Once in a great while I see someone and know instantly that they are suffering depression. Sometimes, I can also see that they are nearing a crucial point of no return. I ask myself, “Is there no one in this person’s life who is able to see this and help them? Am I the only person around who sees that next week this person will be in the hospital recovering from a failed suicide attempt or on my embalming table with his or her parents in my arrangement room suffering from a tragic loss?” I really despise those moments, because I have to stop and ask, “Should I insert myself into the broken patterns of life this person is suffering and try to assist them, or should I mind my own business and let it work its own self out?”
The answer is obvious. One cannot ignore the desperate solitude suffered by someone at the end of life’s rope. One must intercede and advocate on the desolate person’s behalf. One has witnessed that the individual is unable to do so his or herself, and, thus, as a fellow human, one must offer assistance. If not, one will live with the consequences of guilt should this person successfully end his or her life.
I am unable to live with such consequences and, therefore, this week, I have found it necessary to interject myself into someone else’s life. I am uncomfortable being involved in someone else’s personal issues, and, therefore, I follow the advice of the National Suicide Prevention Council.
First, I ask the person if they are all right, if they need assistance, if there is anything I might do for them, and, finally, if they are considering suicide. I know that is a really forward question to ask someone you really don’t know, but if it saves a life, I get forward.
Second, I try to make sure that they are safe by speaking calmly and kindly to them. I try to redirect their focus through distraction. If there are dangerous elements nearby, I try to remove them from arms reach or help the person understand that there are other choices and people willing to help.
Third, I stay with the person while I get them immediate assistance. I call for emergency services. Everyone knows that phone number, 9-1-1. While we wait for EMS, I try to reassure them that there are things in life that matter even though they may not realize it right now. If the person does not want me to call 9-1-1, and I think they are calm enough, I will call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 800-273-8255.
Fourth, I talk with them and try to connect with them. I try to get them to realize that there are people who care, even if at the moment, it happens to be me, the stranger that saw something and stopped to help. I try to help them remember that there are reasons why they want to live.
Fifth, I follow up. I try to send little cheerful cards. I call them on the phone just to see how they are doing. Or, if I am too busy for a conversation, I will text message them whenever I think of them.
All of these things are simple to do. I may not want to take the time to do them, but I have been too close to those who suffer from loved ones who have committed suicide to ignore a person who is walking near the edge. I would rather slow down my life and help someone who is suffering, than regret seeing them on my embalming table knowing that I could have at least tried to help them the day before yesterday while they were still breathing.
Sometimes slowing down benefits, not just me, but others, too.
Tracy Renee Lee is managing funeral director for Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City, Texas. She is an author, syndicated columnist and Certified Grief Counselor. She writes books, weekly bereavement articles, and grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief. She is the American Funeral Director of the Year r,unner-up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. She delivers powerful messages and motivates audiences toward positive recovery. It is her life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. For additional encouragement and to read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” visit www.MourningCoffee.com.