September is Suicide Prevention Month
Should I shoot the baby too and take her with me, the distraught mother said to herself as she held the gun in her hand or should I leave the baby to be raised by relatives? This young woman was in such heart-wrenching despair. Around two months prior to this moment, she found the body of her husband who completed suicide by means of a gun. She missed him so much, she saw this as a way to join him and be with him, by doing the same. So, she was contemplating should she take her 4-month-old baby too so they could all be together again or leave the baby to be raised by relatives?
I came across this post on a single/widowed parent’s message board back in the AOL message board days. I took a chance she may be online and sent her an instant message. She responded. And we began to message as she shared with me the anguish she was feeling. She felt hopeless, that her situation was hopeless. While chatting with her, I instant messaged a moderator who happened to be online and asked her to take a look at the message board, get this young mother’s contact information and call 911. In the meantime, I will try to keep her engaged and please let me know when they are on their way.
Each pause between her response seemed like an eternity as the thought ran through my mind, oh no, she did it, it’s too late…. The last message I received from her was first responders were at the door and she had to go. I breathed a sigh of relief as I began to shake and cry.
Synchronicity? Perhaps, this was before smart phone days and all three of us, the distraught mother, the moderator and myself were online living in three different time zones. This young mother did not want her life to end or her baby’s life to end. She wanted the pain she was feeling to end.
When talking to a suicidal person:
Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, vent anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.
Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.”
Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
Offer ways to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.
Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.