In de­spair? Ask for help

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

My first pa­tient on my first shift work­ing at the Emer­gency De­part­ment for 2017 had the di­ag­no­sis ‘‘sui­ci­dal’’ on the com­puter screen. While many of us cel­e­brated hol­i­days and fam­ily, oth­ers har­boured dark thoughts of es­cap­ing this mor­tal coil. Feel­ings of iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness can be made worse at this time of year and many fac­tors con­trib­ute to some­one think­ing about tak­ing their own life. Many years ago, while at med­i­cal school, I looked at cases over a 10-year pe­riod of peo­ple who had com­mit­ted sui­cide, and asked: Is sui­cide pre­dictable and pre­ventable? There is no blood test, scan, or even a re­li­able set of ques­tions that can de­tect sui­ci­dal ideation un­less peo­ple tell you what they are think­ing and feel­ing. The mere fact that peo­ple feel they have no other choice than to take away the men­tal pain they are suf­fer­ing makes it of­ten more dif­fi­cult to open up and seek help. If you have a bro­ken leg, bro­ken heart, or a bro­ken mind, then we at the Emer­gency De­part­ment are here to help and have the re­sources to do so. Feel­ing sui­ci­dal can also be an emer­gency. In nearly 30 years, I have seen many pa­tients in dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions who have thought that tak­ing their own life was the only way to es­cape their cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. With the right sup­port, tools, and tech­niques, they have gone on to have happy healthy lives.

My return to work at the hos­pi­tal co­in­cides with the weather bombs hit­ting the coun­try. Just like get­ting through a se­vere weather sys­tem we need to get through the days, and some­times weeks, when it seems to be rain­ing in our head, and wait for the sun to shine again, which it will, if you let it.

In my clin­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, peo­ple who are sui­ci­dal of­ten feel trapped and can’t see a way out so con­sider or take dras­tic steps to get out of the men­tal an­guish loop. This may be caused by the loss of a re­la­tion­ship, a health or busi­ness prob­lem, or chronic men­tal health is­sues. While the health sys­tem is not per­fect, it does a pretty good job of try­ing to man­age sim­ple and com­plex cases of acute men­tal an­guish.

If you or some­one you know is con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide, it’s an emer­gency just like a heart attack and should be treated as such. If it’s a fi­nan­cial or le­gal prob­lem, talk to your lawyer or your ac­coun­tant. Talk to your fam­ily or a friend, or just turn up to your lo­cal Emer­gency De­part­ment. ❚ Life­line (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354 ❚ De­pres­sion Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757 ❚ Health­line (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116 ❚ Sa­mar­i­tans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666 ❚ Sui­cide Cri­sis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). ❚ Youth­line (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free be­tween 8am and mid­night, or email talk@youth­line.co.nz ❚ 0800 WHATSUP chil­dren’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 be­tween 1pm and 10pm on week­days and from 3pm to 10pm on week­ends. On­line chat is available from 7pm to 10pm ev­ery day at whatsup.co.nz. ❚ Kid­sline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This ser­vice is for chil­dren aged 5 to 18. ❚ Your lo­cal Ru­ral Sup­port Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RU­RAL HELP) ❚ Al­co­hol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free. ❚ For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact the Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion’s free Re­source and In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice on (09) 623 4812.

Many fac­tors con­trib­ute to some­one con­sid­er­ing tak­ing their own life. If this is you, call one of the phone num­bers be­low to talk to some­one.

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