Monday, September 24, 2018

Getting Serious about Mental Health

I had a heck of a week, blog, let me tell you.

I often talk about mental health here.  I believe mental health disorders (more specifically, mood disorders) are one of the great problems of my generation.  I myself have them.  But this week I got to see the display of a full-tilt diva with mental health issues and it was as terrible and glorious as the crashing of the Hindenburg.

So remember the guy from the St. Guinefort post who believes in a lot of weird occult stuff and is super narcissistic and anti-social?

On September 13th he went and "tried to" kill himself.

He posted a "suicide note" on Facebook and then, when it got no reactions, he posted it in the group chat.  And also tagged his family members in the note.  That didn't go over well.

Tagged his mom and siblings.

Now, the reason I put the "tried to" and "suicide note" in quotes is this.  I do not believe that he was honestly serious.

I worked in mental health for two years and there's a difference between people who are trying because they really, truly want to die and those who are "trying" as a cry for help.  I don't want to understate the seriousness of an attempt; an attempt is an attempt.  And even if you're "only" trying in a "non-serious" attempt, there's always the possibility that your attempt will be successful and you'll die.

According to this guy (let's call him "Crazy Jeff" from now on) (although he VERY publicly tried to kill himself, I still try to respect people's privacy on this blog), he's had seven (seven!) past attempts.  I'm generally unsure on whether or not I can trust a damn thing he says, but that's not the point.  I'm not going to let my intuition steer the course here.

He told me, in no uncertain terms, that he planned to kill himself, and I responded in the only logical way.  (I called his bluff and then he called mine and then I called his.  Ahh the drama.)

Here was the experience on my end for any others who find themselves in the same position:

I called 911 and told them that someone I knew seemed imminently about to commit suicide.  I read them the chat log that I posted above.

The Los Angeles 911 dispatcher transferred me to the city he lives in (about forty minutes away from Los Angeles) and I was able to give his name, address, and some other personal info to the police, including identifying features and some of the medications he (claims) to be on, along with his claim that he's attempted before.  The phone call lasted a little longer than ten minutes.

They sent out a PET (Psychiatric Emergency Team) and told me that the dispatchers would return my call and follow up with me.

Well, that never happened.  I did end up speaking to his roommate/landlord about six hours later and gathered that when the police showed up, he had failed to tie a noose but had himself a big ol' length of nylon rope and a bucket to stand on and presumably overturn, if he ever figured out how to tie a noose.

This isn't really a laughing matter, 
but I would be remiss if I didn't use this occasion to share a few treasures from my very large collection of depression memes.

Those six hours were an anxiety-laced personal hell for me.  Not because I was worried about him.  I knew he was okay.  But because I was in the center of a drama that wasn't mine and I had to spend the next six hours as the main "point of contact" for concerned friends and family, all of whom took this threat completely seriously.  My own, personal emotion was one of overwhelming fury.  He was wasting my time and my emotional energy and forcing me to react to his stupid drama, and was dragging the well-being of all of his friends and family through the mud.  It was selfish and manipulative.  I described him to my therapist as being an "emotional predator."

 I totes wanted to spend my afternoon talking to his weeping family members.
Anywho, I reassured everyone and spoke to the roommate.  I relayed the number given to the roommate by the mental health professional on the scene to Crazy Jeff's mother and then informed everyone that he was safe and I was Audi 5000.

Incidentally, another guy within our same community actually did kill himself the following week.  What followed was a week-long hysteria of dramatic people pointing fingers at each other and wantonly accusing one another of "bullying" for no discernible purpose.  Shockingly, this failed to bring back the guy who had passed.

I downloaded Farmville during all this mess because I felt completely wrung out by everyone behaving so... shitty.  It was incredible, the inability to feel sympathy and lack of awareness on social media.  I stayed away from that mess, having already navigated through a similar drama.  For me, it was like avoiding a hurricane by trying to remain in its eye for the whole time.

