I interviewed three young adults who had each made serious suicide attempts as teens. The attempts included taking an overdose of drugs, jumping off a cliff, and self-cutting. All three were hospitalized after the attempts.
From their attempts and the aftermath, these individuals learned much about life. Collectively, they learned that (1) the teen years can be very tough; (2) no suicidal teen is ever the only person in the world who feels hopeless or suicidal; (3) acting on impulse can be dangerous; (4) situations and individuals change over time, so what looks hopeless at the moment may not look that way later; (5) teens who attempt suicide and survive tend to feel glad to be alive later; (6) psychological problems are like physical illnesses – the person does not deserve to be blamed; (7) it is important to seek help when feeling desperate or suicidal; (8) suicidal teens can learn from others who have been in similar conditions; (9) having others listen, without judging, is helpful; (10) not all health professionals are helpful – if one is not helpful, another one may be; (11) it is possible to learn new, more effective ways of thinking (e.g., applying mindfulness), coping (e.g., writing about one’s emotions), and interacting with others (e.g., taking breaks to cool heated conversations); (12) it can take time to learn useful coping methods and interpersonal-interaction methods, but the payoff can be valuable; (13) making it through difficult times can help strengthen a person to deal with later challenges; and (14) overcoming personal psychological problems gives an individual extra ability to help others deal with their problems.
This information about the lived experience of teen suicide attempters might prove helpful to teens contemplating suicide, to friends and family members of teens with suicidal inclinations, and to health professionals who try to help teens.