“Honestly, I don’t know if I can put up with it anymore. I hate myself, it’s never going to get better and even if it does, I still have nothing going for me. I already know how I’d do it, too.”
I knew where this was going and at the same time, I didn’t. She was clearly thinking about ending her life, but somewhere in me, I knew it wouldn’t happen- at least I had to think so.
We both experienced severe depression and shared those similar, yet unique bouts of ups and downs. We confided in one another – alternating between the roles of “the depressed” and “the therapist.” It was one of those distinct friendships that had what I liked to call, ‘stretched limits.’ This meant we kept our mouths shut- even when the “S” word was mentioned. But why would you not say anything if you cared about your friend so much? Couldn’t you just tell a trusted adult?
“Tell a trusted adult” – I’ve heard it so many times and if you haven’t heard it, there’s a good chance you learned early on to take the initiative to solve your own problems. What happens however, when this problem is a friend who comes to you and says they want to end their life? You are the only person they have told. What do you do? Unfortunately, I have been on both sides of the situation more times than I can count. Though I have found myself here many times, it certainly hasn’t made me an expert on what is the right thing to do and truthfully, I never wish to be an expert in the area. I can however, share with you that it is quite an emotionally draining experience for everyone involved.
The most effective thing that you can do, I’ve discovered, is to be present with the person and keep talking with them about favorite hobbies, pets, etc. Do not distance yourself because you’re unsure of what to do next. In fact, they may feel comforted in knowing they aren’t alone-despite his or her insisting that you leave them alone. Honestly, you may not relax and sometimes, you won’t sleep, but this doesn’t mean you should keep up a strong exterior and handle it all on your own. Occasionally you will have no other option but to seek out more support.
I’ve realized that ninety percent of the trusted adults I went to had no idea what to do either. Instead, they told me to go to the next trusted adult. Pretty soon, you’re going through multiple people just to get another opinion and depending on the situation you are in, you may not have that kind of time. The reality is that these trusted adults are as clueless as you are and their lack of understanding should tell you something- there is currently little to no training for professionals on how to talk to someone who is considering ending their life. This is a huge problem. As a society, we need to accept this reality and begin putting the money toward mandatory training programs strictly taught by qualified mental health professionals. With mandatory programs, we could potentially see a decrease in deaths and an increase in communication between people. Communication is crucial and with it, we can begin breaking down the barrier of stigma associated with mental illness.