Guest Post: A World Dipped in Suicide

TW: This post discusses suicide and suicide-related topics

“Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse, it eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better” (unknown)

An unfortunate circumstance, suicide is a terrible, global anomaly from which 700,000-800,000 people die each year worldwide. Additionally, for every person who has died from suicide, twenty more people have attempted it. Globally, 77% of suicides occur in low to middle-income countries, with one tragedy ending in death every 40 seconds. In 2019, suicide was the 17th leading cause of death in the world, accounting for 1.3% of all deaths worldwide.. Now that is a frightening fact, and hopefully eye-opening to how serious it is.

Over the years, I have experienced my own struggles with suicide and have attempted it several times. All were scary, tragic, and disappointing. Scary that I almost died, tragic that I felt so desperate that I had no other option, and disappointed in myself that I gave up and gave in. But the most painful and heartbreaking was the death of my brother, who died by suicide in the fall of 2014.

As if it was yesterday, I remember every moment surrounding his demise—the breath that I took, the tears that I cried. I held onto every word my mother spoke over the phone; as she whispered that “he is gone,” my knees gave forth, and I crashed to the ground. Watching my life collapse around me, a trickling card house so easily demolished. I swore to my mother that “she was lying” because it couldn’t be true. I didn’t want to accept the pain or the death.

He just called me a few hours ago, and I missed the call. Every day of my life, I wonder what he would have said. The last words to leave his lips. Was there something I could have spoken to change his mind? Rewind time and make it go away. Suicide not only affects its victims but affects millions of people each year. All are wondering the very same thing I have wondered for countless hours on end. Could they have made a difference?

The same dream replays in my mind repeatedly. I don’t know if I’m awake or asleep anymore. Kyle, my brother, and I are running through our neighbor’s cow field. Sunset passes over the trees, and beautiful yellow beams of light pass through the leaves. Everything passes in slow motion, and I watch myself running; I turn around and yell to my brother, “hurry up, come on, Kyle” as I reach out to touch the soft grass blades, letting them scratch the surface of my hand. Kyle appears from around a tall oak tree, yelling after me to “wait up” I smile and laugh, and we run off together into the field beyond the sunset. Then I wake up, and he is gone. Everyone grieves in different ways, be in the moment and remember the beautiful life.

Suicide affects the victim’s life and everyone who loves that person. It is a negative trickling effect on family, friends, and the community. Many of them are left asking themselves, “Why.” You may start with a feeling first of initial SHOCK, with total numbness, and inability to function. Often followed by DENIAL of the facts of the demise or the overall death. This can be both alarming and difficult because we often don’t know the facts and are left with too many unanswered questions.

Many times, this is followed by GUILT. I know I felt a pang of extreme guilt after my younger brother’s suicide. You are feeling the need to protect them and that I failed at that. Desperately I wished I had heard the phone ring. I don’t think anyone could ever imagine what contemplating suicide or suffering through suicide feels like. Just imagining is painful enough.

We of course feel SADNESS, the dark wings that are spread over you that you fight to get out from under. Or maybe you don’t, maybe the sadness is too much, and you give in. Don’t fight these feelings, because fighting them only prolongs the process. Facing it hurts, but trust me, hiding from it hurts more in the long run. It is human nature to blame oneself when dealing with a tragedy, rather than accept that some things are out of our control.

Sometimes we feel ANGER, mad that it happened, frustrated that they seemed to let it happen, and overall rage that we couldn’t stop it or grasp an understanding of how it even came to this. How this person felt there was no way out. That saddened me for my brother, and others like him, because they felt trapped within their own minds. Unable to escape a pain so deep that they could not bare another breath or one more beat of their heart.

Lastly, usually, and in your own time, you will feel acceptance. Accepting that they’re gone, admission of your feelings, and acknowledging that some things are out of your hands. You cannot control anyone or anything, but yourself and your own actions. You can choose how to respond, you can choose to get help, you can choose to work through your feelings and find hope. I can’t give you a secure timeline of how long you will walk this road, I can’t even promise the pain will go away.

It’s been eight years since my brother took his own life and two years since I tried to take my own. The pain is still there, I shed tears for my loss and sadness and feel disappointment and anger life has taken me down this path. But I keep going, I keep working, whatever I can do, and try to make the pain lessen with each passing day. I grow stronger, and brighter and gain a better understanding of why what happened did.

Helping others always helped me, seeing something in someone I once saw in myself and knowing ways to help them is an enormous spiritual uplifter. Find what it is that helps you, spread the word to end mental stigma, speak out and speak up. Don’t fight this battle alone when there are so many like you that can help lighten the load. There are people all over the world that could learn something from your struggles. Maybe it will ease their pain for them. Seek out the light, among the darkness. You are not alone.

