When police called Janet MacDonald about her 20-year-old daughter Lisa’s disappearance eight years ago, there was a feeling of initial relief.
After all, police had just found Lisa MacDonald after she’d been lost in the woods for a few hours and that was certainly good news.
But there was more to this story. A police officer outlined what had happened during that dark time.
“Then he told me there had been a very serious suicide attempt, which he described as “by a lethal means.”
It’s the third sentence of Janet MacDonald’s e-book, “Send Suicide Packing: There’s Something We Can All Do to Help,” about her family’s journey into helping their daughter through her journey with mental illness. Along the way, MacDonald, a registered nurse who is currently based in Halifax as a home care co-ordinator, decided she would use the experience to write a book so others going through similar circumstances would have a guide to help them cope and hopefully get them to the next step of their recovery.
Despite having a medical background and a close family, it was hard for the mother of four to believe her daughter wouldn’t come to her for help and that she hadn’t even noticed anything wrong. But her experience is not that uncommon and can be explained by the nature of the illness.
“I’m a nurse and I ask people in my job — 'Do you have suicidal thoughts,'” said MacDonald, an Inverness native who lived in Sydney during this time. “And she (Lisa) for six years saw a psychologist and a psychiatrist and she never once verbalized that to anybody. And when you read her part in the book, she didn’t see anybody like her so nobody wants to be that weirdo.
“The silence is just killing people, it really is.” — Janet MacDonald, author
“It’s like the stigma is killing us.”
In addition to stigma which stops people from talking about it, mental illness can make a person believe there’s no help for them. MacDonald said she wanted to help families on what can be a difficult journey, and including her daughter’s story gives readers a view as to what she was thinking during that time.
“She talks about how she became a good actress, which is like you can play the part,” says MacDonald. “We knew she had depression, we knew she was on medication, we knew she went to a counsellor — in a fact, a month before, she had to get a new therapist. We asked her if she had suicidal thoughts and she said 'No.' (For them) it’s such an embarrassment and such a shame. And then the disease is telling you nobody can help you, so it’s compounded.”
MacDonald has worked on the book since Christmas and it will be released onto amazon.ca in September as an e-book. It’s available here for sale as a Kindle release.
“I wanted a book that the average person can pick up and it’s not scientific, it’s not mumbo-jumbo — it’s written in everyday language — maybe use a little storytelling because I find some people learn better that way. I didn’t want to make it too long — just long enough and there’s some supports in the back of the book, resources and stuff.”
She hopes the book will get people talking about suicide prevention and getting people to seek help. Life does get better but when it seems overwhelming, she recommends people calling the mental health crisis line in Nova Scotia, which is available 24 hours a day at 1-888-429-8167. MacDonald says people need to talk about a difficult issue before it’s too late.
“The silence is just killing people, it really is.”
- Some of the suicide warning signs that mean someone may be at risk include:
- Talking about wanting to die, or being preoccupied with death
- Talking about feelings of hopelessness or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain https://kidshelpphone.ca/
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Behaving recklessly, such as driving dangerously
- Seeking out lethal means
- Self-loathing, self-hatred
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Displaying extreme moods
- Getting affairs in order.
From “Send Suicide Packing,” by Janet MacDonald.
If you or a loved one is experiencing anything like the above, contact the mental health crisis line in Nova Scotia, which is available 24 hours a day at 1-888-429-8167.
Anywhere in Canada, you can contact:
Crisis Services Canada
· Text: 45645
· Chat: crisisservicescanada.ca