Today, Sunday, September 10, 2017 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Started in 2003, this day is meant to educate the public about causes of suicide and how to help prevent it. Every year some 40,000 Americans take their own lives, and there are up to 25 times as many who attempt suicide or are overcome with suicidal thoughts to the point that they seek medical attention.
I was one of the latter. Those of you who have read my blog for a few years will remember how close I came to ending my life in the fall of 2014. I had lost my job, my place in the community, and I was in the process of becoming homeless as well. I got to the point where I couldn’t face the wreck of my life anymore; I felt responsible for the suffering my husband was going through along with me. I also came to believe I was a burden to my family and friends, and that they would be better off if they didn’t have to worry about me anymore.
One morning I locked myself in the bathroom while Will was running errands in town, and I was ready to do it right then—the only thing that held me back was which method to use. I had enough pills to kill me three times over, and then there was the .38 in my dresser drawer. I knew the gun would be quicker, but where to place the shot? I imagined myself caressing my temple with it, then pointing it directly at my heart. On the other hand, I was afraid I’d screw it up somehow and live—probably spending years existing in a nursing home bed, unable to feed myself or use the bathroom on my own. And, if truth be told, I didn’t want Will to come home and find a mess.
Somehow I made it through that day. But the next day was even worse, and I finally told him how I was feeling. “I want to hurt myself,” I remember saying. His reaction was typical of a person who’s well-meaning but doesn’t know how to help: “No you don’t! Don’t say that!” But then he urged me to call my psychiatrist and said he would do it if I refused to; at this point I was so worn out and so defeated that I agreed to go to the hospital. To this day, I remain convinced that if I hadn’t been admitted, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story. That hospitalization saved my life.
Now, in spite of all I’ve been through the past 14 months, I am far from being the desperately ill woman I was then. I have not been suicidal for so much as a minute since Will passed away; as much as I miss him, I’m in no hurry to join him. There’s still a lot to be experienced here in this life. And while there’s certainly no guarantee that I’ll never fall into a serious depression again, I live with a son who knows what to look for and a son-in law who’s not afraid to tell me what he sees. I also have a few very special friends who know how to help me.
My sincere hope on this World Suicide Prevention Day is that people all over the world will make the effort to learn how to help someone in danger of dying by their own hand. Forty thousand suicides per year is forty thousand too many. But sometimes all it takes to prevent one is for you to reach out and ask someone you think might be in distress if they’re OK. And if you yourself are in trouble, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the Crisis Text Line and text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to talk to a person who is trained to help you. Don’t become a statistic!