Just One 5/6/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

Walking into the college office where I taught, it was clear that something just wasn’t right. There was palpable tension in the air and an uneasy quiet in the room. I asked what was wrong and was told of a man who was well-known to the college from before I began had committed suicide. I didn’t know him, but I felt sorry for those left behind.

A student who believed herself to already know everything walked in and also asked what had happened. When somebody told her, in an attempt to be pithy and relevant, started a rant. “If only one person had been there for him,” she said, “if just one person cared, if just one person showed him friendship…” She continued for some time and wasn’t picking up that she was just making matters worse.

My friend, who was secretary at the time, was his friend. She had been there many times through numerous suicide attempts, and had helped, time and time again. She was hurting severely because she felt she had let him down for not being there for him this time.

The reality is that, if somebody’s heart is set on it, there is no way to really prevent a person from creating suicide. We can be there for them, we can provide support and love, but we can’t stop it. To be fair, often suicide attempts are truly cries for help, but not always.

The difficult thing is not helping the individual. The most difficult thing is letting go when they are finally successful. It’s not an easy chore, and with all of the suicide prevention hot lines and phone lines, who is there for the people who tried to help and ultimately was not allowed to by the person committing suicide? I’m honestly not sure that there are support groups for such people.

Another friend of mine has recently found herself in a similar situation. With a heart of gold (and while in her master’s psychology program) she began working for a suicide prevention service. It’s a text service where people can reach out by text if they’re feeling depressed, suicidal or just need somebody to talk with. A couple of nights ago, she was chatting with a young teen, when suddenly she just stopped responding. My friend went through the usual steps to try to get her back because it felt as if she was still a danger to herself. The service has procedures for such situations, beginning with attempting to identify the phone. The volunteer has the option of watching the tracker (locate phone…contact authorities…resolution). The tracker stopped on “locate phone”. My friend does not know if this young woman is even still alive.

I’ve had an experience like that myself. I can’t say that I know how she feels, but I know how I felt, and still feel. The happiest day in my life would be if I again heard from this individual, but I’ve accepted that I simply won’t, and will never know if things worked out or not. It’s a scar on my soul that cannot heal.

There are no words I can say to my friend to make her feel better. It’s days like that when one realizes just how limited the English language really is. There are simply no words to help. Yes, I reminded her that if this young lady had made up her mind there was nothing my friend could have done to stop it, and with her bachelor’s degree in psychology, and training to date for her master’s, I’m sure she already knows it. But I had to try. Now I have to live with the knowledge that I couldn’t help my friend in her time of need.

There’s a ripple effect when a suicide happens, perhaps something that the individual committing suicide does not consider. In fact, I don’t think that the individual could consider it, or suicide would be far rarer. I have no idea who this man is that my secretary friend knew, but I’m very angry with him. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so angry with somebody that I’ve never met, but seeing the pain he caused my friend, and those in the office who knew him, how could I not be angry with him?

I’ve come to the decision that suicide is a very selfish act. I apologize if I offend anybody with that statement, and my readers need not agree. I suppose there are chemical imbalances in the brain that can lead to suicide, as evidenced by so many drugs that have the side effect of increasing the odds of suicide. But I also know that I, myself, have frequently considered ending myself, and the thoughts of the sadness I would bring to my friends have saved me from myself many times over, including recently. If any of my readers are considering this permanent solution to temporary situations, please reach out for help. Remember those who love you, and those who will be hurt by your suicide. You’re not alone.


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