So What If a Suicide Attempt Is a ‘Cry for Attention?’
There is a notion out there that a suicide attempt is a “cry for attention” and, thus, this invalidates what the person has done or makes it "not serious" (The Stigma Of Suicide). I would beg to differ. First off, of course, many suicide attempts have nothing to do with “attention,” per se, but secondly, so what if it did? So what if a suicide attempt is a cry for attention? Why does that make it less serious?
What Kind of Attention Do People Want from a Suicide Attempt?
Look, people are social creatures and we all need attention from others. No, I don’t mean adulation or being the star of the show – I just mean love and attention – the kind of thing that most of us expect to get from the people who love us. A “cry” for attention may be a desperate attempt to find the love and attention we all need when it is not felt, for whatever reason.
Additionally, people are typically looking for healthcare attention when they attempt suicide. People have often denied the individual mental health help, or the help has been inadequate, beforehand. If the person were getting the help and attention he or she needed, he or she wouldn’t have attempted suicide in the first place.
[Parents/loved ones: Listen up here. This is what happens when you ignore your child’s/loved one’s attempt to tell you that something is wrong.]
A Cry for Attention Makes a Suicide Attempt Less Real
Look, when you almost take your life it’s real. It doesn’t matter how you try to do it or how close you come – a suicide attempt is a real, serious thing that is not to be made light of and the driving motivator of a suicide attempt is a serious thing as well. If the person didn’t take it incredibly seriously, his or her life would not be on the line.
The reason people want to say that a suicide attempt is a cry for attention and that makes it unimportant is because then they don’t have to care/worry/concern themselves about the event. A suicide attempt is an incredibly scary thing, not just for the person who attempted, but also for those around him or her (For Loved Ones, After A Suicide Attempt). People don’t want to feel scared because it makes them feel bad so people want to write off the actions of the attempter as unimportant. This says much more about the people around the attempter than it does about the attempter or the suicide attempt itself.
If a Suicide Attempt Is a Cry for Attention – Listen
I have written before and I will write again: people who attempt suicide do not want to die – they just want to end their pain; it just so happens that they see no way of doing that except through death.
Similarly, if attention really is the motivation for a suicide attempt, the person sees no way of getting the attention he or she needs – personally and medically – except through an enormous actions that could take his or her life. This is a big deal. When was the last time you needed something so badly you would actually risk you own death for it?
So if a person attempts suicide – no matter what you think his or her motivation was – listen. This is not merely a “cry” for attention, it is a blood-curdling, all-out, begging, pleading scream. It is a scream that says, “I am in more pain than I can bear, please help me.” And you need to listen to that. You need to give that person all the attention you can. You need to get that person help – or more help – to make that life-risking pain subside.
Because the last thing you want, or I want, or the person wants, is to have to try again because no one listens the first time; because, this next time could be the very last thing that person ever does.
Tracy, N. (2016, April 11). So What If a Suicide Attempt Is a ‘Cry for Attention?’, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2016/04/so-what-if-a-suicide-attempt-is-a-cry-for-attention
Author: Natasha Tracy
It's a cry for help, I know, and I feel ashamed about it. I just want someone to listen, to get what I need and want. I'm afraid of dying, but I know it'll be fine if it does happen because I believe in reincarnation. I know I sound selfish, I just can't take it anymore.
I'm not good at anything, believe me. The only thing I might have real talent at is writing, but I started working on that too late to win any competitions or anything. In fact, I started on all my dreams too late and now I'm far behind actually accomplished people. I've always wanted to go to an Ivy League, but I'm 15, its too late to start winning competitions, get a 4.0, do the things I want to do.
I have friends who are incredible, who've started non-profits and won their states "Student of the Year." Its a constant reminder that I'm not like that, not enough, unaccomplished. I hate it when people tell me to stop comparing myself to others, because in order function as a capitalist society we have to compare ourselves. Conpetition is how we run: grades, awards, money, looks, smarts. If someone can't meet the standards, they aren't as successful.
