doing better and loving life; he talked endlessly about his little girl and how he knew she would do awesome things in her life. Many other things were thought of, but that is the gist of it.

I had already been aware of the pure ignorance surrounding mental illness and suicide, but after Jack’s death, I became more open myself. I no longer tried to hide my mental illness and suicidal thoughts from family and friends. I became an advocate and am trying to raise awareness and am more involved in activities with numerous organizations. There are at least two of his friends who have also become strong advocates involved in raising awareness.

We have realized that the only way to end the stigma of suicide is to talk openly about it. We need to help others become aware of the causes of suicide and need to take all threats of self-harm seriously; the threats and “failed” attempts are genuine cries for help. We can save lives by doing our part in helping to end the stigma surrounding suicide. We need to realize that, as Jack would always tell me “Sometimes it is now or never.”


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