Ask the question about suicide

Life after attempted death: talking helps

Lorna Ward, who tried to commit suicide in April 2012, now finds an outlet in leading counseling sessions with NAMI Western Slope, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.



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Lorna Ward, who tried to commit suicide in April 2012, now finds an outlet in leading counseling sessions with NAMI Western Slope, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Lorna Ward believes silence is one of the reasons Mesa County’s suicide rate continues to climb, which is why she has no plans to be quiet about her past.



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Lorna Ward believes silence is one of the reasons Mesa County’s suicide rate continues to climb, which is why she has no plans to be quiet about her past.

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The public is invited to participate in a forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Whitman Educational Center, 248 S. Fourth St. Daily Sentinel reporters Amy Hamilton and Emily Shockley and several local suicide prevention advocates and mental health providers will discuss the series, current trends and resources and programs available.



Lorna Ward still has the email she planned to send her mother before she crushed and swallowed a pile of Ambien and muscle-relaxers.

That email is a reminder to the 36-year-old wife, daughter, sister and mother of how far she has come since that desperate day in April 2012.

She was living in Washington state with her husband, Curtis, and now 4-year-old son, Henry, far from her family in Grand Junction and a base of friends in Idaho. She was depressed, isolated and struggling to deal with a manic episode her husband had been experiencing for five months at that point. A call to her cousin the day before her suicide attempt ended in her relative telling her she couldn’t call her family to complain anymore.

Curtis left for the store while Henry was at day care. Within 10 minutes, the weight of her depression overcame her. She researched what to do with the pills she had. She drafted an email to her mom and texted her husband goodbye.

“It wasn’t that I wanted to die; it was more I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I wasn’t any good for Henry, I wasn’t any good for myself, I certainly wasn’t any good in our marriage. And it was more of a ‘I can’t do this anymore, no one’s listening to me, no one’s hearing me, I don’t know what else to do.’ “

Curtis called 911 and was home within five minutes. Lorna doesn’t remember what he said, just that he flushed the pills down the toilet before she could take them.

Police arrived soon after that and asked her point-blank if she was thinking about killing herself. Lorna said the directness of the question gave her an outlet to admit the truth and get help. She went to a crisis facility, where she received therapy and had a safe place to step out of her environment and cool down. She moved to Grand Junction to be with her mother and sister two weeks later.

“At first I felt guilty because I would have been taking away Henry’s mom,” Lorna said. “I learned to forgive myself. I’m not a bad person — anyone could be in that depression. They are OK feelings and they do go away.”

While the stigma and oftentimes shame associated with suicide and mental illness lead many people to bury their experiences with suicide, Lorna has no plans to be quiet about her past. She believes silence is one of the reasons Mesa County’s suicide rate continues to climb.

“The reason it happens so much is people aren’t talking about it,” she said. “It relieves the pressure.”

Lorna shares her story and the feelings she continues to tackle with depression as a volunteer support group facilitator and member with NAMI Western Slope, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She also communicates often with her family and regularly posts about suicide and mental illness on Facebook. Her husband is being treated for bipolar disorder, which was diagnosed after her suicide attempt, and the pair will celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary this winter.

Lorna has not felt suicidal since that day last spring. She has good days and bad, but now she has a support system of family, friends and fellow volunteers at NAMI. She said it helps defuse a low day if she reads that draft email to her mom from last April, which reminds her that even when there seems to be no tomorrow, there is. It also helps when someone asks her if she’s OK and is willing to listen to the answer without judgment.

Not everyone understands suicide, depression or mental illness in general. Lorna said she understands some people think what she did was selfish or think she could just “get over it,” something she said was not possible without help.

“When you’re in that situation, you don’t see anything else. It’s like being a horse with blinders on and it’s dark. You can’t see anything but what’s right in front of your eyes and what’s right in front of your eyes is painful and it hurts and you just want to get away from that and you don’t see any other way away from it,” she said. “The only way I can deal with it is to talk about it. Some people will get it and some people won’t.”

Some people have told her they don’t know anyone who has considered suicide. Lorna believes many would find out that is not true if they asked people they are concerned about if they are contemplating suicide. About one in four adults in the U.S. struggles with a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Although it’s not the only risk factor for suicide — relationship, financial, legal and health complications are prime factors as well — nine out of 10 people who complete suicide have a mental illness and/or substance abuse problem, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“How can you not know someone who has attempted suicide?” Lorna asked. “It’s sad how many people have done it and completed it and they’re not here because people have not asked the question. They’re scared to ask the question.”

Not everyone understands suicide, depression or mental illness in general. Lorna said she understands some people think what she did was selfish or think she could just “get over it,” something she said was not possible without help.

“When you’re in that situation, you don’t see anything else. It’s like being a horse with blinders on and it’s dark. You can’t see anything but what’s right in front of your eyes and what’s right in front of your eyes is painful and it hurts and you just want to get away from that and you don’t see any other way away from it,” she said. “The only way I can deal with it is to talk about it. Some people will get it and some people won’t.”

Some people have told her they don’t know anyone who has considered suicide. Lorna believes many would find out that is not true if they asked people they are concerned about if they are contemplating suicide. About one in four adults in the U.S. struggles with a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Although it’s not the only risk factor for suicide — relationship, financial, legal and health complications are prime factors as well — nine out of 10 people who complete suicide have a mental illness and/or substance abuse problem, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“How can you not know someone who has attempted suicide?” Lorna asked. “It’s sad how many people have done it and completed it and they’re not here because people have not asked the question. They’re scared to ask the question.”



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