Are you having thoughts of suicide?

Recently, I attended a seminar through my work place. I work for a Government organisation and they are always wanting us to ‘brush up’ on one procedure or another so imagine my shock when I discovered the seminar was about suicide awareness.

It is a shock to be sitting with a couple of dozen other people, several who you know well, and are confronted with a subject that is close to your heart. As soon as I realised what would be discussed, I welled up. The presenter, used to watching people’s actions and looking for ‘signs’, did not miss my instant reaction to her words. We were presented with video recreations of potential warnings … and all of them slapped me across the face and made my heart pound quicker. I watched as the mother on-screen missed her son’s call for help. Just like I did in real life. Is it any wonder I couldn’t speak, could hardly hold the tears back, was unable to stop the trembling?

The presenter announced a break and everyone left the room, except me. I was not able to speak aloud, so I whispered the fact that I had lost a son to suicide. Of course, she had already guessed that by my reaction. She thanked me for letting her know and told me I was free to leave the seminar, if I wanted to. I didn’t need to think about it.

I wanted to stay!

But I needed her to know why I would not be able to participate in active feedback within the seminar. She understood that I was struggling and asking me to speak would be my undoing. So, the seminar continued and I sat frozen faced and trembling in the middle of lots of people, but I felt as if I were struggling through a major upset … totally alone.

By the time the seminar was finished I was considered to be a qualified Care Assistant for the workplace. In truth, I spent most of the time focused inwards dealing with my own demons. Yes, I would be able to recognise (now) if someone was suicidal. And, yes, I would be able to ask the all important question, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”. And, yes, I would be able to look after that person until help was at hand. I never needed the seminar for any of that. I’ve spent over five years learning the facts about suicide myself. But now I have a certificate to confirm it.

The reason I’m writing this post is because I thought I was doing OK. I thought I had moved passed the tears, but those few hours proved I am not doing as great as I thought and have not moved on from losing my son. I guess there will always be moments in my life that will bring the past slamming back into full focus. I suppose I’m better equipped for those moments now but it doesn’t mean they will be any easier to deal with.


5 thoughts on “Are you having thoughts of suicide?

  1. You are doing well, Karen. You are dealing your way with this terrible, dramatic loss and it’s admirable. I don’t know wether I would have been able to attend such a seminar myself?
    I wonder nevertheless how you can tell that someone is suicidal and how you really could help him. Even now, five years later, I wouldn’t know how to cope with someone having suicidai ideation. Could you force him to ask for help if he refuses it? There is a Swiss psychiatrist who specialised in suicide. One day though his own son killed himself…
    I’ve tried a few times to leave a note on your site, it often didn’t work out, let’s see this time…
    Best regards from Switzerland, Ewel

  2. The presenter for the seminar was from Lifeline. She made is very clear that some people do not want to be saved. Others leave little clues hoping someone will pick up on them and offer help. It’s only the people who want help who might be saved. In my job I deal with people that may find themselves in desperate situations and we have been trained to ask the question: “Are you having suicidal thoughts?”. If they are but say no, but our gut is nagging at us then we will seek help for that person. We are not qualified to go into the deep and meaningful, our job is to lead that person to someone who can help them. Not everyone wants help. Not everyone will be saved. But I want to help the people who can be saved.

    My son left few clues. I missed them. I was unable to do anything to help him. Now, if I could turn back the clock, I would notice the clues, be direct with him and I would find options for him. Perhaps he could have been saved if I’d known he needed the help I didn’t offer.

  3. At times, almost anything can bring the past crashing back down on you. This must have been a total blindside at work, and something that could be expected to draw your initial feelings back. Congratulations on getting through it and becoming stronger for it.

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