Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When someone's in trouble.

So, I've debated this post for a little while now, but I think it's important. I'm going to keep the details of the post very vague, so I can respect the privacy of everyone involved. If you find this post helpful, please feel free to link to it and share it with your friends.

A few nights ago, I began to receive texts from a friend that concerned me. The messages were increasingly despondent in a brief period of time, and my friend made it clear they were planning on taking some drastic action. I had just arrived at another friend's house, and was not sure how best to respond.

I texted with this friend for a short time, asking repeatedly if they were alright, if they were alone, if they had done anything to harm themselves. My friend refused to answer any of my questions. I know this person to be a devoted parent, and they would not respond to questions about their children or other family members.

I was growing more and more concerned, and called my friend.  I was concerned by what I heard on the phone, and my questions were evaded. My friend said goodbye and hung up.

Not knowing what else to do, I called the local Suicide Prevention Hotline. Based on what I told her (in about ten seconds), the woman on the phone advised me to call 911 immediately.

I did so, and heard from someone a short time later. I don't know the details of my friends' situation (then or now), but I know that help arrived.

If you find yourself in a similar situation:

1. Call someone. 

Regardless of where you are, or if you are calling for a friend or yourself, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-784-2433 (Portlanders, the local number is 503-988-4888). 


No matter what. In this situation, being wrong is the best possible situation. Don't let the fact that you might be wrong stop you. 

2. Don't try to fix it yourself.

Especially in cases when you believe someone has harmed themselves or is about to, I don't believe you should intervene. Sometimes talking helps, and sometimes it doesn't. In the case of my friend, there was nothing more I could do on my own. Call someone who can get them help, and let them do so.

3. Release.

This seems simple, and maybe even lazy. But it is vital to your health, and to the health of those you care about. Understand that "release" does not mean "ignore". It means doing what you are able to do, and then opening your hands. I think, in some cases, releasing also means "not demanding to be more involved". Obviously, the situation is different if the person in trouble is a child or a significant other. In my case, this was my friend. If my friend wants to find me and talk. they can do so. I'm going to give them space to breathe and heal. I may never know all the details of what happened and why, but that's ok. I did everything I could. My friend may be angry with me, even. That's ok, too.

I hate to think that anyone would despair so deeply they would feel the need to give up, but we know that people do. I hope that someone reads this and remembers that, whether it's their own sadness and pain or a friend's, that there are always options, and there is always help.

Be well.

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