By Richard P. Holm MD
In the medical profession we often have to face suicide casualties. The victim and the family generally come to the emergency room, one by ambulance, and the others to the waiting room. There, one of us ends up talking with the family, people wrought with terrible anguish and guilt, even though the family may have done all they could to prevent it. In situations like these I find myself overwhelmed with feelings of tragedy and sadness, and often angry at the suicide victim for causing such grief for the ones who really loved him or her. I have two examples.
A successful and beloved Atlanta businessman, who had been functioning with manic-depressive illness his adult life, had over-stretched his finances and challenged the relationship with his wife. Seeing the possibility that suicide might happen, the family was scrambling to prevent it, and yet during a depression dip that followed a short manic episode, he ended his life with a gun. An awful consequence of this act came years later when one of his children followed suit with his own suicide. I wonder if the dad’s suicide could have been prevented had he realized that his example probably influenced his son’s death.
A young and handsome hospital emergency room worker had a failing marriage and left a message to his fellow hospital workers that the next time they would see him; they would be putting him in a body bag. This man with so much potential for good could easily had another woman to love, but the body bag prediction still came true. We later learned he had sent his divorcing wife a vindictive dozen roses with a hateful message, all to be delivered after his death. It left me feeling angry, not sad. In general, I knew him to be a fun and engaging sort, who had a nice way with patients. I wonder if his suicide could have been prevented, had he realized how destructive his act would be not only to his wife, but to his friends and fellow hospital workers.
There have been too many examples of people who have ended their own lives due to financial problems, drug and alcohol addiction problems, health problems, love-life problems, loss-of-something problems, and always mental health problems. Of course mental illness can blind the victim of the consequences of that act, but if people realized the appalling path of destruction that follows suicide, maybe someone could be saved.
Always there are better answers to that person’s situation. Always there is help available from your doctor, minister, counselor, friend.
And always there is terrible grief for the ones who remain alive.