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Maine teacher shares personal story for National Suicide Prevention Week

Dan Abbott has been teaching mechanical and engineering design at SMCC for nearly 30 years, but a few years ago, he couldn't imagine ever being back in the classroom. (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) – It is National Suicide Prevention Week, part of a month-long effort to raise awareness about the issue and help reduce the stigma surrounding it.

Now, a Maine teacher is sharing his personal story, hoping it will help others to heal.

Dan Abbott has been teaching mechanical and engineering design at SMCC for nearly 30 years, but a few years ago, he couldn't imagine ever being back in the classroom.

"I think what led up to it was a lifetime of feeling periodically like a fraud and feeling periodically like I wasn't perfect enough at things I was doing," Abbott said.

Abbott and bestselling author Monica Wood have been married for 41 years. She says Abbot's breakdown was gradual.

"On Sunday, he disappeared in the morning and then he came back and he walked in the house and said, ‘Honey, I think I'm going crazy,’" Wood said.

Abbott had not slept for days. He says he considered suicide, but after a trip to the emergency room, he convinced others, and himself, he was fine.

But just two weeks later, Abbott did something not only uncharacteristic, but nearly fatal.

"You know I was driving someplace and just pulled over and pulled a gun out, and it was pretty determined, since I shot myself three times. So, I had to reload this flare gun," Abbott said. "My truck was on fire. I was bleeding badly and I couldn't breathe."

A passerby noticed smoke coming from Abbot's truck and pulled him to safety just before the engine exploded.

The injuries were extensive and painful.

"I shot myself in the mouth with a flare gun, so I had burning magnesium in my mouth and put a hole in the top of my palate, damaged almost all my teeth and clearly got a concussion out of it,” Abbott said. “The results after it, was multiple surgeries."

It has been a long road to recovery.

Along with the physical injuries, Abbott suffered from severe depression.

"I've not been a depressed person most of my life. I think I've never been in anything I would call a depression,” Abbott said. "But I definitely after the suicide attempt, and it was because of the suicide attempt I was so deeply humiliated and ashamed. Particularly since Monica was so publicly identified."

For her part, Wood says that was never her concern.

She says helping Abbott believe in himself again, was her sole mission.

"People do just get completely overwhelmed with life sometimes and that is what happened,” Wood said. “And sometimes it's just a perfect storm of things that can happen. If it can happen to him, it could happen to anybody."

Although Abbott does not plan to continue to speak publicly about the issue, he'd rather talk about circumference to diameter formulas, he hopes that sharing his story can help reduce the shame and stigma around suicide.

And maybe, just maybe, someone will hear what he wishes he had been able to think about two years ago on a highway in Maine.

Abbott says he is grateful to his friends, family and workplace for their support.

He says he's been amazed by the number of people who have confessed their close ties to suicide since his story first became public, making him realize he was never really alone in his private battle.

For more information on suicide prevention, click here.

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