*Please be advised that I’m not a doctor, but a survivor. You should always seek help from a licensed practitioner. Below are great sources for help and information.

The author, Ashley Cote, is a single mom, born and raised in New England, in a small town in Vermont. After attending college for nursing, she found that writing was her true love and passion. She has two beautiful daughters who inspire her creativity in writing every day.


Guest Post: Seeking Mental Healthcare is Hard. There Are Ways to Make It Better.

Good morning! Today on My Brain’s Not Broken we have a guest post from the team at Prairie Health, a company founded to make mental health care more accessible and effective, about some of the ways that mental healthcare can be improved from their perspective. We discussed some of these things during our recent conversation on Instagram Live – up on my Instagram page now!

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Guest Post: Key Ways to Cope With Severe Mental Illness

Today’s guest post comes from Mio, who is the fantastic blogger behind Mentally Ill in America. Mio’s primary goal with blogging is to share with others his lived experience with schizoaffective disorder. In addition to blog posts, Mio offers up many diverse forms of writing like poetry and puns! I hope you can visit his space and continue to learn about mental health through the many different perspectives that are offered. A big shoutout to Mio for sharing today.

I have come up with three key ways to cope with severe mental illness, that help me with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.

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Guest Post: A Mental Health Reflection

This post was written by Stephen A. Harris, who was asked to reflect on his experience with mental health and masculinity in his life. He is a dear friend of mine who has agreed to share his story. Thank you Stephen!

It Started From the Beginning

“You weak, cuz.”

“Why you cryin’ like a bitch?”

“You need to man up, that’s how females talk.”

These were common phrases when showing emotion around family growing up, especially my cousins around the same age as me. I was raised to believe real men don’t cry, real men are tough and real men don’t show weakness. What I didn’t realize was the damage that was being done that affects me to this day.

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Guest Post: Healthy Ways to Cope With Mental Illness

This week’s post comes to us courtesy of freelance writer Patrick Bailey.

Having a mental illness can be terrifying. Most people who deal with a mental illness are stuck inside their own thoughts. They are constantly struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, irritability, mood swings, and more. It can be tough to manage a mental illness, which is part of why so many people self-medicate. They use drugs or alcohol to cope with a mental illness. If you have done this, it is helpful to know there are holistic treatment facilities available to help you overcome and treat the addiction and mental illness.

Knowing Your Limits While Still Using Your Strengths

One of the healthiest ways to cope with mental illness is knowing your limits while still using your strengths. Not everyone can handle stress well and that is alright. You might not accomplish quite as much as someone else in one day. That is okay too. This just means you probably have a lot of patience.

Maybe you can’t seem to focus on numbers or other similar activities, but you might be creative. Use that to your benefit. Allow your creativity to come out. Use your creativity to help you find new ways of getting things done.

Most people who suffer from a mental illness pay close attention to details. This happens a lot with autism, OCD, and other mental health illnesses. You can use your attention to detail to help yourself. Pay attention to how you act in the mornings or the evenings. How do you act in the middle of the day? What happens when you do something in a certain way? What happens when you talk to someone special in your life? Allow yourself to explore what routines and other things in life benefit you the most.

Many people with a mental health illness only accomplish half of what others do in one day and that is alright. Everyone is unique and you don’t need to compare yourself to others. You have your limits and you can stick to those. From now on, just keep using your strengths each and every day.

Radical Acceptance

Have you ever tried radical acceptance? This is when you completely accept something in all your being, with your entire mind and heart. When you know that it doesn’t matter what you do, a situation won’t be changed, that awareness can help. This can be used in cases of mental illness. If you have a mental illness and you know this with all your being, don’t try to force yourself out of it. That is only going to create more chaos.

Accept the mental illness. Use the strengths you have to keep going in the best ways you can. Pretending you don’t have a mental illness will only make things worse. By accepting the illness and what it means for your life, you can find the best ways to live with more happiness. This doesn’t mean you can’t change anything, it just means some things are out of your control.

Opposite to Emotion Thinking

Opposite to Emotion Thinking is just what it seems like. You will act in ways that contradict what your emotions are telling you. For example, if you are angry and you want to get away from everyone, don’t do it. Go spend time with your best friend. Do the opposite of what you want to do. If you are feeling anxious and want to get sleep, do the exact opposite. Find something fun to do. If you are feeling manic, don’t act out in a destructive way. Choose to do an activity that provides you with more stability. Mastering Opposite to Emotion Thinking can be tough, but with practice, you can do it.

