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Surviving Suicide at Age 12

It is a cold, cloudy Sunday in 1988. The sun momentarily breaks through the clouds only to be quickly hidden again.  The atmosphere is drab and dull, a greyness envelops everything, including my mood. I feel abandoned.  I feel threatened.  I feel unsafe.  The “wolves” are closing in and I’m surrounded, like helpless cornered prey. They’ve tasted my blood and are anticipating the taste of my flesh.

Another weekend is almost over and I’m dreading the next day because it’s a school day. ​My parents are at the factory, trying to save their business, so I’m on my own, as usual.  I can’t concentrate on my homework. I don’t know why I even bother trying.


For months, I’ve been living with failing school grades. I’m also having anxiety attacks, but I'm doing my best to conceal them.  I don’t want anyone to know, because it only encourages their behaviour towards me. Their campaign of bullying me at every available opportunity is working for them. They are fellow students, aided and abetted by the inaction of apathetic teachers. When I’m alone, I’m consumed by what they’ve done to me.  It’s an endless cycle; nasty comments  -  ridicule  -  vicious ‘pranks’  -  physical violence  -  then back to the nasty comments again.  It won’t resolve itself and I don’t know how to stop it.


It doesn’t help that a girl I’d always had great affection for has befriended one of my bullies, probably spending all of her free time with him.  She’s blissfully unaware that she is leaving me with a broken heart.

My parents are oblivious to my feelings.  They see only what is right in front of them, unable to get to the bottom of my lacklustre performance at school.  Occasionally, when they’re home, which is not often these days, they blast into my room, ordering me to lift my game.  Telling me that if I don’t, life will be an awful struggle for me.

I’ve lost my physical fitness. I’m isolated. I’m without answers. Every day I carry around this dull pain, the ache of depression, though I don’t yet know the name for it.  Whatever it is, it’s relentless.  Each day worse than the one before.

Procrastination is my only drug and it is losing its potency.


There is no one to ask for answers. Certainly no one I can trust or connect with, not even my parents. There are no books to read that offer me any hope. No texts or guides to give me a plan of action. I looked. My only friend is as distant as the happy memories of my early childhood.

What can I do?


Over the course of minutes, it dawns on me what must happen. The steps become apparent to me and I know, with startling clarity, exactly what I should do next. First, I write a letter, pointing the finger of blame at certain individuals, the most brutal and unrelenting of the squad of bullies who have succeeded in making my life utterly miserable.  I enumerate the reasons for my next course of action.

As I make my way along the corridor of our hallway to the rumpus room, I feel numb.  Reaching Dad’s room, my head begins to throb and spin. I am resolute.  I gather the remains of my courage and break into my Dad’s gun safe.  I reach for a cartridge, put it in the barrel and sit down on the sofa. My head seems to throb more and more with each passing moment.  My heartbeat fills my eardrums.  Fleetingly, I realise that I am breaking every rule about safe gun ownership in the book, then just as fleetingly, I realise that I don’t care.

For moments I debate how best to aim the barrel at my skull. Even though I know I’m going to pull the trigger, I want to, need to be in control of the moment. No flinching. If all this fails, I don’t want to be left a vegetable.  In the back of my mind is the thought that I really don’t want to do this.  It plays like a soft drumbeat on a never-ending soundtrack. It is over-ridden by my belief that it makes sense to end it all.

I am standing on the precipice of forever. In front of me is the immediate reality that I can either jump or walk away.

In my book, ReWrite The Rules! Turn Your Life Around From Victim To Victorious, I detail my internal dialog and what happened next on that precipice.  What led me to walk away.  How I hit the reset button on my life.  How I rebuilt it, one practical step at a time.

My fellow life coaching students encouraged me to write the book, in the hope that I could reach out to children, teenagers and adults who had found themselves in a similar situation. In telling my very personal story, I hoped to inspire others to look for solutions, both within themselves and among their friends, family and others working in the field of mental health.  In the depths of our personal darkness and despair, it’s easy to forget that we live in an enlightened world, full of resources to help us through any troubles, conflicts or traumas we encounter.  All it takes is one small effort on our part to find a reason, big or small, that leads us away from the edge of our own precipices.

The tragedy that I spell out in the opening pages of my book, is that close to one million people die by suicide each year and it is believed that twenty-five times that number attempt to kill themselves.  As a person who has survived one suicide attempt and in my  later teenage years, repeatedly had thoughts of trying it again, I have a personal understanding of the fear of stigma and judgement that prevents many of us reaching out for help. Rather than reaching out to mental health professionals, many of us avoid taking any positive action. We fear that dreadful feeling of being judged.  This feeling is like a hand jumping up out of the ground, grabbing us by the ankle, hobbling us as we contemplate whether to take that first step.  How do we overcome the fear?  How do we reach out to save ourselves?

This was the problem I was faced with. I was too frightened of judgement to reach out for help, but if one was available, I would have reached out for a book instead. This is the main reason why I chose to write ‘Re-Write the Rules!’  It offers simple strategies to follow, to help you design your ideal life and create the life you want to live. This book does not judge you. It simply represents a possible avenue to pursue, to encourage you to take that first step away from the precipice, away from despair, and then it helps you take another. 


It offers you a safe way out when you thought all doors were closed to you.

Did you know that the highest average age for suicide, worldwide, is between 15-49 years of age?

​This is the raw, cold, hard truth measured in statistics.

The costs caused by a death from suicide go way beyond funeral expenses.  It can trigger anxiety and trauma, causing depression, guilt and powerlessness for those family members and friends closest to the victim.  These symptoms can and often do last for many years.  Let us not dismiss the immense contribution one life, shortened by suicide, could have made to our society.  Each and every life has the potential to change our world for the better in all sorts of ways, small and large.  Why wouldn’t we want to save it?

Instead of focusing this article on the misery and pain of those who did not survive, I offer my own personal story of how I stopped short of taking one final leap from that precipice to oblivion.

My story is accessible in hard copy and eBook format and I encourage parents and guardians to read it and share it among family and friends.

David Gillman is a Master Life Coach, author and public speaker. For more information on his book and where to purchase it, visit his website at;

David Gillman

The Mindset Mechanic

Author of 'ReWrite The Rules!' Turn Your Life Around From Victim To Victorious

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