On Thursday night, I attended a very important presentation at North Washington Elementary School.
It was a presentation about suicide prevention. Suicide is something that has affected this county in the not-so-distant past.
This was the second such presentation on the topic, as another was held earlier last month.
While we dive into some of the specifics of what was discussed in a news story on page A-1, I want to talk a little bit about why this topic is so important here.
At a much-too-young age, a friend of mine confided in me that he or she was suicidal. I don’t want to reveal the gender of the friend, so any reference to this person will be a “he or she” reference.
I remember the feeling I had when my friend told me this. I remember thinking, “What is so bad about life that a person would want to die over?”
I think I asked my friend that question later on, which this person answered with several reasons.
Still, I didn’t think those reasons were all that bad.
I was friends with this person for years. And, for years, this person continued to bring up the possibility of committing suicide. The weight of knowing this information was too much for me, a person much too young to deal with a problem like suicide. Eventually, it weighed me down. I remember the stress and depression that came along with holding on to this information.
My friend had explained to me several different plans to commit suicide. My friend, for a period of time, didn’t talk about much other than the fact that he or she wanted to commit suicide.
I served as an ear to listen for my friend. Later on, I found out some of my other friends were also serving as listeners for this friend.
I never told an adult about my friend. Until now, I’ve never really told anyone about this friend except for the other friends that were involved.
But, as I sat through the suicide prevention program, a lot of memories came back.
What would have happened if I told an adult early on?
I can imagine that it would have gotten my friend the help he or she needed from someone trained and emotionally capable of handling the problems my friend was having.
My friend never committed suicide, thankfully. I don’t see or talk to this person anymore, but I do occasionally think back to that dark time. I don’t think I had ever felt emotional stress before then.
Looking back, of course I wish I would have tried to reach out to an adult. When my daughter is old enough, we will definitely talk about suicide and how to help someone if they are feeling suicidal.
Later in life, though, I was presented a similar opportunity to act.
A college friend came to me one morning with a large gash on her arm, which had been stitched up at the emergency room.
My friend had injured herself on purpose. She used to do this to herself in high school, she had told me, but hadn’t done it for years.
She was a close friend and I listened to her about why she did it. Having learned at an early age that I wasn’t trained to provide real help beyond listening, I urged her to see someone that could. My friend wasn’t receptive at first, but she eventually got help.
My friend later thanked me for insisting that she get help. I wish now that I had insisted the same thing to my other friend years before.
My message is this: if someone you know is having a hard time, please help them get help. Please don’t try to shoulder the load on your own. You aren’t helping yourself or the person who is contemplating suicide.
One of the resources shared at the program was a suicide hotline phone number. The number is 1-800-273-8255. It’s available 24 hours a day.