The names in the following story have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
It was four days before Christmas, and winter break 2015 was shaping up to be a time of rest and relaxation. In five days my wife and I would leave on a much needed vacation. Then the phone rang. What I thought would be an enjoyable talk with a close friend would turn out to be blow to my very soul that would bring back heartbreaking memories of ten years earlier.
On the other end of the call was Sue, and as she tried to talk I knew that something was terribly wrong. “John has hung himself,” she choked out in between sobs. John was her son-in-law and I knew him merely as an acquaintance, but the emotions that flooded my soul were much deeper than those that I should have had for as little as I knew him.
With those four words spoken by Sue I was transported back to exactly ten years and four days earlier when I received a phone call from my mother. “Greg has hung himself,” she said. Greg was my brother-in-law and we had been friends for years before he married my sister. The news of his suicide hit me like a ton of bricks, and I instantly had to sit down because my knees became weak.
Now back to winter break 2015. The day after talking to Sue I found myself boarding a flight to California. Sue was flying out that morning from California to be with her daughter and I was flying in to house sit and to take care of her animals. The flight gave me plenty of time to think about the two suicides and to compare and contrast them.
Both men were having trouble with their marriages, and with one permanent act they had abandoned their spouse, family and children. John left behind a seven-year-old boy while my brother-in-law Greg left behind a five-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy.
With both suicides, I ran the regular gamut of emotions. Sadness, anger and confusion flooded my consciousness like a wave. As I confronted my feelings in the darkness of a 737, I began to think of advice I would give my fellow students that might be considering taking their own life.
1) Talk to anyone! Trust me when I tell you that your friends and parents would rather be woken up by your call in the middle of the night than a call from a policeman telling them that you are gone forever.
2) Use campus resources that are available to you. As a student at SNU, you are eligible for free and reduced counseling from Renew Counseling http://renew.snu.edu/. The first six sessions are free and of course everything is confidential.
3) There are a multitude of free hotlines that are out if you need to talk to someone. Just a few are the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255, Oklahoma Department of Health Reach Out Line at 1-800-522-9054 and the Central Oklahoma Heartline at (405) 848-CARE (2273). All of these numbers are staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The title of this article is derived from the song “Twenty Three” by MC Lars. In the song, Lars recounts the true story of his friend and college roommate that committed suicide. I think that Lars’ take on suicide could not be truer. While suicide is always out there as an answer to a problem, it is never the solution.