Live to Tell

A Suicide Survivor's Struggle with Depression and Anxiety

Non-Fiction - Self Help
173 Pages
Reviewed on 07/09/2016
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Live to Tell: A Suicide Survivor's Struggle with Depression and Anxiety is a non-fiction self-help/memoir written by Ben Schwipps and Shelia Merkel. On July 18, 2015, Ben decided to end his life. After he pulled the trigger, he described the result as feeling as though his face had been hit with a baseball bat. Fighting dizziness, he managed to call 911 and get help before he collapsed and died. He was one of the approximately 8 million Americans who attempt suicide each year, according to statistics found by the authors. Most don't survive the experience. When Shelia Merkel went to visit him in the hospital, she was stunned by the physical injuries he sustained, but moved by the apparent resilience and spirit her long-time friend and co-worker displayed while lying there. Together, Schwipps and Merkel planned and wrote this book to share his story. They hoped others would be able to recognize the signs of depression and anxiety in those they loved, and that those fellow sufferers might benefit from hearing of Schwipps' experiences. The authors include a List of Resources at the end of their work.

Ben Schwipps and Shelia Merkel's non-fiction self-help/memoir, Live to Tell: A Suicide Survivor's Struggle with Depression and Anxiety, is a compelling and inspirational tale. Ben's voice is strong and filled with reflection and understanding after his traumatic experience and long-term struggle with depression and anxiety. I felt his pain and frustration with the snags his career hit and the subsequent toll it took on his life, family and self-esteem, and was rocked by his account of those moments after he pulled the trigger. Live to Tell reads like a novel, and I'm hoping that Schwipps considers writing one as a future project. His voice is strong and authentic, and his message and purpose here is made very, very clear. As I read this work, I couldn't help but remember a young friend who did not survive his attempt. I'm so thrilled to see stories like this one; stories that show there's a far better way to relieve the suffering and pain. Live to Tell: A Suicide Survivor's Struggle with Depression and Anxiety is most highly recommended.

Gisela Dixon

Live to Tell: A Suicide Survivor’s Struggle with Depression & Anxiety by Ben Schwipps and Shelia Merkel is an inspiring true life story about Ben and his struggles with depression, anxiety, and suicide. Shelia Merkel is Ben's friend who is shocked when she hears that Ben had tried to kill himself by shooting himself in the head with a gun and is in the hospital. Ben survives after having had a close call with death, and Shelia and he then team up to write his story. The story follows a more or less chronological order and helps us understand Ben's early years and youth, his marriage and divorce, his kids, his job, and of course his mental illness that he has been dealing with a lot of his life. His challenges with therapists, counselors, and medicine are chronicled as well and, in the end, the book is uplifting because Ben has found a will to live and survive, come what may.

Live to Tell: A Suicide Survivor’s Struggle with Depression & Anxiety by Ben Schwipps and Shelia Merkel is an autobiographical story dealing with suicide and what causes so many people to take such an extreme step. The warning signs of suicide, the do's and don'ts of questions to ask someone who says they want to kill themselves, and how best to connect and help the person are all focused on greatly in this book. There are a lot of resources and websites provided as well. The writing style is simple and straightforward, and is interspersed with Ben's insights about certain situations and points in his life. The great thing about this book is the genuine glimpse into a suicidal person's mind and how his life leads up to it. A must-read book!

Viga Boland

The scene is a common one: colleagues leaving work on a Friday afternoon and wishing each other a good weekend. One, Shelia Merkel, co-author of Live to Tell, gets into her usual weekend activities like yoga. The other, co-author Ben Schwipps, goes home and shoots himself. What is not common is that Ben Schwipps survives his suicide attempt and lives to tell about it. He was one of the lucky ones. Or was he? As Ben states in Live to Tell: "I was upset. Upset that I didn't succeed. Upset that I did nothing but make my already difficult and miserable life more difficult and miserable." Reading that was almost as depressing as Ben's mood had been leading up to his attempt. But with the support and love of family and friends, and now with the encouragement of Shelia Merkel to co-write Live to Tell to help others who might be contemplating suicide (an increasing and troublesome social issue), Ben Schwipps is recognizing that he was, indeed, one of the lucky ones. But while the doctors were able to put Ben back together again physically, what about the mental recovery still needed? That, as Ben points out, is the real job ahead and will require a great deal of work, not just from professionals and family, but primarily from Ben himself.

