The Breaking the Silence project mentioned in your Slant piece (4/11) seeks to highlight the suicide crisis. I want to “break the silence” about something that I have never seen acknowledged in articles about suicide. I am talking about the lack of resources — or maybe the will — to assist persons who are on the verge of committing suicide.
We may convince a loved one to seek help, but what happens next?
One Saturday night, a family member called and explained that the previous day he had intentionally tried to end his life by blindly riding his bike into traffic. Nobody had been obliging enough to hit him. “So,” he continued, “I’m trying to get up the nerve to slash my wrists. I have my X-acto knife out, but… Will you help me?”
Off we went to the ER at Sacred Heart. After “evaluating” him, the crisis interventionist came out and announced to me that he was “not really suicidal.” Even if he were, she said, too bad, there was not a single empty psych bed in the entire state of Oregon that night. (At least not for somebody on the low-reimbursing OHP?) He would need to go home. He was practically panic-stricken.
There is a lot of information about what we lay people ought to do to prevent suicide. But what good does it do to educate about suicide prevention if the mental health system is unprepared (or unwilling) to hospitalize people when they ask for help?