ORIGINAL ARTICLE — Reporter Christine Moyer, writing for the Beacon News (Aurora, Illinois), profiles the Suicide Attempters group in Batavia, a place where “people who are alive even though they had hoped to die … get the proper help and support to overcome their depression and despair.”
Stephanie Weber, director of Suicide Prevention Services in Batavia, created the group in May and serves as its clinician. For Weber, whose mother killed herself after one unsuccessful attempt, the group is very close to her heart.
“No doctor, no hospital ever put information in my hands, saying the second attempt is usually fatal,” Weber said.
The Beacon News article paints a picture of a 47-year-old woman who attends the Suicide Attempters group, whose “depression started around 11 years ago when her father died of pancreatic cancer.”
Lisa, then a practicing nurse, cared for him until his body gave out. About a year later she overdosed on her depression medicine.
It was her first suicide attempt. The four or five attempts that followed — Lisa can’t remember exactly how many — each involved overdosing on pills, some purchased over the counter, others that were prescribed.
Now Lisa, who before her most recent attempt last summer was, in fact, the facilitator of the support group, “attends … as an attempter … not as a facilitator.”
She’s still passionate about the attempters group, which relies on people who have tried to kill themselves to lead the discussions.
“When you tell (the facilitators) you’re just so depressed, you’re fed up with everything, you don’t feel there’s a reason to live, you know they’ve been there,” she said.
Weber’s first try at starting a support group for attempt survivors was 20 years, but at that time, it did not get established, so she kept up hope and then
… recently, people began sharing their stories of failed suicide attempts with Weber. They were young men, middle-aged women and people well into their 50s. Each time, Weber asked if they would reach out to others. And many of them agreed, she said.
Now the group meets the first Wednesday of every month. The meetings are still small, but Weber is optimistic about their impact.
Dr. David Leader, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Dreyer Medical Clinic and Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, Illinois,
considers the attempters group an integral form of intervention [because] it enables fellow survivors and clinicians to assure the attempters that while their feelings are legitimate, there are other tools they can use to cope with them.
The key, Leader said, is getting people to realize they have options that are better than killing themselves. It’s not about giving them false hope, he stressed, but giving them real tools.
There are several basic booklets designed by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for use in emergency departments that are publicly available for free:
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