July 11, 2011

i came face to face with a suicidal person

I was in the doctors office today waiting for my wound appointment and there was a man next to me also waiting, he was in a wheel chair. He had been having trouble with his chair, frankly the thing was falling apart and I went and asked the receptionist to get on of the hospitals just in case. I was worried his son wasn't going to get him through the door without the thing breaking apart; so we got to chatting after I mentioned in the nicest way that for his own safety he might want to consider an upgrade. He then told me he'd been in the chair for over twenty years.

I was tempted to shy away from "the question" but i didn't want to sit and have that difficult silence set in so I always just dive right in with tact of course and I asked him. " Are you in the chair as the result of an accident or an illness if you don't mind me asking," he replied "illness the mentioned a name of the horrible illness I couldn't quite frankly pronounce and is not familiar to me. Then he went on to tell me he woke up at forty one with a back ache a few days later he was in so much pain that could not be managed, he eventually due to this condition went down to Duke University Hospital and had his spinal cord severed. (to relieve the pain) OMG how terrible is that.

Then he started to talk about wanting to go to heaven to see the baby brother who died at one day old but not in the context that was comfortable, there was an urgency to get there. I know for instance as a Catholic my faith tells me that I will see my children one day, but this man wants to go to heaven and he wants to go tomorrow; he said so. I on the other hand look forward being reunited with my children one day but am in no rush to do so. He said some other things regarding death that frankly made me more than a little concerned. He then turned the conversation to how he's been on medication for years for depression and they don't help one bit.

I have never been face to face with a suicidal person before but I knew for sure he was, he was so sad just drained of all life. This man's spirit was broken and he was crying out for help.

I'm not sure why but my heart just told me to speak to him to tell him how I had found hope so I spoke. I told him how my kids died together and how terribly horrible I felt afterwards. (For the record I was never suicidal but I remember wanting to go to sleep and wishing to stay that way because being awake meant pain.)  I explained that I went to a doctor and talked about my loss and how it affected my life and it took years, many years for me to make peace to remake my life after they died. Then I told him, my doctor was a man who didn't have children and regardless of the fact or that he had never dealt with my type of loss he was still very capable of tremendous understanding and empathy and he helped me very much. And that I sincerely hoped that he'd consider finding someone to talk to.

Then I reported him to the medical staff.
Said a prayer for him too.
Has anyone had any experience with a suicidal person or have any thoughts on my experience with him?


  1. A few months ago I was suicidal. My mind was in a very dark place. I did something foolish and thankfully people around me acted swiftly and I was able to get the medical care that I needed. What drove me? Many things. Ongoing chronic pain issues on top of mental health issues. Being in that deep dark pit is hell and you truly believe that there isn't any way out. The pain is so immense and the illness makes you believe horrible things.
    That night I tucked my hospital id band into my wallet to remind myself that there is help and there is hope. And to remind me of how far I've come in just a few short months.
    I thank my lucky stars for the people who rallied behind me and I'm sure that that stranger in the waiting room will thank you too. I'm so very proud of you

  2. Kimberly I am so glad that you have made it out of your darkness. You just keep on getting on with your own personal mental health, it is so important for you to take care of yourself.

    And the guy I wrote about in the post;I pray he heard me I really do.

  3. I'm so glad you did what you could for that poor man - thank goodness you were the one who happened to sit down next to him.

  4. Thanks Megan,
    I'm glad too. I like to think these things sometimes happen for a reason; that maybe we were placed together for that purpose. I kinda hoped hearing of my personal circumstances might have given him a glimmer of hope.

  5. I know you must have really helped this patient. I think being available to people in this way is more important than actively proslytizing or handing out pamphlets about being a Christian.

    I would also like to say that I think there is a difference between being really suicidal and feeling like you want to die. I have felt like I wanted to die, but would never harm myself. I have also known people who were so miserable in their lives that they wanted to die, but when you asked them, they denied making plans to harm themselves.

    I'm a clinical social worker, and used to work in hospitals, and we were trained to always ask a person whom we thought was suicidal if they had a specific plan - a way that they were going to kill themselves. If they told you a specific manner in which they were going to harm themselves, that was a red flag - it meant they really were going to make an attempt, because they had thought it out to that extent. Of course, there are no formulas regarding suicide and who will do it and who won't -

    It must be horrible to be in such terrible pain, both emotionally and physically, all the time - it must have been healing for him to have you care enough to ask about his situation -

  6. Dear Anonymous-
    Thanks for your insights. I was pretty much just going on my gut instincts regarding in our encounter just as a caring human.And I might add, I would be very happy to be wrong on this one.

    I can tell you this however, when I reported it to the medical staff and recounted our entire conversation (i only posted part of it) they knew exactly who I was talking about. And of course they couldn't comment due to privacy laws other than to say what I already knew that his circumstances were tragically sad.

  7. It's always best to follow your instincts and intuition. I'm glad that you went to the medical staff about it.

    Maybe God will bring you other people with whom He wants you to speak with, and it will be really helpful to the patients in the doctor's office.


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