Using Your 5 Senses

Some of the most common mental health illness symptoms include irritability, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, stress, and manic episodes. It can be tough to practice using all your 5 senses, but the benefits can be tremendous. When you experience symptoms of the mental illness, stop for a moment. Think about what you smell, what you feel, what you see, what you hear, and what you can touch. Explore all your 5 senses and let those override your mind. This might help to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing.

Getting Treatment

If you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, getting treatment may be the best route. There are far too many people who suffer alone in silence. They hide their mental illness and may not even tell their loved ones what is going on. You don’t have to do that. You can get the help you need to learn how to cope with your illness in healthier ways.

Having a mental illness may be tough. You may feel isolated or alone, but you aren’t. There are many people who care about what you are going through. There are many people who want to help you in managing your mental illness.

You can find more of Patrick Bailey’s work on mental health, mental illness and substance abuse at


Guest Post: The Role of Community in Breaking the Stigma

This week’s post comes from Martha McLaughlin, a writer for Heroes in Recovery.

When a nation faces a public health emergency, it’s usually addressed with increased funding, prevention efforts and accessible treatment, often involving both the public and private sector.

But what happens when the disease is so stigmatized that people are afraid to get help? Breaking the stigma needs to be part of the strategy for addressing the crisis.

The United States is facing an addiction epidemic, with opioid drugs, including heroin and prescription painkillers, currently being the most problematic. The overdose death rate is at an all-time high and still climbing. Deaths attributed to opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999, and from July 2016 to September 2017, opioid-related emergency room visits increased by 30 percent.

Only a small percentage of people who need treatment for addiction receive it. One analysis of the data concluded that for every person receiving treatment in a specialty facility, 18 more who needed it went without. There are multiple reasons for the disparity, including the fact that the stigma associated with addiction may lead to a reluctance to seek help, especially among certain populations. Women report stigma as a barrier to treatment more often than men do, and married parents report it most frequently.


Potential patients have a reason for their concern. A study of public attitudes found that survey respondents were much more likely to have negative opinions about people suffering from drug addiction than from mental illness. Study authors noted that people were more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing.

Because stigma is based on cultural messages, breaking it also requires cultural and community effort. Among the messages that need to be communicated are these:

  • Addiction is a brain disease. Drugs change both the structure and function of the brain, and, although anyone can be affected, some people are at higher risk because of genetic and other biological differences. Human behavior is involved, but that’s also often true of heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic conditions.
  • People from all walks of life can be affected. No one’s age, income level, gender, race, education or degree of professional success provides immunity.
  • Whether or not they realize it, everyone knows people who are or have been affected. Nearly 10 percent of people in the United States have experienced a drug use disorder.
  • People can and do recover. Addiction is treatable, and people go on to live healthy and productive lives.

Communities and organizations are taking on the challenge of reducing stigma in various ways.

Sussex County Community College in New Jersey, for instance, held a program open to the public called

Breaking the Stigma of Addiction” where people in long-term recovery were invited to speak. Other organizations, like Faces and Voices of Recovery, also seek to humanize the issue by giving people a place to share their stories.

Heroes in Recovery is an organization with the goal of breaking the stigma through the power of storytelling. They host a website where people can share their journeys and they sponsor races, which are 6K rather than the traditional 5K distance. That additional kilometer reflects the extra distance that people in recovery go to achieve their goals. They also host virtual races, allowing anyone to run or walk on their own time and wherever they wish. And the organization recognizes stigma-breaking leaders with its Heroes Award.

Media messages, including those on social media, are powerful, as is the choice of language. The

Office of National Drug Control Policy provides suggestions for de-stigmatizing communication. They recommend, for example, avoiding the term “drug habit” and using the term “substance use disorder” instead. When referring to people affected, “a person with a substance use disorder” is preferred to terms like “addict” and “drug abuser,” which negatively intertwine the illness with the person’s identity. Change starts with awareness, and when we pay attention to the messages we send, stigma can be reduced and lives can be saved.

Heroes in Recovery has a simple mission: to eliminate the social stigma that keeps individuals with addiction and mental health issues from seeking help, to share stories of recovery for the purpose of encouragement and inspiration, and to create an engaged sober community that empowers people to get involved, give back, and live healthy, active lives.

Flexing Your Mental Muscle (Guest Post)

This post was written by Pat Everett and his experience with mental health. He is a dear friend of mine who is brave enough to share his story. Thanks Pat.

Reading through the posts that Nathan has made on this great blog has really stirred some reflection in me. I am not unlike many of you reading who have endured and/or continue to endure battles with poor mental health, or at the very least know somebody struggling with a mental health issue. Currently, I feel very satisfied and stable in the condition of my mental health. I feel that by sharing my experience, I can help people who may have similar struggles to think up a new strategy to improve their progress or help get some progress started towards a healthier mental state.

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