In September 2008, during a major mental breakdown, I unsuccessfully attempted suicide. Having just returned from a two week trip to Ireland that went awry, an insidious and unknown to me disorder crept into my life with a vengeance and veracity. PTSD is a dangerous disorder, and one that is still debated on frequently in the psychiatric and psychological communities regarding treatment and therapy.
Years of sexual abuse that were hidden deep inside of me, relationships that had gone south, the dissembling of my nuclear family, all of this worked as a catapult for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to take hold of me. Without warning, I was slammed with a deep, dark depression. Instead of reaching out to my family and friends, I hid behind alcohol, putting on the face of a woman who could do anything, anytime, and anywhere.
I was anything but that woman. Inside I was emotionally deteriorating at a rapid pace. I felt that suicide was my only option. Thankfully I was resuscitated in the emergency room of the hospital that the EMT team took me to. In a report published on March 4th, 2004 by Nicholas Tarrier and Lynsey Gregg, the percentage in the civilian population who suffer from PTSD AND had suicide ideation was 38.3%, with 9.6% actually attempting suicide. The suicide rate among military Combat Veterans who suffer from PTSD is even more alarming, which according to Time Magazine had jumped by a frightening 44% between 2009 and 2011.
Can PTSD related suicide be prevented? If so, what are the steps one can take to ensure they are not caught up so deeply in this disorder that they are blinded to what is happening?
1. If you are aware of depression and suicidal thoughts becoming a part of your life, talk to someone. Open up to family and friends. Seek the help of a mental health care professional. Get help!
2. Don’t feel as if you are alone. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from some type of mental disorder. Don’t allow any stigma that is attached to mental illness prevent you from being a part of society.
3. DO NOT ISOLATE! Isolation is probably one biggest forerunners of suicidal ideation. Once a person begins isolation, it is easier to contemplate suicide as a remedy to their issues. Get out of your shell and spend time with family and friends.
4. Try alternative methods to pharmaceuticals. Your mental health care professional may recommend that you take some form of medication in order to balance the chemicals in your brain that may be causing PTSD. However, every medication has potentially dangerous side effects. Talk to your health care professional about alternative methods to treating your disorder, such as behavioral modification, avoidance therapy, and learning how to cope with triggers.
5. Avoid the urge to self-medicate. Substance dependency is easy to fall into if you are using it to mask the pain of PTSD (along with other mental health issues). Self-medication only serves to exacerbate the problem, numbing the feelings for only a limited amount of time, and potentially can cause one to become addicted to the substance.
6. Know that you will be okay. With the knowledge that has been gained over the past 50 years about PTSD, we have access to insights to therapy and care that were not available previously. Overcoming the seemingly insurmountable has now become an option.