November 14, 2007 was a fairly typical dreary Northeast Ohio November day. Or at least it seemed that way. I went out to lunch with my mom and we talked about a person we knew who really seemed to be struggling. We weren’t sure what to do about them.
It seemed obvious to everyone that this person’s health was poor, but they assured us they had gone to the doctor and everything was fine. Their mental health also seemed to be disintegrating. They were more cranky, more closed off than usual. We discussed how we could help this person without creating a huge mess.
That night, as I was finishing up my work for the day, the phone rang, and it was that kind of call you never want to get in your life. The person we had just been discussing was gone. A neighbor saw them slouched on the porch. Police had been called. And then the news was given to all of that person’s loved ones, including me.
What we found out, after many months, is that this person we loved had been dying of cancer. They never went to the doctor, it turned out. They lied to many of the people they were closest to. They probably knew they were desperately ill, but they did nothing.
This is not the usual way we think of suicide. We usually think of one action that sometimes catches us completely off guard. But to me, this person took their own life through inaction rather than through action. I often wonder how things might have changed if this person had felt they could talk to someone not close to them – someone separated from the situation. Would it have made a difference?
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a day when many people will be thinking similar thoughts, most likely. “I wonder if I could have said something to change their mind…” “I wonder if I had done this instead of that, would it have made a difference?” What-ifs will be floating over many of our heads like a heavy fog that we can’t shake off in the morning sun. There is a way to take action, today, however. A way to honor those we miss by trying to help others who may be going through similar desperate struggles.
Along with Geoff Livingston and Olivier Blanchard, I am helping to raise funds for the ImAlive Prevention Chat service. With our help they are hoping to be able to offer their service 24/7 in 2014. That means whenever someone is needing help, they will be able to call this great service and get an answer on the other end.
We are fundraising in honor of another person who decided they could no longer take this life – Trey Pennington. His passing was also the ending of a tale that spanned longer than many people realized. Many people wonder still if more could have been done, if a certain word or action could have made a difference.
These things create holes in our hearts that can’t be filled. The best we can do is try to make sure other people find support. The best we can do is try to make sure other hearts aren’t left with holes in them.