On the brink of death: A Summit County student learned about life and love through a suicide attempt | SummitDaily.com

On the brink of death: A Summit County student learned about life and love through a suicide attempt

SUMMIT COUNTY – Sarah (not her real name) wore her close friend’s dragon necklace and Celtic cross for days while she sat in the intensive care unit, watching over her friend after she had attempted suicide.

“It felt like she was physically stabbing me,” Sarah said. “It was horrible to watch her through all the pain she was in. I thought, “How could you have been so stupid – don’t you know I love you?’ I thought about how much I cared, how much I missed her and how I failed because I couldn’t help her.”

It never occurred to Sarah how much pain suicide, or suicide attempts, cause loved ones. Sarah had tried to take her own life a year prior, but she didn’t realize people cared until she experienced her friend’s attempt.

“I thought people would look back (if I killed myself) and say, “thank God,'” she said. “I thought the world would be so much better without me.”

Sarah grew up with an alcoholic father who hit her mother. She remembers going to a friend’s house the night her parents ended up in jail after an argument.

“I felt it was primarily my fault,” she said about the night.

The alcoholic insanity stopped when she was about 8 because her father quit drinking. But Sarah became severely depressed when she was 12, after her best friend turned against her. Suddenly, former friends began harassing her every day – and even verbally threatened her life.

About five weeks before Sarah attempted suicide, her mother asked her if she was depressed.

“There were red flags everywhere,” her mother said. “Her grades dropped, she was hanging out with different kids and she stopped playing sports. It happened over a few years.”

Sarah’s father was asleep at home when Sarah went to her room and swallowed Codeine pills. Her mother came home and found her vomiting in the bathroom. She wasn’t convinced when Sarah told her she was “fine.” She went into her room and found a series of e-mails she had written to a friend, one reading, “I just swallowed a bunch of pills, and I’m scared.”

“(The suicidal feelings) were like the color of dried blood – all dark burgundy,” Sarah said. “It was like the throbbing of a migraine where everything hurts – light hurts, sounds hurt, and there’s this throbbing feeling of “it’s time, it’s time, it’s time.’ The state of mind is fast-paced, like a one-lane track – like you’ve sequestered yourself in a very small room and no matter how many people are pounding at your door trying to help you, you twist it around in your mind to think that everything is bad.”

Her parents took her to the hospital, where doctors administered charcoal and an IV. They didn’t want her to take antidepressants because another family member had a bad experience with them, but they took her to counseling and pursued alternative healing methods, including acupuncture, massage, chiropractic care, physical activity and peer groups.

Sarah’s recovery from depression hasn’t been easy. For a couple months, she tried drinking heavily to deal with her feelings but found it didn’t help. Now she’s working with a counselor again.

“If you’re suicidal, tell somebody before you try killing yourself. Just sit down for an hour and tell them everything, and they’ll give you hope no matter who they are or what they say,” she said. “Make a list of all the people it would affect and write down if they’d be happy or sad. And if they’d be happy, think about the reason why and if that’s just a stupid reason. Think about if you’d be happy if your enemy died, or if you’d feel sad or guilty or remorseful. And think about the finality of it. Just think about the things you won’t get to do in life. This doesn’t have to be forever.”

Now she knows negative thoughts can trick people who are depressed into believing the worst.

“If you think everything is bad, you should test it,” she said. “If you’re suicidal, get yourself in a safe place. Be monitored 24 hours a day, because (suicidal thoughts can be) a spontaneous urge – “Wow, that’s a knife right there. I can kill myself.’ If you’re alone, the urge keeps growing.”

She also has learned how to be a friend to someone who feels depressed.

“If (the feelings) seem out of the ordinary for an extended period of time, don’t push it, but remind them, “I’m here. Talk to me. I love you so much.’ Reiterate how much they mean to you and how much you care,” she said.

Her mother suggests parents listen to and validate their kids’ feelings, no matter how trivial they may seem. She stays involved in her kids’ lives, advocates for them in difficult situations, knows their friends and intervenes when something seems odd.

“If this could happen right under our noses as involved as we are, it’s scary to think what could happen to a family who isn’t as present,” she said.

And, it happens often.

Every week, Kate Glerup, the mental health counselor at Summit High School, assesses or makes suicide prevention contracts with one to two suicidal students, she said.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

More Information

May 4-10 is national suicide awareness week. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Colorado residents ages 10 to 34. In 2000, Colorado was seventh in the nation for suicide rates. There are warning signs, risk factors and prevention measures for suicide. For more information, call the Office of Suicide Prevention at (303) 692-2609 or the national crisis line at (800) 784-2433

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