Sometimes we get so involved working on an initiative, it’s hard to mark our own progress.
One year ago at this time, Beacon Health Options was still drafting our suicide prevention white paper. In February 2017, Beacon released, “We Need to Talk About Suicide.”
My story is really about one of my daughters.
To protect her privacy as I tell her story, I’ll call her Elizabeth. Elizabeth has had suicidal ideations from since she was about 12 to about 17. At 4 years old, she was misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Suicide has had an impact on my life since I was a young child.
My grandfather completed suicide when I was just 5 years old. I saw the impact on my family from a child’s eyes, but the true depth of that impact wouldn’t come to pass until later in life.
The phone rings, early on a Sunday morning. I’m excited, as it is a childhood friend whom I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with; only she asks me to let my parents know that her brother committed suicide the night before.
No words can describe the pain heard and felt. Of course, as outsiders, as onlookers, our first unspoken questions are “How did this happen?” “How did he do it?”
The toughest speech I have ever given in my life – and candidly to the most important audience – was not to a room of politicians or colleagues.
Those speeches seem so easy now in retrospect. My toughest public-speaking moment was delivering the eulogy of my son’s very best friend, Adam.
Everyone knows what a first aid kit is. We’ve all seen them. We’ve all used them. Convenient boxes containing the basic tools needed to treat medical emergencies: bandages and antibiotic ointments for cuts, cold compresses for burns, aspirin for headaches and inflammation.
But what if someone were to have a psychiatric emergency? Would others even know it was happening? Would anyone know what to do? Are there ‘tools’ to help someone in psychiatric distress?
It turns out that almost everything I was taught about suicide during my clinical training is not true.
Contrary to what most clinicians are taught, there is clinical protocol we can follow to prevent suicide attempts – apart from locking people up. Very little of this new knowledge about detecting and treating suicidality has translated into practice.