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I knew I was in real trouble. I’d felt overwhelmed, trapped, and alone before. I’d wanted to die before. I’d even had a plan before. But it wasn’t until I was dressed only in a hospital gown, sitting on a hospital bed in the ER watching a security guard go through my wallet, that I realized how ill I was.

That was one of the scariest, most humbling days of my life. It was Monday, and I’d gone to a therapy appointment with a new trauma therapist. Just 30 minutes into the session, she told me she was unwilling to let me leave unless someone came to take me to the ER. If I refused, she would “5150” me – have me involuntarily hospitalized for 72 hours.

My best friend braved nearly two hours of Los Angeles rush hour traffic to come get me and take me to the ER. Upon arrival, I found myself almost slurring my words as I weepily told the receptionist why I was there: “I’m actively suicidal.”

Fortunately, the entire ER staff was exceptionally kind and competent – from that receptionist, to the doctors and nurses, to that security guard who catalogued all my belongings and knocked on the bathroom door every 30 seconds to make sure I was still alive.

I was one of the lucky ones. I survived the night. My rights and voice were respected at the hospital, and I was allowed to go home and sleep in my own bed. I followed up on my action plan the next day. I removed lethal objects from my home, got back on my meds, and leaned on two of my besties who helped keep me alive until the meds kicked in.

I’m part of a growing demographic. In the United States, 48,000 people die by suicide every year. That’s 14% higher than the number of people who die in vehicle crashes. For every person that dies by suicide in this country, 24 attempt, and 315 seriously consider it. The suicide rate has increased by 30% since 1999 and is the third cause of death of youth ages 15 to 24 (after accidents and homicide).

I’ve been suicidal four times: my senior year of high school, my second year of graduate school in my early 30s, and twice in middle age. I’ve lost 1.5 friends (the .5 is for an incomplete attempt) and one immediate family member to suicide.

I’ve hesitated many times about writing this article for public consumption. While we’re becoming more comfortable with naming trauma, talking about mental illnesses, and discussing neurodivergence, there are still deep taboos around suicide, and persistent prejudices about the suicidal. We still say those who die by suicide “committed” suicide, as if it were a crime. We still see those who take their own lives as selfish, morally deficient, or deviant.

But as it’s National Suicide Prevention Month, it felt like time to say out loud: me too. Time to say: here is the darkness that needs the light. To say: here I am, one of many who are misunderstood and condemned.

I’m also here to say: here are five phrases I hope to never hear again. If we can shift these words and the thinking behind them, I believe we can promote better healing, and save more lives. Read the five phrases on Medium.

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  • Karla B says:

    Thank you for your courage and for sharing your story, Susana. Deeply grateful for your vulnerability and for your life and gifts.

    • Susana Rinderle says:

      Thank you Karla! Witnessing and gratitude from kind, smart people like you give me the courage to be vulnerable and candid. Thank you for receiving the piece and providing this feedback!

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