Thursday, February 23, 2012

Too Close to Home

Those of you who know me know about my surrogate son, Marty.  He's a wonderful, very sensitive, sometimes obnoxious 22-year-old.  Tonight, I received a panic-laden phone call from him that went like this:
"Ron.  I've got a very serious problem, and I don't know what to do.  My friend, 'Carol' just told me that she wants to die and that she took 50 sleeping pills.  What should I do?"
He gets flustered easily.  This time it was warranted.  Being as closely involved with this anti-suicide mission as I've been since the onset of this blog paid huge dividends.  I knew exactly what needed to be done.
"You need to get off the phone with me and call the police immediately!  Tell them exactly what you just told me.  Give them all of the information you can about where she is right now."
Reluctantly, he hung up and followed directions to the "t".  "Reluctantly" because he didn't know what to expect from his friend.   "Reluctantly" because dealing with the authorities makes him nervous.  I guess.  Whatever the reservations, he got the job done.  Shortly thereafter, the police called back and told him that they'd contacted his friend Carol and that she'd told them that she was just fine.  This was confusing.

There was also some apprehension on his part because he knows his friend and knows that, well, she's cried wolf before.  In fact, he became a bit agitated.  I reminded him that "this is not about you; it's about Carol.  What if she's telling you the truth?  What if she really did take the pills.  You cannot chance the possibility that she COULD be telling you the truth this time."

A phone call from her confirmed that she had, indeed, told him the truth.  He could hear the grogginess in her voice.  He called the police again.  This time armed with an address he could give them, they were able to send a squad car to her home.

They reached her before the pills had time to take full affect.  Stomach pumped, Carol is now recovering in a local hospital.  An exhausted, dazed and confused Marty helped save his friend's life.  Of course, never to miss out on a dramatic moment, now he's concerned that she's going to be mad at him when she gets out of the hospital.  He's concerned that his actions tonight may have ended their friendship.

For myself, this was a learning experience, given up close and personal.  First of all, knowing what to do when you're faced with an in-the-moment crisis is absolutely crucial.  If someone has already swallowed a bottle of pills, or is standing in front of you with a gun in their hand pointed at their head, there's no margin for error.  Knowing what to do in the heat of the moment is imperative.  This is why I repeatedly list resources that can be used if ever faced with that situation:

Suicide Support
STOP Teenage Suicide

Needless to say, there are more resources available.  However, having these handy will save lives if used.  And, of course, if the urgency is there (as was the case with Carol), dialing 911 is critical.

When do you take a suicide threat as a bluff?  Easy answer:  never.  Even in a case where you know that the person has a history of crying wolf, or is prone to drama, you never know when "this" would be the time when they're telling the truth.  Had Marty followed his intuition, and his history of dealing with Carol, chances are pretty good that she'd be gone, now.  This wouldn't be the first time I've dealt with someone who raised questions as to whether or not they were being sincere or just having fun at my expense.  However, I treated each case as if they had the loaded Glock pointed at their head as we spoke.  There is no alternative.  We don't have a choice.

People who have suicidal ideation have no intent or desire to wake up in the hospital.  I surely didn't.  And, I was quite unhappy to wake up in ICU and learn that a.) I was still here; and, b.) that my sister had saved me.  Unhappy, yes.  Mad at her?  No.  Conversely, I do know that there are times when the unsuccessful suicide victim becomes very angry towards the person(s) who saved them.  They get over it.  Eventually, they come to the understanding that life is good and that they're glad that someone intervened.  When a person is to the point in their life where the only viable option to them is suicide, they've given up all hope for any semblance of a bright future, of being happy, of things actually getting better.  To have someone "ruin" their well-thought out plan of suicide is maddening.  The bright side is that, as time goes on, we start putting the pieces of our lives back together.  All of a sudden, new opportunities arise and we see hope for a brighter future.  We get in touch with things that make us happy...maybe even learn some new things that accomplishes that goal.  Little-by-little, things actually do start to get better.  And, that's when we realize how happy, and grateful, we are that someone had the courage to risk our relationship for that sake of saving our life.

It probably won't set in with Marty for quite some time the role he played tonight in Carol's life.  Without him, her family would most likely be making funeral arrangements right now.  Because of him, they've possibly been saved, even if only for now, from a lifetime of debilitating grief.  I'm mighty proud of him.

It's feels good to write a happy ending.


  1. Good for him. He overcame his own anxieties to help a friend and proved himself to be a brave man.

  2. My brother also tried to commit suicide. It was around 3 in the morning and I was asleep on the couch. I was half awake and I could her my sister in law crying (they weren't married at the time). I heard her talking to my mother. I woke up and asked what was going on and they told me that he had written a letter and had taken a bunch of pills. The pills were mixed and included xanax bars, klonopins, and one other pill i can't remember. He tried to come up the stairs and almost fell he was so messed up but we got him upstairs and called an ambulance and got his shirt and shoes on. The ambulance arrived in minutes. I rode with my mom and sister in law to the hospital, we were there for a few hours. He couldn't leave until he was awake obviously but they told us that he was lucky because he had taken the pills in some kind of time frame. Atleast everything worked out.

  3. I agree with speaking out against suicide in any capacity. Take these threats very seriously, but most people who contemplate suicide don't tell anyone. The only time I did intervene in a suicide much like the one described in this article, the person was a close family member. She had her stomach pumped as well, and I was worried before calling an ambulance if it was the right decision, in retrospect it was.

    Suicide is like the "perfect storm" of things that happen in one's life. It is that one last bad thing to happen that sets somebody off, and speaking to this person years later I did ask why they tried to commit suicide. They told me they don't remember, that life was like a blur at the time, and that they don't even remember taking the pills, it was a place so dark that they can't really remember it well. But they also told me that they were grateful that I stopped them, and that they don't know how they got to such a dark place, and learned a valuable lesson from it all...just thought I would share that.

  4. That is awesome, I am proud of him too and he should be proud of himself.

  5. I agree, it's important to take every threat of suicide seriously. Some people say that people who mean it won't talk about it, but that's just not true. Yes, some people talk about it as a cry for help, or threaten suicide more as a way to say "I am at breaking point" than because they actually want to die, and there are some people who completely make stuff up for attention or to emotionally wound people, but that shouldn't cloud people's judgement. Even the people who repeatedly threaten their own lives, or even take non-lethal overdoses can either becoming thoroughly serious about their intentions or simply miscalculate what will kill them and what will take them to the emergency room. Suicide threats should ALWAYS be taken seriously.