I witnessed a suicide | Joseph Keogh | TEDxPSUBehrend

I witnessed a suicide | Joseph Keogh | TEDxPSUBehrend

Translator: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven So it’s June 15th, 2016,
a warm summer day. I just graduated high school,
and I’m riding the euphoria of all that comes along
with going away to college. Now, most stories start off with:
“Today was not a normal day.” But not mine. Today was anything from normal,
from sunup to sundown. I cancel plans with my friends. I decide to not go to my favorite
museum with my family. And I wash my car by hand. All of these actions
are really out of the norm for me. For whatever reason, I was home all day. And just after drying up my car, I was in my room, not really doing much, and my little sister Allison comes in. She asks, “Can we go pick up Maddie
from Jason’s house?” I say yes without giving it
a second thought, and within a couple minutes we’re driving. A little backstory on Maddie and Jason. Jason is a junior, goes to my high school, and he’s dating Maddie – a freshman who’s friends with my sister. Now, my sister likes to throw parties
like any other teenager does. So I’ve gotten to know Jason a little bit. And what I’ve learned from watching him is that he is the center
of his social group. He is the one that everyone looks to,
to see what they should be doing, and if they like it or not. Now, I’ve also noticed that he can get angry sometimes
and has a hot temper. When my sister first asked
if we could go pick up Maddie, I said yes pretty quickly. And this was for a couple of reasons. The first was that it’s kind of weird for me to pick up a friend
from a boyfriend’s house. Usually, I just chauffeur for my sister
from house to house. The second was
that I had heard in school about Maddie and Jason having
some relationship problems, and that kind of set an alarm bell off. The third was that my sister
wears her arm on her sleeve, so it’s really easy to tell that she was anxious
about the situation also. So we arrive at Jason’s house, and I park my black sedan
on the right side of the street, opposite from his house. I open the car door and I step out into the warm,
cloudy afternoon Virginia air. And I notice that Maddie’s
sitting on the porch, which is out of place. Normally, my sister’s friends just wait
inside for a text or knock at the door. But Maddie walks across the yard, I open the car door behind mine,
she gets in, and I shut it behind her. Now, at this point, I have to admit that I’m really relieved
that Jason is nowhere to be seen and that there had been
no incident or altercation. So I head back in the car,
buckle my seat belt, close the door and start a three-point turn to head home. The first turn was the left
into Jason’s driveway. I put the car in reverse to back out, and I look up at the house and noticed a figure in the doorway
that wasn’t there before. I recognized him instantly from his red, white
and blue American flag tank top. It’s Jason, and he’s holding a broom
in his hand, it looks like, but as I take a closer look, my heart begins to thump inside my chest as I recognize the metal
and wood as a shotgun. I begin to think about
what’s about to happen. My first thought is that Jason
is just trying to show that he’s more manly than I am. I can’t hurt him. And the second, but more scary, is that he’s going to come out
and show his anger through the firearm. And that’s what I act on. I put the car in reverse
and I back out of the driveway. I stop, and I’m about to head home, and I put the gear shifter in drive, and then park. Chunk, chunk, chunk. Drive for getting away safely, and park for getting out
and trying to talk some sense into Jason. I choose to drive, slowly lift my foot off the brake and feel the car
start to push into my back. I take one last look at the house
to make sure everything’s still okay, and I don’t see Jason anymore. But I see red, white and blue
at about waist level and notice that Jason’s
bent over like this. As I scan my eyes down, I see what looks like a pink mist covering the door
that Jason was standing behind. I’m trying to wrap my brain
about what just happened, and I force myself
to come to the conclusion that what I was seeing
was Jason’s brain matter splattered on the door
and the skylight above. I hear a faint “Joey, something just happened,”
from the backseat, and I realized that I
know something the girls don’t: Jason just shot himself. My first thought is to get the girls away. I put the car in drive
and begin to speed away across one intersection
and maybe even two. I hear rustling from
the backseat and next to me, the girls are starting to panic. There’s rustling in seats,
slamming on windows, so I lock the car to keep them in. I grab the phone and dial 911. The operator picks up
and I have to utter the words: “I’ve just witnessed a suicide,” and chaos immediately erupts
inside the sedan. As I’m trying to relay
the information to the operator, like the address, my name,
and for some reason my birthday, I get a faint look from my sister
with tears in her eyes and asks if Jason is going to be okay. In order to keep myself together
I have to look away. I pull the car over and get out because I cannot keep myself together
