Suicide is a topic that has come to the forefront lately and as times get more difficult it is even more on the rise. Most sources agree that the main reasons for suicide are mental and personality disorders, which include depression. In other situations, people make on-the-spot decisions to commit suicide when the stresses in their life have reached a tipping point. These are all very serious problems, but there is another type of suicide that isn’t talked about as much because it is considered a distraction from the primary types of suicide you normally think of.
It is the attention-seeking suicide attempt that accidentally succeeds. Teens and young adults are the primary victims, though not exclusively. It’s tragic because most don’t actually want to commit suicide. Instead, they think that if they can pretend to be suicidal, they’ll get the attention they’re seeking. But sometimes the fake attempt can succeed, and the person still dies. This type of suicide is sometimes scoffed at as not being real. Since it is challenging to take every suicide threat seriously—particularly the ones that are perceived as vain, fake, attention-seeking ones—it can be ignored.
It’s interesting that when you share a story like this how many others are willing to step up and share their own.
One problem with these accidental attention-seeking suicides is that sometimes the person who does it makes no threat in advance, so nobody is even alerted to the possibility. I once tried to fake a suicide attempt, but my only motive was to be noticed attempting it in order to be saved.
I was a teenager. I had met a boy while staying at a lake cabin, and I liked him very much. We spent time talking on the phone and declared ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. The next time we traveled to the cabin I brought my best friend with me, and the two of them instantly fell for each other. I was, of course, upset and angry that my friend could do this. They spent all their time together and only occasionally reluctantly included me, which just infuriated me more. In my childish thinking, I began to scheme.
I decided that if he saw me in despair and danger, he would save me and feel horrible about what they had done to me, and everything would return to normal. So one evening I sat alone on the dock, watching the sunset and feeling sorry for myself. Then I thought to myself that if I were to swim out until I couldn’t swim anymore and scream for help, the boy would come to my rescue. I jumped into the water and swam quite a distance out. I was completely exhausted and in real danger. Though I tried to scream out, it was difficult, and in the end, no one heard me. Even if they had, the sun was too far down and no one could see me. No one was going to save me; there would be no romantic movie scene rescue for me.
I began to panic and attempted to swim back, but I was swallowing water and flailing in place. I knew this could be the end of me, so I took hold of my emotions and prayed fervently for God to help me get back to shore. Then I began to swim. It seemed to me like there were miles of water before me. Every stroke was laborious. But I finally made it and praised God for allowing me to live. I told no one of my stupidity and felt embarrassed and ashamed. Looking back as an adult, it is obvious that my plan would have never worked.
What has surprised me is that mine is not an isolated story. Over the years, I have seen and heard similar stories from others. It’s interesting that when you share a story like this how many others are willing to step up and share their own. We feel less silly when we see our own mistakes in others.
Here’s what’s important to understand. I did not fall into the category of someone who was seriously depressed. Nor was I mentally challenged in any way other than the fact that I was young and ignorant. I also never attempted anything like it again. I never displayed any of the warning signs typically associated with suicidal people. Anyone could fall prey to this type of bad thinking, and it is no less serious than other forms of suicide.
Natasha Tracy writes: “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.’ 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? … Why does that make it less serious?” (Natasha Tracy, “So what if a suicide attempt is a cry for attention? “ Healthy Place).
My decision was foolish, but because of my youth, I was also not educated about the danger and seriousness of suicide. Ecclesiastes states, “Why should you die before your time?” (7:17). I think it is important that we speak to young people and help them understand these types of danger. Use my story if you like.
If I had heard a story like mine back then, I don’t think I would have attempted what I did, and instead tried to work through my relationship issues some other way. “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31 Proverbs 15:31The ear that hears the reproof of life stays among the wise.
American King James Version×, New International Version).
My story could have ended so differently. I thank God that it didn’t.