Suicide prevention: Practice what you preach Marietta

We preach suicide prevention to our children. We ask them to talk to us and let us know when they are having a problem. But what happens when they do and we seek help only to find that there is none available. There is a family (will not release names for privacy) that tried desperately to get help … only to be turned away. “John Doe,” we will call him, had been noticing some depression for months. He had trouble sleeping, grades slipping, and tremendous pressure at school. He tried to deal with it alone until it was too much to bear. He confided in his parents that he desperately needed some professional help. The mother spent the next day on the phone for hours trying to find some help for him. Counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist … just somebody to help him. Only to be turned away due to providers not being contracted with their insurance company, being booked up for months or offices not accepted anyone under 18. Apparently, you must tell these places that you are having suicidal thoughts, otherwise they do not feel that you are in crisis. Really? Really? They don’t feel it is urgent, although it could become that way if left untreated. The mother fought through the tears and continued to try to find her son the help he needed. The fear of not finding him help was overwhelming to “John” and his parents. During these phone calls no one offered any advice or suggestions. What they should have said is … I am so sorry, but these are the steps that you need to take or at the least give some options so parents would know what to do and how to help. The lack of help made “John” feel worse, it made him feel more depressed. “No one wants to help me” John told his mom. Thank God they had family with outside relationships and they were finally able to find a counselor that offered to see “John” that day. He assured “John” that he would find him the help he needed, and he did! He made things happen immediately. He was the hero this family needed, he possibly could have saved a life that day.

I think we have all been touched by suicide at some point in our lives. Maybe it was a friend, coworker, family member, teammate … regardless we have all felt the pain in some way. Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. “John’s” warning signs were there, he had not acted upon any self-harm thoughts he might have had, but he obviously was in crisis and couldn’t handle it alone. He was brave enough to ask to help, and how sad that it was so hard to find. Don’t we want to help these kids? We need a crisis center for them, a safe place for them to go and get help. If we want to prevent teen suicide we have to be willing to help them. If they are feeling as hopeless as “John” was, you just don’t know what they might do.

Help our kids Marietta! It may be someone close to you someday and you will be searching for help as well. I hope you have better luck than this family did.

I did not release the name of the counselor (hero) as the family had not asked permission to do so.

Joan Borman