You’d think it would have happened sooner.  Seven years of advocacy and peer support for women with postpartum depression, and I hadn’t had to do it yet.

This was the day.

I am reluctant to get too involved in people’s lives.  I want to support everyone, but I also don’t want to butt in where I don’t belong.  I don’t know everything that goes on behind the front door.  I don’t even know where the front door is located most of the time, so how can I know the best way to support each individual other than to provide as much information and hope as I can? This time I had to push past that reluctance, as did others.  We called 911 to prevent a suicide.

When you see someone publicly threaten to kill themselves, there’s no way to no how serious the threat is.  Are they joking, or just blowing off steam? Are they about to do it? Right now?

You question yourself.  The natural course of things is to believe you shouldn’t get involved.  Am I going overboard here? This person has family and friends and healthcare providers who are much better situated to know what’s going on.  But you don’t know those people.  You wouldn’t even know how to reach them, and she’s saying she wants to do it.  She’s saying she wants to commit suicide today.

What’s more, the threats are specific.  It’s not just, “I can’t take it anymore.”  The publicly tweeted words describe how it will be done, with what specific type of medication and exactly how many milligrams.  Today could be the day when this person, this mother who has a family that loves her and a community that cares about her, takes the irrevocable action.

So I call a faraway county in another state, as do others, and we explain our concern and give as much detail as possible.  No, I don’t know what kind of car she drives.  No, I don’t know where she is.  Sorry, I don’t know how to reach her family.  I just know I’m worried.  We’re all worried.  We care about her and want her to be alive and well. Please find her.

You’d think I’d feel more trepidation than I do, but I don’t.  I feel confident in my decision.  I know calling 911 will affect this mother’s life, and I’m sure it won’t be fun.  I also know whatever treatment she receives due to this course of action can’t possibly be worse than the experience her children would have if she dies and we did nothing about it.  This is NOT an action I take lightly.  I consider it carefully.

The AFSP says that the signs that most directly warn of suicide include:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself
  • Talking or writing about suicide
  • Has made plans or preparations for a potentially serious attempt.

All of the above are true in this case, so I’m doing the right thing, right?  It’s just … I imagine this person probably won’t be happy about this.  Yet, SAVE says, “Never keep a plan for suicide a secret.  Don’t worry about risking a friendship if you truly feel a life is in danger … It is better to lose a relationship from violating a confidence that it is to go to a funeral.”

There was no confidence here, as the specific plans were made public.  I could see them in black and white.  This was the right thing.  It is the right thing.  Her life could have been ebbing away at that very moment.  We had to act.

This Saturday, November 19th, will mark International Survivors of Suicide Day, the day on which people who have survived the tragic loss of someone to suicide will connect with each other and remember.  I have done what little I could to make sure this mom’s family won’t have to take part in that day. I do not regret it.  I cannot regret it.

Not one bit.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.