News Detail

Marsha Linehan and Ursula Whiteside are mentioned in this Washington Post article about suicide prevention.

Once they hid their stories. But now, survivors of suicide are ‘coming out’ to combat a national crisis.

Gregg Loomis, an insurance salesman from New York, becomes emotional while listening to a speaker at a June rally for suicide prevention in the District. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post) By William Wan July 29

For many years, Gregg Loomis hid the attempts from others. He worried about the effect on his insurance business. He had seen people’s view of him change once they found out. He had lost friends that way.

So two days before his trip to Capitol Hill, Loomis sat in his office in a New York City suburb, agonizing over what he might say. How do you explain to total strangers the most painful, private moments of your life — the moments you tried to end it.

A suicide prevention group had sent notes to him and other volunteers to prepare for the trip. He wouldn’t be talking with actual lawmakers, but with their legislative aides instead. He’d have 10 minutes, 15 at most, to tell his story and plead for funding and legislation.

“That’s not a lot of time,” a worried Loomis, 61, said as he went over the notes.

Until recently, the suicide prevention movement has been largely driven by family and friends of those who died. But in recent years — as suicide rates have climbed to historic levels — survivors of suicide attempts have been “coming out,” determined to combat the problem even if it means speaking out about their own, often-hidden pasts.

Their emergence in unprecedented numbers in the past five years has transformed the suicide prevention world. Clinicians who once hid their own attempts for fear of having their objectivity and work questioned have started revealing their history to peers. Researchers trying to understand suicide, who previously focused on post-mortem data and environmental factors, are starting to embrace the relatively new idea of reaching out to people who experienced it directly. And advocates are harnessing those voices to raise awareness of suicide as a public health issue and win sorely needed funding and attention.

The new momentum comes at a time when suicides in America have hit their highest levels since World War II...

“Survivors were seen as people to be studied, rather than partnered with,” said Ursula Whiteside , a researcher with the University of Washington. “It was an ‘us and them’ approach. The ‘us’ were people helping and the ‘them’ were people who needed help.”

Read the entire article here .