Today I am choosing to write about a very serious and hard subject. Why? Because this is a subject that is heartbreakingly near and dear to my heart.
Recently we have all seen the news of the tragic death of the great Robin Williams. The loss of this comedic genius is hard to understand, and while we know that he committed suicide, the real reason he died was the depression. It is a crippling disease that is not fully accepted by society as a true disease...but I know that it is.
It runs in my family, I have lived to watch friends who have killed themselves because of depression, I have had family members who have been living with this disease for many years and continue to, struggle. I have gotten phone calls from family members who have stared at a bottle of pills all night wondering if one bottle would do the job or should they take two........I have family members who have made attempts. Knowing this breaks my heart.....knowing all I can do is be there, is frustrating, I wish I could do more.
I also suffer from depression. Before I was pregnant I had the darkest and scariest time of my life up to that point. I wanted to die, I planned it, my then husband and I were going through another bad patch, he didn't ask me if I was ok during this period, does this mean we were avoiding each other? He didn't care enough at the time? I hid it when he was around? Who knows at this point......but I certainly felt alone. I don't know why I didn't follow through, especially since I never reached out for help. I have to assume that God had a hand in my choosing life.
But here's a different story......my son who is now 12, has suffered from depression for several years already in his short life. He has already talked about suicide since before he understood what it meant at the age of 7. At first it was choking himself, which sounds kind of funny....because the worst that could happen is he would make himself pass out.....then he talked about electrocution, sticking fingers etc in a light socket.
He broke my heart. I worked hard getting him into play therapy etc. Eventually as things got worse and we exhausted our options he was admitted to a children's psychiatric hospital. He was there for 6 weeks two and a half years ago. It was the worst time of my life but the best of his.
Things got better, over the last year, he has deteriorated again. He has gotten much more physically and verbally aggressive, as well as developed a bad habit of bolting. With this he has increased his suicidal talk.
This past Wednesday, he became physically and verbally aggressive with in home staff, bolted from the house and then attempted to kill himself by trying to jump in front of oncoming traffic. He became aggressive toward the police when they arrived on the scene. Eventually he was taken (in handcuffs) by ambulance to the emergency room. I hope most mothers never have to witness that, it is a gut wrenching experience. I met him in the ER, he had to remain in handcuffs for almost an hour until he calmed and could show the police he could remain in control of himself. Sweetser Crisis was called in to evaluate him. Will told her very calmly and clearly that he wants to die sometimes and he has a plan. He told her the plan. By the end of her evaluation he was in a completely different head space and was calm and happy and expressing he wanted to go home. She was ready to send him home.
I got really upset, pointed out that she was ready to send a child home that hours earlier tried to commit suicide, expressed the desire to die, and has an executable plan. She flinched and said "I'll make a few calls, and be right back."
We stayed in the locked psych er unit for the night, but they sent us home the next day because any acute hospitals are not "appropriate" for Will, he has been referred to the DD unit at Spring Harbor (this is where he stayed 2&1/2 yrs ago) but it has to be a planned admission and there is at least a 3 week wait list.
We have been fighting for 5 months for a 3 month out of home residential intensive therapy program which best fits his needs at the current time. However the state continues to deny that he needs the treatment. So now we wait for this other treatment on pins and needles that he doesn't make another attempt.
The reason I say my son's story is different is because while he suffers from depression, he is not suicidal in the "typical" sense.... (if there is a typical sense). Will is very impulsive, and reactionary. When things are good, he's good. He might have feelings of sadness, but doesn't typically think of suicide. However, when he has a meltdown and "goes there" he becomes extremely irrational and impulsive. It is then that he decides that he wants to die and will jump on whatever way is available to him. If there is a knife available, then he will put it to him neck. He was on the side walk by a busy street, so he chose jumping into traffic weds. This almost makes it scarier then if I had one certain thing to guard against......but then again, it would help if the state had more help for kids in destress.
I'm sharing our story not for pity, but for understanding. Depression and suicide looks different for everyone, it is serious and needs to be treated as such, and the people suffering from it need to be treated with understanding and respect not ridicule.