Why Every Life Matters
We have had a rash of young people taking their own life in the Austin area lately. It breaks my heart each and every time I hear about another life shortened and stolen from us. There is a compelling story behind my sorrow that will shed some light on to the whys and what ifs of suicide. When I was working at a metal health facility as a counselor, I had the opportunity to establish deep, intimate relationships with the patients that I served. I took those relationships very seriously as quite often the choices I encouraged had a profound effect on the lives of the patients. I often was assigned to work with young patients as I could establish lines of communication quickly and effectively. Once I was assigned the task of working with a young college student that was very depressed. However, by all outright appearances he had it all. He attended a very exclusive private university, had his own car, and an apartment at the beach. Since we were not too far apart in age, he was about 19 I was 23, I could relate to him on many of the issues we communicated about. We established a great therapeutic relationship and soon he was discharged from our facility. He did continue his therapy with his doctor on an outpatient basis. One evening while I was on the unit working, I got a call from this young man telling me how life was so great and that he had gotten it figured out and knew precisely what he was going to do. I was so happy for him and we chatted a while before hanging up. The next morning I was at home and got a phone call from the doctor of this young man. He started by saying brace yourself but _____ committed suicide last evening by propping himself up against a tree on campus and putting a bullet through his temple! I was devastated, what could I have done to prevent this? What did I miss? I was deep into the “blame me” syndrome! The doctors tried to reassure me that it was not my fault and that when someone really wants to commit suicide they will find a way but that often they reach out to those they feel close to and lay out the actions disguised as a safe and sane plan. This is what I missed, he was reaching out to me and I felt like I should have realized it and acted accordingly. I have always remained keenly aware of this. I know deep in my heart that this single event had a profound effect on me not perusing my desire to be a psychologist. My advice now is to always be vigilant to what a depressed or suicidal person relays to you and don’t hesitate to act upon your gut feelings. You might just be the catalyst that saves a life. The issue, as I see it, is that people today feel that they are running out of options in life and are resorting to the finality of suicide. The truth is that suicide is a solution to their problem, but what about those left in the wake of their selfishness? When one decides to take their own life they commit and give in to the worst of all thought processes, which is being so concerned with their own emotions that they fail to account for the feelings of others that care for them. Committing the act of suicide does not leave room for reason and contemplation and is as final an act as a person can indulge. Once it is done, it is done, finished, and left for others to deal with the aftermath. One of the major obstacles a suicidal person has to overcome is their loss of faith and hope. I believe that in order to have hope you must have faith. Faith is not always a religious faith, though I think that is the best faith to have. It also can take many other forms such as faith in family, friends, coaches, spouses, lovers and on occasion someone that we randomly meet and strike a cord of communication that leads to a bonding of faith. They must take that leap of faith in order to start building hope that whatever their problem is can be solved and resolution attained. I have always been the type of person that places a very high value on life and I am very proud of that fact. I also have always believed that there is a solution to every problem we have. We must be willing to communicate and search out those solutions. Suicide permanently halts those options. We as parents, teachers, clergy, family and friends must learn to recognize and act on the covert signs that lead to the act of suicide. This is not an easy task. By becoming aware of the signs we can have an intercession that might thwart the act, thus saving the lives of those whom are loved but cannot see it.