The Internet was buzzing after the “The Imitation Game” writer Graham Moore’s Oscars acceptance speech. After gushing thanks to his list, he revealed that he had attempted suicide at 16 years old:
Suicide is a subject very near and dear to my heart. This emotionally charged topic affects many people around the world even if its not talked about openly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all ages.
- Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year.
- There is one death by suicide every 13 minutes.
- An estimated quarter million people each year become suicide survivors.
- There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts.
- The suicide rates decreased from 1990-2000 from 12.5 suicides per 100,000 to 10.4 per 100,000. Over the past decade, however, the rate has again increased to 12.1 per 100,000. Every day, approximately 105 Americans die by suicide.
- Depression affects 20-25% of Americans ages 18+ in a given year.
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide:
- Over 800,000 people die by suicide every year.
- There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-29 years.
- Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
My Depression And Suicide Story
I’ve attempted suicide three times.
The first was when I was a junior in high school. After a break up with my boyfriend, which was of monumental importance in my teenage world, I swallowed a bunch of aspirin, had my stomach pumped in the ER, and cheered at a football game later that night.
Fast forward two decades. I had now been married to the same boyfriend for 16 years and was a stay-at-home mother of two small sons. When the husband informed me that he wanted a divorce, I took off in my minivan, bought a six-pack of wine coolers, an assortment of over-the-counter pills, and a couple of bottles of the night-time-so-you-can-rest medicine. Parking the van in a remote corner of a 24-hour store, I downed it all and stretched out in the back seat to die.
Hours later, I woke in a panicked stupor and tried to drive home, but ploughed over a curb where I came to a stop, hung out of the door throwing up green goo, and passed out on the grass. Someone driving by called 911, and after being rushed to the ER and having my stomach pumped, I suffered no physical consequences, but did spend a couple of days in the psych ward of the hospital.
The last time was more serious — much more.
After the end of the marriage in an ugly parting that made Divorce Court look civil, and years of wrong turns, things not working out, and being flat-out disappointed with life, I attempted suicide again in June of 2007, by swallowing over 90 pills. Because I wasn’t found in time, the drugs went all the way through my system wreaking destruction.
After a week in a coma, I woke up with a serious brain injury to a very different world. Immediately following the attempt, the ex sued me for custody of our sons, won, and promptly moved out of state with them.
At first, I was painfully embarrassed and ashamed to admit to anyone that I had tried to kill myself, had my children taken away, and had mental issues. But during the first year after it all happened, I began to realize that my self-inflicted shame was like a dagger I was plunging into my own heart. If I talked about these gasp-worthy events openly and refused to take on any shame associated with them, there was none for me. The shame only existed if I imposed it on myself. Eleanor Roosevelt was so right when she said:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
When going through the nightmare ordeal, I never thought I’d say this, but the brain injury was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to make drastic changes in my life that I’d needed to make long before. I couldn’t just cover up the fiasco and go on like nothing happened as I had done in the past.
In the years following the attempt and injury, I educated myself about the brain, devised my own rehabilitation programs, and with the help of alternative therapies, lots of self-help books, and a good mental health counselor, I recovered fully mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I didn’t just recover. I became stronger and better than I’d ever been because of the changes I made and what I learned. What doesn’t kill you really does makes you stronger!
As part of my healing journey, I started talking and writing about my experiences and the touchy subjects of depression, suicide, and mental illness. When face-to-face, I noticed that the other person usually ended up acting like they felt awkward and embarrassed — not me — or they were compassionate and understanding. Many people went on to tell me their own stories about “having been there.”
Not having open dialogues about these taboo topics only serves to perpetuate the negative cycle of mental illness, depression, and suicide. Mental health issues carry the stigma of shame, are hush-hushed, and people don’t want to talk about these things because it makes them uncomfortable.
But we need to start talking about them. Depression, suicide, and mental illness affect everyone — most likely very intimately, at one time or another in their life. If one of these issues doesn’t involve you personally, then I bet you know someone close to you dealing with a mental health challenge. Instead of shaming and judging each other, isn’t it time we started extending compassion and support to one another and begin talking about mental health openly and honestly without fear or embarrassment?
A Facebook follower made an observation which I love:
The biggest deficit in this country is not the trade deficit or the budget deficit. It’s the compassion deficit. ~ George Columbo
Graham Moore received a standing ovation when he talked about his suicide attempt. Only by sharing honestly and having compassion, can we heal ourselves and help others. Thank you Graham Moore for passing along your message — even if it did make some people squirm.