I know that so many have it worse than me. I live in a middle to upper class family with lots of wealth and opportunities, yet I'm always feeling like there's no light when I wake up and I curse everyday when the light comes into the window and I have to start again. I'm selfish, I know. I don't enjoy anything, life is meaningless and pointless. My parents are loving, but do not believe in my dreams or push me.
They tell me they want me to get a B and they say I'm too obsessed with grades. They say I shouldn't try hard, and that I shouldn't try to start a non-profit because I won't be able to do it. They also say I'm not grateful for what I have- a private school that I despise, and my opportunities, and that I'm alwayd looking for more. I wish I was grateful, I wish I could be happy with what I have, but I'm not, and I hate myself for it. For burdening them when I ask for things, when I want to switch schools.
I have tried to reach out to them, giving hints that I'm not okay, but I don't want sympathy or pity. Just I want something to change. When I tell them I don't do well in social situations at school, they don't realize I have social anxiety and tell me to just face it. School is pointless to me now. I love learning, but its all about competition now. I've given up on asking them anymore, this is the only thing I do.
Gosh, I sound like I feel so sorry for myself, right? Gosh I hate that, feeling sorry for myself. I really do hate myself. I have so many dreams, running a non-profit, helping work in relations with China and North Korea, and many others, but I know when struck with reality that they are too ambitious and impossible. Not when I see myself. I constantly put on a mask, several masks in fact. I remind myself to get rid of ego, that scientifically I am not a soul but a conpilation of actions, and why should anyone mourn over a bunch of actions?
Honestly, life is like a machine. It keeps working, the same patterns, go to school, then college, then job, then retirement, then die, over and over again. When life is just a pattern, a machine, why should we try to make it anything else? Even art is controlled and regulated. Life becomes pointless, meaningless, subject to the same pattern and flaws. People still suffer, there is too much suffering, did I really think I could help? We all die. In the end, we all die. The only way to truly live is to make legacy, to be somebody. But I'm nobody.
People will mourn, yes, and then forget. They forgot my friend, only speaking of her with hushed voices. I don't matter. Unless I started earlier, accomplished more, I will never truly matter. Maybe I'd hang on if I had a purpose, a passion, something to live for, but it all seems a waste if not. It would be better to be reborn as someone who does start earlier, who can make a difference, and stop wasting space on this Earth while others suffer. Yes, I'm privileged, but if I'm not happy or appreciative and can't find ways to be so, perhaps I should just go and stop burdening others with my needs. They'd be happier for it in the long run, even if not immediately.
I've always wanted to be different. Unique. I despise the idea of being like everyone else, normal, same meaningless pattern with no real future worth living. I mean, in ten years, I'll have student loan and be struggling. Ten years after that, I might have a job, but it'll be the same structure. Maybe a family, but they don't need me. I won't have time for them with work and no time for my career with them. My future looks bleak, even just of tomorrow and the week where I'll fail three tests I didn't study for (stupid me) and a couple of my teachers are annoyed with me and I'll sit alone through no ones fault but my own.
I know the consequences and risks. I know I could have kidney failure, and maybe die. I know my family could hate me, feel too much pity, and it would be too hard on my school after my friends death. If I survive, I will tell my parents to keep it secret from the school, say health issues. I can't imagine the pity if I returned. Maybe I could finally explain to my parents, finally get what I want. I know, selfish again. My dad once found a paper where I wrote that I was worthless. He was upset, but I was angry that he snooped in my room. I'd want to tell them in my own way, not like that. Maybe if I do die I won't have to face them.
The only thing I'm holding on for is my dog. But she's afraid of my dramatic mood swings, and I know she's be happier without me, too. I know they'll restrict me more, which I hate because I love independence. But at least it'll get me help, on my terms not anyone elses, and perhaps out of school and a way to explain to them my dreams and how I wish to achieve them. If I die, well, they'll be better off again without my financial burdens and irresponsibility. I know they love me so much, and I love them, but we don't trust each other. So I guess what I'm saying if I'm selfish and spoiled and worthless, without value, and I want to live but won't mind if I die.
