Thinking, Discharging, and Talking about Suicide

I believe that many people have thought about suicide. However, hardly anyone ever talks about it. “Mental health” oppression makes it scary to talk about, because it can send you into the “mental health” system quickly. This is what happened to me when I was fourteen years old.

It is still hard for me to share my suicide-attempt story without feeling some shame. Because I felt like a complete failure, I thought God wanted me to die. Sexism, classism, and “mental health” oppression were to blame for the hurts that my mother and I had, that made us both suffer with depression. Both of us were isolated and targeted for destruction. So she was not able to help me, and my attempts to ask for help did not work.

My mother was adamant after my suicide attempt that I never, ever tell anyone about it or about going to the mental hospital. She implied that it would ruin my reputation forever. I assumed this meant that I really was “crazy” and better hide it if I had any hope of having a “normal” life. The only other option was a life of ruin as a social misfit.

At my first “mental health” liberation workshop with Janet Foner (the International Liberation Reference Person for “Mental Health” Liberation), we were choosing support groups and I saw “suicide survivors” listed. It totally amazed me. In that group, at age thirty-six, I told my suicide story for the first time. It changed my life and began my love for Janet and my wonderful journey with “mental health” liberation.

A few years ago one of my dearest Co-Counselors, a “mental health” liberation leader in my Region, committed suicide after the two people closest to her were killed and she got ill with a debilitating illness. I supported her the best I could long distance and was heartbroken when I found out she had killed herself. I decided that the best way I could honor her life was by leading more “mental health” liberation, specifically about suicide.

I tried to lead a topic group about suicide at an ex-inmate liberation workshop and could not keep my attention out. But at a “mental health” liberation leaders’ conference, another woman and I led a topic group together. Beforehand we did sessions with short amounts of time back and forth to keep our attention out while we thought about the topic. It was fun to lead the group together, and it filled me with hope.

After lots of discharge, I decided that someone can only commit suicide if she or he has been really hurt, probably very early, around loss of connection. I began working on my own early hurts around loss of connection, and it has been a long, slow process, as I do not have many early memories. I have also been discharging consistently on my “mental health” and suicide stories, thanks to Janet’s encouragement.

As “mental health” liberation leaders, we get to bring up the topic of suicide as much as possible, just to get people talking about it—that the shame and stigma surrounding it are “mental health” oppression and we get to lead the way out of them. Feeling like you want to kill yourself is no worse than other big feelings. It only becomes dangerous if you don’t believe that you are connected to anyone, that your being alive really matters to someone. Talking about it is a step toward connection.

No one would ever hurt someone else unless she or he had been deeply hurt and not able to discharge and heal from it. This also applies to hurting yourself. People struggling with suicidal feelings do not deserve any criticism or judgment. Even the people who have killed themselves deserve no blame. I would like to see suicide thought of as murder carried out by the oppressive society, which keeps people hurting and unable to connect and heal.

We can discharge our way to thinking more clearly about how to contradict the distresses that make us vulnerable to wanting to kill ourselves. We can decide to be in charge of our minds and keep fighting the oppression as we head toward good lives, noticing our deep connections with each other.

Joan MacKenzie

Asheville, North Carolina, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of “mental health” liberation

(Present Time 185, October 2016)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00