It Takes A Village

26 Jan

They say it is very common for those who have lost loved ones to suicide to feel guilty for not preventing the death. “If only I’d done this, said that.”  Bizarrely, when my mom committed suicide, I didn’t have those feelings. I don’t know why but I didn’t. I had a plethora of other feelings but guilt wasn’t predominant or even on the radar much. 

Tonight it hit the radar screen. Even though I know that I did the best that I could at the time. 

This week I am in a seminar called “Mental Health First Aid.” Originating in Australia, the curriculum was designed to teach lay people how to respond to mental health crisis such as suicidal ideation, anxiety, substance abuse and psychosis. The first aid responder serves as a bridge, helping the individual to maintain until s/he can receive a higher level of care or until the crisis is resolved. I am taking the course because I believe more people should know how to respond to mental health issues and to help de-stigmatize mental illness. 

As I sat in the seminar today, I felt the hurt and the irony that I could not save my mom even though as a therapist I help suicidal people on a routine basis. This is something I find hard to reconcile. There were red flags everywhere that my mom would attempt suicide. She had tried before, she had depression, was an alcoholic, was isolated and was getting out of jail. And yet when the time came, I did not get involved the way she needed someone to get involved. There had been so many “emergencies” and “dramas” for so many years – and with both of my parents – that I was done. And maybe she was beyond help. There had been interventions, hospitalizations, the kindness of strangers helping her for years. And yet she was help rejecting much of the time. But what if there had been more people besides me? More people trained in mental health first aid? More people who not only knew how to read the signs but knew how to serve as that bridge? To get her safely to the other side to the professionals who might have been able to help? Would my mom still be alive? I think so. Because it takes a village. 

I believe in this organization and I believe in communities and churches and synagogues because people need people. 

As I wind down at the end of a long day, I think of the scripture my pastor emailed me one night very soon after my mom’s suicide when I was just plagued with grief – “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” Eph 1:18. 

It is my prayer that we as a community (the community at large – not just the mental health community) know how to better respond to mental illness. To people’s suffering. To the tremendous social problems plaguing our world because people can’t always sustain. I pray that we know how to be that hope for others. That we know how to lay down our lives so that others may live. But it’s a lot easier doing that in community than bearing it alone. This is why we need each other and why we need God.

My one consolation is that my mother now resides in the ultimate community and is finally at peace.

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One Response to “It Takes A Village”

  1. T.C. Porter January 26, 2010 at 3:49 am #

    Thanks for your heart, Lise.
    “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

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