By Kelly Thomas
Related Articles Below
Email: This friend of mind recently committed suicide and I am devastated. He had been calling me throughout the week wanting to talk. I just didn't see it coming. It is so tragic. I was on the way to see him when I found out. There's a lot involved. I am totally in shock.
Reply: So sorry. This is not your fault, nothing you can do about it. And, you never, never want to ever think you are responsible for someone else's behavior.
Suicide is such a difficult thing mainly as it is so wrapped in the tragic and sad circumstances often of mental illness, mostly bipolar types, which is sad in itself. I subscribe to the Albert Ellis view (guy who developed theory of RET, Rational Emotive Therapy), that a person's life belongs to them; and, if they choose to end it, it is their decision. Sounds really cold and there is only relative truth to it, I believe.
Every suicide victim has a different story. Most of the time, drugs are involved and almost always mental illness. Just My experience as a chaplain.
Over the years, I've come to believe that most of the time, a person momentarily goes crazy; but unfortunately, if they are successful in the attempt to kill themselves, there is no changing their minds.
Here in San Francisco, we are constantly debating those who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and it is indeed a popular spot. When I was a chaplain at Letterman Army Medical Center -when it was a 250 bed teaching hospital-part of our job was to retrieve the jumpers and get them to the hospital's morgue as they almost always died. Once in a while, one lived. and I talked to one who did.
He told me that he immediately, after jumping, knew he'd made a mistake and wanted to live, so he positioned himself to hit the water straight which saved his life: feet first and together (much like paratroopers are taught to land feet together) as opposed to just randomly flopping. For him, it was a spur of the moment decision.
This guy is an example of the thinking now. If we can do something to take away a person's ability to be spontaneous as in taking their lives, i. e., a barrier at the Golden Gate Bridge, once they are over the impulse, they are OK, at least for the moment.
I know you feel badly and I would too. If he had talked to you, would it have prevented it, maybe? Hard to know, but you are not responsible. I think the key is to recognize mental illness and then to be responsible with what you believe the problem to be.
I don't know if you have ever been involved with someone who is crazy (my shrink friend says the best definition of how to know someone is crazy is that you can't understand them--I've always found that is exactly right, just can't understand them or their behavior). I have stories to tell about people that I truly care about who simply are on another planet, sometimes a different galaxy. I do not know how I survived without being affected and am always grateful.
Sorry about your friend and the difficulty. All life is a laboratory.
Related Airborne Press Articles:
The Documentary, The Bridge
Suicide and Bipolar Disease