Thanks for reading, and I hope someone answers. Please. Thanks again.
I'm so sorry you're feeling this way. I hear you. I hear what you're saying. I can hear your pain. It's real.
What I also hear, though, is your extreme desire for help. You want things to be different. You want less pain. I understand this very well. I have felt this way before. In fact, I felt that way at your age.
What I want to tell you is that you have decades ahead of you to achieve whatever you want. If something is really important to you, you can work towards it. I get it. Your parents aren't necessarily the most supportive. You can do what you need to do in just a few years once you become an adult. That _isn't_ too late. I started writing when I was 30. 30!!! Now _that's_ on the later side and I've still managed to be, well, everywhere, become a professional speaker, publish a book and more.
My point is that you have a lot of time to do the things you want to do.
But most importantly, what it sounds like to me is that you're depressed. And it's okay to be depressed. You might be feeling that way because of your circumstances or you might be feeling that way because of something going on biologically in your brain. Either way, you need to get help. People can help you when you feel this way.
You can talk to your doctor, school counselor, or you can call a helpline: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources
You can find more international numbers here (site not associated with HealthyPlace): https://natashatracy.com/get-mental-illness-help/
Please reach out and get that help. You do not have to feel this way. Life doesn't have to be this hard. You _can_ get what you want, you just need help to get there.
Remember, how you're feeling is temporary -- when you're an adult, things will look different but you'll never get to know that if you choose the permanent action of suicide.
- Natasha Tracy
This is the person who wrote the post, "Suicidal Teen." Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement, I would love if you replied again. At the time I was in too much pain to really hear your message, but now I do and understand. On February 11, the day after my post, I finally gave up and overdosed on a bottle of ibuprofen. Little did I know it at the time, but ibuprofen is not very effective. The next day I overdosed on several more pills. I ended up in the ER for two days before being transferred to a psychiatric hospital. As you were saying in your post, I didn't really want to die. I think I realized that today, when I remember there was a bunch of acetaminophen I had access to, but I didn't take it all. I was holding on for hope of the future, planning to do it for good if things didn't turn out the way I hoped. I just wanted to get away... to sleep forever. I just wanted people to listen to me, and I was too scared to tell my parents my feelings and felt this was the only way they'd actually listen to me.
At ER, I was in complete shock. I wasn't sure if I was happy or sad. I remembered my friend who died by suicide every moment, and was, and still am, filled with immense sadness and guilt every time I think of her. I'll get back to that later, but I didn't let my parents into the ER. I didn't want them to freak out... and I wasn't very close to them. I just wanted time to myself, autonomy. Finally I was transferred to a psychiatric hospital where I was completely safe for week, and made incredible friends. I wish I had all of their contacts. I got home, and my parents took away all freedom that I had. Before my attempt, I was not allowed to have electronics upstairs, have social media, my internet was tracked, they watched me at all times. After, they tightened up even more and have not loosened at all. I understand locking up medications and etc., but not limiting my freedom to a point where I felt chained and abandoned in a box where my voice was never heard despite all my screaming...
My mom also told me often that I was acting like a three year old, that I "did this to all of" them, that the night I was at the ER was the worst of her life, and that there was something wrong with my brain and she didn't trust me to make my own decisions. She laughed when I told her my struggles and told me I was being ridiculous and lying, and pressured me to go back to school even though I told them that I couldn't bear the thought. They said it was ridiculous that I would choose death, escaping, over the hell of school. NOTHING got better except that I was out of school at the moment and we adopted a new puppy. I constantly thought of another way, to do it right this time. Later my psychiatrist put me into an Intensive Outpatient Program. I hate it, but at least both my parents and I are learning skills. I still have hard days, but I'm feeling a whole lot better. I'm not really suicidal anymore except at night when I'm alone, and I'm feeling happier without school and more time. I don't know how to go on though, I feel like I ruined my life... I want to get into an amazing college, but I just took medical withdrawal from school, I sometimes feel like I have no future. Every day I tell myself... just one more day. Day by day, keep going. Make the world a better place. Work towards a world where humanity can live in peace. Follow your dreams, work hard for only what you believe in and be yourself. Your parents may try to control your life because they love you and are paranoid, but they can NEVER control you and your dreams.
