Kev G. Mor first attempted suicide at age 16 and struggled with suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, and bouts of homelessness for another 20 years until he finally received a diagnosis.
The suicide attempt was unsuccessful, but left him in a coma for about five days after doctors pumped his stomach. Mor was placed in a psychiatric hospital and attempted suicide again when he went home.
At age 35, the Boston native was finally diagnosed. The doctors said he had bipolar disorder 1 with psychosis and post traumatic stress disorder.
“I’ve just grown up my whole life feeling like I’m incurably unique,” says Mor, who had bounced through shelters and lived in a motel with his 5-year-old child before his diagnosis and shoplifted to make ends meet at the time .
The diagnosis, which later evolved into schizoaffective disorder, came after Mor, now 49, hit another low point when the judge in a shoplifting case against him admitted he was mentally unstable and placed him in a hospital.
Mor said he saw and heard things that weren’t there, but didn’t tell anyone for fear of the stigma surrounding mental illness. He thought if he shared his symptoms he would be “locked up.”
Although he was placed in psychiatric care, Mor, who lived in Alaska at the time, said it helped him become stable. He started taking medication to treat his symptoms and moved back to Boston to work on his recovery through therapy, he said.
Today, he is a peer mental health specialist involved with Tunefoolery Music, a Boston-based community of more than 60 musicians dedicated to mental health recovery. The group describes its mission as bringing quality music, as well as an inspiring message of recovery and hope, to others.
Mor today lives in veterans housing in Beverly and is the newest survivor to be seen in “My Suicide Story”, a docuseries from Connecticut filmmaker Joe Massa.
Massa released the first episode of the show in July 2018, following a spontaneous conversation with one of his close friends, Kenny Serrano, who shared that he had attempted suicide years ago.
Serrano agreed to share his story with the world, a decision that led to the creation of the series, Massa said. After the first video was posted to YouTube, many survivors began reaching out, some of whom also wanted to share their stories.
“It’s all different demographics of people, which I find odd that it doesn’t discriminate,” Massa said of the suicide survivors featured in his docuseries. “It doesn’t really matter how successful you are or not. It will affect anyone and everyone.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, resulting in more than 45,900 lives.
There were nearly twice as many suicides (45,979) as homicides (24,576) that year. The suicide rate in 2020 was four times higher among men (22 per 100,000) than among women (5.5 per 100,000), CDC data shows.
Massa describes the interviews as raw, unedited and uncensored, making much of the material “harsh and very straightforward and detailed.”
While each story is unique, he said, many of the survivors spoke of childhood trauma and said they were driven to attempt suicide because they didn’t want to be a burden to others.
The survivors also described a sense of relief when their suicide attempts failed, but some admitted they didn’t know if they would be forced to commit suicide again in the future, Massa said.
“Often this is the first time they’ve ever told their story,” he said. “It’s like a weight is lifted off their shoulders because they can take it out of them.”
Mor said he wants to keep telling his story in different ways. Massa wanted him to focus on the suicide aspect of his experience, which is different from the recovery approach he usually takes, he said.
“If we can scare people off and maybe save a life, that’s the ultimate goal for me,” Massa said.