Suicide survivor shares story of hope after decades of darkness

Suicide survivor shares story of hope after decades of darkness

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10.6 million Americans seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million made a plan and 1.4 million people attempted suicide in 2017.

To reduce the number of deaths by suicide, Atrium Health is enlisting help from the public. On Oct. 16, Atrium Health is hosting a Suicide Prevention event. It will teach people to recognize the signs and symptoms of someone considering suicide, how to address those behaviors, and more.

The event is free to the public, but you must register by Oct. 9. Learn more here.

Chad Simpson is a former patient of Atrium Health and a two-time suicide survivor. He will be speaking about his experience battling mental illness at the Oct. 16 event.

Simpson told WBTV his first memory of showing signs of mental illness happened when he was 4-years-old.

“My mom took me to see a doctor because she thought I might be a special needs child because I refused to talk,” Simpson said. “I remember I lied to the doctor and said I just don’t have anything to say. And of course, it has come out over the years that I was horrified. I was full of anxiety at 4-years-old.”

It would be another ten years before he was officially diagnosed with a mental illness. He was prescribed high doses of antidepressants and anxiety medications, but in the early 90s, he says, it was frowned upon to struggle with mental health.

“They don’t have a problem at all accepting that you have a heart problem. They don’t have a problem if someone’s appendix just ruptured. You could be riddled with cancer from head to toe, everybody knows that. But as soon as we start talking about our most complex organ—our brain—it stops. Nothing can possibly go wrong there, it’s all on you. You’re just weak,” Simpson described.

He self-medicated on top of prescriptions, but his internal pain continued. His first suicide attempt came at 17-years-old. He survived and was admitted to inpatient care. When he was released a few weeks later, he made a promise to himself that he would pretend to be happy.

“I was going to be the picture boy for perfect,” Simpson said. “I was going to go into the business world and be successful and I told myself if I did that, then I would gain people’s acceptance finally, and maybe I would gain my happiness.”

He achieved success in the business world, was married and had a family. From the outside looking in he appeared to have it all, but he was suffering silently.

“I believed in my heart, I knew it without a shadow of a doubt, I was hopeless,” Simpson said.

His second suicide attempt happened when he was 25. He survived and found himself back in inpatient care. But this time was different, he says a nurse convinced him that it was okay to struggle with mental illness.

“That one nurse gave me that tiny little ray of hope to allow me to put one thousand pound foot in front of the other and see if I couldn’t rewrite the end of my story,” Simpson said.

He says that one person who didn’t judge him for struggling with mental health, made him open up and accept the help provided to him.

Now at age 40, he’s in control of his happiness. He says he still struggles with mental illness, but he’s okay with it. He doesn’t go to behavioral health facilities as a patient anymore, now he goes to lead support groups. He wants anyone reading this who is struggling with mental illness to remember this:

“There’s something that I always say, get help,” Simpson said. “Whether that be a suicide prevention line or a support group, get help and know that you are not alone.”

If you know someone who may be struggling with mental illness, Dr. James Rachal, a psychiatrist with Atrium Health, says it’s best to approach them directly about your concerns.

“Quite simply asking, ‘Are you thinking of suicide or sometimes do you ever wish that you weren’t around?’,” Dr. Rachal said. “Because while there’s a myth out there that those types of questions may lead people to think about it, the reality of what we know is it doesn’t lead people to suicide, however, if the question is asked they may be more willing and likely to discuss it.”

He also encourages you to be mindful of your response to that person’s answer so as not to dissuade them from sharing their feelings.

“Keep in mind also that suicide is a scary thought and so when you’re asking that question of somebody else you may have your own thoughts and fears of suicide so try to be aware of that because that will help you be more open to their responses,” Dr. Rachal said.

If you cannot attend Atrium Health’s suicide prevention event on October 16, listed below are other resources that can spread education and awareness:

Atrium Health’s Suicide Prevention Community Event on October 16 will empower and teach you how to become a suicide prevention advocate in your community. The event is free and open to the public. Learn more and RSVP here.

Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-based eight-hour course that teaches attendees how to recognize and respond to signs/symptoms of suicide, mental illness and substance use disorders. Learn more about Atrium Health’s Mental Health First Aid program and register for a class online.

What to Do If Someone One Tells You They’re Considering Suicide:

React in a calm and reassuring manner. You’ll likely be an emotional mess on the inside, Champion says, but you’ll want to show the person that you’re calm, reassuring and willing to help. If you’re not sure what to say, consider saying, “I don’t know what to do, but we can find help together.”

If the person needs immediate assistance, call 911. You can ask your loved one if they’ve thought about when or how they have considered suicide. This information could be helpful when you talk with the dispatcher. If they’re considering using a weapon, such as a gun, ask where it is.

If immediate assistance isn’t needed, call a help line. Many resources are available to assist your loved one and yourself. Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Help Line is available around the clock to those considering suicide and those who want to help them at 704-444-2400. If texting is preferred, text “connect” to the national Crisis Text Line at 741741 and a crisis counselor will usually respond within five minutes.

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