For those struggling with their mental health, suicide can sometimes feel like the only option. But help is only a phone call away—and Operation Lifesaver’s (OL’s) new suicide-prevention public-awareness campaign is reminding Canadians of that.
The Today is Better campaign consists of 11 poignant and hopeful videos (six English and five French) featuring the personal stories of Canadians who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts, but found help. Paul Yu is one of those survivors. The Toronto man first started having suicidal thoughts when he was just 11 years old. He’s a recovering alcoholic who struggles with PTSD and ADHD. In 2011, he planned to take his own life but was stopped by a friend. Paul is proof that life can get better—if you ask for help. Here’s part of his story:
What makes an 11-year-old think about taking his own life?
It kind of just popped in my head and after a while the urge to kill myself started getting stronger and stronger. I think even at 11 and 12, I felt a lot of pressure to act a certain way and I just felt like I didn't fit that mold. Being of Korean background, there were certain expectations in terms of school, my behaviour and everything else. I also have ADHD, so I felt like I wasn't ever really measuring up, especially because my ADHD at that time was undiagnosed. I was also kind of socially awkward, so I never really felt like I fit in.
How did that impact how you viewed yourself as you got older?
I really felt like I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing as an adult. My finances weren't good because with ADHD you have very low impulse control, so I would spend money on a lot of different things—and also on drinking. I felt like I wasn't measuring up career-wise, so the inner voices in my head started really manifesting themselves. I’d always beat myself up rather than project my negativity outwards, especially when I was drinking. I would stand in front of the mirror and I would call myself “stupid” and a “dumb ass” and stuff like that. I ended up becoming my own worst tormentor and abuser.
Can you describe the place you were in when you came up with the plan to take your own life?
For me, it was like darkness and there was this feeling of dread, panic, just kind of surrounding me. But it's nonstop. There's no relief. I was always feeling like there was danger and constant pain inside. Really that's the big part, just the constant pain. There was very little hope for me to improve my situation, and you just see yourself at the bottom of the sandpit and no matter how much you try to dig yourself out, you just keep sliding further and further in. So, suicide really seemed like the only option to me that made sense.
When I was in recovery, somebody mentioned something that has always stuck with and it was that people think about suicide not because they want to die, but because they just find it too painful to live. That really resonated with me because that's really what it was. I just needed to escape, and that's the only way I could see how.
What part did reaching out play in the fact that you're here today?
If I didn't get the help I needed, I definitely wouldn't be here today, because I started learning how to deal with these emotions that I had. Also, group therapy was great for me because you get to hear other people's stories and you can be inspired by them. But also, at the same time you realize that you're not alone. There are all these other people that have these issues. They could be from different walks of life and have different experiences, but in the end, it's the same thing.
How does the Paul today, compare to the Paul of 10 years ago?
I actually have hope now. I'm working now in a field that I love and I can say that there's a lot of times I am happy. I still have my struggles. I'm still growing from my past and the things that have happened, but at the same time there's not this overbearing cloud around me. I can see a future for myself and I'm very content right now with where I am.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, a trained responder is ready to listen. Call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566, anytime day or night. And to hear stories of real people who’ve reached out for help, visit todayisbetter.ca.