Have you ever tried to kill yourself? Would you like to tell your story for a book?
The aim of the book is simply to tell the stories. People who are depressed and thinking of suicide will benefit from the stories, as will those who do not understand why people would want to kill themselves.
I will listen to your story via telephone or Skype and record it. Then I will transcribe it and make it into a readable account, using your words. You will look at the account and approve it or suggest changes. The book will consist largely of such accounts—short autobiographies, or life stories.
I want to hear about what led up to your suicide attempt and how you have dealt with life afterwards. You will need from thirty minutes to an hour to give a relatively full account.
I will not reveal your identity. Your name will not appear in the book. Identifying information in your story will be changed to protect your identity. You retain the right to approve your story before the book goes to a publisher. I will give this confidentially pledge to you in writing and sign it.
Write me. I will write you back. If you want to proceed, we will set a time to talk via telephone or Skype.
About the editor:
I am a college professor. I did a similar book about hoboes: One More Train to Ride: The Underground World of Modern American Hoboes, published by Indiana University Press in 2003. ( Online here.) I have talked to a number of suicidal people and have worked at a crisis hotline.
Prof. Cliff Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Department of Philosophy, Wheaton College, 501 College Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187
What’s in it for you?
You get to see your story in print. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that it will contribute to reducing the stigma attached to talking about suicide, may help someone who is in the throes of suicidal depression, and will help non-suicidal people understand suicidal people. And if you have never told your whole story to anyone, this is your chance to tell it to someone who will listen attentively and non-judgmentally.
Why am I doing this book?
Years ago a student stopped by my office wanting an extension on an assignment because that morning she had been to the hospital to have her stomach pumped because she had tried to kill herself with pills. I gave the extension, but had no idea what to say to her. So I asked a doctor friend, who said simply, "Listen." When the student came back, I listened. Then I started listening to other students, and after a while I had many more students coming by. To this day I listen, in my office, on the phone, at coffeeshops, in class, at lunch.
Also, I think there should be less stigma about talking about suicide. Some of those I have interviewed so far have mentioned that they could not talk to anyone about what they were feeling.
I like dealing with cosmic issues, and suicide is a cosmic matter, a matter of life and death.
If you have attempted suicide recently, please wait until you are stable before contacting me. If you are in a crisis, visit http://suicidehotlines.com/national.html for a list of phone numbers to call. I am not a counselor. However, I am a listener. If we meet or talk on the phone, I will ask you two questions: What led up to your suicide attempt? What keeps you alive now?
The book will have stories from a variety of people: young, old, middle-aged, female, male, single, married, divorced, black, white, other ethnicities, religious, non-religious, LGBT, straight, former soldier, former homeless. If you are under eighteen, you will need permission from your parents before what you say or write to me can be included in the book.
Here are a few reactions from those whom I have interviewed so far (I have changed their names):
“Thank you very much for what you are working on. It is deeply appreciated.”
“I am excited to see such a book come out because having many different stories in
it will be wonderful for the community to get a grasp of the serious challenges faced
by suicide attempt survivors.” – Randy
“I cannot say how much I appreciate your trying to remove the stigma of talking
about suicide. Thank you for giving some of us the opportunity to tell our stories!”
“The reason I would like to share this part of my life is to try to break the stigma
around suicide, help the readers of your book have an understanding of why some
people take this path, and encourage others who may be contemplating suicide to
find a reason to live.” – Michael
You can read my reactions to the interviews I have already had here.
For the first half page and the last half page of the introduction to the book, click here.
In addition to life stories, the book will contain short sections on various topics. If you would like to contribute to these without being interviewed, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send me a few sentences or a paragraph on one or more of the following questions:
(1) What did it feel like when you were struggling with despair and hopelessness?
(2) What did it feel like when you were in a situation with no way out?
(3) What were you feeling as you were deciding to kill yourself?
(4) What did you feel after you decided to kill yourself?
(5) What were you feeling while you were engaged in the attempt to kill yourself?
(6) What did you feel when you realized you were still alive?
(7) What keeps you alive now?
(8) What do you like most about living?
In addition to these sections, there will be sections on the following topics, to which you may contribute:
Wanting to Die, Wanting to Live
Wouldn’t There Be Fewer Suicides If . . . ?
"Just Get Over It"
How Responsible are You for Trying to Kill Yourself When You Are in a
Struggling with Faith
In the Hospital
What I Would Have Liked for Someone to Say to Me When I Was Suicidal
Click here for answers to questions you may have.
December 21, 2013—I am now done with the book. However, you may still contact me
at email@example.com just in case it turns out that I need more.
A Spanish version of this page is at www.cliffordwilliams.net/suicidio.