I called the cops on a distant relative once, after he told his mother and sister that he had nothing to live for, that he felt close to no one and that going to the desert to ride his ATV held no pleasure anymore. He went to the door, telling them they may never see him again. He had threatened suicide before, once while holding a gun in the garage.
Six years earlier, this young man (let’s call him Paul) had lost his father–the more stable and loving parent–when he was sixteen. His mother went into a deep depression, rarely emerging from her bedroom for the next two years. Paul and his older sister took care of themselves, their mother and their infirm grandmother the best they could. Paul’s sister got counseling, took medication for a short time and eventually emerged from the grief. With no money coming in, however, survival became a struggle and the three women in the house depended on Paul to handle the difficult aspects of home and car repair.
And this poor child I called the cops on?
Wouldn’t that be adding insult to injury?
Would he have a police record then, affecting his future job potential?
Didn’t Paul just need my company and understanding?
A long talk and a cup of coffee?
No, Paul needed serious medical help and intervention. I and others had been encouraging Paul to make an appointment with a therapist and perhaps explore using medication for at least three years. Paul had a hang-up with introducing “foreign substances” into his body, and so he rejected medication. He didn’t even like to take aspirin, he told us. The body should be able to heal itself and he didn’t want to harm himself by taking any kind of drug. Plus, I’d had the long talks, the cups of coffee, time and time again. There was no getting through to Paul.
When Paul’s mother and sister called me sobbing that he was again suicidal, it suddenly hit me that I’d had enough. I was done cajoling Paul. More, I was done hearing these two women claiming helplessness and depending on me to solve the problem. Reader, cruel as it sounds, I thought about my own well-being in this situation.
I called the police who met me at Paul’s workplace downtown. The four of us had a long discussion, and we all decided Paul didn’t need to go to the emergency room that night. After the police left, I made it clear to an infuriated Paul that should any other suicidal statement be made to me or his mother or his sister or anyone, we could call the police and he would be taken to the emergency room and then to the county psychiatric unit.
The police arriving at his workplace in front of his coworker shocked Paul. He realized that he had two choices: treat his suicidal thoughts on his own terms through therapy or have them treated on the family’s and society’s terms in a psychiatric ward. Paul has chosen himself to get help. While he still won’t consider medication, at this writing, he has been in therapy for almost one year. He reports that he feels less confused, less bored and less panicked about his future. I still hope he will consider medication at some point, but he knows now that he has options other than chronic depression and/or suicide.