Suicidal son of a friend

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majorhavoc
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Suicidal son of a friend

Post by majorhavoc » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:38 pm

Depression and suicide are personal apocalypses that can affect us all, whether it's our own struggles, or knowing someone who is dealing with them.

This one's not a hypothetical. I have a friend who is a single mom. Two kids; I've known them for years. Daughter (now age 17) is the older of the two, an amazing girl, wise and mature beyond her years. Basically a second parent, has always been a real godsend to her mom. Will call her Anna. Son (now age 15) has forever been a challenge. Lots of emotional issues but at his core, a good kid (I know this isn't strictly true, but I like to think they all come out perfect, we just manage to screw some of them up). Let's call him Zack. Over the years, I've occasionally played the role of surrogate father, primarily taking him camping and to scouting events.

Zack recently tried to commit suicide in school. Made a noose and put his head into it, apparently in science class. Not sure how credible his intent at the time was, but suffice it to say it was not out of character for this kid. The incident ended very badly, police called, lead him away to the hospital in handcuffs, literally kicking and screaming.

Whether you call it a true suicide attempt or a cry for help; either way this kid is on a very dark path that could well end tragically. I know this because I had another female friend who had a transgender child who committed suicide. That second mother wasn't really part of my life when it happened so I never had a chance to help, assuming that was even possible. I knew the child as Emmy, just a beautiful little kid. She transitioned to "Finn", who one night laid down on the tracks in front of a train.

This present friend is now facing a similar situation and I'd like to assist if there's any way I can.

Zack is currently in a psychiatric facility and Mom has asked if I can visit him tomorrow while she's also visiting him. Of course I'm going to be there, but I have absolutely no clue how I'm supposed to act; what to say. My instincts are to keep it light and just show that there are adults in his life who care.

I know this is short notice but if anyone has any experience with this sort of thing, any insight at all, I'd really appreciate your input. Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Re: Suicidal son of a friend

Post by JeeperCreeper » Wed Feb 19, 2020 12:43 am

I have a decent amount of experience with mental health through family and work experience (addiction counseling, crisis intervention, occupation therapy).

There's a long complex answer. But the short answer, be there, let him know you're there and not judging.

And listen.

Everyone is going to want to talk at him. Let him talk when he's ready.
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Re: Suicidal son of a friend

Post by woodsghost » Wed Feb 19, 2020 6:54 am

In short, my experience with a few kids and adults who have attempted suicide aligns with Jeeper. Listen, be a friend, don't attack for past actions or making the adults in his life rather upset and scared. There is a difference between "we were scared about your safety" and "you are a bad person for doing that." You probably know this stuff already, but ZS has a wide audience.

Maybe find out if he wants to text or talk or basically start a more consistent relationship and express what he is feeling and experiencing. It is helpful to have someone who cares and will listen and ask them to elaborate if they want.

"Do you mind if I text you once in a while and see how you are doing? Would you feel comfortable getting in touch with me if life is feeling too overwhelming?"

Check in once a week, and maybe more often, if needed.

Just my thoughts from my limited experiences.

Also, I'll bet the daughter is having issues too, but she is coping in a different way. Hopefully healthy ways, but it would be worth it to get her talking to someone she trusts.
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Re: Suicidal son of a friend

Post by majorhavoc » Wed Feb 19, 2020 10:08 am

Thank you both. This is all so outside my wheelhouse. Your advice is really helpful and greatly appreciated.

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Re: Suicidal son of a friend

Post by taipan821 » Wed Feb 19, 2020 1:44 pm

Suicide has always been a taboo subject and it is a difficult subject to talk to someone about.

Be a friend and ask people if they are ok, including yourself. As someone who has had to deal with suicidal persons who were both unsuccessful and successful I can not stress it enough, a simple question to ask the friend, the daughter and yourself

Are you ok?
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Re: Suicidal son of a friend

Post by JeeperCreeper » Thu Feb 20, 2020 1:10 am

Another thing, focus the direction of casual conversation to the future in a hopeful way.

Don't dwell on the past. The past is what got them in their current head space. And having no hope for the future wont help.

Example: talk about going fishing this summer or a new show that's coming out or a new Bronco that Ford is going to release or a band that's going to be touring.

Don't force it, but be conservatively positive and a good example.
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Re: Suicidal son of a friend

Post by RoneKiln » Thu Feb 20, 2020 1:36 am

I used to do volunteer youth counseling and stumbled into suicide intervention a few times as a result.

Of course he's not ok. Ask how he's holding up. Or how he's coping. Or what he's struggling with. Not all at once. Just pick one true, real, sincere question and let him talk. You already know he's not ok, don't phrase questions to sound otherwise.

Or let him not talk. Take a game. Chess, cards, whatever you think might get his mind off this crap for a bit. If he doesn't want to talk, offer to play. He might say no. That's ok. If he says yes, it may open opportunities for him to start talking. Sometimes it's easier to talk when you're not just staring at him.

Does he read? Take him a book if he does and you know what genre he likes. If possible, try to find something that might inspire him, or at the least be engaging enough to distract him a bit in a healthy way. If this is an option, bring a book for yourself as well. If he doesn't want to talk or play a game, you may be able to fall back on sitting quietly and reading. He might get a few paragraphs into the new book and then be ready to start talking (not the most likely, but you're on plan C or D at this point anyway).

Most important: "Your patients pain is not your pain." Do not internalize this. You cannot "save" this kid. You could not have prevented this. You can only be there for him and offer some encouragement and support. This is up to the kid to overcome. You are already winning by being someone that cares enough to show up. That care you feel and effort you display is all you get to take responsibility for. You're not allowed to take responsibility for his choices. Remind yourself of this as often as necessary.

Secondary Trauma is real. If you have both the opportunity and emotional energy, try to make sure his sister gets support. Or ask the Mom who she has helping with the sister to help keep the Mom from overlooking her needs while dealing with her son. Then make sure you also have a plan for how you will unwind afterwards.
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Re: Suicidal son of a friend

Post by Stercutus » Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:20 am

I hope everything went ok.

Truly depressed people are very challenging to help and associate with.
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Re: Suicidal son of a friend

Post by Phil » Sun Oct 11, 2020 6:34 pm

National Suicide/Crisis Hotline: (800)273-8255

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