Bluefield Daily Telegraph
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following essay was shared with Daily Telegraph columnist Jaletta Albright Desmond during a memorial service for her daughter, Jocelyn, last Sunday. The writer, a high school student, has previously struggled with suicidal thoughts or actions. Due to the personal nature of this issue, the Telegraph has chosen to publish this anonymously.
Here’s what you tell someone who wants to commit suicide: The moment those pills go down your throat, you’ll wish you hadn’t done it. When the chair leaves your feet you’ll be struggling to get on solid ground again. You tell them they’ve been burning bridges for so long and maybe now it’s time to just find their way across. They can use a cane or a walker, your outstretched hand, or even a police escort; but they’ve got to get over that bridge.
But don’t force them to get over that bridge if they don’t want to. Never push them any further than they want to go. Be gentle, be patient, be kind. Love them. Stay with them and spend time with them and let them cry. And don’t you dare tell them to dry up those tears. Let them fall, and then you give them a list of 151 reasons why they’re too beautiful for tears. Try to make them believe it; show them how much you care.
Tell them you’ll light one candle for every night they keep themselves alive. Tell them you hope by the end of the year you’ll have a house burning brighter than the molten core of the sun. Take their sadness and give it a good talking-to. Sit it down on the sofa and look it in the eyes; say, I want you to give this person their life back. Make it comply. Bind it up with duct tape and tie its hands to the back of the sofa with rope if you have to. Get a confession out of it; play the good cop-bad cop routine if necessary. And you’d better make damn sure that at the end of the day that sadness will be bruised and bloody, broken beyond repair, and not the other way around.
Throw all the plates in the cupboard against the wall. Make this person listen to the sound of them shattering. Tell them you don’t want that to happen to them; make them pick up all the splintered pieces with their bare hands until they get the idea. Even if it takes all night. Then invite this person to dinner at your apartment, and serve them a four-course meal on your best dishes. Let that metaphor, that analogy, rest in their body until it burns their bones. Say, if you don’t kill yourself, then all these plates will be yours. I promise you that. Look at the porcelain sparkle and see it in yourself.
Take them out on the rooftop of your apartment, and stand as close to the edge as both of you can. Make them close their eyes. Ask them what they feel. And if they feel fear, or loathing at you for making them do this, tighten your grip around their waist and lead them back inside. Look in their eyes and hold their gaze, and tell them this: You were afraid because you still had something left to live for.
Allow them to sleep in. But when they’re just waking up, bleary-eyed and tender, and they want to stay in bed under the warm covers, rip all those rovers off. Strip the bed until it’s as naked as their soul, and then say, if you kill yourself you’ll sleep forever. Then open all the blinds and let the light in; take their hand and lead them to the window. Look at the beauty out there, you’ll say. Look at the wind and the clouds and the flowers in the garden! If you sleep forever you’ll miss all that.
But above all put your ear to their chest and listen to their heartbeat. Then listen to their words, and listen to every single one that pours out of them. I don’t care if it takes hours or days or weeks or even years. You need to be there and hear what they have to say. And when all those words are gone and they’re left empty and bone-dry, I want you to fill them back up with your love and your willingness to help them heal. Let them know you would walk through fire and swim through floods and journey across barren landscapes for them.
Now here’s what you tell someone who wants to commit suicide; and this will be the simplest word of all, but the most difficult to say: Stay.
If you know anyone who you think is at risk or if you think you might be at risk yourself, please call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The West Virginia Suicide Prevention Council also recommends calling a crisis line for a local mental health center, calling 911, or going to a local emergency department. The Council also suggests remembering “ACT,” which stands for “Acknowledge, Care and get Treatment.” Take seriously anyone’s warning, be willing to listen in a non-judgmental manner, gently and kindly persuade the person to believe that life is worth living and then, most importantly, get them professional care. Do not leave them alone with any means of hurting themselves. The only exception to that is if they have a firearm or other lethal tool. In that case, get to safety and call 911. Do not put yourself in the room with a suicidal person with a weapon.