inside with those two girls. I know that I have to stay
at least calm and collected to keep them there
and away from that door. I finish relaying the information
to the operator, and they say, “Hang on, the police will be there soon.” And then click. The phone line goes dead.
And the operator hung up. And I’m all alone. I stand outside in the familiar
neighborhood of Vista woods, knowing that I am the only one
that knows what just happened. The whole world is oblivious. A car drives behind me. Someone is mowing their lawn
off to my right, and I hear little kids playing to my left. Everything is normal as far as the rest
of the world is concerned. But I am stuck in a different universe
than the rest of the world. In a movie when something
like this happens, the screen goes dark
and ominous music comes from underneath. But it’s not like that. I was scared, and I couldn’t do anything about it. Now, I tell you that story because today I want to tell you
what it means to experience trauma. Sorry. So, there’s no real book on parenting,
as all parents know. There’s no textbook you can turn to,
to know what to do next. And even if there was
a textbook on parenting, I seriously doubt that any
of the chapter titles would have been “What to do when your child
witnesses a shotgun suicide?” So my parents did the best thing
they could think of and took my sister and me
to a talk therapist in town the very next day. And we set up more sessions
for that summer, and throughout that summer we told her what happened
and our feelings and stuff like that. And it definitely helped,
but it didn’t help where I needed it, which was in my psyche –
if that makes any sense. I’m really into knowing where people are coming from,
in their thoughts, actions, and words. And I subject myself to the same analysis. And over the summer,
I was doing these intrusive thoughts, and what I was coming up with was:
I was milking it. I was fine and didn’t need
any extra attention. And I think a lot of people
go through that. I thought to myself: “This event is in the past Joey;
just move on and get over it.” So I start school here
at Behrend, in the fall, and on the surface everything’s great. But there were these little things
that were happening that showed me
that everything was not great. For instance, I would
be in my dorm room or in a classroom, I would hear kids down the hall laughing, and instantly, I would think
that they were crying. It’s really amazing how much hysterical laughter
and hysterical crying sound the same. I would blank out
into this thousand-yard stare, replaying the event in my head, and would be scared over something moving
or someone touching my shoulder. And finally, I would cry myself to sleep at night,
not a sad or angry cry, just there, staring at the wall
with tears rolling down my face. So I’m a bit of a nerd, and I started researching
what was happening to me. And I learned that your brain talks through the exchanging
of charged particles through neural pathways. And when these pathways get used more, it’s easier for your brain to follow. Now, most people have heard
of “fight or flight,” and what this is, it’s an instinct that happens
when your body feels in danger. Your amygdala, which is the oldest part
of your brain, takes control and tells the rest of your brain
what to do, and your body. Now, if there’s a tiger in front of you, you’re really not going to benefit
that much from thinking: “What am I going to do next? Oh, what’s the tiger going to do next?” It’s a lot more beneficial
for your longevity if you fight the tiger
or run away really fast. And that’s what the amygdala triggers. Now, my brain thought that the right way to act
in a sad or scary situation was to do what my amygdala
said on June 15th – which makes sense; it was just trying to protect me. But what it was actually resulting in was a torrent of emotions
that I had never felt before. Now, despite all this,
I was just telling myself: “Joey, you’re just a freshman. You’re just anxious about this semester
starting to ramp up, and you’re homesick.” You know that part in a movie
where things start to really get bad, this is that part. And the part where they really
started to not get okay were my dreams. I was struggling to sleep
without nightmares and eventually started sleepwalking. And one night, I started sleepwalking, left my dorm room, left my building, and ended up eight miles away from campus, in rainbow flip-flops. (Laughter) I was eventually found by the police,
disoriented and confused. And their first thought was: “Dang, this college freshman
definitely cannot handle his booze.” So they took me to the hospital
and called my parents, and eventually, everyone realized
that I wasn’t drunk or on drugs, but I was having a PTSD breakdown. Now, this sleepwalking incident
was a wake-up call for me and my parents that I needed help, and that I wasn’t okay. And since my dad is a retired marine, we’re well connected
with the military community. And we’re pointed
in the direction of EMDR, which stands for eye movement
desensitization and reprocessing. And it’s a way to help
our brains deal with trauma. So I took a three-week leave of absence
