In despair? Ask for help
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 firstname.lastname@example.org ❚ 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.