There is an issue that plagues the life of people who work at crises hot lines. What to do about suicide attempts? Everybody has got a different approach to dealing with the person on the other end of the phone line who has so little hope that they want to end their life. But no matter what the intent is the same; try and prevent the person from carrying out the threat.
Some people advocate a contract system. The person in crises agrees they will do nothing for a certain period of time. The reasoning behind this approach is that for most cases the impulse for suicide is a momentary plunge into the depths of despair. Hopefully the urge will have passed by the completion of the contract, whether it be for a few days or a week.
The drawback of course is what happens in those incidences when the urge is still just as strong as it was in the first place when the contract expires. Of course during the term of the agreement you have been in constant contact with the client, trying to help them, trying to find out the reason for their sense of hopelessness. But sometimes that’s just not enough.
There comes a time for some people when there are no more reasons that you can give them to continue. There is no answer to the question why should I live. What can be done for those people?
Legally speaking they have to report all such incidences to the police. Suicide is illegal and allowing it to go ahead unimpeded would probably be construed as aiding and abetting in the breaking of a law. But for some case workers, or other individuals, it’s not so cut and dried.
Some people have lived through so much damage, have been hurt so much, that they will never recover to be able to live life without pain. I’m not talking about the teenager who’s feeling alienated or anything like that. These are mature people who have been trying for years to battle their personal demons and just can’t keep it together anymore.
When attempts to save them are tried who is it being done for? Not them. They’re lives are nothing but pain. What king of favour are you doing by continuing their misery for another day. When someone is truly determined to die they will and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, save from tying them down, keeping them drugged all the time, and force feeding them.
There is a certain air of sanctimony about anyone who says that we must do everything in our power to ensure someone stays alive. That just doesn’t sound like having the best interests of the client in mind. Everything within reason should be done to point out to a person what a waste it would be for them to end their life prematurely.
But doesn’t there come a time when we just have to let someone go if they want to so badly? Aren’t they going to anyway. What right do we have to interfere with someone who is so far gone that they will never come back? Like I said unless your willing to watch them twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, there is nothing that can be done to prevent a suicide from happening.
It’s almost like we take suicide as a personal affront. Nothing that we hold dear is good enough to keep the other person here. That could be understandable coming from the immediate family, but why should society as a whole condemn suicide?
Setting aside religious beliefs, because that’s a different and a more legitimate matter than any other objection. The rest of the time I think people find suicide abhorrent for a couple of reasons.
The very idea of trying to kill oneself is so far removed from most people that they can’t even begin to understand how a person could even be driven to that extreme. “They looked so happy” is such a common response to someone’s suicide because we only see what we want to see.
Nobody wants to think of somebody they know as suicidal. At most they’ll say George is a little down these days isn’t he. It’s such a rejection of everything that we hold dear. How can there be nothing worth living for? They had a great this or that. What greater rejection of a lifestyle can there be when nothing in it can prevent a person from killing themselves.
When a person commits suicide it represents a failure of our society to provide something for them. Whether a place for them to fit in and feel comfortable or the help they so desperately needed long before they reached this point. The person who commits suicide feels that there is no place for them in the world.
They could feel alienated by their sexual identity, or anything that distinguishes them from the mainstream. With our tight rules of how and who people should be it is far too easy for someone to become the outsider. When your forever on the outside looking in the view can become very depressing.
People have an aversion to things they don’t understand. To the majority suicide ranks up there near the top of the list in deviant behaviours. How often is it put down as being “The cowards way out” Implying that the person is to scared to deal with living.
Condemning it in this manner only conveys both our fear and complete failure to understand. When we see someone commit suicide for what seems no apparent reason, a fear is planted in the corner of our heart that perhaps not everything is as right with our world as we had thought. We lash out in an attempt to hide our own misgivings.
There was a horrible two week period in my life when I felt close to that point of no return. I had been clean and sober for a year and half, and had just returned from my sexually abusive father’s funeral. What should have been a momentous occasion worth celebrating(dancing on his grave) ended up emphasizing all that had been wrong and abnormal in my life.
You never feel lonelier then at 2:30 in the morning sitting by yourself in a darkened living room smoking cigarette after cigarette. Replaying memories in your mind’s eye of all the things done to you, or done by you that make you feel worthless. It’s so quiet that all you can hear is the sound of your cigarette burning as you suck in another lungful.
It was the first time since I had reclaimed my memories of the abuse that the impact and the reality of the events hit home. It hurt. Horribly. I didn’t want to live with myself anymore. The only reason I did was because I was too stubborn to let the bastard win.
I was eventually able to recognize what was happening to me and to stop it. I did small things that helped me re establish my own sense of self worth. Easy tasks that I could work on and accomplish making me feel like I had value. When you hit bottom you only have two options: either use it as a trampoline to bounce back up or fall and smash yourself to bits. I was able to choose the former.
I have no doubts that I made the right decision but for some people the latter one might be the right choice. As I have said to someone who is very dear to me that if that is your choice I will understand it, I won’t like it and I will miss you horribly, but I will understand it.
There are plenty of people out there who are not going to agree with me, who think that I’m some sort of sick individual for saying that someone has the right to chose to commit suicide, and that’s their prerogative. But just as nothing I could say would convince you, I’m certain there are precious few arguments that could be brought to bear that would change my mind.
I’m not saying that you don’t do everything in your power to change someone’s mind. A life is too special to just let it slip away. But I know how hard the fight can be, and how tired you can get. Some people have been so badly damaged that they will never heal, no matter what we do or say.
They will never know peace of mind or the comfort of calmness. I could not find it in my heart to force them to stay. Is the solution of locking them up in a psych ward, medicated and restrained any better? Is that not also a form of death?
It would be nice to think that we can save everybody who has been hurt or damaged emotionally by circumstances and situations. Crisis workers, social workers, and therapists do the best they can with tools at hand but sometimes that’s not enough. Until we can ensure that no child is raped by their parents, no woman is abused by her partner past endurance, and no one is ostracized for being different we will not be able to prevent suicides from occurring.
If you genuinely want to prevent suicide than work to ensure that none of the above can happen. Tell governments that women and children are important enough to have money spent on protecting them. Tell them you don’t care what race, creed, colour, or sexual preference a person has, that we all must be treated equally. Tell them that subjecting people to lives of poverty by slashing welfare programs and denying them funding for higher education is a crime. Tell them that stigmatizing people because of health issues or life style choices is divisive and dangerous. Then, and only then will we see a decrease in suicide.