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How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person's Guide to Suicide Prevention Hardcover – August 6, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Printing edition (August 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066211212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066211213
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For 18 years, Blauner survived obsessive suicidal thoughts with the help of three psychiatric hospitalizations, an excellent therapist, 12-step support groups, "spiritual exploration," Prozac and a network of family and friends. This personal account of what worked for her offers excellent practical advice to "teach you how to get through those excruciating moments when every cell in your brain and body is screaming, `I want to die!' " Approaching "suicidal thoughts" as an addiction, Blauner clearly explains how some people's "brain style" responds to environmental stresses or "triggers" with obsessive suicidal thoughts rather than cravings for alcohol or other drugs. Strongly influenced by the very successful 12-step model, she fashions a patchwork of strategies for understanding, preventing and treating suicidal "gestures," which she asserts are not actually attempts to die but efforts to stop unbearable psychological pain. Childhood sexual abuse and the death of her mother when she was 14 contributed to Blauner's long struggle, but she herself had to make the decision and effort to begin therapy at age 19, before her problem was even recognized or treated. Now Blauner provides others like herself with "Tricks of the Trade" that can literally save lives. With neither hollow platitudes nor medical doublespeak, she covers brain function, antidepressants, finding a good therapist, identifying triggers, creating a "Crisis Plan" for critical moments and heading off suicidal thoughts by coping with hunger, anger, loneliness and fatigue. Blauner provides an extremely valuable and much-needed tool for both suicidal thinkers and their loved ones. B&w illus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for all Americans and the third leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24. Yet as Blauner points out, suicide is rarely talked about openly. In her heartfelt and important book, Blauner, who has survived multiple suicide attempts and developed a statewide suicide prevention program for teens in Massachusetts, offers guidance and hope for those contemplating ending their lives. The story of her 18-year struggle with suicidal impulses is followed by a concise explanation of the biochemical process inside the brain of a suicidal thinker. The bulk of the book consists of her 25 personal "tricks of the trade," practical, safe alternative activities any suicidal thinker can employ to "outthink" his or her brain and stay alive. These include asking for help, keeping emergency contact information handy, creating a crisis plan, keeping a journal, practicing meditation, and attending support groups, to name just a few. The chapter on helping others will be useful for mental health professionals. A resource list includes numerous crisis hotline telephone numbers, web sites, and contact information for support organizations. This vital resource is recommended for all public libraries. Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author


Please visit my website for up-to-date information, or to book me as a speaker for your event:

Susan Rose Blauner is a powerful voice in the fields of mental health recovery and personal motivation. She is currently traveling throughout the country with THE SAVING LIVES TOUR, delivering keynote addresses and suicide prevention workshops at national conferences, veteran facilities, psychiatric hospitals, schools, and community forums.

A survivor of multiple suicide attempts, she has the unique distinction of transforming her experience with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder into the critically-acclaimed book How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person's Guide to Suicide Prevention, which is endorsed by the National Council for Suicide Prevention, and hailed by Iris Bolton* as "the best suicide prevention manual for suicidal thinkers, attempters, laypeople, and mental health professionals."

Susan empowers and educates audiences with an honest account of her challenged but inspired life. She delivers dynamic keynotes and workshops that discuss the intricacies of healing from mental illness, and offers strategies for staying positive despite uncertain times. A beacon of hope, Susan imparts a wealth of techniques and philosophies that address suicidal thoughts, depressive symptoms, self-advocacy, and the process of change. She points out that change is possible, and it takes time.

Her own journey involves eighteen years of suicidal ideation, four psychiatric hospitalizations and more than twenty years of therapy. Susan is a recipient of the Survivor Achievement Award for Distinguished Creativity and Personal Effort in Suicide Prevention, presented by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Her work continues to empower and save lives throughout the world. She holds a BA degree in art from Bridgewater State University, and is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed at the age of forty-four.

