Thoughts of a suicide survivor


Today, I stumbled upon an impressive and moving interview with the survivor of a suicide attempt that was published in a newspaper article in September 2000. In a state of pre-suicidal constriction / pre-suicidal syndrome, Kevin Hines jumped of the Golden Gate Bridge and survived this jump only by extremely fortunate circumstances.

Today he can talk about it and works in a helping profession (nurse). In his spare time, he tries to inform and educate others about the importance of an accurate and professional medical and psychotherapeutic treatment of mental illness. “I’d feel lucky if with my horrific experience, I can just keep only one person from taking his own life,” he says in the NZZ interview with G. Sachse.

During the (time-limited) course of a pre-suicidal syndrome, one of the worst stages of depression and paranoid delusions, the way the affected person perceives, experiences and thinks about what is going on may be much different than under normal circumstances, and may also be linked differently than usual with one’s emotions and behavior. In the end, the affected person may see no other way out than to take his/her own life. Only after the abating of the syndrome can other options be perceived and imagined.

That is why in times of crisis it is so vital to seek professional help right away (e.g. by doing an emergency-call, calling in for a crisis appointment at a psychotherapist, visiting a psychiatric clinic, etc.) just to overcome the most difficult time. At the very least, friends or other acquaintances should be called. The idea is to “play for time”, to aim at getting over this barely endurable phase by any means, at least to get through until the next morning. If, unexpectedly, you as the suffering person would still not feel better at that time, you should contact a trusted physician. Consider, however, that for periods of serious depression, it is actually recommended to consult a qualified psychiatrist or psychotherapist, even if it has not yet already come to suicidal thoughts, or if these thoughts have already subsided, to avoid them from coming up again by treating the underlying depression.

In conversations with clients who have dealt with phases of suicidal constriction, they repeatedly confirmed how happy they were about having ‘survived’ the critical phase once they had stabilized again and how lucky they felt that they didn’t end their life before.

Sometimes, they had experienced completely unexpected positive events in the time since their deepest phases of depression, but more generally, their life had taken a positive turn since they had continued with their psychotherapy, an upturn that was not foreseeable. “Give life a chance” – this common slogan (that is usually used in a different context) shouldn’t be forgotten, especially in the phases of life where it apparently can’t get any lower.

As we know from economic sciences, it is systemically inherent that after a low point, it can only go upwards again. What could be worse in life than a stage in which there doesn’t seem to be any way out other than death? As paradoxical as it may sound, after successfully having weathered the worst hours of a particular night, life will most probably already feel at least an iota better the next morning. Talking to someone (especially a person who is professionally trained to assist in difficult phases of life), it is usually possible to develop completely new perspectives, perspectives that can give life a positive turn on a long-term scale.

To avoid being misunderstood: this is certainly not always an easy or quick process, but properly accompanied and instructed, the majority of people succeed in the end.

Live the happy life you planned! Richard L. Fellner is head of the Pattaya Counseling Center in Soi Khopai and offers consultations in English and German languages (after making appointments at 0854 370 470).