Today’s entry is not fiction. It is one of the most serious posts I’ve ever had. Your attention for the next few minutes would be appreciated. I am not a mental-health counselor, and all of the advice below is based solely on my personal experience.
First, let’s start with the telephone number you need when it’s not good in the extreme: 1-800-273-8255. That’s the suicide prevention hotline. Write that number down. Program it into your phone, your address book, write it on your bedroom wall in big florescent marker if you are thinking about taking your life in any serious way.
When this post goes public it will be less than 40 hours after a bunch of people reached out to save a man’s life. He may not think people kept him alive, but they did. It’s hard to admit you are at the end of the leash. If you are feeling like you’ll hurt yourself, or others, call 800-273-8255 right now. Or, if you’re my friend, call me. You know my number. Call someone whom you love. Or who loves you. But don’t be alone: get help and do it now.
There are a lot of people who are hurting badly right now for an enormous number of reasons. Mental health issues are no different than other ailments, and often related to physical issues. People are especially vulnerable to self-harm if they are suffering from PTSD. Many are, and not just from the trauma you may expect. But other things like chronic pain, immobility, or even roller-coaster sugar readings for diabetics can be the physical trigger that moves you into the darkest place humans can go.
Finding yourself alone, for months on end, during a quarantine will knock the stuffings out of your mental health even if you went into it feeling great. Add some seasonal depression, physical discomfort (like not going outside for months), additional anguish about getting ill with the virus, and you have a recipe for trouble.
Top that off with a dose of insurrection, rioting, arson, death, and mayhem for a bad situation. The worst influence of all on some of the victims is social media and cable news. 24 x 7 doom and gloom. People who were a bit obsessive are now fully engulfed in the misery offered like candy at Halloween. And it is too much. It gets inside their heads and turns their world upside down.
Anxiety and depression are at the edge of life for many people. Current circumstances have made it worse. But how can you help?
First, when you see your friends starting to stray into the extremes, where everything, every statement in the media, every Facebook post, every tweet is literally a call to arms for them, you need to talk to them. Other things such as describing extreme loss from a pet’s death, or mourning a child they lost years before in every post may be signs that they are in a bad way.
Bring them cookies. Yes, quarantine be damned. Why? Because they won’t survive suicide and the virus may not even weigh in to the equation.
But if you can’t stop by for coffee, or bake them a cake, call them on the phone. Not an instant message. Hear their voice. Talk of something trivial, bring out some good things in life. Sound them out on where they are at. Offer to meet with them, or get them help if they are overwhelmed. Don’t be shy to suggest it, for you will regret it eternally if you don’t and they hurt themselves.
If you are not close to them, seek out help from a reliable person who is close. Not physically, but emotionally. Perhaps they will be able to get through to the person and get them help. It may be a sibling, or a minister, or their neighbor. But find them some solace.
If you do not know where they live, but are friends on social media and concerned by their posts, there is a feature on Facebook to notify Facebook that self-harm is likely. You click on the little buttons for the post and choose from the drop down measures. They may have identifying information to deal with it and can contact the authorities.
Finally, if you have no other options, call 911 and seek their help. This can be difficult if they live in another state, but you’ve got to try something. It’s scary, and awful, and I’ve had to do it before. It was too late, but I was so glad I tried.
What caveats are there? First, don’t put your own life in danger. If they are holding a weapon, or have soaked themselves in gasoline, back off and get the authorities involved. If they’ve overdosed, call 911 immediately – don’t wait for them to quit breathing. If possible, get other people into a safe place while waiting for the authorities. But DO NOT RISK YOUR LIFE.
But you should do something. Make the call. Drive over and pound on their door. Call the authorities. Don’t just walk away. And don’t post that they should chill out and calm down. They won’t hear any message except that their friends have deserted them.
This is not being nosy. It’s not butting in. It is saving a life. And you were put there in that moment to talk them off the ledge.