To book a speaking engagement, contact Susan Blauner's press agent, Abbe Sparks of Abbe Sparks Media Relations, LLC, or call (224) 567-9166. To contact Sue, write

*Founder of The National Center for Suicide Prevention and Aftercare

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 48 customer reviews
When I need help and wont ask for it this book has been my life saver.
Ocean of Peace
If you sufffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, this book may help is helping me!!!
I can highly recommend this book to anyone who is suicidal or knows someone who is.
Rebecca of Amazon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on October 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you need to change a fan belt on a 1994 Fiat, you buy a Chilton's manual, and not a treatise on the joys of high-speed touring. If you need to make a lemon meringue pie, you get a cookbook, and not a memoir on the joys of great French cuisine. Car manuals and recipes are not always great literature by any means, but they are often necessary in helping to get a job done.
Susan Rose Blauner's HOW I STAYED ALIVE WHEN MY BRAIN WAS TRYING TO KILL ME is nobody's idea of great, or even good, literature. From a purely literary standpoint, the book is chatty, tiresome and irritating, filled with sentimentality, New Age nonsense, and ghastly psychological claptrap. It has been edited with an over-gentle hand, preserving every little cliché and every annoying scrap of poetry and personal reflection. It is a book that very few people will pick up for pleasurable reading, and rightly so.
And yet, it will undoubtedly save lives.
HOW I STAYED ALIVE WHEN MY BRAIN WAS TRYING TO KILL ME is not, as you might think, merely a personal tale of survival from mental illness. It is primarily a manual, a reference book, a resource for people who have suicidal thoughts. Although the book is guided by the author's own experiences with mental illness and suicide attempts, it is written not to chronicle her life but to provide direction and guidance for others in the same situation. And as such, it is an undeniable success.
Blauner's book is guided by several hard-won insights. Suicide begins as a thought, driven by negative feelings, and such feelings are temporary and changeable. "Suicidal," Blauner tells us, "is not a feeling." Suicidal thoughts are paired with feelings of anger, guilt, loneliness, and desperation, and it is necessary to separate those feelings from thoughts of suicide.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I wish I'd had a copy of this book when I was suicidal. It's full of simple, practical ideas for keeping yourself safe and beginning to feel better. The crisis plan is especially good, and easy to follow even when you find it hard to think straight. The only reason I gave this book four stars rather than five is that I came across it after I'd recovered, and haven't tried out all of its techniques myself - but from my experience of what did help me, they're all excellent.

"How I Stayed Alive..." would also be a useful self-help book for people who self-injure, even if they don't feel suicidal. Most of the suggestions work just as well for getting through the urge to self-harm.

I've heard two main criticisms of this book. The first is that the author wasn't "really" suicidal, but just attention-seeking. I disagree. All suicide attempts should be taken seriously, even if the person's done it many times before, or chooses to get help afterwards. In fact, the more unsuccessful suicide attempts a person has made, the more likely they are statistically to die by their own hand. And seeking medical help after one has taken an overdose can, tragically, be too late. That's why books such as this one are so important, because they help prevent the suicide attempts in the first place. Admittedly, this book is aimed mainly at people whose suicidal thoughts and feelings come and go, and who need help in getting through those difficult times without harming themselves. Someone who is unrelentingly suicidal and not interested in alternative courses of action probably needs to be in hospital, not reading a self-help book.

The other criticism I've heard is that not all the book's suggestions can be used by everyone. That's true.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By "essie-ell" on June 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I found this book quite by accident laying obviously in the wrong place at the public library. I've suffered from depression for 7 years and it got worse and worse until I became suicidal. From page 1, the author's words caught me and I recognized myself in her. The best thing for me in the book was the Tricks of the Trade section where I was guided through ways to help cope and the almost 'work-book' like style. It gave me strategies and hands on things to try to when I needed it the most. I took the book to my psychiatrist and showed him what I was doing and he applauded me. Now my husband is reading it and I'd highly recommend it.
The book is written in an everyday tone of voice, it's not medical, it's not preachy, it's just like talking to someone who's been there.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Michael G. Rayel, MD on April 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting book and a good resource. The book's title in itself truly depicts what happens in a suicidal person. In a way, it's not really the person that kills the self but rather it's the brain and the "chemical imbalance" associated with it that causes damage. So can changing the brain chemistry effect a change and save lives? Sure-that's what medication does. This is how psychotherapy works.
In Ms. Blauner's book, several "tricks of the trade" were discussed. Asking for help, emergency contacts, and keeping a journal are just some of the practical ways of dealing with suicidality. Her "crisis plan" is a useful formula that a person should have to avert any self-destructive thoughts or behavior. Likewise, the chapter on spirituality is a gem.
Written in a layman's prose, the book stands out in making complicated concepts (such as neuron and electrochemical transmission) more understandable and seemingly "easy" concepts, clearer.
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