Humans of SWFL

Suicide: A Story of Recovery

Roughly 10 years ago, Erica Smalls made an attempt to take her own life. Luckily, Erica’s aunt found her just in time.

“I can’t lie I was a little sad I was still here at first,” Erica shared. “I felt stupid and now everybody knows. So now I have to explain to everybody and go through the emotions of why I tried killed myself.”

When Erica woke up in a hospital room, she made a decision to seek professional help.

Part of her healing included weekly therapy sessions and a tailored medication regimen.

“It’s really a chemical imbalance in your brain,” Erica said. “There’s nothing wrong with needing help or crying out for help. It took me a really long time to figure out it’s okay and it’s okay to not be okay.”

These days, Erica turns to her two young children as a reason to keep on living. She also has a love and passion for food.

Erica recently graduated from Charlotte Technical College with a degree in Culinary Arts. During her graduation ceremony she shared part of her story in a speech titled, ‘Lemonade.’

In her speech, Erica talked about he troubled past as a child, emotional abuse and lack of confidence. All of which were triggers for Erica wanting to end her life when she was 18-years-old.

In 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death in Florida for people between the ages of 25 to 34. And the third leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 to 24.

“It’s difficult to say why someone does this,” Director Behavioral Health Jayme Hodges said.

“There isn’t just one thing, like ‘oh that’s it it’s usually a culminating factor, feeling isolate and alone, feeling like there is no way out, just getting bogged down, they only way to get out of this is to end my life.”  `

The National Institutes of Mental Health listed several risk factors and signs/symptoms of a person thinking about suicide:

  • A history of a mental health condition
  • A physical health condition including chronic pain
  • Experiencing prolonged stressful situations such as harassment/bullying
  • Stressful life event such as divorce, death of a loved one and loss of financial security
  • A family history of suicide
  • A family history of mental health conditions or substance abuse
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Childhood abuse and/or trauma
  • Access to lethal means including firearms in the home
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior including family members, friends and celebrities

Erica attempted to take her life several times before. But now that she’s on a continuous road to recovery, Erica finds herself in an emotionally good place.

To people who are contemplating suicide, Erica suggest they find the help that they need and try to work toward their purpose in life.

“Find your light,” Erica said. “Find your path. Find your happy and just go with it.”

Additional reporting by Allyssa Dickert

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