Unexpected events: Suicide and suicidal thoughts

Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting in a church in downtown San Antonio. My husband and I were attending a memorial service for Mike – a fellow attorney my husband had known for the past fifteen years. As I sat on the pew, I was surprised that the family had the minister address the circumstances around his death.

Last Tuesday, Mike committed suicide. My husband who talked to Mike usually weekly was shocked. He knew Mike has been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer last year but had no idea that he had recently gone off his medication. What no one knew was Mike – who was a 75-year-old grandfather – was also fighting depression. On the days before he committed suicide, he was planning a vacation with his wife. That day, she spoke to him on the phone, and he said he was leaving right then to come home. But he never did.

Instead of shying away from the facts, his family let everyone know how he died. And as I said, it was addressed at the memorial service. The minister addressed depression. Mike always seemed so happy and upbeat that many were shocked that he was depressed. He kept it well hidden from church friends, his clients and even his family.

Our neighbor’s father committed suicide two years ago. Again, it was unexpected. His wife spoke to him just moments before he took his life. Again, he had medical issues, but no one knew if his action was related to medication, or if he too was hiding his depression.

You just never know what is going on in someone else’s life – even when they always seem happy. Take my 11-year-old daughter Lexie, for example. She is most of the time very happy and outgoing. As with every pre-teen girl, there is always some issue with friends, but it all seemed typical to me. It was definitely a surprise when I received a call from the school counselor. Lexie had written a note to a friend that indicated she might harm herself. I needed to come pick her up.

In the note, twice Lexie mentioned she wanted to die. Now she may have been being over dramatic, but the school must take these things seriously. They recommended we get Lexie counseling and had Lexie sign an agreement not to harm herself. They gave me a list of counselors and sent us on her way.

At home Lexie denied that she wanted to harm herself. But because she has some self-esteem issues and some anxiety, we still felt it would be worth it for her to see a counselor. The problem with the school list of counselors is that they covered every range of problem from child abuse and rape to a host of other specialties that didn’t apply to Lexie. And many of the counselors were not located near us. So instead of using their list, I called Lexie’s pediatrician and got recommendations from them.

I’ll write more about Lexie and counseling in the upcoming weeks. But my point is that you never know what someone is thinking or how someone truly feels. People often say they are “fine” when they are not.