Today, I found out that one of my father's best friends committed suicide. I was shocked, but not shocked. This man had been chronically depressed, suffered from a chronic health condition that caused him constant pain, and his father committed suicide by shooting himself in the house.
But this was also a man that I will always remember as wearing an unruly beard and overalls even though he worked as a pharmacist most of his life. He was kinda strange and lived an unconventional life in many aspects but there was something endearing about the image that I have of him.
And now he's gone. He bought a shotgun and two days later used it on himself. My father spoke with him three days before he died and said that he knew that he was doing "worse" but he gave no indication of suicide. I don't want my father to feel guilt or regrets, but I wish that him or another one of his friends had asked, "Are you thinking about ending your life?" when they saw their friend deteriorating.
I can talk about suicide as a clinician. I can ask clients about it. I can refer tell them to call 1-800-Suicide. I can ask about risk factors, plans, methods, intentions, previous attempts. I can talk clients through a safety plan. I can talk about my QPR suicide prevention training. Assessing for suicidality is almost second nature to me at this point in my training.
But to think about this man I knew ending his life, to think about what my father might be feeling or thinking, though it's all filtered through this clinical training, this news, these facts, the images I imagine, I don't know what to say or think. In some ways it passes right through me like a ghost, like it didn't really happen to someone I know, like I just heard about it on the news, and it other ways it reaches inside me and swirls around in my chest, never quite settling anywhere.
Suicide isn't really second nature for me to face. I hope that as much as I may encounter it with clients, that I never lose touch with how precious and fragile life is and how tragic and ugly and horrible the taking of one's life is.