Letters From My Soul: A Memoir on Suicidal Depression

“Into glass bottles I stuff these letters from my soul, casting them out into this ocean we call life, in the belief that these pieces of my soul will wash ashore other islands of loneliness, reminding them that they are not alone in their suffering.” – Kephen Merancis

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Letters From My Soul: A Memoir on Suicidal Depression

We all need a refuge in life, a non-self-destructive way to come to terms with things, to clear our minds and transcend our problems.  Since the year 2000, writing has been my refuge.  It has been the keeper of my deepest secrets and tragic memories, the listener to my every rant and rave.  The recorder of my hopes, dreams and wishes.  The pen-pal to my soul.  It has consoled me and it has taught me things about myself I never could have learned any other way.  It uplifts me and inspires me, it challenges me and humbles me.  It is my love affair, my obsession, my sanctuary.

I have read many books by many brilliant and contemplative people, who’s words have inspired, liberated and enlightened those of us who seek deeper meaning in not only the world, but in life and within ourselves.  Of all the things I have learned from such people, the greatest is mindfulness.  The awareness of ourselves and others, of all things within this undeniably interconnected existence.  Through this perception of reality we attain the three quintessential gems for living meaningful everyday lives: knowledge, compassion, and action.

This page and the subsequent chapters to follow have been the culmination of a decade’s worth of writing and research.  This material is a collection of information from several organizations, institutions, and individuals, as well as the journaling of my personal experience with depression and suicidal ideation.  My own personal collected works are a writing process that started in 2007, but a personal experience that began many years earlier.  I have broken this page into seven parts, each is noted with a particular topic.

I recommend you take a look at the statistical data and educational and support resources available for those who are or have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as the support resources available for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.  All of that material is available in Parts 1 – 6 on this page and links to the chapters of my online book are in Part 7 at the bottom of the page.

 

Part 1:  The Quick Facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from the year 2000 to the year 2014, more than 530,000 Americans committed suicide.  By the end of 2014 alone, the number of Americans of all genders and all age ranges that had completed suicide that year was 42,773.  It was the highest number in one year during the fourteen year period since 2000.  For comparison, during 2014 there were 37,195 Americans who died in motor vehicle accidents.

Further, the yearly total of Americans committing suicide has continually and dramatically risen each year since 2000, where as the number of deaths due to motor vehicle accidents has continued to drop since 2006, except for 2012 when deaths rose to 38,251.

While the elderly have the highest rates of suicide, followed by those of middle-age and young adults and teens respectively, children under the age of 14, and even as young as 5, also commit suicide.

The facts about suicide:

  • According to the World Health Organization, more than one million people around the world commit suicide every year and an estimated 20 million attempt it each year.
  • In the U.S., suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15 – 34 year olds, the third leading cause of death in 10 – 14 year olds, and the fourth leading cause of death in 35 – 44 year olds.
  • Though women attempt suicide twice as often as men in the United States, men are nearly four times more likely to complete their attempts.
  • The United States saw 42,773 suicides in 2014 alone, on average Russia sees some 60,000 each year and China has some 250,000 suicides each year and is the only country where women’s suicides equal that of men.  And with each passing year, these numbers rise.
  • Russia and several other Baltic nations see the highest rate of males who commit suicide, whereas China sees more female suicides than any other country in the world.
  • Many people believe that suicide is more common during Winter months, but according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more people commit suicide in late Spring and in the Fall, whereas the Winter and Summer see the lowest rates.
  • Eastern Europe and East Asia show the highest rates of suicide, while Latin America has the lowest.
  • Factors that contribute to the risk of suicide vary:  Age, race, gender, sexual orientation, location, social aspects such as family and relationships, employment, finances, addiction abuse and health all see trends in the risk of suicide.
  • Though it is not understood and some debate remains, the rate of suicide across the board of at-risk groups is lower during times of war, despite the rates of suicide for members of the Armed Services and their families increasing.

Part 2:  Contributing Factors in Suicide

provided by “Singe” revised August 1, 2014

*Not belonging: peer pressure as a social outcast, rejection, serving no purpose in life.

*Perception of being a burden: feeling of helplessness; the inability to care for one’s self creating problems for loved ones and those respected.

Unacceptable failure: perfectionism and pride, disappointing self and others of importance, lack of performance creating danger for those counting on you.

Anger: out of control rage leading to fatal action against others and/or self.

Stress: overwhelming stress causing mental exhaustion and perception of no hope for relief.

Self-loathing: self-hate often associated with the battered spouse syndrome. Mental abuse over a period of time convinces the victim they are worthless and don’t deserve to live, resulting in overwhelming despair.

