By Rocky Hayes, SJ4H Board Member 

You could save someone’s life…you probably already have.

Never underestimate the struggle of anyone in your life. Actions and words do not always pave the way of understanding the pain someone is going through. Anyone, truly anyone, could be dealing with things under the surface. 

Let people know you see and hear them. Smile at strangers. Tell everyone in your life what they mean to you. Touch their arm in a gesture of love. 

These actions could save their life.

The following examples are sadly just a few short stories of people in my life that have been in the middle of their own suicide attempts and plans.

For whatever reasons, I’ve been the shoulder to cry on and although it’s a daunting challenge…I’m relieved that these people chose someone with whom to confess their struggles.

Always seek professional advice even if you decide to confide in a friend.

 

Distraught Teenager
The scene is rural South Dakota in the 1990s. I was a young man living with my widowed mother, surrounded by thousands of prairie acres before the profound cultural shift that came with the Internet.

One evening, I received a phone call (not the first) from a fellow junior high school student, “Mary”, who is seriously considering taking her own life, or is in the act of doing so, and decides to call this young man for help. Mind you, this was done on a landline before cellular phones (and the ability to text) was invented.

Now, imagine I am your child either going through the anguish of ensuring what I say is the correct thing to Mary as she is wanting to end her life or that Mary is your crying child sitting alone in her bedroom drawing blood as she begins slicing open her wrists with a dull razor blade.

Mary survived this, and other trying times, and now has a family of her own. 

My mother was never told that I had talked this person out of suicide on several occasions.

 

Remorseful Divorcee
Fast forward to the 2010s and I’m 30 years older. My mother has since passed away making me an orphan, a bachelor, yet my sympathetic shoulder remains.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with several instances of this scenario from the same person along with a few others.

A late night phone call from “Genevieve”, a newly divorced 30 something year old sociopathic woman who has driven everyone away, is taken pills and drunk, while posting death-related material on Facebook. Her own children are in the house unaware, her husband she recently divorced uninterested in her latest attempts, and Genevieve is apparently minutes away from overdosing in an effort to commit suicide.

This time, Genevieve is not asking directly for help but instead is wanting a witness. Despite not wanting me to interfere I was left with no choice—the necessary phone calls were made. She survives but is furious for the intervention and they no longer speak. However, she is still around to be a mother to her children and hopefully continued with the professional help she so desperately requires.

 

Midlife Crisis Father
I am now in my 40s and talking to a 50 year old friend “Danny” who is planning various suicide scenarios dependent upon outcomes having to do with his job, wife and children. These scenarios apparently offer solace in the fact that he has myriad “outs” for when things go awry. 

The midlife crisis was a real thing for years and took what was a very brilliant person to the brink of ending it all. Despite being a parent himself, very talented and professionally successful, the laundry list of things that drove him to the brink were immense and intense.

Today, that man in his early 50s, is still a husband, father, and very successful executive.

 

Always Listen…Truly Listen
These instances are just a few selections of what I’ve personally encountered from various people in my life who chose me whilst struggling not only with depression, regret, anger, sadness, loss, etcetera, but were either in the act of suicide or premeditating their own demise.

As we’re in the year 2020, self-isolating or putting yourself out there as a first responder, enduring COVID-19 fearfully of being infected or personally fighting the disease, or having lost a loved one, the stress and mental anguish this year is obviously intense. 

Those who were already struggling no doubt are even more so…or, if they’re able to self-isolate perhaps this year has offered a bit of a reprieve from reality.

Some, who never struggled with self harm may now for the first time be enduring this pain during the pandemic and political uncertainty. 

Survivors Joining for Hope is here to both prevent the loss of a loved one to suicide but also in your recovery. Never hesitate to reach out.

Remember, you could save someone’s life.

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