Surviving depression, suicide and the aftermath

Guest post by Jackie Rosen, executive director/CEO of Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention Inc., author, and a survivor of her son’s death by suicide.

We knew he was depressed – severely depressed – so we got him into therapy, on medication and watched him constantly. We did everything we could to help our son, but one night while we were asleep he snuck out of the house and died by suicide.

I remember those first few days and weeks that were filled with disbelief and sheer terror. I remember those moments of uncontrolled crying and not being able to breathe.  I remember looking at his picture and thinking how could he leave me, his father, his sister, his grandparents and all these other people who cared so much for him.

I now know it was not my fault. And not his fault. It was the chemical imbalances and biological changes in his brain that took his life.

We found out later that the night before he died, he had visited five of his friends to say goodbye. But none of them heard or understood that what he was really saying was that he was depressed, suicidal and planning to end his pain. That is why it is so important to listen carefully to what a person is really saying, know the signs of depression, take them seriously and offer to help.

Imagine that you were burned over all of your body and cannot stop the pain.  And then, no matter what you did, you felt that the pain will never go away and that you were a burden to your family. You think they would be better off without you.  You would feel absolutely alone with this pain and you would be sure it will never stop.  This is similar to the emotional pain suicidal patients sometimes feel. Their brains make them helpless to their disease and feeling hopeless.

We tried so hard to help him, and he was willing and glad to get the help, but in this case it wasn’t enough. However, most often the intervention techniques we used DO work. Ninety percent of people that die by suicide had illnesses that could have been treated.

Here are some warning signs that might indicate your loved one could be thinking about suicide:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Talking about death
  • Recent loss of a loved one
  • Saying goodbye to friends
  • Having plan for how they would die by suicide

Here are some ways you can help them:

  • Convince them to try therapy and medical treatment
  • Tell them they are loved and deserve to feel better
  • Do not leave them alone
  • Don’t give up – keep trying to help them


To find mental health and substance abuse recovery facilities in your area, visit our online directory.

Excerpts from Ms. Rosen’s (pen name Helene Levin) book The Butterfly on My Shoulder: A Grief Journey of Love and Growth to Inspire Healing have been included in this blog post.

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