The Call You Don’t Want to Make
I pulled over to the side of the road. I would rather have waited another 45 minutes to make the call. I wanted to arrive at my destination first, unload my suitcase, gather my thoughts. Then make the call.
But life and death won’t wait.
We all have a few stories that we hold close. We only talk about them with those who are nearest to us.
The stories can be both sacred and scary. They sometimes need time as a buffer before they’re retold.
This is one of those stories for me. It happened awhile back.
That day in my car, temporarily halting my drive to Auburn to visit my teenage daughter, I nervously looked up the number for the Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-TALK). I saved it in my contacts.
One phone call earlier, I’d been listening to my daughter tell me about her friend who had been threatening suicide. Serious threats.
As the responsible adult now in-the-know, I felt like a little child myself. I didn’t know what to do either. Pray, pray, pray. But what did God want me to actually do?
Ask Someone Else
The good news is often when we don’t know what to do, someone else does.
I called the university’s counseling office for advice. They were caring and informative. They recommended actions we could take to help. I finished my drive.
After a harrowing few days and weeks, this crisis passed.
The story still lingers in my soul though.
Combined with other stories surrounding suicidal thoughts and events from those close to me, these subjects are often taboo for general conversation.
Suicide is a subject we’d rather avoid.
And understandably so.
But can we afford to avoid it?
Talk about Suicide
I finished a novel last Saturday. I wasn’t going to put it on my “Books I Recommend” list that I share on Tuesday. There were parts of the book I did not like. Parts that made me uncomfortable. Sad. Dark.
Yet by the time I reached the end, I knew I had to share it (although it’s still not a book for everybody).
Talking about suicide shouldn’t be avoided just because it’s distressing.
The book was All the Bright Places, a young adult novel from 2015 by Jennifer Niven. And it did include bright things. Happy scenes. Fun adventures.
But it also included hard narratives about teens who suffer from mental/emotional disturbances, whether from life events or a mental illness.
After the story ends, the Author’s Note says:
“Every forty seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. Every forty seconds, someone is left behind to cope with the loss.”
Whether we choose to think about it or not.
“Often, mental and emotional illnesses go undiagnosed because the person suffering symptoms is too ashamed to speak up, or because their loved ones either fail to or choose not to recognize the signs.”
May we each be brave enough to see, to hear, to talk.
And when we don’t know what to do next, to get help. Either for ourselves or for others. Help is out there.
God doesn’t intend us to walk this alone.
Scrolling through the contacts on my phone last week, I noticed the Suicide Hotline number is still there.
Even though the situation with my daughter’s friend has passed, I think I’ll leave the number there anyway. . . .
* * *
My condolences to the many of you who have lost loved ones to suicide. What resources would you recommend to further understand suicide and/or mental illness? Please share any thoughts in the comments.
See the book trailer here to All the Bright Places (it’s also being made into a movie?).
- If You Have to Negotiate
- 8 Books I Recommend – January 2017