In sharing his horrid experience in Live to Tell, Ben now has another reason to live: this book needs to be brought to the attention of everyone facing similar circumstances to Ben's before the suicide. Ben relates how financial issues, work stresses, divorce, alcoholism, medications, and the overwhelming depression that accompanies it all sap a good person of his will to live. There's a bit of Ben in all of us from time to time, but there's a lot of Ben in too many people sharing our homes, our offices, our work places. And sadly, so few of our family, friends and colleagues recognize that suicidal person next to us.

To help us do so, the authors of Live to Tell have included several very useful lists at the end of the book, along with the usual resources. The first of these, titled "Ben's Don'ts," list five things those suffering ongoing depression must not do, including putting on a mask of happiness when you aren't happy, and resorting to alcohol which actually increases depression. Another list is designed to help others recognize a suicidal person. The third list, which I thought was truly excellent, was "Ten Things Not to Say" to a suicidal person. You'd be surprised how many of these intended words of consolation and understanding are far from consoling. Both authors of Live to Tell help us see the ripple effects of knowing and suffering alongside someone who attempts suicide. Those insights are invaluable.

But the final words on this book from Shelia say it all: "I want Ben to be able to look back one day and say with confidence, 'The best day in my life was the day I tried to take my life, and I was unsuccessful.'"

Shelia, somehow I believe he will.

Ray Simmons

Live to Tell: A Suicide Survivor’s Struggle with Depression & Anxiety by Ben Schwipps and Shelia Merkel offers two very useful and insightful perspectives on suicide and the depression that triggers it. First we have the voice of the man who actually attempted suicide, Ben Schwipps. Live to Tell is Ben’s story. An admirable attempt to reach out and help others who are going through what he went through. It is a powerful testament and I have no doubt that it will help people. The other voice in Live to Tell is that of Shelia Merkel. She is the friend and outside perspective that helps those of us, who may never have experienced depression, understand how we might help someone like Ben. Together Ben and Shelia have created a powerful book.

Live to Tell is laid out in a logical manner. It details Ben's suicide and struggle to recover in raw and articulate detail. There is no plot, but the outline is very well done. The main character is Ben and by the end of the book you will know him well. Chances are you will like him. I do. Live to Tell hits you with a lot of statistics and other useful and interesting information. There is even a chapter filled with links to resources that can save a life. But it is Ben’s story that moved me most. Live to Tell is probably one of those books that had to be written. The authors just couldn't keep it inside. We can all be thankful that they wrote it because it is a great book with a powerful and important message.

Vernita Naylor

Feeling low? Can't get out of that mental rut? Things that you once enjoyed no longer interest you? You could be dealing with bouts of depression. In Live To Tell: A Suicide Survivor's Struggle with Depression and Anxiety by Ben Schwipps and Shelia Merkel, you will read a raw, personal account of the life of Ben, who felt that committing suicide was his only way out. Ben was a friendly, hard-working and personable guy. It appeared that he never had a bad day, but behind that persona was a man on the brink of an emotional breakdown. Whenever stressors like finances and marital conflicts occurred Ben would begin to cave in to the pressure. Whenever this happened, Ben said, “the twins - depression and anxiety - would show up.” When life was on the upswing, Ben would stop taking his medication and seeing his therapist. Why not? After all, he was feeling good. What Ben came to realize the hard way was that the medication and therapy would become an intricate part of his life; this was the only way for him to live a normal life. Ben came to realize that he was not alone. After each chapter he provides an insight into his thought process that maybe you can relate to; he also offers some words of wisdom that can be beneficial to those experiencing the same kind of fate.

With Shelia taking the reins to help Ben tell his story in Live To Tell: A Suicide Survivor's Struggle with Depression and Anxiety, you will see how the ebb and flow of life can be exciting for some, while for others it can become a paralyzing experience. We hear of people succumbing to suicide, but never know the truth depth of their actions. Well, Ben tells the reader everything so be prepared - this book is for mature audiences only. If you or a loved one are experiencing depression, anxiety or high levels of stress, get some help and pick up a copy of Live To Tell: A Suicide Survivor's Struggle with Depression and Anxiety by Ben Schwipps and Shelia Merkel to assist you in navigating through your own emotional roller coaster. Ben, wishing you the best and thanks for your transparency, and to Shelia for being the vessel to get Ben’s story heard.