from school to go home to Virginia and start EMDR therapy. The first session
was about an hour and a half, and the therapist went over
all the science of everything, which again I was into. She told me that EMDR
is based on the research of REM sleep, which is rapid eye movement sleep. And what happens during REM sleep,
or what’s theorized at least, is your eyes are moving
back and forth rapidly and randomly, and you’re filing away
all the information from the day. So if you had a stressful day at work, your dreams might have
some relation to that. Now REM sleep is almost like
the visualization of what’s happening, and those come out as dreams. What was happening when I was dreaming was I was seeing June 15th
in a different light. Your brain during REM sleep is moving everything
from your short-term to your long-term. And it kind of reads what it is, labels it
and then sends it away for filing. It isn’t always come across
exactly in your dreams. What was happening in my dreams was I was replaying the event
over and over and over again because my brain couldn’t file it. It just kept trying to refile and refile. But it just wasn’t able to. Now, the way a typical
EMDR session would go is the therapist would hold their fingers
about six to 12 inches away from my face and swipe from my left peripheral
to my right peripheral, back and forth. And they call this bilateral stimulation because it stimulates
both hemispheres of your brain. She would tell me to put myself
back into June 15th, back into the sedan, and let her know what I was feeling
and what was happening. And when I came to a part
where I was upset or didn’t really understand
what was happening or angry, she would input a sentence or two,
and then we would swipe on that. And now I kind of cement
that thinking into my head. There were two really big problems
that I was having with June 15th. The first was that I felt responsible
for what the girls had seen. If you remember I turned left, but there’s a way to get home straight. And I thought that because I turned left that that was the reason
the girls saw what happened, that I was the reason they saw it. If I would have gone straight,
they would be fine. The second was that I felt like
I could have helped Jason. I don’t know what I could have done, but I just wish I would have done
something better for him. What EMDR helped me do was realize
that I could have done nothing better, and that situation went the way
it was going to happen. With traditional talk therapy, you can say: “Oh, I’m fine;
it wasn’t my fault; I’m okay.” But you can lie; you can lie to the therapist,
and you can lie to yourself. What EMDR does is it really forces you to believe
what you’re saying and thinking. Now, one way to show this
is when I’ve been researching EMDR, I found that people would start crying
out of nowhere, during the swiping. And I thought, “No, no,
that doesn’t happen to me.” It happens to me. (Laughter) We would be sitting there
swiping back and forth, and I would just
start crying uncontrollably. It was like someone
had taken a champagne bottle and pop the cork, and all of that was coming out was everything that I
had bottled away on June 15th. And now it was finally escaping. Luckily, I only needed two EMDR sessions. Part of this is due to the fact
of the neural pathways that I mentioned earlier, and how when one gets used more,
it gets easier to follow. Now, in my brain, the trauma only had time
to set up a walking path through the woods that my brain could follow. But in other trauma victims, like someone who’s been to war or someone who’s
in an abusive relationship, they might have a highway
that’s been formed. For me, all we had to do is take a rake
and brush the leaves back over, and my brain would forget it was there. But for someone else, you may need to take a jackhammer to it
and plant trees and wait for them to grow, and that takes time. Now a little statistic on EMDR to show
that I’m not just, like, a poster child. After, on average, six 50-minute sessions, 100% of single trauma victims and 77% of multi-trauma victims had zero signs of PTSD after. Now, EMDR is just one of the ways
that we’re learning about trauma and the way our brains process it. And who knows what science
is going to bring us in 5, 10 or 20 years. What I do know is that before this event happened to me, I thought that trauma was just
something you need to get over, just accept it and move on. But what I realize now is that we have to help ourselves
if we truly want to get past something. For months, I was wanting to know
why this happened. Why did Jason take his life? Why those two girls? And what I’ve learned
is that some events in life just feel like a crappy movie, one where the last scene ends
with more questions than answers. And do we want those answers? But we can find peace even though we know
we will never get those answers. I hope that you think about trauma
differently than you did before and have a better understanding about how your brain processes
the world around you. And just remember that sometimes
it needs a little help. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “I witnessed a suicide | Joseph Keogh | TEDxPSUBehrend

