In just a few days, a grim milestone in my life will pass. June 13th will mark two years since one of my closest, most trusted friends committed suicide. Since then another friend, a paramedic that I worked with, has also taken his life. It’s been about eight months since that happened.
Everyone has their past, myself being no exception. I had my issues before I learned to accept my sexual orientation and everything came together for me. When Aaron killed himself, though, it brought up a flood of emotions I hadn’t thought I would experience. When Mark did the same thing I felt similar things albeit on a smaller scale. I have thought long and hard about these two events, as well as the suicide of a guy I knew mostly through other fire/EMS workers I’d known for a long time. In my line of work, unfortunately, this kind of thing happens; a corrections officer who helped train be committed suicide back in 2003 and that was rough, too. When it’s someone you have known for half your life, it’s different.
During the course of my duties I’ve counseled people who were depressed and suicidal. I’ve heard a lot of things, ranging from those I strongly believed were putting on a show for an ex-significant other to those who were having serious issues and had many, many reasons to be despondent and ready to die. The ones I have always worried the most about are the ones who never talk about it. They act like nothing is wrong, then out of nowhere, they’re simply gone.
My personal opinion – personal, not professional – is that people who are suicidal can be treated, but if a person is genuinely determined to commit suicide and they do not wish to harm anyone else they should not be forcibly hospitalized. I believe that is a direct result of those who have sued police, fire and doctors after a loved one has killed themselves. I loved Aaron and Mark and would have readily done anything I could to help them. If either of them had asked for my help I would have dropped everything, even left work on short notice to do whatever I could. Both of them, however, were very good at masking their inner turmoil and were determined to die. I am angry at them both. That’s perfectly healthy, even though I feel guilty for being angry at them. I often wonder if I failed in my duties to recognize warning signs that probably weren’t there.
In the end, I believe that even though some people may really be sick and need help when they start talking about suicide, some are really making their own decisions. That is not an easy thing to say. It’s an opinion I may one day change my mind about. Both Aaron and Mark had small children. I’ll never understand why they would have left their kids, and it’s tragic that their kids will never know the courage and dedication that their fathers had.
What I really wish is that suicide wasn’t connected with so many stigmas. So many people I know see suicidal behavior merely as a cry for attention, and with some people, it is; in many, however, it’s a dangerous game to play by getting mad at a depressed person. To anyone out there who has a loved one who is struggling with multiple issues, I implore you, talk to them. Let them know how much you love them. The ones you love who struggle and still put on a smile are often most at risk. Pay attention. You may well catch something that others have missed.