As the old adage goes, Timing is Everything.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to join a new suicide task force being established in North Brunswick. Normally, a suggestion like that would make me weigh the pros and cons, evaluate my time management and wonder if I could serve any beneficial purpose for the group. However, this time around the answer was a quick and easy “yes” because unfortunately, like so many people out there, I have experience with suicide.
Last year, a dear friend was suffering from depression and made two attempts to take their own life (I will not name names, nor gender, nor circumstances, as to protect this person). There were months of worry, anguish, anxiety, concern – panicked phone calls, disturbing texts, harrowing conversations. For someone who keeps her phone on silent or off, I kept it on 24/7 in case the dreaded ring sounded overnight. It felt like every minute was unstable, tomorrow was not promised, and the end was near.
It was weeks on end of me gathering addresses, doctors’ names and the contact information of personal friends and family members of my friend in case I needed to reach out. I forced uncomfortable conversations with their mother, their roommate, their best friend. It was conversing back and forth to check in on the mutual person’s status to make sure they were safe. It was constant arguments because even though I made it clear I had everyone at my disposal, at times my friend felt like I was talking behind their back.
Though I tend to give good advice in general, I am nowhere near a psychiatrist, and this emerged to a situation that was way beyond my realm of expertise. I spoke with friends who were dealing with their own depression and addiction for their advice. I consulted with a professional for some direction on what to do when the fatal message of “I can’t do this anymore” came through. I even had my own series of doctors’ appointments because of the stress it was taking on me in the role of caregiver.
Through the grace of God – and the wonders of medicine – my friend was finally able to pull through from the suicidal thoughts and, as far as I know, has not had one in many months. Although every day is trying and presents its own struggles, this friend of mine was finally able to see the light of day, find a reason to live, and make goals that stretch far into the future.
My belabored point is that if you know someone who is struggling with anything in life, it is your responsibility to not only help in any way you can, but to seek out a professional. Keep emergency numbers stored in your phone. Know that it is OK to call the police if the situation gets out of control. Don’t worry about whether or not the person will be angry with you – because I guarantee, when the dust settles, that person will thank you for saving his or her life. One of my biggest mottos in life is “no regrets” and you certainly don’t want to wish you had done something when you had the chance.
I would like to share some of the information I gathered from the task force meeting I attended on Jan. 16, courtesy of The Glendon Association and psychalive.org:
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Anxiety, agitation
- Extremely self-hating thoughts
- Feeling like they don’t belong
- Personal hopelessness
- Irritability and rage
- Feeling trapped
- Feeling they are a burden to others
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Experiencing unbearable pain
- Preparing for suicide
What to do to prevent suicide:
- Let them know you are concerned
- Ask if they are thinking about suicide
- Keep them safe
- Take action to get help now
- Help them connect with professional help
Dos of Suicide Prevention:
- Be aware
- Get involved
- Show interest and support
- Be direct
- Be willing to listen
- Be non-judgmental
- Offer empathy
- Offer hope
Donts of Suicide Prevention:
- Don’t ask why
- Don’t act shocked
- Don’t lecture on the value of life
- Don’t dare him or her to do it
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line: Text “CONNECT” to 741741
- Trevor Project (for LGBTQ+): www.thetrevorproject.org
- Veterans Crisis Line: www.veteranscrisisline.net
People who are suicidal feel alone, isolated and hopeless and want to end their pain. Sometimes, just knowing they matter and that someone values their existence is enough to keep them alive.
I hope to continue writing as my time with the task force moves forward. This is an important issue that is affecting the young and the elderly more than we, as society, realize. Let’s all join together and make sure we smile at strangers, ask someone who looks distressed if there is a way to help, and overall exude positivity. A simple “hello” could possibly save someone’s life.
Timing really is everything. The timing of struggle. The timing of hope. The timing of conversations. The timing of a phone call. The timing of being asked to join a task force while this is all fresh in my mind.
Don’t let time work against you. If someone you know is in trouble, call his/her family or doctor or police or hotline – or all of the above. Someone’s life is the most valued and cherished thing on earth. Don’t take it for granted for even one second – that second could be all it takes to change.
Jennifer Amato is a managing editor for Newspaper Media Group. She is a member of the North Brunswick Suicide Prevention Task Force. She writes the occasional column for NMG. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.