  1. And here i am, thinking i can take the shock of witnessing a suicide when my brain can't even process a superhero getting brutally killed in a comic….

  2. I found this video because I typed suicide into the youtube search bar.. honestly I'm very sad that he was a witness to someones suicide as a suicide survivor I know that personally I know that personally isn't something I would ever want. And from the victims perspective it must have been very hard for him to know that anyone who could've helped him was just leaving instead.. this situation sucks for everyone involved. Tonight I'm considering suicide again and I really think i've already made up my mind.. I know that there are still good people around that care but they seem to be missing me or vice vera.. Im exhausted and i've had enough.

  3. I love this story, it's so real, it really shows the reality of this situation, but the ONE thing that annoys me is the one dead pixel throughout the entire video

  4. It's that she wears her heart on her sleeve. I hate to diminish your story but it doesn't help that you seem to relish telling it.

  5. Many people are not supposed to be here, please legalise euthanasia all over the world and let some of us go, I want to go too

  6. I've been through so much. OD's and failed tried. This doesn't faze me. Just wanta hug this dude and not say sorry but make his day fun and full of laughter.

  7. This was excellent and gives me hope. I have PTSD and I’m going to look into EMDR. I’m so sorry for what you went through.

  8. It's been so long since you gave this talk that it seems impossible for you to see my comment, but just in case: thank you for sharing. Not only June 15 but your own very personal journey back . My father took his own life with a gun and when the police arrived, all I could say was, "I know he loved me", over and over. Sometimes love is not enough. Thank you again. Carol

  9. Never run from a tiger you will look like prey. Witnessing a suicide is never going to leave, ive been in this situation as well. As well as attempted.

  10. I woke up to a kid yelling "call 911!" at 2 am. I asked him what's going on and he pointed to his car. Two teen girls were crying and a man was bleeding from his head. I called 911 immediately. The firefighters and an ambulance were there within 2 minutes of calling. That guy shot himself in the head right in front of my house. He lived for about 1 1/2 hours after he shot him self but died from the trauma. I never knew his name. It was in my hometown, Pueblo Co. I will never forget that night.

  11. I helped a friend once. I saw in the bathroom with a belt. They wanted to hang themself. I never saw anything like that before but even though I felt similar emotions as her I handled the situation like a pro

  12. Oh my gosh….this is what my psychologist is doing with me. I have PTSD she tells me and instead of me fight or flighting….i FROZE. I have been frozen for awhile now. I can't explain how i felt listening to him….its like ohhh he sounds kinda like me. Then he said the eye movement thing and i felt validated…not so alone. I have just had another traumatic event with my youngest daughter and not doing well. Running into this video made me feel almost understood by someone other than my psychologist.

  13. Finally someone understands that crying concept, I’ve never seen anyone else that can mistake laughter for crying and I’m glad I found someone else that has that

  14. This was four years ago, I was 13. I lived down the street from my cousin. He was 24 at the time. Every day I would walk to his house before school get cereal and he would drive me. I’ve done this for about 5 years only skipping because he was sick. I normally wouldn’t go on weekends because I had swim practice. I had the day off. It was about 8:00 on a Saturday morning in February. I walked to his house knocked on the door. No answer. So I just go inside, he’s probably just sleeping in. I walk in and yell for him. No answer. So I go to his bedroom down the hall. Open the door, he’s not there. Oh he’s in the bathroom. I knock, he’s not there. He couldn’t be anywhere else, his bike and car were both in the driveway and we basically live in the middle of nowhere. I call him. I hear his phone ringing from the basement, I go down. His phone was on the banister. He was in the corner shotgun in hand. He told me to leave but I knew he needed help. I go to the top of the basement stairs just out of sight and call 911. I tell them what is happening. I bend over just to see him pull the trigger and blow his brains all over the wall, the stairs, my shoes. I scream. I tell the woman on the other end of the phone what happened and she told me paramedics would be right there. It was so late. He died almost immediately. I run over to the neighbours house, I just needed to get out of that house. We go sit on the porch and wait for the paramedics. I call my parents and my aunt. My parents were at work and my aunt lived far away. I was alone. As soon as the paramedics got there I go and speak to someone. I cry and cry and cry. Eventually my parents come back. Immediately I run home. I didn’t leave my bed for 2 days. I still go to therapy. I’ve been diagnosed with ptsd. It’s hard and I will never forget that day.
    If you’re having any bad thoughts please seek help.

  15. I saw on another ted talk this guy had this one quote that stuck to me "do you really want to die, or just stop feeling this way" and he was talking about how depression can and will jump at the chance to take over and alter your lifestyle

  16. What a great talk! I never thought of trauma in this manner and seeing it from his point of view (interesting to say the least) really opened my eyes to what therapy and asking for help in general can do for people.

  17. Thank you for this. You seem to be a really great, good person. If someone reading this has problems with their mental health or suicidal thoughts, please please please seek help. You are not a failure and it is not your fault, mental illnesses like depression are illnesses for a reason and need to be treated, everyone suffering from those deserve to be treated, just like you would get your broken arm treated.

  18. All the positivity in comment section makes me sick. No one ever cares until you try to kill yourself. We try to talk about these things online because it's the only thing we can turn to. So when we finally act on it everyone is suddenly surprised. It's all bull. Society just wants to help at face value.

