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Big Little Man
Grasping the Knife Unawares
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Life, viewed sideways. Emotions, amplified. Answers, questioned. Me, between the lines.

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- Having Your Heart Caressed By the Creator
- Working With Broken Machines
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"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."

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"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."

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Monday, February 07, 2005

That's Not How It Is

Function: noun
Etymology: Latin sui (general) of oneself + English -cide; akin to Old English & Old High German sIn his, Latin suus one's own, sed, se without, Sanskrit sva oneself, one's own
1 : the act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years of discretion and of sound mind
2 : misunderstood

My dear friend called the mental health center yesterday and told them she was suicidal. They didn't believe her. So several of us joined her and her mother as they went through the arduous process of checking her into a psychiatric hospital last night, where she can be treated and healed.

Had it not been for her caring, loving family, I do not want to imagine the potential outcome.

The vast, vast majority of people who attempt suicide are suffering from a mental illness. For those who have never experienced this, suicide is a baffling concept, especially if the person who commits suicide is close, or a family member.

In the waiting room last night, we sat in the same seats that I sat in two years ago this week when I was admitted to the same hospital in the same condition. So, being unwillingly qualified to do so, I want to describe suicide from the inside.

It is so important to understand this: suicide is not a choice. This is not some mental conclusion that is logically reached by weighing life outcomes or something. There is no logic involved. It has nothing to do with willpower, with character flaws, with morality.

What it has everything to do with is pain. Pure and simple.

Pain that you can't seem to stop. Pain that you can't ever see a way out of. Pain that comes from an indescribable depression and sadness within, or anger, or frustration and rage that seems bigger than the entire world. Pain that takes away the ability to sleep, eat, work, and you can't get anyone to help. Trapped.

All of these feelings are red flare warning signs. If you feel this way, or know someone who does, get help now. I'll list some resources at the end of this post.

Suicide happens when the pain gets greater than the ability of the person to handle it.

This is compounded by a couple of factors.

First, there is a gigantic stigma about suicide in our society. This is a killer. Many people who truly need and want help won't get it because of this stigma, and the results are so often tragic and irrevocable.

Second, males in particular tend to choose increasingly violent ways to commit suicide, methods that don't allow for any hope of rescue. Thus, combined with the stigma, any sign that a male may be contemplating suicide should be treated with the gravest concern.

Third, behavior changes in many cases prior to a suicide attempt. Perhaps the person is depressed and feels hopeless, and says so. Perhaps there is an increase in drug or alcohol use, or risky behavior. Perhaps they actually say they see no reason for living. These things make people who have never felt this way uncomfortable. Therefore, a suicidal person may actually hide all the symptoms until the problem is acute and critical.

If that happens, and you are the loved one or family member that spots what's going on, you may be the suicidal person's only hope.

There are only two ways to stop a suicide attempt.

Remember, the problem is essentially that the pain is greater than the ability to cope. So, we can either:

1. Decrease the pain, or
2. Increase the ability to cope

Sometimes, just the very real hope that this can be accomplished is enough. That was why, two years ago, I sat in the emergency room for five hours until they found me a bed and then allowed myself to go into a psychiatric hospital. That's why my friend wanted to go in last night. Both of us knew, in our pain, that relief was a possibility.

A suicidal person whould never, ever be allowed to deal with it on their own. When they are suicidal, they are not thinking rationally or clearly. The results of a split second impulse can be eternally tragic.

Many times, talking and reasoning with a suicidal person is only going to be a stopgap measure. In almost every case, suicide is a result of brain chemicals out of balance, thus the pain when the body tries to interpret it. This chemical imbalance is far beyond the normal person's experience with sadness or depression, and there are simply no words that can heal it.

What can help are medicines. The goal should always be to get the person to qualified medical help. Call 1-800-SUICIDE. Take the person to a psychiatrist, therapist or a counselor. Take them to an emergency room, or call 911.

I'm serious. Never treat it lightly.

I promised some good links. Here they are:

Metanoia - a great place to start, these people know what they are talking about.
In Harm's Way: Suicide in America - A good, short and downloadable article from the National Institute of Mental Health
CDC Factsheets on Suicide Prevention and Control - a refreshing approach, the CDC is addressing suicide as a public health issue
National Mental Health Association Factsheet (with contacts) - another excellent source of quick info if you are dealing with a suicidal person, or are suicidal yourself.
Survivors of Suicide - an organization of family members and loved ones left behind

And don't forget 1-800-SUICIDE

Above all, know that feeling suicidal is survivable. You will see examples all over the web saying that. I am one of them. My friend last night is one of them.

We can make it.

...the best coping resource we can give you is another human being to talk with. If you find someone who wants to listen, and tell them how you are feeling and how you got to this point, you will have increased your coping resources by one. Hopefully the first person you choose won’t be the last. There are a lot of people out there who really want to hear from you. It’s time to start looking around for one of them.

Update 2/8/2005: My friend is doing far better now. the new meds they have her on seem to be doing their job, and hopefully she will be out of the hospital in just a couple of days.

Permalink: 2/07/2005 11:23:00 AM |
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