Trigger warning: This post discusses suicide, if it is a subject that triggers you, please do not read this post. If you are suffering from depression, having thoughts of suicide, please seek help by calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
I only know one person that committed suicide. He was a patient of mine. There were plenty of patients over the years that had tried, but all of them were unsuccessful. Except for him. Over the years, whenever suicide becomes big news, my mind often goes back to him. I search all of my recollections of meeting him in the office, talking about his job, his family, his military experience, and I never once suspected that he would take his own life. Never. Once. He never seemed depressed, never admitted to being depressed, never expressed any feelings of desperation, isolation, loneliness, sadness, or rejection. He was pleasant, likable, even a bit jovial.
Someone in the office saw the headlines in the local paper and told me that he had died. I couldn’t believe it, I had to see for myself, the article read: Suicide. I instantly called his wife. She was inconsolable, she could barely speak. I knew there were no words, but I wanted her to know that I was there for her.
I think about him then and now and wonder, was there anything that I could have done to save him? I knew him well, I was his doctor, and I never once considered the possibility. There were no clues. None. He was the last person in the world that could have done such a thing, but he did it and there was nothing that I could have done to stop it.
I wish there was because I feel like I failed him.
My sweet lovely husband and I have been talking about suicide a lot lately since the recent slew of celebrity deaths. My husband’s gentle demeanor and upbeat personality can not fathom the spiritual and emotional black hole that sucks the life out of a human being. He had a lovely childhood, with lovely parents, a warm bed, clean clothes, church 2-3 times a week. He knew kindness, community, a higher power, gentleness, and comfort. Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone experiences life in these terms.
Life can be hard. Not just hard, but downright cruel, wrought with evil. Life can take you to places that undermine your sanity, leave you reeling, wondering, what is this all for? It can feel like a Godless place, full of despair. The people that know you, share this life with you, may never even know what you are going through. That is the saddest part, really. People that know you, love you, need you, can be kept from the truth. They can be kept from the chance of saving you. It’s not fair. Suicide is unfair.
If someone comes into the ER with chest pain, at least I have the chance of saving them.
The only chance we have is to be kind. To everyone. All the time. We have to change the societal discourse that is willing to encourage the killing of strangers with guns, remove children from foreigners seeking asylum, throw insults anonymously over social media, allow children to go without food or medicine, hate people that don’t think like us, love like us, look like us.
We have to care about each other, the planet, and above all, we have to value life.