Facing the Loss Of A Loved One To Suicide

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November 19 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. On this day survivors of suicide loss gather at hundreds of simultaneous healing conferences around the world every year to connect with others who have survived the tragedy of suicide loss and express and start to understand the powerful emotions we experience. For more information about a conference near you visit the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention HERE.

My story of suicide loss begins more than 35 years ago. My cousin’s mom died by suicide when he was just a baby. All these years it never occurred to me that she was probably suffering from postpartum depression — or perhaps even postpartum psychosis — at the time of her death.

It’s not something my family openly discussed, but my perception had mistakenly always been “Oh, she must not have wanted to be a mom.” How very naive of me.

After years of experience with my own depression and mental health issues postpartum, it’s become clear to me that she was suffering like so many women from a postpartum illness like postpartum depression. She needed treatment that apparently she never got, in a time when such topics were even more taboo than they are today.

Last year, my life-long friend Dina died by suicide at Christmas. She wasn’t in the postpartum period at the time. (Her son was 15.) But many years ago when he was just over two she came to me with suicidal thoughts. We were in our early 20s and I had yet to experience mental illness.

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Threats of Suicide Can Never Be Ignored

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You’d think it would have happened sooner.  Seven years of advocacy and peer support for women with postpartum depression, and I hadn’t had to do it yet.

This was the day.

I am reluctant to get too involved in people’s lives.  I want to support everyone, but I also don’t want to butt in where I don’t belong.  I don’t know everything that goes on behind the front door.  I don’t even know where the front door is located most of the time, so how can I know the best way to support each individual other than to provide as much information and hope as I can? This time I had to push past that reluctance, as did others.  We called 911 to prevent a suicide.

When you see someone publicly threaten to kill themselves, there’s no way to no how serious the threat is.  Are they joking, or just blowing off steam? Are they about to do it? Right now?

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Is Maternal Suicide Overlooked As A Leading Cause of Maternal Mortality?

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pregnancy depressionA new study finds that death by suicide and homicide are more common than “traditional” causes of maternal mortality in the U.S., such as infection or hemorrhage.  So why is it that those traditional causes of maternal death are so much more likely to be discussed and reported?

By analyzing records from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University found a total of 94 pregnancy-associated suicides — meaning women who killed themselves either during pregnancy or in the first year after birth — between 2003 and 2007.  This would work out to a rate of 2 suicides per every 100,000 births.  We don’t know whether any of these women were diagnosed with antenatal or postpartum depression, but we can guess it’s likely they were not, given the overall lack of awareness and screening for these illnesses.

The researchers also say there may be more maternal suicides of which we are unaware, because, as Science Daily reports, those numbers could be underreported, “… because the pregnancy or postpartum status was marked ‘unknown’ in the majority of female deaths in the CDC database.”

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From Suicide to Joy: A Tale of Postpartum Depression, 3 Mothers & 3 Birthdays

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Yael SaarTomorrow is postpartum depression advocate Yael Saar’s 40th birthday.  She wants to talk to you about a very important topic: postpartum depression and suicide.

I failed where my mother succeeded.

Make that “failed” and “succeeded”.

My mother had postpartum depression since I was born.  It got worse after the birth of my brother.  She was 29 when she took her own life.  I was six.

But this is no sob story.  After my mother killed herself, she went up to heaven and searched for the best stepmother ever.  My second mother, Mati, came to my life when I was seven.  I have always believe that my first mother, Mina, sent Mati over to take care of the family she left behind.

When I was 33, I almost followed in my birth mother’s footsteps.  I swallowed a whole lot of pills and woke up in the hospital.  Yes, in the psychiatric ward.  I believe that my birth mom had something to do with the fact that those pills didn’t end my life.

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