Dec 29

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 presuicidal constriction / presuicidal syndrome, Kevin Hines jumped of the Golden Gate Bridge and survived this jump only by extremely fortunate circumstances .

Photo © Seattle Times

Bild © Seattle Times

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. Indeed, during the (time-limited) course of a presuicidal syndrome that may define one of the worst stages of depression but also of 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 it may also be linked differently than usual with one’s emotions and behavior. At 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, other options can be perceived and imagined again – that is why in times of crisis it is so vital to seek professional help right away (eg by doing an emergency-call, calling in for a crisis appointment at a psychotherapist, vitising a psychiatric clinic etc.) just to overcome the most difficult time. At least, friends or other acquaintances should be called up – the idea is to “play for time”, to aim at getting over this barely endurable phase by all 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 forseeable. “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 one with 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 at the end.

Further information:

Depression – Mythen und Fakten rund um eine ‘Zeitkrankheit’ (Artikel R.L.Fellner; german language)
Vier Sekunden bis zum Aufprall (NZZ Interview mit Kevin Hines 2009; german)
Lethal Beauty – A jumper [..] makes a new life  (San Francisco Chronicle 2005)
(Blog entry first published in German language (‘Gedanken eines Suizidversuch-Überlebenden’) in 03/2009, published on English website: 12/2011)

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