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Monday, June 10, 2013

Thoughts on suicide

This is a dark topic, although one we all must face some time in our lives: suicide.  It's a permanent choice to a temporary problem.  A person feels he's a burden, or is in such a dark place, that he sees only one way out.  It's a sad end, one that impacts everyone.

I had a cousin I much respected. I never saw him much, although every year he was a regular at hunting camp.  He made the screen door.  He helped build the porch.  He played cards, drank an occasional beer, and seemed to fit in perfect.  Until one year he said, "I'm going to kill myself."  And, although he did not say yet implied, "I just came here to say good bye."

Well, here we are at hunting camp where the guys say goofy things all the time, yet it was still hard to take him lightly.  One of the guys was a counselor, and he spend many hours with him behind closed doors.  Although, for the rest of the camp, everything seemed normal.  Jimmy wore is hat, and we got many pictures of him; more so than usual, just in case, I guess.

Hunting camp ended on Sunday, and I saw Jim that morning.  There was no way by looking at him that in 24 hours he would be found on his front porch.  He waited until his kids went to school, and his wife was at work, and made a call so he would be cleaned up before they returned home.  He was just that kind of guy, to others.  When it came to himself, I guess he simply put others first.

Why did he do it?  What could we have done different? We have a picture of him on the wall: the infamous wall of dead people from hunting camp past.  The wall everyone will be on at some point.  Jimmy is up there, and has been so for 14 years.  He looks with that sly smirk under that red baseball cap.  He even has a beer in front of him.

He is not mentioned much anymore at camp, except in passing.  Occasionally someone makes a remark about the wall of fame, or the screen door that still slams every time someone enters.  Yet I think that deep in the backs of our minds, we all think of him in our own ways, perhaps none more so than his wife, step son, and three grandchildren. I did not know any of them.

Through the years I think of him in my prayers.  I still wonder if maybe we should have put away our silly frowns and farts, and payed him more attention.  Yet I have, and so have my brothers and friends, decided that there was nothing we could have said or done to help him: he had already decided.  Perhaps it was for this reason my social worker friend had no impact on him.  A part of me, however, wonders that this though might be merely to satisfy our own minds.

So what is the consensus on suicide.  Until this past week I believed, as I was taught, that suicide was a mortal sin.  However, Father Simon this past week gave a presentation to a group I like to hang out with, that "I had to do something horrible today: give the eulogy to a great friend who committed suicide."  He continued:
It used to be the thought that suicide was a mortal sin, that it was a complete utter disrespect for the life that God has gifted to you.  Although this is true, the Church has lightened up a bit.  To be a mortal sin it has to be three things:  One, it must be a grave matter; Two; it must be intentional; and Three, it must rational, or done with deliberate or complete consent of the person.  It is not up to us to decide that the person who is in such a dark whole, and decides to commit such an act, has made a rational choice.  It is no longer understood by the Church that a person who commits suicide cannot get to Heaven, as by Gods loving mercy there is hope for us all
What we must learn from such an act is we must all, at all time, be vigilant to the lives around us.  We must be attentive, and we must be caring, not just to our own needs and wants, but to the needs and wants of those around us.  Anyone of us in this room could be having trouble, and we must be mindful of the signs of trouble.  When one falls into such a dark place, they often show signs, ones we often miss, as I apparently did.  Tom was a good and dear friend of mine, and I can honestly say that giving the homely at his funeral was the second most difficult thing I have ever done after my own mothers funeral.  
I give that quote there from memory.  There are some things you do not need a tape recorder to remember.  As secretary, I even put down my pen as he spoke, thus recording nor writing none of it.  I do this out of respect to the individual speaking, and so that I can make sure to truly hear the spoken words.  There are certain times when you must listen with a full mind, and you cannot do this with a pen in hand.

Suicide rates have spiked significantly in the past several years, with OD attempts skyrocketing.  I have seen my share make it to the emergency room and critical care units.  I have seen a fair share not make it out of the emergency room alive.  I have seen many get better, go home, and come back.  I wonder what kind of trend in our nation would result in such a final act to a temporary problem.  I wonder what I, or we, can do to turn it around.

5 comments:

Rick Frea said...

Ironically, just after writing this I went to work, where there were two overdose patients on ventilators, and several others throughout the hospital.

katekindle said...

I would say, that we have to keep families together rather than divorce. Lie is tough no matter what, but an intact family is a big asset, often even a dysfunctional family is better than a split dysfunctional family. I think the Bible (New Testament particularly) is a wonderful guide for healthy thinking. Let's be open about being spiritually minded and make sure our children are trained in religion and are steady churchgoers. Keep the taboo going that suicide is a mortal sin. Scare the life into desperate people. Let's lean more on life coaching than on psychology. A life coach identifies the red flags such as toxic people in our lives, foiled goals and desires that will greatly increase our happiness, once recognized and pursued. And it puts power into the hands of the patient, right where it belongs. Half of mental illness is feeling helpless.

steve respiratory said...

Let me start by saying "I'm sorry about your loss of a loved one". You know life is more complex than we can understand and when someone is done living, they become the walking dead. Us who live will never understand what its like to want to take your own life. I wonder if when you get there(the point of wanting to kill yourself) if there's any turning back. I've read articles about concussions being a huge factor in ones ability to even go there mentally. The NFL is going to get an upgrade to it's helmets soon because of it. One thing is for sure, no man can take what's not his when it comes to suicide. Plenty try and regardless of the circumstances they fail.

Think about "walking suicides" (someone who treats their body like crap), most of us are content to see them put to rest because of their fowl odor and look. We tend to not have much remorse because we figure they got themselves there a long time coming. On the other hand we can't see the grotesque thoughts of poison running through the minds of those who can maintain a healthy body but decide a slug to the brain will be their quick fix. We feel so bad because we bought into the story that person projected to us but we really had no clue to how mentally sick this person really was. So it brings an interesting thought to mind, if we say its ok to drink and smoke yourself to death, why is it not ok to rush through the B/S and get there ASAP?? Not all gift are welcomed, even the gift of life. (I truly cherish my gift)

Rick Frea said...

Kate, I cannot agree with you more. You hit the nail on the head.

Rick Frea said...

I've had my share of concussions from my days playing sports in the yard as a kid. I fell out of a semi once backward, with my head smacking onto the cement. I'm sure these injuries were equal to what occurs in the NFL, maybe even worse, considering I never wore a helmet. Yes, I've had periods of depression, although I had them before I ever cared about sports too -- before the concussions. I've been depressed too, at times so deep into it I wondered if... Yet what always pulled me out was my upbringing, as Kate said. I knew from what I learned as a kid that there was a way out, and that it would end, and that there was more to life than ME. Now this is just my opinion, but I think there's been a high rate of suicides lately, and some people, instead of resorting to solutions, try to coat it with complex diagnosis's, such as the NFL thing. Guys have been rough housing since the beginning of time... Get rid of the NFL, and there will still be suicides, and then these people will try to come up with some other excuse until there's no fun left in life. It kind of goes along the lines of people creating there own traumas instead of dealing with the ones that exist. A simple solution, I think, is what Kate said. IMO