The whole point of this post is really just to talk about how people SHOULD respond to suicide.  Too often, I see someone threaten or hint at suicide.  And everyone rushes to comfort them, offering ears to listen and shoulders to lean on.

Look, it's fine to be sympathetic, but you are not a licensed mental health professional and reacting to cries for help in this manner only reinforces the behavior as an appropriate way to get attention.  Mental health crises should be treated as crises, not like a teenage girl's first break-up.

If you or another person is experiencing suicidal ideation, DO NOT DELAY in getting professional mental health intervention. You can call the suicide hotline and they will help you find psychotherapy and psychiatric resources.  If someone says, "Thinking of ending it all!" then it is not your job to "talk them out of" it.  It is your job to try to get them the help they need.

Not like this.

If you or another person is SUICIDAL or having suicidal tendencies (ie, engaging in self-destructive behavior or actively planning suicide or imminently about to commit suicide), call 911.

Emotional support is important but is no substitute for mental health intervention or qualified long-term treatment. The best way to support people experiencing psychological crisis is to encourage them and support them in seeking long-term treatment.

Don't milk the drama.

When you call the suicide hotline, in fact, one of the first questions they ask is if you have planned out how to kill yourself or not.  This is to determine if you are having suicidal ideation only, or if you are truly suicidal.

Personally, I think Crazy Jeff is only experiencing suicidal ideation.  Unfortunately, suicidal ideation usually progresses if it's left untreated to (you guessed it!) actually being suicidal.

He was placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold and then released.

Here's what that looked like.

The Tuesday after the Thursday he tried to kill himself and he's better than ever?!
No apologies, no reassurances, just the usual self-absorption.  
This is some bullshit.

Crazy Jeff aside, I hope that my actions demonstrated what actual help looks like.  It doesn't look like engaging in kind and meaningless platitudes.  It means action.

For some, it's hard to understand how mental health works, so let me translate this into physical health to better explain it.

Imagine your friend is sick with a virus.  People who have depression, anxiety, et cetera are sick.  You, as a friend, try to comfort your sick friend, right?  That's normal.

But now let's say their virus is getting worse.  They took a week off work and they're throwing up constantly and can't keep anything down and they're looking really fucking bad.  They aren't getting better.  This is what suicidal ideation looks like.  This is the point where you stop trying to merely comfort them and help them get to a doctor because it's clear your own personal care won't be enough and you're not seeing any improvement over time.

Being suicidal?  That's like if you walked in to your friend's house and your friend was lying face-down in a puddle of vomit, unresponsive.  At this point you don't try to comfort them; you call 911.

Saying you have a plan or are imminently about to kill yourself is the ebola of mental health.

With a generation of sad existentialists wandering zombie-like through their lives, we talk a lot more about depression and suicide.

But we need to talk more about the appropriate reaction to it.  De-stigmatizing it doesn't mean letting people get away with talking about doing it in earnest.  It means being more aware of the subtle differences between suicidal ideation and actual suicide, and responding in the most appropriate way to ensure the other person gets help.  It means finding and giving ourselves the tools and resources to help ourselves and each other.  It means knowing when to say your platitudes won't be enough, and directing people to call the Suicide Hotline, text the Crisis Line, or contact a local psychotherapist to get long-term counseling.  It also means protecting ourselves from potential emotional predators and manipulative people, who use threats of suicide to garner attention.

I have been to some pretty dark places in my life and while comfort and sympathy was nice, in the long run, what got me pulled out of my depression was psychiatric intervention.  I take anti-depressants and I see a licensed mental health professional once a week.  I do that because I recognized when I was experienced suicidal ideation and decided it was time to make a change.  And that change didn't mean posting about it on social media and asking people to validate me and tell me how treasured I am.  It meant seeking medical intervention.  Something I hope people people who are plagued with mental health issues do.

No comments:

Post a Comment