Thought Thursday: Suicide: Understanding & Compassion

June 15, 2018

By Kara Newcastle

“I can’t believe somebody could be that selfish.”

That’s something that’s frequently said when people find out that someone’s committed suicide. I can’t help but grit my teeth every time I hear that: selfish.

It’s obvious to me that the people who say that are people who don’t understand.

People who commit suicide don’t really understand what they’re doing. Think about it—would a mentally healthy person choose to kill themselves? A person without mental illness, without a physical impairment or disease that causes constant, widespread, unrelenting pain would never consider—could ever consider—killing themselves.

“Suicide is the easy way out,” some say. Oh really? The “easy” way out. What a laugh. Ever think about the kind of pain a person has endured that would drive them to see this as an option? Or how long they would have had to suffer in order to consider it?

Or that a person is so sick that their sense of reality is warped, so twisted that they don’t, can’t realize that there’s no coming back from death. They might say they know it, might even say they don’t care or that they want it. They don’t. No living creature wants to die.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was fifteen, and over the last twenty years I have become so depressed that I did consider suicide. When I got help and recovered enough that I was able to look back on what I had gone through, I realized that those times that I had wanted to die I was in extreme mental and physical pain, and I was so sick that I was having visual and audial hallucinations. There were days I was so miserable I couldn’t get out bed. I became paranoid and had panic attacks, developed OCD-type responses, paced back and forth so much that my knees started to buckle, scratched and dug at my arms, hands, neck and feet, bit myself, hit myself, cried so much that my eyes were swollen and bloodshot. I couldn’t sleep, had nightmares when I did, and didn’t eat. I muttered and talked to myself incessantly. I scared people. I couldn’t work.


I tried to think of things I could do, but I felt like I had no options. I could run away—but where would I go? Maybe if I could get some sleep—but I can’t sleep. Maybe if I took a trip somewhere—no money. If I had a job—no, no one would hire me. What could I do?

My self-esteem plummeted, evaporated. My body ached, my head hurt, my stomach was constantly upset, my immune system was shot, I couldn’t sleep, the medicine was giving me crippling side effects. I began to think I would never graduate, never get a job, never move out … that my friends, my boyfriend would abandon me because I was a loser …

I lost hope.

I started to think about dying a lot. How to do it. When. If I should. Would anybody care? I didn’t think so. I didn’t. I wanted to stop hurting, but I didn’t think it would ever stop. I didn’t think it would ever change. I thought it would only get worse. At one point I started thinking (and I remember thinking this, I remember mumbling it to myself over and over again), “I’ll kill myself. Then everything will reset and it’ll be better. I’ll kill myself, then everything will reset and be better. I’ll kill myself, then everything will reset and be better. Like a game.”

Do you understand? I was so sick that I thought that I could die, then reset everything, and come back to life and start over. LIKE A FUCKING VIDEO GAME. I THOUGHT I WAS LIVING IN A VIDEO GAME.

You’re probably reading this in disbelief and are thinking, “But, weren’t you afraid of hurting your family and friends?” No, I really wasn’t. Why? Because I was so sick that nothing felt real to me. I was hallucinating and paranoid, I frequently had out-of-body type experiences (there were times when I felt like I was standing outside my own body, watching me move around, talk to people, do things), and I was utterly convinced that people hated me and that I was making their lives worse by being around … if they were even real.

So, to sum it up: I wasn’t being selfish. I was sick. I barely knew what was real and what my mind was inventing. I was exhausted and in constant pain. I wasn’t thinking straight because I wasn’t capable of thinking straight. The only way I was able to overcome it all was to give the medication time to work and to continue with therapy. The person I am now is very different from the person I was then. I can think clearly now. And I was lucky.

But a lot of people aren’t so lucky. They don’t or can’t get the help they need. Many go through their whole lives not realizing that they have a mental illness. Most of those who suffer and kill themselves feel as though they have no hope and no support; they’re afraid to go to their friends and family for help because they’ll be told to, “Suck it up,” “It’s hard for everyone,” “Don’t be ridiculous,” “Yeah right,” “Are you crazy?”, “That’s so selfish of you,” “I know people who are worse off than you are, and they wouldn’t kill themselves,” and, as I was repeatedly told, “Go take a nap.” That’s not support, that’s dismissal and shaming of feelings. That’s why when somebody finally hits that breaking point and does kill themselves, everybody reacts in shock, saying that they had no idea that this person would do such a thing … they likely didn’t know because this person was too scared to tell them, knowing how they’d react.

