By my late 20âs, Iâd racked up a number of inpatient psychiatric stays and had gone through more than a couple psychiatrists. All were missed opportunities for a correct mental health diagnosis, finally culminating in a psychologist telling me âI was too smart to be doing all this.â That was it. I swallowed a lethal dose of prescription medication and waited for the inevitable. A friend found me under a tree, unconscious. I was 42 years old.
A few months later I met the psychiatrist who saved my life. After one session, he properly diagnosed me with rapid cycling Type 1 bipolar disorder. The proper combination of medications forever changed my life. Only a few weeks later I was driving down the interstate in a state of peace I had never experienced before. It occurred to me âThis is what regular people feel like.â I smiled to myself and began the journey of recovery and learning how to really live. I know I am not alone, that there are many others out there just like me.
This is why I do what I do.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans. But suicide deaths are only part of the problem. Like me, more people survive suicide attempts than actually die. No one needs to feel the pain I did â and no family ever needs to lose a loved one to suicide. My role at CDC is to collect and analyze surveillance data on violent death, including suicide. One way I do this is with the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). NVDRS captures death certificate, coroner/medical examiner and law enforcement report information on all violent deaths in 18 US states, and combines them in a single data file. NVDRS also includes information on demographics, weapons, toxicology, victim-suspect relationships, precipitating circumstances or risk factors, and a narrative to better understand the violent death incident. Researchers can then use this information to help inform prevention efforts.
NVDRS is one of many things CDCâs Injury Center is doing to prevent injuries and deaths caused by violence, including suicide. You can learn more about all of our work by visiting www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide.
And if you or someone you know is in emotional distress or having a suicidal crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also visit them online: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Life is worth living.