Mental Health Awareness Month: Woman diagnosed with bipolar speaks out about her first suicide attempt

Published Oct 20, 2022



The mere mention of the word makes people feel uncomfortable.

Nobody wants to talk about it.

Yet, it’s the very same people who don’t want to talk about it or even hear the word that are the ones who would say things like, “why didn’t they say something?” when they find out that a person has committed suicide.

And why would someone feeling suicidal actually want to talk about it when nobody wants to hear about it?

October is Mental Health Awareness month, and even though there’s far greater awareness around what mental health illness is, the topic of suicide remains a sensitive one.

People now have a better understanding of common illnesses like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic syndrome and bipolar.

However, not enough people understand that, if left untreated, these illnesses often lead to suicide.

While there are signs and symptoms to look out for when you suspect that someone might be dealing with a mental health illness, it’s not as easy to tell if someone is, in fact, suicidal.

Unless, of course, the person actually verbalises it.

And as mentioned before, not many people do.

For many people, the desire to die by suicide or actually attempt suicide can either creep up on them suddenly, while with others, it’s something that is well thought through and planned in advance.

*Susan, a 45-year-old woman who is bipolar, shares what it feels like to be suicidal and what drives one to physically attempt suicide.

“As a person with bipolar, I’ve suffered numerous episodes of severe depression. At its worse, depression can feel like an endless pit of darkness. Feelings of hopelessness, uselessness and deep sadness become so all-consuming that eventually, there’s no emotion left inside you, and the only way to escape the nothingness is death,” said Susan.

“When my illness gets so bad, and I find myself at that point, suicide makes sense. The voice inside my head tells me that it’s the best thing to do. The only thing to do. That voice becomes louder and louder until I start thinking about how I’m going to end it all.”

“My first suicide attempt, I decided to take an overdose of sleeping pills because that made sense to me. That was the rational thing to do. All I wanted to do was fall asleep and never wake up again. I would finally be free from the darkness and pain.”

“Luckily for me, I was discovered by a friend and rushed to the hospital. I woke up in a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward feeling even more useless and then ashamed. Useless because I wasn’t able to do it properly and ashamed because now everyone knew my dark secret, and I was being judged for it.”

With years of therapy and gaining an understanding of her condition, Susan learnt to pick up the signs when she was heading down a dark road.

“When the voice starts become deafening, and I start to think of how I’m going to do it, that’s when I know I HAVE to get help,” she said.

“For those who have no knowledge of their illness, like me in the beginning. For me, it’s easy to understand why the suicide rate is so high. Never mind the attempted suicides that are not reported.”

“When I hear people say that people who commit suicide are selfish cowards, it saddens me. Unless you’ve been in that position, you will never know and understand why or how someone got to that point.”

“It’s time for people to start talking about suicide as openly as they are now talking about depression and other mental health illnesses. Only then will those who are in that position seek to verbalise what’s happening to them and get the urgent help they need,” concluded Susan.

In June 2021, the World Health Organization published their 2019 Global Health Estimates Suicide report. According to the report, South Africa recorded the third-highest suicide rate out of all African countries in the report, at 23.5 per 100 000 population.

In 2019, 13 774 suicides were reported in South Africa. Of these deaths, 10 861 were men, while 2 913 were women.

* Not her real name

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