Twice I played an active role in admitting a person to the hospital under a 72 hour watch. Both were voluntarily involuntary. Each time I asked them if they could guarantee me their safety and they could not. Body mutilation is not okay. It is not, not suicide. If you can’t tell me you won’t cut yourself, then you need a few hours away from knives and guns and pills and belts.
I both regretted it and did not regret it at the time. It felt heartless to send them away to be alone in a green room. They are both still alive though, and that’s something. Maybe they wouldn’t have hurt themselves, but we don’t have to know. We don’t have to miss them the way we miss Robin Williams and my cousin Haley. Suicide is 100% preventable. It’s the only cause of death that is.
The first person I admitted was a young girl at the youth shelter I worked at. She was agitated and crying and had cut herself more than once in the past. I asked her straight out, “Are you at risk of harming yourself or anybody else?” She couldn’t guarantee me that she wouldn’t cut herself. I took her to the mental hospital that night. I don’t mess around.
The second time it was my close friend who had just lost her father. She had told me, on more than one occasion, that she would probably need to be hospitalized when her father died. You don’t say that if you don’t mean it. She also told me, more than once, that being hospitalized after the death of her mother was the only thing that kept her alive then. I wasn’t going to let her stay home. She told me too many time, she was too upset. She could not 100% guarantee me that she would not hurt herself. I reminded her of what she told me, how Haldol saved her life. I made her get into the ambulance and leave.
After she left, we went through everything. It was a huge invasion of her privacy. At first I just wanted to wash the dirty dishes and clean the bed, but soon it became apparent that more needed to be done. I had to check everything. I don’t regret checking. Her arms were covered in fresh wounds. There were razor blades in her fucking bed. We took all the knives and her father’s meds. Her father was dead, he didn’t need them anymore.
I regret that she had to spend the night her father died alone, in a hospital, surrounded by people suspicious of her. She wouldn’t visit me when I went the next day. But I don’t have to regret that she is dead because she is alive. And that’s enough for me.
Suicide isn’t something that you want to do forever. It just happens at a peak, at a time of crisis. If you can survive that crisis time, you can survive. The idea of suicide will go away. It’s not always with you. But you have to get past that crisis. If you can keep a person safe for 72 hours, you might just save a life. I hope I did. Twice. Maybe three times.
One other time I recommended a 72 hour hospitalization for my friend. I could feel the mania radiating off of him. He was a different person. I told his loved ones they needed to send him, he wasn’t safe. I wasn’t there when it happened, but when the time came, he went voluntarily involuntary. He is also still alive. He is not suffering from a raging, manic phase. I don’t know how any of these people feel about my role in their hospitalizations. Perhaps they resent me for it. I don’t care. They are all alive to resent me.
I’m watching clips of Robin Williams on YouTube. I can see the pain hidden behind his eyes. I know his pain. I too suffer from depression. Its cold hard grasp keeps me tight despite Academy Awards and Golden Globes. None of that matters. Not a loving family and warm bed to sleep in at night. Depression doesn’t care at all. It can happen to anybody.
And if you can’t guarantee me that you will not hurt yourself in any way, then I’m going to take you to the hospital where they can.
RIP Robin, Haley, Sarah, and all the victims of suicide. The world needed you.
If you are considering suicide,
Please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The world needs you