10:11am

Sun April 3, 2011
Commentary

800-273-TALK: The One Number Everyone Should Know

Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss. That’s exactly why KUNC commentator Dr. Marc Ringel is talking about it.

  

In 35 years of family practice only two of my active patients committed suicide:  a young man in his thirties who’d suffered brain damage in a motorcycle wreck and lost his health, job, family and self-respect; and a woman in her forties who had a severe personality disorder and endless complications, some real and some imagined, of a major surgery.

I’ve dealt with many other patients who have contemplated doing themselves in but didn’t.  These have mostly been depressed people whom I asked directly, as I’d been trained to, if they’d thought about hurting themselves or someone else.  If the answer was “yes,” I’d inquire if they had a concrete plan, access to weapons, and so on, in order to assess their degree of what we call “suicidality.”  Then I’d make the appropriate referral to an inpatient psychiatric unit, to a mental health professional, or to a family member who could keep an eye on this distressed human while waiting for counseling and/or medication to kick in.

The two successful suicides (“successful” is a strange word to pair with “suicide,” isn’t it?) caught me completely by surprise, because these chronically suffering individuals who chose the most final way to end their pain had given me no hint that something had changed to make them acutely suicidal.  They say it often happens that way.  Once the decision has been made to kill oneself, a person’s level of distress is, if anything, lower.

Anticipated or not, suicide is always a shock to the people left behind.  We were all taken aback by the recent death at his own hand of our KUNC colleague and friend, Kyle Dyas. 

I’d known Kyle, a consistently friendly guy, seemingly untroubled, since he started at the station in 1996.  I never saw in him a hint of the sort of severe emotional distress or psychopathology that usually goes with suicide.  Nor did the people who worked with him every day have a sense that anything was so wrong in his life that Kyle might end it so abruptly.

All of us who knew this sweet gentle man are still deeply sad and wholly puzzled by the way in which Kyle chose to leave this world.  I doubt we’ll ever make much sense of what feels like a terrible waste of a young life.  (He was 42.)  Nor do I believe that, in the absence of even a clue of how he must have been suffering, there is anything we might have done to avert Kyle’s tragic exit.

  So there’s only one thing left for us to do, which is to look out for the living.  Here’s a first step to take if you or someone you know is thinking about ending it all.  Call the National Crisis Hotline.  800-273-TALK.  They’ll connect you with the Pueblo Suicide Prevention Office or, if you’re a vet, with the VA’s Veteran’s Crisis Line, where you’ll talk to a trained and certified counselor.

It’s too late to help Kyle.  We can only support and soothe each other and remind everybody we know of this one phone number, 800-273-TALK.  The Pueblo Office alone handles over 10,000 calls a year that originate from all over the state.  Chances are, unfortunately, that you really will need this number one of these days.  That’s 800-273-TALK.  I’m sure Kyle, who was kind to everyone he met, would want me to tell you about it.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)
 

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