‘It’s got to end’: Mom, daughter open up about multigenerational suicide struggles
MADISON, Wis. — Daisha Bischoff was just 11 years old the first time she tried to kill herself. Her great-grandmother had just lost her battle with brain cancer. Bischoff had just lost the only person she thought actually loved her.
“I took half of a bottle of ibuprofen and half a bottle of Tylenol and sat in the bathtub with a knife and tried to just stab myself,” she said.
She eventually gave up. The pain of forcing a knife through her stomach was too much to bear.
About 4 ½ years and multiple attempts later, Bischoff felt like she couldn’t get herself out of a perpetual state of depression.
“Each night when I thought about it, I was just like, cry and go to sleep and the next day will come. The sun always rises,” she said.
On May 10, 2016, she was punished and banned from auditions for the summer musical.
“This is it. This is the last straw. I can’t do this anymore,” she said.
Bischoff went downstairs to the liquor cabinet, took out a liter of vodka and drank it all within 15 minutes.
“I was screaming, ‘Just let me die. I don’t want to live anymore,'” she said.
Looking over the medical records far removed from that night, Bischoff says she shouldn’t have survived.
“Whatever universe, karma, something has a purpose for me,” she said. “And it might be rough sometimes, but there’s got to be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel for me because my grandmothers won’t let me die.”
Bischoff ’s mom, Melissa Bischoff, remembers that night, as well. She received a Snapchat from her daughter, who was staying at her dad’s house.
“I looked at the video and she said, ‘It’s not your fault, I love you,'” Melissa Bischoff said. “And instead of saving it and the messages, I got out of Snapchat and called her phone, and her dad said they were taking her in an ambulance to the hospital.”
By the time Melissa Bischoff got to the hospital, her daughter was in a medically induced coma.
“She really is a miracle,” Melissa Bischoff said. “And it was very hard to leave her after that because of the fear of something happening and me not being there to make sure she was OK.”
Daisha Bischoff started down a long road of recovery and counseling, something her mom was very familiar with.
Melissa Bischoff ’s mother killed herself when she was a teenager. Her family denied she took her own life. A year after her mother’s death, Melissa Bischoff decided she would never be happy again and needed to be with her mother.
“I went to sleep, and because I took almost an entire bottle of Tylenol PM, I assumed I would never wake up,” she said.
Luckily, she did. Through counseling, Melissa Bischoff discovered reasons to live. At first, it was her cat. Then she got pregnant.
“I think some of it is hard to admit to someone who you love so much. I don’t want my daughter to know I’m flawed in a way that makes it difficult for me to be happy and to be a quote-on-quote normal mom,” Melissa Bischoff said.
She didn’t open up to her daughter about her history with suicide attempts until recently.
“She’s still here, and I’m thankful for it,” Melissa Bischoff said.
Dr. Steven Garlow is with the psychiatry department as UW Health and has worked a lot with patients who struggle with suicidal thoughts and attempts. He says there are components a person can inherit that can make them more prone to anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. However, while suicide risk can be influenced by genetics, Garlow says other things need to happen to trigger that and lead to a person killing themselves.
“There’s no absolute, ‘You have this gene so this is going to happen to you,'” Garlow said.
Garlow encourages parents to be as open as possible with their children about the family’s history of mental illness. He says that creates an environment where kids and teenagers are more honest about their own struggles.
Additionally, Garlow suggests adults avoid euphemisms when talking about mental health challenges or suicide attempts. He says children will notice that and seek out the information from friends, the Internet, or other less reliable sources.
Garlow points out that young people may not fully understand the permanence of death. While it may be difficult to dispel those notions, he says explaining that no problem is worth killing yourself over is an important conversation. He suggests talking about those topics as early as possible, but also in an age-appropriate way.
Overall, Garlow says it’s better for kids to know about their risk and hear it from their parents so they can be prepared.
“Genetics is not destiny, so that there’s a risk in that family and understanding that and using that as taking some intervention, taking some preemptive steps, being more aware of mental health issues,” Garlow said.
Understanding her own family’s history is helping Daisha Bischoff move forward and have a deeper relationship with her mom.
“I’m the one to break the cycle that’s going to go on and just change this for our family because we’ve all suffered and suffered, and it’s got to end,” she said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or attempts, here are some resources available to help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Wisconsin HOPELINE – Text 741741
National Youth Crisis Hotline – 1-800-442-HOPE (4673)
NAMI Information Line – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
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