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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Illness, Isolation and Despair

Last week, a co-worker of mine committed suicide.  There's no explanation.  (Is there ever an explanation?)  It was especially shocking because this man was well known and a friend to all.  He was so joyous and knew everyone's name.  So what happened?  What did everyone miss?  Could it have been prevented?  That's impossible to say, but the experts at Help Guide have suggested several ways you can help or determine whether someone is suicidal:

1.  Speak up if you're worried.  Don't assume someone else will do this, even if the depressed person has family or friends that might be "closer".

2.  Respond quickly.  If a person shares that he or she is contemplating suicide, take them seriously.  If they describe a plan, call 911 and don't let them out of your sight.

3.  Offer help and support.  I had to read this one a couple of times because it seems overly simplistic.  However, when I read "help" I think that means "fix".  You can't fix, but you can offer to be a sympathetic ear that can facilitate the person to get professional help.

When someone dies, the inevitable "could I have done anything . . ." comes to mind.  It's not clear that it would have made a difference for my co-worker, as he did his best to isolate himself in the months leading up to him taking his own life.  However, he would be relieved to have his tragic death provide some incentive  or insight into helping others climb out of the pit of depression and despair.

Let's hope so.