Now about my friend who died by suicide... I actually wasn't close to her at all. We rarely talked, though I often saw her around school. She was four years older than me, and I thought she was cute and friendly, but I was often to shy to go talk to her. I adored her mother, my favorite teacher, and had a close relationship with her teacher that was more like friendship than teacher-student relationship. When I heard the news of her death... I was crushed. First of all, I felt awful for my favorite teacher, who was an amazing person and loved her daughter so incredibly much. Second, I realized... the world is a horrible place. Not everything turns out well. Bad things happen all the time. And that CRUSHED me, destroyed my soul. I was furious at the world that it would allow someone so bright and lively as my distant friend to leave the Earth, and in such a way. At the same time, I had been dealing with depression for a while. I felt caught in a meaningless web of nothingness, felt like I could never have the future I wanted due to external and internal challenges, and felt like I was in no control of my life or environment. I feel so guilty for her death, I saw her sitting alone working in the library, saw the droop of her head, but was too shy to talk. Maybe if I talked to her, got her number, helped her through difficult times, things would have been different... but the guilt was too much to bear. Isn't it stupid that I feel so strongly about her death although I barely knew her?
Anyways, I hope you're doing well. Thank you again for your support. I would love to keep in contact because you seem to understand me and know what to say, is there any way to contact you and keep in touch? I will use my actual name if I contact you personally. Thank you again for your time and consideration and reply and support and love.
Thank you for coming back and for sharing more of your story. So many people have walked that road and are walking that road and by sharing your story, you're helping others. I think that's what you want to do.
Regarding your friend who died of suicide, that is _not_ your fault. That is not anyone's fault. Your guilt is normal and human but you have to talk back to it and know that it's misplaced. It might not be easy to do this. Likely your feelings about that suicide are wrapped up with the feelings about your own attempt, and that's okay, but, eventually, you'll need to unwrap and deal with them. I hope you're seeing a therapist and can talk to that person about it.
I'm so sorry your parents are being so controlling. You're right, it is because they care, as much as what they're doing may be misguided. It's really great to hear that you are learning new skills and so are they. That is what you need right now. That is what they need right now too. In the long run, those skills can save your life and make your life worth living, even if it doesn't feel that way right now.
I want to reiterate something that you wrote because I think it's so great:
"Every day I tell myself... just one more day. Day by day, keep going. Make the world a better place. Work towards a world where humanity can live in peace. Follow your dreams, work hard for only what you believe in and be yourself. Your parents may try to control your life because they love you and are paranoid, but they can NEVER control you and your dreams."
You're right. You're 100% right. You took the words right out of my mouth. There will be time for all the things you want to accomplish. Just focus on what's right in front of you right now. Work hard because it's going to benefit you and your life. And dream. Dream big. Dream small. Just dream. Take small steps to make those dreams come true.
I'm so honored to have been a support for you. I'm also extremely buoyed by the fact that you're in intensive treatment. That is such hard work and it's amazing that you're doing it. Congratulations.
Unfortunately, I can't contact you privately but you can write a comment here any time you like.
Keep going. You're going to paint the world joyous colors one day.
- Natasha Tracy
I'm so sorry you're in so much pain. I have had that pain too. I have survived a suicide attempt too. I know what it's like to be stuck in that darkness.
I also know what it's like to live through it. It can get better. It can get better for you. I know you said you have tried help but you need to keep trying with different help until you find what works for you. Please. Reach out to someone new. Get new help. You can do this.
Call someone now: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/suicide/suicide-suicidal-thoughts-and-behaviors-toc
No matter what is happening, you can make it through and better things await you on the other side.
