276 N. El Camino Real, #184
Oceanside CA 92058


(760) 298-8146
(760) 216-1353








Jenny's Attempted Suicide

Overwhelmingly, suicides involve depression on a person's part whether it grows organically (bi-polar, for example), or is chemically induced by the person (drugs, alcohol), or is the product of life situations (bullying, loss of a friend or relative, lost of a marriage, home or significant other).

But depression aside, the most important risk factor is the existence of a prior attempted suicide. Find a person with a prior attempt and add depression to the mix and you have a potentially lethal combination.

One day I got a call from a family friend who was nearly hysterical. To be honest, we weren't all that close. She was the sister of a friend of my ex-wife. For the sake of her privacy, I will call her Irene. Irene was grasping at straws, looking for ANY way to make sense of her situation. If a total stranger could help, even he would do.

Irene had two teenage children. I will call the girl Jenny, 14 years old; her brother was a year younger - and taller. I liked them both. Nice kids, living in a home with a mom and no dad, with all the life drama any family with teenagers would recognize. Simply being 14 is by itself a challenge.

In Jenny's case, one day she failed that challenge. Her mother was working a bit later than usual and her brother was at someone else's house, leaving Jenny at home alone and extra hour or two. Irene home this short time would have not made Jenny open up and talk about what was bothering her. Fourteen year olds have secrets, which is not a bad thing in and of itself - it helps young people learn how to handle problems on their own. Keeping secrets is a part of declaring your independence as a future adult - as long as they aren't keeping THIS secret. But who knows what's going on in a 14 year old girl's head? And this secret was one she became willing to die over.

Whatever set her off into the downward spiral, Jenny felt she couldn't go on another minute. She went into her mom's bathroom medicine cabinet, swallowed all the sleeping pills, laid down on her bed and waited. Nothing happened right away, so she took the bleach bottle from under the sink and drank it. She drank enough that it scorched her throat terribly on the way down and the bleach caused her to throw up most of the sleeping pills she had just swallowed - scorching her throat further on the way back up.

The emergency room doctor said the bleach actually saved her life because Jenny had taken enough sleeping pills to accomplish her purposes. And this event strengthened her life because she understood that she never, ever wanted to swallow bleach again. The bleach also changed her focus on reality to the point that coughing horribly, she called her mom at work. Irene first called 911, then raced right home to see her daughter and find out what happened. Paramedics took Jenny straight to the emergency room. She was treated and sent directly to the hospital's behavioral unit that already had other teens who had attempted suicide in their own way. But Jenny was alive. Teenage girls are more likely to attempt suicide than boys, but less likely to die in the attempt. Usually.

All that was the night before Irene's call to me. Then Irene called to ask if I could come with her that night to see Jenny during visiting hours. Irene knew how I had lost my son to suicide and was hoping I could help her daughter make sense of what she had done. Irene also hoped I could help her understand the situation and figure out how much danger they were in and what she should do next. There is comfort of being in the company of someone who truly does know what you're going through, and she was looking for a crash course in suicides.

The behavioral unit kept Jenny about ten days before sending her home, and her counseling continued for a several more months.

Today Jenny a healthy, well oriented 23 year old woman. Her brush with death developed as a one-time attempt, a wild over-reaction to a temporary situation. But it is worth knowing that someone's prior suicide attempt is perhaps the single most significant risk factor in the possibility of attempts. After all, they have tried it before, know how close they came and know they have to try harder to succeed.

Steve Stewart Seminars | 276 N. El Camino Real #184 | Oceanside CA 92058 | 760-298-8146/Direct 760-216-1353/Cell |