Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A self-extinguished light

I received news today that a former close friend from my teenage years committed suicide last night. While we were not close as adults, and have only seen each other a few times in the last decade, we were almost inseperable in high school and I considered him one of my very best friends then, like a brother to me. He moved away after graduation, we both changed, and I went on with my life. While my path was anchored in a happy marriage and love, his sadly did not. He made decisions based on what felt good, and sometimes based on what would hurt others, trying to retaliate for or cover up his own pain. He had many issues and needed help.

I know at one point he was getting help, but it never seemed to be enough. I don't think anyone ever stopped caring, but between hiding things from his doctor, lashing out at others, and doing extreme things to get attention, I think so many of us just didn't know what to do with him anymore. Ultimately, he had to want to help himself and no one else could make him get there.

We reconnected again when I was pregnant with Sophie. I was shopping and he worked there. We talked for a long time and he told me about his recent unexpected divorce (his second), how much he loved his kids and how great they were (like any normal healthy dad, complete with pictures), and that he really liked his job, was on a management track, and going back to school. I was very happy for him, and it seemed like he had finally turned his life around and was better.

Ultimately, as with many mental illnesses, it never truly gets better. He needed medication, he needed counseling, he needed to be able to reach out. In our teen years he often reached out by attemting suicide, but in ways it would be unsuccessful. He once called me and took an entire bottle of pills as I listened helplessly on the other end of the phone, miles away. Luckily we were able to get an ambulance to his house in time and he survived. This time, though, it was too definite and too quick. There was no safety net, no one to stop him.
I am heartbroken for his family. His grandmother loved him, his family, his children.... His children were with him when he did it. That is the part I really don't understand. I can't imagine what would have been so bad that he would do such a thing when his children were with him. My heart breaks for them. I truly hope they are given the emotional help they will need so the cycle will end with him.

There is help out there. It seems like no one wants to talk about suicide, but it happens. According to the National Institue of Mental Health, it was the tenth leading cause of death in 2007, and there are 11 attempts for every death that occurs. Clearly, this is an issue that needs to be talked about openly. How many of these people just needed someone to listen, to guide them to the help they needed? Yet it is still a taboo subject for many people. It is treated like either a contagious disease, or like something the sufferor needs to "just get over." It's not that simple!

If you take nothing else from this, at least have some helpline numbers handy. If you see warning signs in someone you know, don't be afraid to share the numbers. Or your ear.

From the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

What Are The Warning Signs For Suicide?

Seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
if you or someone you know exhibits any of the following signs:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities - seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped - like there's no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for linking to this post- such a needed subject to be address- and like you said, so many people stay clear of the subject.

    Sorry for this loss- although it was at the beginning of the year- I know something like this lingers with you for quite some time.