Suicide can be pretty hard to talk about. It’s not that much easier writing about it. It isn’t really talked about as it stands, yet you can find plenty of writing online. Facebook has made it easier for us as a whole to express our ideas and thoughts, not that they are always positive. Messenger has opened that up to a more personal, one-on-one level while allowing for an easier outlet to express something in writing what we might not verbally.
What brought this topic up for me? There are multiple reasons, but I was reminded of a memory from my past while I was working.
I am at the police station almost every morning checking calls made for the previous days to publish for our newspaper. Loose animals, emergency services, fires, thefts, vandalisms, DUIs, and even suicidal calls. It breaks my heart a little when I come across a suicidal call. It’s not like I haven’t had any hard times — there was a time where I felt I had nothing to live for, but there were quite a few factors preventing me from following through with any rash actions of self-destruction.
A side note: you don’t need a justifiable reason to be suicidal. It absolutely does not help anyone to minimize the problem and it’s not like there’s a checklist to “qualify” for feeling suicidal, so let’s cast that ridiculous thought aside and talk about it like adults. It’s not a competition.
There I am sitting in the sheriff’s office going over the calls that happened the previous night. It comes up for me as often as any normal person, the thought of “if only I had known, I could have done something.” It reminded me of my experience in high school.
I was a senior in high school here in Alliance. I met this girl, Ashley, who was only a year or two under me. She lived in Colorado, though it’s been almost ten years so I can’t remember the city. I would go home after school and get on the computer to write fictional stories while instant messaging friends. We met online, though we’ve never met in person.
We talked for about four or five months, almost every day. There came a time when she told me her feelings for me. I didn’t have much confidence then, but I also learned how hard long-distance relationship can be, especially with someone I had never met with in person. I just wasn’t able to reciprocate those feelings for her. She expressed her feelings a few more times along our unique friendship and I still didn’t budge.
She told me stories of her past, which I didn’t know whether or not to take seriously at the time. I had come across other internet strangers who exaggerated their stories; especially in any group chats or on forums — it was like a competition for some to one-up each other on who’s life is worse. There was something different with Ashley’s stories. She never talked about them in a group setting, but talked to me about them whenever we spoke on a personal level.
As I’ve said, even at the age of 17, I had gone through my fair share of trauma. It seemed a little more grandiose, so I was on the fence about believing her.
One day, I logged in to talk with her and others, going about my writing as usual. She felt urged to express her feelings for me once more. We had this conversation again. This time was different. She told me that I was the only person who showed her that life doesn’t have to be negative … and that if she can’t have me, she would rather die. I knew this was a different conversation this time.
She told me that I wouldn’t have to worry about being bothered by her anymore and that she hopes I live a happy life. It was like a goodbye message. I scrambled through our messages, grateful that the messenger program kept a log of these messages, to find her address. I never thought I’d need the information, but I was able to find it.
I tried calling her, as we’ve spoken on the phone a few times. This was when “long distance calling” was still a thing you had to pay for. I finally got an answer after trying countless times. She gave me another goodbye message saying that there wasn’t anything I could do to change her mind. I remember listening to her crying, saying that she just can’t take this life anymore.
I had a mental breakdown when she hung up on me. My mind felt shattered and broken and I had no clue at all how to help her. What do you do in this type of situation? Who do you call and reach out to? Is there really any kind of adult that can take care of this? This was a really serious problem …
I’m not the type to give up, though. I couldn’t live with myself if she was serious, and it sounded like she was. It took me so long to be able to really hear her and how she felt. I did the one thing any inexperienced teenage boy could do. I told my mom.
Call me a boy scout, make fun of me, do your worst — but I made the right decision and I will always stand behind that. My mom worked so quickly. We were also fortunate to have an old phone book for Colorado from when we lived there. She looked up Ashley’s city, called their police station, and told them about Ashley setting up for suicide.
We got a call a few hours later from the police station. It was Ashley. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear that she was okay. The police talked to my mom, Ashley had set up in the basement to hang herself and the police arrived while she was standing on a chair. They talked her down and took her to the station.
I didn’t hear from her after that night for a few months. She called one day and it was great to hear from her. She told me what happened after that night, confirming what the police told us would happen. She was put up for foster care and found a family that took her in a few cities away. She hadn’t seen her parents, step-father, or grandparents. I guess the police found Ashley’s home to be unfit for her safety. Bottles and cans of beer and alcohol trashed the place along with how unkempt the rest of the house was. With her stories, the state of the house she lived in, the state of her guardians that she lived with, and the fact that she tried to commit suicide while under their care was enough to take her away from her terrible family.
This week, there were a few suicidal calls that I came across in my job. These calls weren’t of someone who was suicidal, but of someone who reached out to the police station about someone who was suicidal.
Those calls reminded me of that time I helped to save Ashley’s life. There isn’t any real way for me to find out, but I hope those calls also saved a life that night. Suicide isn’t something to threaten people with to get what you want, nor is it to be taken lightly when someone expresses that they want to kill themselves or anything to that capacity.
It may sound cheesy, but you could genuinely save a life. Sometimes, all it takes is one call. Sometimes, it takes more than that. Consider this as me reaching out to any of you who feel like suicide is your only option. It isn’t and I promise that if you stick through whatever you’re going through, it does get better. It absolutely gets better.