Alexsandra Wixom started experiencing uncontrollable bouts of sadness when she was 15. "I was emotionally off. I cried all the time," recalls the Seattle-area resident, who is now 25. Her mood swings eventually became so wild the former honors student had to quit going to high school. Over the next eight years she saw a psychiatrist every other week. Her doctors tried everything from Zoloft to mood stabilizers to heavy-duty antipsychotics, but none of them helped for long.
By her late teens visions of suicide started floating through her mind. In one nightmare she was a character in a videogame and lay bleeding at the top of a castle and wanted to die. On her 21st birthday in December 2005 the urges became so intense that Wixom checked herself into a hospital for a week. Her second hospitalization came in early 2007, when she was struck with a desire to die while grocery shopping. A month later she ended up in the hospital a third time after tripling her daily cocktail of psychiatric drugs in hopes of poisoning herself.
Read more: The Forgotten Patients: The mental health industry ignores the 35,000 people a year who commit suicide. A few researchers are trying to change that.