“I can’t take life anymore”…

Story of Hope

“I can’t take life anymore,” the caller said, sobbing. “It’s too much.” A veteran of Desert Storm, the man said that he had had thoughts of suicide for years, attempted before, and not been treated for bipolar disorder. He reported that he had alienated everyone, including his long-time girlfriend, who broke up with him earlier in the day. His reasons to die included increasing isolation, painful recollections of child molestation, an eating disorder, and eviction from his apartment the following morning.

Our counselor asked the caller about his plan for suicide. The man said he had a loaded gun at his side. Having created rapport, the counselor asked the man to remove the bullets from the gun. The caller consented
and did. When the counselor asked the caller about his reasons for living, the man was unable to identify any. Gently exploring the man’s ambivalence, the counselor noted that he had called so some part of him wanted to live. Together, they acknowledged his risk and the need to put in place strategies to keep him safe.
In developing a safety plan, the caller defi ned the warning signs he experienced that led to depression and provoked suicidal thoughts. The two discussed distractions that soothe him, resources for housing and counseling, as well as the crisis line to help him through times of struggle. He said he would give the now-empty gun to the police in the morning. Despite repeated efforts, the counselor couldn’t get the caller to agree to a follow-up call, however, to further assess safety, although the caller promised to stay safe for the night.

After the caller hung up, saying he was tired, the counselor felt uneasy and consulted with others. It was decided that the best option was to address imminent risk and safety. This meant breaking confidentiality and calling the man back to re-emphasize our concern and build further rapport and trust. When we did, the man said he was surprised and pleased to be so cared about. He noted that the counselor had helped him see that suicide wasn’t the answer and that it was time to try things he had avoided in the past, in particular, counseling to deal with the trauma of childhood abuse. He also said that a friend had already come by and taken the gun. We deepened safety planning with the caller and arranged an early morning follow-up before the man vacated his apartment and lost phone access.

The next morning, the man said that his conversations with our crisis lines reaffirmed his commitment to deal with his issues more proactively. He was cleaning up the home he had to leave, and making calls to resources for shelter and counseling. He also was communicating with his girlfriend and had hopes that the relationship, while rocky, was salvageable. He said he would reach out to our crisis lines before acting on suicidal thoughts. We reminded him about recognizing warning signs before he became desperate, and validated the courage it took to reach out and face his pain. No further followup was arranged since the caller wouldn’t have phone access, but he promised to call us when he got resettled. He noted that he was amazed and grateful for the sincere caring and support he received.