Irreplaceable loss of that which is most dear: the most important aspect of one’s life i.e. reputation, marriage, job/finances, a loved one, religious faith, cognitive functions, health, etc. This differs among individuals; what may not be important to one person may mean everything to another.

Poor health: facing a prolonged, painful illness and death without any hope of recovery. Often closely associated with “being a burden.” Poor health and loss of finances are leading factors in elderly suicides.

Physical injury: traumatic injury to the brain and nervous system that disrupts normal thought processes or develops neurodegenerative brain disease. Examples are TBI resulting from serious accidents, contact sports, or military combat.

Untreated mental illness: any clinical mental disorder as defined in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) that becomes life threatening due to lack of proper mental health care.

Childhood abuse: sexual, physical or mental abuse as a child may lead to mental and emotional disorders later in life. Although rare, children under the age of ten are not immune to suicide.

Substance abuse: drugs and alcohol that impairs logic and cognitive functions. Often the result of self-medication to overcome other contributing factors listed. This includes improper use and monitoring of prescription drugs.

Guilt: intentional or careless actions that caused someone else major problems or death. A drunk driver may kill himself after realizing he killed others. This can be associated with honor; a man without honor feels little or no guilt. A man or woman motivated by a high sense of honor may choose death before dishonor. Although unjustified, some military personnel may experience ‘survivor’s guilt’ after losing a battle buddy in combat and feel it should have been them instead, especially if they believe they could have prevented the death.

Self-sacrifice: during war, military forces often see themselves as less important than the cause they are fighting for and will volunteer for ‘suicide missions’ with certain death. The most fearful weapon WWII Japanese forces had on Okinawa was Kamikaze pilots.

Fear: afraid of something about to happen that’s worse than death such as capture and torture by an enemy. An early example would be the 72-73 AD siege of the Jewish fortress Masada by Roman soldiers. During WWII thousands of civilians on Saipan and Okinawa killed themselves rather than allow capture because the Japanese in control convinced them invading American troops would rape and torture their families to death. Although ruled by the New York Medical Examiner’s Office as homicides, many people jumped to their death rather than suffer a painful death from fire September 11, 2001. Fear is closely associated with coerced suicide.

Coerced Suicide: coerced suicide can be defined as a suicide that resulted from the actions of others when the victim was under physical and/or mental control of someone who destroyed their will to live or indoctrinated them into believing that death is more desirable than life.  Two good examples of coerced suicide are bullying and cult members being indoctrinated to kill themselves to receive afterlife rewards.

Although any of these factors can result in suicide they become more deadly when in combination. In making a risk assessment one must also consider history of prior attempts and access to lethal means. Given the right set of circumstances no one is immune to suicide!

Part 3:  Statistical Data Infographics

Table 1: Leading Causes of Death in US 2015 Ranked by Age Groups

Figure 2 is a bar chart showing the rate of suicide within sex and age categories in 2014.

Figure 3 is a bar chart showing the rate of suicide within race/ethnicity groups in 2014.

Figure 4 is a United States map showing average suicide rate by state for combined years 2004 through 2010.

Table 2: Suicide Method and Number of Resulting Deaths 2015

Figure 5: Suicide Deaths by Method in the US 2015

Figure 7: Past Year Prevalence of Suicidal Thoughts Among US Adults 2015

Figure 9: Past Year Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors Among US Adults 2015

Part 5:  Recommended Reading and Media

Why People Die by Suicide

Myths about Suicide

Postvention is prevention; one suicide can lead to another. Recommended reading for those who have been personally impacted by suicide:

Finding Peace Without All The Pieces: After a Loved One’s Suicide

I highly recommend watching the following two videos produced by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

Part 6:  Resources of Support for Those Dealing with a Mental Health Crisis

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, please consider the following resources of support:

Most of the information on this page has been cited, the data that has not been cited on this page was collected from reports and publications from the following sources:

 

Part 7:  Letters From My Soul:  A Memoir of Suicidal Depression

 

“Paper Heart”

Blood drips from my quill and saturates the paper,
Recording the memories and the thoughts that bleed from my veins.
I leave them behind for all the heavy hearts,
To remind them they are not alone.

Every painful word liberates the soul,
Conquers the dread of the emptiness in which you roam.
And when the agony of defeat shall take its toll,
I hope you find solace in my words and make it home.

Above the ocean that drowns your dreams,
Away from the demons that hold you in loneliness.
I promise their power is less than it seems,
Courage and hope will lead you out of the darkness.

Kephen Merancis
Copyright 2013