“I was exhausted and sick [of] feeling that way.”
Content warning: This video and article contain descriptions of suicidal ideation.
In 2017, about 17.3 million adults in the United States experienced at least one episode of major depressive disorder, or about 7.1 percent of the adult population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. What’s more concerning, however, is that about 35 percent of people who experience a depressive episode do not receive any treatment.
This can happen for a number or reasons, such as believing things aren’t “bad enough” for them to see a therapist, perceiving stigma around mental health care, or being unable to afford or access mental health care. As a result, many people “tough it out” for as long as they can and do not seek treatment until they believe they’ve hit “rock bottom.”
This was the case with Tim O’Brien, who lives with depression and suicidal ideation and has survived several suicide attempts. For years, O’Brien “white-knuckled” through his pain and used alcohol to numb the thoughts in his head. (Learn more about Tim’s experience with mental illness here.)
But that changed after O’Brien’s final suicide attempt, in which he ended up on lockdown in a psychiatric ward. He spent two weeks in that facility under continuous observation. “I wasn’t allowed to leave until we really had a solid game plan as far as what I’d be doing going forward, and where I’d be going,” he says.
This was a wakeup call for O’Brien. “I was exhausted and sick of being drunk, and sick of feeling that way, of just wanting to be dead any moment that I wasn’t unconscious,” he says.
In the last year, O’Brien began therapy for the first time. “For me, personally, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, has been a really great method of dealing with [the] suicidal ideation,” he says.
CBT is a subtype of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying negative thought patterns and learning how to respond in healthy ways. It can be particularly helpful for people with suicidal ideation by helping them find alternative ways to react to these thoughts and urges.
“You know, I’d like to stop having those thoughts, but in the meantime, I’m very happy to be able to handle them,” says O’Brien. He describes how he can now “look at” negative thoughts as they come to them. “ I used to just drink until I couldn’t think that thought anymore. That was how I got away from it.
And now I can sit with it.”
Even though O’Brien is doing better, he knows that maintaining his mental health is a long-term game, and he plans to continue therapy for an “indefinite amount of time.” Learn more about treatment for depression here.
00:00:00.500 --> 00:00:02.132
(somber piano music)
00:00:02.133 --> 00:00:05.232
I was exhausted and sick of being drunk,
00:00:05.233 --> 00:00:08.832
and sick of feeling that way, of just wanting to be dead
00:00:08.833 --> 00:00:12.899
any moment that I wasn't unconscious.
00:00:12.900 --> 00:00:16.666
So like up until that point, the solution to me was to just kill myself
00:00:16.667 --> 00:00:20.499
so that I wouldn't feel that way anymore because that's the, you know,
00:00:20.500 --> 00:00:23.999
the most absolute way to stop feeling any pain.
00:00:24.000 --> 00:00:28.666
I guess like the culminating incident would be
00:00:28.667 --> 00:00:31.532
a suicide attempt that was in front of friends of mine
00:00:31.533 --> 00:00:35.066
and so I ended up at a psychiatric facility
00:00:35.067 --> 00:00:37.366
at Interfaith Hospital in Brooklyn.
00:00:37.367 --> 00:00:41.666
(somber piano music)
00:00:41.667 --> 00:00:47.166
To see him in a lockdown psychiatric ward was devastating for us.
00:00:47.167 --> 00:00:51.999
To have to go through two locked doors in order to see him.
00:00:52.000 --> 00:00:54.566
And to understand that, you know, they wanted to ensure
00:00:54.567 --> 00:00:58.666
that once he was there that Tim was gonna be safe,
00:00:58.667 --> 00:01:04.632
and not inflict a suicide attempt the moment he walked out the door.
00:01:04.633 --> 00:01:06.899
For the first few days I was there, I was on one-to-one,
00:01:06.900 --> 00:01:09.599
which meant that there was a person observing me
00:01:09.600 --> 00:01:12.666
every moment of my time that I was there.
00:01:12.667 --> 00:01:16.732
Two weeks basically of being in that facility,
00:01:16.733 --> 00:01:19.699
and I wasn't allowed to leave until we really had a solid game plan
00:01:19.700 --> 00:01:25.066
as far as what I'd be doing going forward, and where I'd be going.
00:01:25.067 --> 00:01:27.099
(dog barking in distance)
00:01:27.100 --> 00:01:32.499
I haven't seriously been into therapy until now in this last year,
00:01:32.500 --> 00:01:36.466
and it's been extremely helpful.
00:01:36.467 --> 00:01:40.499
For me, personally, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT,
00:01:40.500 --> 00:01:43.366
has been a really great method of dealing with
00:01:43.367 --> 00:01:45.999
especially the suicidal ideation.
00:01:46.000 --> 00:01:47.666
It's going to be an ongoing thing.
00:01:47.667 --> 00:01:50.399
It's, you know, it's what I'll be going to therapy for
00:01:50.400 --> 00:01:53.766
for an indefinite amount of time,
00:01:53.767 --> 00:01:56.766
and it's something that, yeah,
00:01:56.767 --> 00:02:00.032
I constantly kind of have to keep in check.
00:02:00.033 --> 00:02:03.332
You know, I'd like to stop having those thoughts,
00:02:03.333 --> 00:02:08.166
but in the meantime, I'm very happy to be able to handle them
00:02:08.167 --> 00:02:14.566
and look at them and see, and let that negative thought come to me,
00:02:14.567 --> 00:02:16.666
and look at it, and not, you know,
00:02:16.667 --> 00:02:21.532
I used to just drink until I couldn't think that thought anymore.
00:02:21.533 --> 00:02:24.199
That was how I got away from it.
00:02:24.200 --> 00:02:28.166
And now I can sit with it, next to a fireplace,
00:02:28.167 --> 00:02:35.266
and have a conversation and figure out why is it sitting here next to me.
00:02:35.267 --> 00:02:48.967
Major depression. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health. (Accessed on April 9, 2020 at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml.)