Suicide on the rise – Where the healing process begins

Klamath Falls Herald and News, June 2, 2013

“It was not my rational brain that felt suicidal. I had no desire to ‘make a statement or ‘get someone’s attention;’ I just wanted to escape the terror that was my body.”

A local Basin resident, who wished to remain anonymous and will be referred to as Rebecca, wrote that passage. Rebecca has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, depression and panic attacks, which she says feel more like demons.

Rebecca’s case differs from that of Oregon Tech basketball player Nathan Maddox, whose sudden suicide had been premeditated and likely could not have been prevented.

There’s a rash of suicides that are the creation of impulse borne from a moment of profound despair like Rebecca describes, a moment when all hope seems lost and the only escape is death. Clinical depression is often the cause of these suicides, and, unlike the more thought-out suicides, they can be avoided.

“There are some suicides that are impulsive acts. You see that fairly frequently with youth who make an impulsive decision and don’t consider the long-term ramifications of their decision,” said Stan Gilbert, director of the Klamath Youth Development Center. “Suicide becomes a solution to a temporary problem and that’s a sad thing. Depression is treatable and suicide can be preventable. Intervening at the right time can prevent suicide.”

Rebecca’s issues stemmed mostly from extreme panic attacks, which also can be prevented, but she identified with the suicidal impulse, as the panic attacks took over her body.

“My breath quickened, my skin crawled, my stomach churned, my limbs went numb, my tongue tasted of metal, and my heart seemed to pound in my chest. I sweated and trembled and dry-heaved,” Rebecca wrote.

“I half expected my body to kill itself off. The universe was about survival of the fittest, and I was clearly not fit. I couldn’t even make it through a few hours at a time without a full-fledged panic attack twisting me into another tailspin of terror, initiated by absolutely nothing identifiable in objective reality.

“I believed I should be dead.”

For those suffering like Rebecca, it’s not a simple matter of merely snapping out of it, Gilbert said.

“Willpower isn’t really going to work,” Gilbert said. “We know it’s often due to chemical transmitters in the brain.”

The good news is that treatments are improving. More medications are available and new cognitive behavioral therapies are helping health professional show those suffering from a mental illness that they can find happiness around them, Gilbert said.

Rebecca uses breathing and relaxation techniques, as well as counseling, to overcome her attacks. It was a long road, but she is recovering.

“Now I recognize that the demons were really just stress chemicals that built up in my brain and took over,” she wrote. “Had I committed suicide midattack, I would not have known that there was an end to the maze.”

Rebecca acknowledges that there is always the potential to return to her maze, to her demons, but she is beginning to heal.

“I urge others to do the same,” Rebecca wrote. “The demons are not the real you. You are a beautiful, valuable person with a mental illness. And you are not alone.

“The mentally ill may be silent and hiding, out of shame and embarrassment, but we are here, we are not alone and we can lean on each other.”