Am I blaming anybody? No, but I think it’s time for an attitude shift towards mental illness and suicide. The public at large likes to say that mental illness is nobody’s fault, but they still act like it is. The people who don’t suffer can’t empathize because they don’t what it’s like. I’ve had people tell me that they get a little depressed sometimes, but it’s no big deal. I tell them that they’re healthy people who get a little depressed sometimes because something isn’t going right for them, but people like me get depressed because our bodies can’t produce the chemicals needed to maintain a stable outlook. We don’t get sad because we had a bad day, we get sad because we have an illness, because we have intense emotional trauma and PTSD, because we have injuries and diseases that cause such physical pain that it impacts every aspect of our lives, and we can’t get away from it. We can’t just stop “thinking” about it, or “distract” ourselves, or “take a nap” or go to “a couple of therapy sessions,” WE CANNOT JUST TURN IT OFF.

And that’s why people kill themselves. They may work hard and put on a good show, but beneath that veneer they are in so much emotional, physical, mental pain that they feel that there is no way out—save for one.

This is not easy for me to talk about, but I get so goddamned angry when someone like Robin Williams, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain or anyone else commits suicide after years of illness and people say, “They’re such a coward. They took the easy way out. They’re so selfish.” You don’t understand it. They’re not cowards. It’s not the easy way out. They’re sick.

So stop saying that suicide is selfish. Stop being dismissive of people’s agony. Stop sneering at mental illness. Start helping people. Show compassion. Listen. Support.

Oh, and P.S.: for those of you who say that that suicide is a sin, the Catholic Church does not recognize suicide as a result of mental illness a sin, but they don’t broadcast it because they don’t want mentally ill people killing themselves if that’s the only thing that’s stopping them. Look it up or ask a priest if you don’t believe me.

If you are thinking about suicide or know someone who is and need help, please call or go to:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Dial 988


Call 1-800-273-8255

Available 24 hours every day


The American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

It Gets Better Project

For LGBTQ youth

The JED Foundation

JULY 26, 2022: Martina Maseko from Bicycle Health reached out to me and asked if I could help spread the word about Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and suicide. I plan on doing a Thought Thursday blog about it in the near future, but until then, if you are struggling with opioid use and feelings of suicide, or are concerned about someone who is addicted to opioids and is acting suicidal, please visit:

From the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) webpage of suicide prevention:

Signs and Symptoms

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves

  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live

  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun

  • Talking about great guilt or shame

  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)

  • Talking about being a burden to others

  • Using alcohol or drugs more often

  • Acting anxious or agitated

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits

  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast

  • Talking or thinking about death often

  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy

  • Giving away important possessions

  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

Thought Thursday: October is National Depression Awareness Month; My Story

Thought Thursday: October is National Depression Awareness Month; My Story

October 5, 2017


Kara Newcastle

Among many other things, October is also National Depression Education and Awareness Month. Most people don’t know that because we get caught up in Halloween and breast cancer awareness, and it’s really too bad; about 3.3 million Americans over the age of 18 are affected by depression and other depression-related illnesses.

I should know. I’m bipolar. I was diagnosed when I was fifteen, but looking back I’ve realized that it’s affected me my entire life. I can remember falling into deep depressions back in first and second grade. I remember being severely depressed at least one solid week every year, but then being fantastically happy the following week. I didn’t know what “depression” was back then … my teacher once referred to students being “burned out,” and when I heard that I was so relieved, because now I had a name to go with what I was feeling.

I was burned out.

No. I wasn’t.

By September 1998, I had gone through a few health classes and had learned about depression, but never thought that what I went through was actually that. I began high school that year, and within about a week and a half, I became depressed. I remember feeling it start to build up, like an entity looming over me … and I actually thought, “I wish it would just start already … in a week I’ll feel so much better.”

I think it was the very next day the depression hit like a hammer, and I was actually comforted; okay, so a week of sadness, listlessness, irritability, body aches, sleeplessness and confusion, and then I’ll be golden. Let’s just get through this week, and everything will be better.

The week came and went. And so did the next week.

I didn’t improve.

Another week passed. Then another.