  19. That's crazy. About a year ago I witnessed a sucide too when I was on my way to school. I was waiting for the train and this lady just laid down on the tracks as the train was approaching the station. Till this day I don't even remember how it all went down because I blacked out and lost my mind. I remember small bits only but the whole episode traumatized me for life.

  20. This just makes me realize how lucky I am my mom has tried committing suicide twice and I broke down finding her in the bathroom the first time having a seizure for taking too many pills the second time she drove all the way to a beach and my grandma found her thankfully I my mother would have been successful I would have probably killed myself aswell I sometimes hold my anger issues because I notice I’m struck with luck and I should be thankful For everything I have I love my chances but other people don’t get a four leaf clover and have witnessed suicide or done it 😪

  21. Wow that sleepwalking thing is NUTS! I kinda wish I could sleepwalk like that tho – like on a treadmill – all night, it’d be kinda like working out without me having to consciously do anything

  22. I <3 EDMR. It’s one of the best thing that I ever did and I was really happy to hear it mentioned, I wish more people knew it was out there, it changed my whole world.

  23. The very first funeral I ever went to was the funeral of my 16 year old god fathers son. His girlfriend broke up with him for another guy. So he drove over to the new boys house, called him outside and shot himself. I had to be carried out of the church. It was horrific. The girlfriend and her new boyfriend disappeared for months. I cant imagine what they went through

  24. I got so excited when Joseph started talking about EMDR because I have a therapist who has used this on me before. I haven't had anything like this happen before though, only small t trauma.

  25. One of my good friends shot himself as well in 2012, his name was also Jason.

    This video made me tear up…the part where you mentioned how someone was mowing their lawn, children playing and a car driving by just making their way to their next destination..all while you just witnessed the world and existence stop forever for someone. That part made me feel very sad.

    Thank you for being a great speaker and sharing your story, your bravery, your strength and intelligence.
    Much love.

  26. This was almost my exact same circumstances, but it was one of my best friends. It was the summer before my freshman year of college. I had just had a graduation party with six of my close friends, him being one of them, two weeks prior. It was mid-June and I awoke one morning to receive a text on a group chat of friends that he had committed suicide. I visited his mother a few days after and she told us the horrible events she had to witness. She was obviously in shock and confused still, repetition was a main way for her to cope. Her oversharing gave me a little too much to know about how my friend lived his last days, moments, and how he died. I took this heavy grief with me into college. My first freshman semester, I blamed these same instances of crying and panicking on school related stress. Luckily, I got the help I needed solely from the counselors on campus. I originally went for depression, not even realizing the amount of guilt and trauma I had built up. For others with similar circumstances, this video can be the savior of similar patterns. Witnessing or experiencing these kind of events can cause thoughts of suicide. Thank you so much for this video!

  27. he has a gift for giving speeches. this was beautifully articulated from start to finish and i was drawn into his words at every moment

  28. The way he explains how trauma affects you is spot-on. I was diagnosed with PTSD at 15 and.. it's just like this. All the time.

  29. Wasted a decade on regular therapy, when I could have had this reprogramming treatment and moved on with my life.

  30. I feel bad for all those suicide jokes I’ve made in the past and I promise all of you I will better myself, I’ve lost an uncle and an acquaintance to suicide and I regret all of those jokes:(

  31. The hardest part about witnessing a traumatic death is the guilt."I could've done something" "I could've prevented this".

  32. I just want to say how much I admire the fact that he was so protective over his sister and his friend. You can tell he’s truly a good man.

  33. Everyone is talking about how he’s very detailed in his description on what happened and it’s very interesting to me

    I know from personal experience that trauma can cause random details to get stuck in your brain dealing with the trauma but I also have been going through EMDR sessions and my therapist told me that I would probably start to remember every little uncanny detail of my trauma with the therapy

    And she was right I remember the date the time what I was wearing what food I ate the muddled thought processes afterwards

    I agree that his story is really detailed and I’m not saying it indefinitely but it probably has something to do with his EMDR therapy that has reminded him of every detail

    Joseph if you read this I want to thank you for being so brave and speaking about your trauma I still to this day cannot gather the courage to talk about mine you did absolutely amazing love and wherever you are I hope you are living the best life you can

  34. The guy who jumped off the Golden Gate and lived (27 or so jump yearly, about 2 live) said his first thought after jumping was REGRET.

    The Bridge. It's a great doc about bridge jumpers.

    2. If you get out of yourself and go talk to someone else, you'll never WANT to.commit suicide.

  35. Can I give him a hug? If I was him, I don't know what I would do… That situation is beyond words I just can't process it.😢

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