Can we make a difference? I often ask myself this question. Since Terry died I have tried to find a way to make a difference and now I am a suicide awareness advocate. I reach out in many different ways to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma of mental illness and suicide. I am part of a legion of people who do this work, all hoping we can make a difference. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to learn that I have.
Last night (August 31/14), a friend, I will call her Kate, tried to contact me on FB I was already in bed. She was concerned because she had received a call from a friend of hers who lives on the opposite side of the country and she believed her friend was suicidal. Kate didn’t know what to do and wanted to ask me what I thought.
Fortunately, another friend saw the message and they talked and Kate decided to call the police in her friend’s area. She was worried her friend would be angry but felt it was better to make a call that maybe wasn’t necessary than not make a call that could have saved someone’s life. The police went and spoke with Kate’s friend who was, indeed, agitated and suicidal. They spent time with her, spoke to her and in the end it was not necessary to take her to hospital.
When Kate spoke to her friend later in the night she kept saying to Kate, “you weren’t wrong”. She was not mad that Kate had made that call. She cried because she was surprised that someone cared enough to worry. It took a lot of courage for Kate to make that call.
Kate and I connected with each other today. She told me that she did not know what to do or say. But she remembered my message that if you know someone who you think might be suicidal listen to them, speak to them about it. Speaking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal or increase the risk. That showing genuine concern by asking directly about suicide can be part of an immediate intervention. And if you feel there is an immediate danger call the police, don’t be afraid.
Kate said: ‘Last night I was thanking the beautiful boy (my Terry) … and his beautiful mother because I recognized the empty pit my friend was in. I felt like I had her hands, you had my feet, and Terry had yours, invisible threads holding that girl up. Thank you. If I did not know you, this story might have had a tragic ending.’
Kate also told her friend about me and how what I thought might be a ripple had turned into a tsunami that is making a difference. She also told her friend about all the people that her death would impact and she wouldn’t even know.
I am very grateful Kate gave me permission to share this story.