- Natasha Tracy
I am from Iran and 37 girl and single. I am so sorry if I cannot speak English as well as you. But I did suicide for several times. My therapist recognized that I have borderline personality disorder and she said that I have a bit Histrionic personality disorder too. Between 17 and 23 I had 7 times suicides. These days I was under pressure and I had several panic attacks too. My panic attacks started when I was 23 and after a car accident. My hip and my head broke badly. Now days I am thinking about hurting myself with a blade. I want to injury my right lower arm. Nobody don't care about me and I am really alone. Two years ago By intervention in medical by two physiotherapists pnumothorax happened in my left side too. They holed my lung with dry needling method that it is not allowed in Iran for physiotherapists. It is terrible I know but what can I do. Sometimes I see blood in my mouth. My lung doctor said some of your lung capillaries did not get health. But in air pollution of Tehran how it is possible. I am a poet too. I am really tired. I want to rest. I hate of every body. I want to abondon my country forever. They injured my soul and body for several time. I need help.
Please don't do that. Please. I know that might seem like a way to get help, but it's not the best way to go about it. You could injure yourself permanently from taking too many drugs, or of course, you could die. No one wants that.
Please pursue other options. Call a helpline and find out about the resources around you: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources
Look up a NAMI or DBSA office (just Google for one near you).
Or just walk into an ER and tell them that you're going to hurt yourself. They have to help you.
Your life is valuable, even if you don't feel like it right now. Don't gamble with it. There are other ways to get what you need.
- Natasha Tracy
I'm so sorry to hear you are in this situation. That must be so hard for you. If you can, reach out to others to share the buron. You should not have to do this alone. Here are some resources that may help you: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/
Also, please, if your friend is in imminent danger, don't hesitate to call 9-1-1. His life is worth it.
- Natasha Tracy
Last week while on the train there was an announcement about a police incident, so expecting delays I got off the train at the next stop hoping to catch a another train going a different route home. As I was crossing the overpass to get to the other train I noticed a crowd of people staring out on to the street below where a number of cop cars and emergency personnel with their lights flashing had gathered. Being curious to know what was going on I made my way through the crowd up to the front. What I witnessed was a distraught man that had climbed his way up a guard rail and was teetering back and forth on top of it. My heart was pounding and I started to shake. I heard myself whispering under my breath, don't do it, don't do it. Thank fully the police officer was able to talk him down and I felt relieved knowing he was going to finally get the help he so deperately needed
I thought about that incident for a long time afterwards and the pain that guy must have been going through to do such a thing and it made me very angry. Why do people have to reach a crisis stage before healthcare workers take these people's suffering seriously? Why must they and their loved ones beg and plead for help only to get dismissed or relegated to the back of the line because the ill person is not perceived as being in dire need of care and therefore not worthy of attention?
I remembered when I was feeling suicidal. I tried everything I knew how to get help before my actual breakdown but only when I reached a crisis point did anyone take me seriously.
What I came to realize from my own experience and what I witnessed with this man is just how much our mental health system is flawed and greatly underfunded. It's a crying shame because people shouldn't have to reach a breaking point like that to access the help they so desperately deserve and need!
When I got to work the next day I mentioned the incident to my boss who also takes the train home and I was shocked by his cold, inappropriate response. So what that it inconvenienced him for a while... at least it saved a life! How would he feel if it was his son or daughter perched precariously up there?
"This is not merely a “cry” for attention, it is a blood-curdling, all-out, begging, pleading scream. It is a scream that says, “I am in more pain than I can bear, please help me.” And you need to listen to that. You need to give that person all the attention you can. You need to get that person help – or more help – to make that life-risking pain subside."
Exactly. When you are at this point it's unbearable to endure more pain so it's either someone helps you or you quit. And in this situation it doesn't matter if you succeed with your attempt or not. It will end the pain and that's what counts.
I'm so sorry that has happened to you. But remember, there are _always_ people to reach out to: http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/
Many people will understand even if those around you don't, initially.
- Natasha Tracy