I came home every day, sat in my room and cried for about thirty minutes, and didn’t know why; there was no reason to be feeling so sad. School wasn’t fun, but nothing bad was going on. I thought maybe my sleep schedule was just too screwed up—I had to get up extra early to get the bus, and I wasn’t sleeping well at night … maybe all I needed was some rest.

A few more days of this and I really started to wonder if I could have depression. At that time, it didn’t really make any sense that I would be. I was stressed out; I was struggling in my math class, I had an allergic reaction that caused nine fingernails to completely fall off, I wasn’t sleeping well, boys were harassing me at school, people I thought were my friends weren’t paying attention to me anymore … People with depression were suicidal. I wasn’t suicidal. They cried all the time. I only cried once in a while. People who were depressed had a reason to be depressed. That’s what school taught me.

No, I wasn’t depressed … I just needed sleep and more time to adjust.

One day I went to my guidance counselor to tell her that there was a large group of boys that were regularly harassing me, my friends, and other girls in my grade. She kind of cocked her head at me and asked me if I was okay, if I was feeling depressed. I became angry, thinking that she was just trying to distract me, maybe get me to think that I was being unreasonable (I had several people in my life that tried to gaslight me like this, so I naturally assumed she was doing the same.) To my disbelief, I began crying—she hadn’t said anything to get me that mad, so why was I suddenly so upset? I calmed myself down and left.

The next day the school psychologist came to my class and asked to see me and, seeing as how it was math (math that my father the architect couldn’t even understand), I was more than happy to leave, even if I thought this lady was just trying to find problems that weren’t there. We went up to her office and talked for a while. I became extremely emotional, and, concerned, the psychologist said that this wasn’t a normal response for a healthy teenager. She met with me a few more times, introduced me to the other psychologist, had me talk with him for a while, and then they both suggested that I take an emotional wellness test.

What a weird test … multiple-choice, fill in the circled letter, with questions worded in such a way that I thought they were trying to trick me. It had questions like, “I like fast motorcycles,” and “Superman is a real person.” I didn’t see how this could tell them anything, but I answered truthfully (I was afraid that if I just filled in any old thing they’d think I was psychotic).

A few days later the test came back.

I had depression.

They set up a meeting for me with a psychologist in the city. I dug my heels in, initially refusing to go (I was not depressed!), but relented, only to get it over with. I was angry when he agreed that I was depressed, and wanted me to see one of his therapists.

I thought about it, then decided to go; okay, so maybe I wasn’t feeling well … if nothing else, I can complain to a stranger for an hour about things I couldn’t possibly talk about with my parents or friends.

So, I started seeing my therapist. She had me go to my doctor to rule out any physical causes for my depression, and when I came back otherwise healthy, she started me on the first of many medicines.

That’s when the realization fully struck me.


It’s a long and winding tale from there, something I won’t get into in this particular blog. I just wanted to start by writing something that everybody can see and maybe learn something from. You see, back then, I was what a lot of people are now: uneducated about depression, and resentful of the suggestion. To me back then, to a lot of people even now, depression was some kind of weakness, a flaw, something that only those with serious problems in their lives had. I had no idea that depression could be caused by chemical imbalance. I had no idea that I didn’t need a reason to be sick … it was a long time before I realized that depression is not some kind of inconvenience like a cold; it’s a major illness. I do know that I was afraid of what people would think of me. I know that I was scared of being put in “the nuthouse” …

But then, I found that being so depressed, so sick that you can’t get out of bed, that you feel irresistibly driven to harm yourself, that you feel like you’re going insane and have no control over your life and that maybe you never will, THAT IS MUCH SCARIER THAN ADMITTING THAT YOU ARE ILL.

I can’t help but think that when I was a kid, if we had gotten better education about depression and other mental illnesses, if my family had been upfront with me about our history of bipolar disorder, if society at large would stop treating it like a dirty secret, then I might have gotten help sooner. I might have had an easier time of it. Millions of people wouldn’t have to be suffering right now. That’s why now I’m open about my bipolar disorder, because I don’t want anyone to languish anymore.

So, bottom line: don’t hesitate, don’t fear. If you think you or a friend or relative may be depressed, get help. Get educated. Go to a hospital, get a therapist, a social worker, look at sites like the National Association of Mental Illness ( and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America ( Don’t wait; being on medication and therapy and alive is much better than being incapacitated by misery or death.