suicide etiquette 101
This weekend started off in a pretty interesting manner. I was at work minding my own business when someone I know (but just barely) asked me if I could tell when people were going to die. This may SOUND like a bizarre question, but it isn’t really, when factoring me into the conversation. I am a bit of a psychic. I don’t know if I should say that, because it’s not like I’ve been tested and approved, like some of those new commercials or adds brag about. Still, I’ve been known to acquire information accidentally. Like which player on the team is going to get the winning touchdown, or what your favorite sexual position is, or who has a problem staying away from the “ladies”. So the question didn’t surprise me, and I told her that even if I DID know when someone was going to die, I wouldn’t tell them. I mean, come on. “By the way, you have a week to live. Hope you have something planned”.
Her response was curious. “Oh, well I’ve been thinking about killing myself, and I just wondered if that showed up”.
Well obviously, this freaked me right out. She wasn’t telling me she was headed off to Rite Aid to get a fresh razor blade, or off to KMART for a load of ammunition, but it was unsettling nonetheless. And it’s not like I don’t understand these issues; depression, insanity, the call of a nice shiny pointed object. I get it. But this sounded to me like a call for help.
I was rattled by this open bald-faced admission, and went to another friend for a word of advice. Do I give this person my home phone number, so they can talk to me about this issue? Do I call the police? Do I alert her immediate supervisor? We settled on me giving her a hotline number, urging her to email me RIGHT NOW, and setting up a date for coffee NEXT WEEK, emphasizing that she WILL be around still next week. I was encouraged not to try to handle this situation myself, but to try to redirect her to a professional.
Still, that night I cried for quite some time. I was worried. I felt responsible. I thought that if she DID kill herself, and I was the only one that knew about it, I was totally culpable. What should I have done differently? I ended up calling her on her cell phone, and she was very flippant and nonchalant about the whole situation. “Oh, this is something I’ve been dealing with since I was fifteen. I think about it all the time”.
She wasn’t REALLY going to kill herself. She got depressed. She thought about her mortality. She cuts herself and takes pills sometimes, but not deeply enough to sever anything of importance (relatively) and not so many pills that she whacks herself off. So what, is this all just about the drama? Are you bored? Do you just want to give people around you nervous breakdowns?
No really, I very much understand this whole situation and way of life. But I just seriously think you need to get some help. Life can be better than this. You CAN be happy, if you want. Eventually. With pills. Or booze. Or a credit card that allows you to do a lot of shopping.
So I’m worried about this girl, and the next day am still bothered about the situation, and then yesterday talked to my therapist about this, and even today had to discuss the issue with several other people. Because this is serious. This isn’t like suddenly changing your hair color, or radically altering your physical appearance with tattoo sleeves or facial modification. This is the end of your life. This is you laying this death on someone else’s shoulders … potentially.
Sometimes people kill themselves, I understand that. I get that some people find this a viable option and a necessary evil, and I’m not advocating it nor am I denouncing it. It is, and has been, a part of life. But seriously, you need to think about WORDING people. If you talk casually about suicide on a regular basis, in front of people you barely know, you will likely get a reaction. If it isn’t really something that is a “big deal”, maybe you should consider just saying you’re depressed. Or angry. Or that you hate life. Actually going so far as to say you are thinking about killing yourself is a bold statement that will likely be met with some sort of response involving your immediate supervisor, the police, or a mental health professional. People DO care; but please, if you are just bored with your life, or looking for a way to pass the time, or just don’t have anything interesting to say, then you need to think up some new lines. It just isn’t good suicide etiquette to fake people out about your mental desperation. Next time, I might just hand you the extra gun I have in my glove compartment.