Mental Illness, Suicide, Divorce – and Self Help

Posted on Sep 2, 2022 by Katie Carter

One of the things that I find the most interesting about suicide, and the people who either commit it or don’t, is that it’s often a question of opportunity.

For someone like, say, Sylvia Plath, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning after sticking her head in the oven, it was an opportunity. In that time, in the UK, a lot of people (women in particular) were dying by suicide in that manner. In the 1930s and 1940s – though in some places change happened a bit slower – this mostly stopped, because of the switch from coal gas to natural gas.

What happened to the suicide rates, you might ask? Well, they dropped dramatically, which seems to indicate that people who suffer from depression and/or are suicidal are only suicidal at a particularly low point. They may seize upon an opportunity – especially if its an ‘easy’ opportunity – but if you remove the opportunity, they won’t necessarily seek out suicide by other means.

That suggests, to me at least (though, admittedly, I’m no doctor) that most people, even suffering under extraordinary amounts of stress, don’t really want to die. Maybe in their more terrifying, isolated, depressive moments they do – and can even act on that impulse – but, at their core, in their more rational moments (even in despair), they really don’t want to actually die.

I think Meghan Markle said it in her Oprah interview, though I may be paraphrasing a bit – she didn’t want to be alive anymore. That’s not really the same thing as actually wanting to die, or taking actual steps to make her death happen. It was, mostly, a cry for help.

People do take their own lives, of course. In a moment of weakness, we all do and say things that are ultimately harmful to ourselves. It can sometimes go too far.

I’m not a doctor. I’m just a lawyer. But I do represent women exclusively in divorce and custody cases and, let’s be honest, those are easily some of the most stressful things that can happen to a woman in her lifetime.

Not only on the divorce and custody side, but life is hard, too. It sort of feels like we’re maybe coming out of the older side after 2+ years living in a pandemic, which was a surreal enough experience in and of itself. When you combine it with school shootings, formula shortages, a totally out of whack housing market, and whatever else might be going on in your own personal life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

So many of us struggle with mental illness! Depression and anxiety are at least as common as the cold, especially for women, with the multitude of personal and professional pressures we endure on a day to day basis. I don’t mean to wax too poetic on the pop culture events of the day, but even the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard drama is a really toxic commentary on the state of our mental health. Why don’t we believe, support, and encourage women? What happens to women – actual women, not celebrities – who are suffering at the hands of an abusive partner and who hear the way that other women have treated Amber Heard? Do they feel that they won’t be believed or supported? Worse, are they afraid they’ll be abused still further?

All of these things are framing part of our consciousness, whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s a damaging and confusing time, and it’s easy to feel that it has all become too much.

I hope you’ll get the help that you need. I write this today in the hopes that someone in need will see it (or remember it) at a moment when it matters. That she’ll tell herself, “These are bad, scary thoughts, but this too will pass.” That she’ll be able to keep perspective and remember that, however bad it feels, it’s a moment that will pass. This is fleeting – you’ll be back to a better, healthier, place if you keep your head up.

Take steps to put yourself in a healthier position, too.

Enlist the support of a mental health professional. Whether you’re looking for therapy or some pharmaceutical intervention – or a combination of the two – you need to get that ball rolling. Sometimes, with medicines for anxiety and depression, it takes a little bit to build up in your system. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll start feeling better. Make sure to ask about side effects, too, so that the rational side of your brain can help you through the fog in the meantime.

If you need immediate assistance, reach out. Virginia has enacted a new mental health support line, similar to 911, that you can dial in times of difficulty. By dialing 988, you can get help immediately.

If your upcoming (or ongoing) divorce and/or custody case is causing some (or all) of your depression, anxiety, mental illness, or generally suicidal thoughts, I can’t provide medical help – but I can help link you to information that, ultimately, I believe will be really helpful for you.

Knowledge is power, and knowing what to expect and how the law works will help you keep a cool head. It’s pretty common for a soon-to-be ex to use manipulation tactics to help convince his partner why all the things she fears the most are certain to happen – even if it’s absolutely, completely 100% false.
This is something I’ve noticed – men are inclined to lie to their spouses to scare them, and women are inclined to just believe them. I think it’s because it speaks to such a deep-rooted fear, but it’s also something that you need to be aware of and take active steps to stop from falling into this trap. Don’t listen to someone whose best interests are literally the exact opposite of yours! Listen to someone – maybe us! – who can tell you what to expect from your divorce or custody case in a clear, unbiased (or, at least, as unbiased as we can be while at the same time representing women exclusively) way so that you can get the information you need to make important decisions about your future.

It’s easy to feel despair or overwhelm or panic, especially at difficult moments. But by getting the information and the help you need (medical, therapeutic, pharmaceutical, whatever), you’ll move forward and even get a glimpse of what the future can offer you.

For more information, to request a copy of our divorce book, or to schedule a consultation, visit our website or give us a call at 757-425-5200.