A few days ago I shared a blog post on whether or not suicide by gun is actually gun violence. Most of the comments posted by readers said it is. A few, however, said it isn’t and were pretty flippant about it.
Most respondents’ stories were gut-wrenching. All were heartbreaking. All were heartfelt….except for those few flippant ones.
I really don’t know why respondents chose to share what they did. In the end, it really doesn’t matter why they chose to do so. It only matters that they did. Lessons learned and shared….that’s what it’s all about.
Some told stories of witnessing a suicide by gun. Others told stories of finding a body after the fact. Still others told stories of those responsible for informing them their loved ones had committed suicide. The last one is what happened with me. The look on the face of our Victim’s Advocate when she blurted out “Carla’s dead” will be forever etched into my memory. The flip comments? I’m having a hard time believing those folks read the blog post.
One person shared a link to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website. Clicking this link takes the reader to a page that addresses “Protecting Yourself and Those Around You”. There are many other sites out there that address suicide prevention. All of them have merit.
Suicide by any means is tragic. The ripple effects last a lifetime. Suicide by gun is arguably a different ballgame altogether.
In my story, Carla used a handgun. She hated guns. She hated that her daughter was shot. She hated that her son was trapped for hours on end not knowing whether he, too, would be shot. She hated that guns were used to murder and maim so many others at Columbine High School. She didn’t try to distinguish between whether guns or people kill people.
That she used a gun to end her own life is the irony, the contradiction in her belief system.
Her delusions, her paranoia, her psychotic episodes all led her medical care providers to walk me through a regimen of things I could, and should, do to help minimize the possibility of her being successful in taking her own life. Please note I said minimize. The premise here is to try to eliminate the “means”.
We all knew she had suicidal ideation (fancy term for she wanted to commit suicide). Even the case worker that made Carla hand-write a “safety contract” before she could be discharged from in-patient to out-patient care knew it was a risk to let her go. I could see that concern written all over her face as she recited the list of things for Carla to write down. The “safety contract” included things that Carla promised she would do if she started feeling any signs of intent to do harm to herself. In my heart of hearts I knew she was promising to do things she had no intention of following through on, but my hands were tied. I had to go along with this. Someone somewhere had determined she no longer presented a threat to herself….end of discussion.
When the “safety contract” was finished and signed, Carla was officially discharged into my care except for her 8 hour stints at the hospital for psychiatric treatment.
Ten days later, Carla put a gun to her temple and pulled the trigger.
My personal mental anguish began haunting me. What more could I have done to prevent this from happening?
I did everything on the list that the medical professionals told me to do.
In the end, Carla was still able to circumvent a kind of “house arrest” because I hadn’t considered a few things, critical things that were minor on their face, but major in the overall scheme she hatched to end her life.
She wasn’t allowed to drive. I didn’t consider she’d call a taxi.
She was supposed to check herself in at the Psyche Ward. I didn’t ask her driver to escort her to the Psyche Ward desk.
She wasn’t supposed to have cash on her person when at the hospital. I didn’t think to take away her credit and debit cards.
We had no guns in our home. She devised a plan to access one without purchasing it outright. She hated guns. This one still baffles me.
Call them errors of omission.
Lessons learned. That’s what it all boils down to.
Granted, some suicides seemingly come from nowhere…out of the blue, so to speak. More often than not, however, there are signs – red flags for lack of a better descriptor. So, if anyone knows anyone else trying to eliminate the “means” for someone they suspect may have suicidal ideation, they may want to suggest adding these errors of my own omission to their lists of ways to try and eliminate the ‘means’.
The more we know…..
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