Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2012 Nancy Virden
My personal experiences have led to meeting many people who have attempted or heavily contemplated suicide. To choose only three of their stories to tell here is difficult. However, let me introduce “Everett,” “Diamond,” and “Bruce.”
Everett. Suicide Attempt
Everett is retired, having left his career behind due to a desire for rest. He has dealt with Major Depression for as long as he can remember.
His second marriage is struggling. He tells of the challenges he has living with his wife and mother-in-law, how they urge him everyday to get out of the house and find something to do. He confesses he is spending his time watching TV and little else. However Everett’s concerns did not start or end with his home situation.
A month before I met him, Everett had slashed his wrists. He was tired of living as an unhappy person, and felt useless since leaving his job. Following three weeks in the hospital, he returned to daily life where he continued to feel as if he was just waiting to die.
The best predictor of future death by suicide is a previous attempt. Someone who has this background is to be taken seriously when talk turns to, “No one will miss me,” “You’ll be better off when I am dead,” and other similar statements.
Everett is doing better than many who share his mental health history because he wants change, is looking for part-time jobs and volunteer options, and attends marriage counseling with his wife. These are not permanent “cures” for Major Depression, and he may have to face it again.
Diamond. Repeated Suicidal Gestures
Diamond is a public speaker on the issue of clinical Depression, has a husband, two adolescent children, and abuse in her past. Her parents did not beat her when she was a child, nevertheless they did not interfere when her ten older siblings did, repeatedly.
Her suicide gestures began in her early teens, and did not end for nearly ten years. She would take an overdose of pills, wait to be rescued, and then recuperate in a hospital.
She still feels most of the time that she would rather be dead, yet has surrounded herself with friends to whom she reports daily. They hold her accountable and in this way, she is saving herself from future suicidal behaviors.
Why should someone like Diamond be taken seriously? Because she is desperate for help. Thank God she is calling out sooner than Everett did. To respond to her cry, as overly dramatic as it may seem, is to invest in her life.
People who hurt themselves on purpose at all are in great emotional pain. Until appropriate help is received, this risky behavior will likely continue until one day, the suicide gesture will not be stopped in time.
Bruce. Suicidal Ideation
Bruce was the father of two young children. As Father’s Day approached, he had been growing increasingly despondent and withdrawn. He started to make insinuations that scared his young wife. One afternoon, as he was declaring he had no reason to live, she asked him, “What am I, what are our children to you?” His answer, “Not enough.”
On Father’s Day, Bruce said, “I figured out a way to make suicide look like an accident.” Then he walked out the door, drove away in the car, and was gone for four hours. When he returned he simply said, “I don’t have the courage to do that,” and went to bed.
Suicide ideation, or thinking about committing suicide, is how every gesture and attempt begins. Ideation can grow over time and lead to a lethal act. People like Bruce have to be taken seriously because the seed of suicide has been planted. Like most seeds, unless its sprout is plucked it tends to grow.
The simple rule of compassionate love, is when anyone starts talking about dying or suicide, pay attention. No matter how many times this subject or threat has come up before, it is best to seek help for the hurting before action backs up despairing words.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.
*pictures from qualitystockphotos.com