On that cool crisp autumn morning, the sunrise glistened on the acres of corn and soybeans, just like it had done every morning for 57 years. To the west of the cornfields was the free-range herd of cattle that roamed the 400 acres, just like the herd had done when his father and grandfather managed the farm. He did one last check to be sure the John Deere was in place. It was the same red barn, in the same dirt stall the tractor had rested after every harvest for the last 50 years. “Maybe this year there will not be a harvest,” he pondered. And his walk to the family pond, was his last swim.
She checked the pantry shelves one last time, to be sure all her canning jars were neatly labeled and shelved just so. She wandered that old farmhouse, thanking it for giving her family a house, even though she failed to make it a home. Still in school, she confirmed that the children would be picked up by their grandparents for their annual weekend trip to the state fair. She walked to the barn, to give one last bale of hay to her horse. She made the climb up to the top of hayloft. It was her last climb.
Some of his fondest childhood memories were spent at the hockey rink. It made no difference if it was the frozen pond behind the house or the local rink in town, hockey was his passion and teammates were family. Both mom and dad played college and semi-professional hockey. By college, his bedroom walls had little space because trophies and awards graced the shelves. The parental expectation since he was 5-years old, was to receive a full scholarship to play hockey in college and then quickly sign to a professional hockey team. He received a full scholarship from that prestigious hockey university. Yet after high school graduation, the darkness seemed bright and once again, hopelessness raged within him. And the Up North hunting trip to his family cabin was his last trip.
These tragic life-stories read different yet have heartbreaking similarities. From wives to mothers, from grandparents to fathers, from friends, teammates or neighbors, not one person ever heard, read or felt that death by suicide would happen to their loved one, teammate or friend.
One of the most common words echoed after suicide has occurred is “Why?” Then one begins to feel the overwhelming sense of helplessness because they didn’t know how to make a difference in the life of someone struggling. Quite simply, they didn’t know how to understand the silence of suicide.
Much of the current research on suicide has revealed some common elements of people that have felt suicidal. First, even when people felt strongly suicidal, they did not want to die; they wanted an emotion to forever stop. Secondly, many did not know how to ask for help. And finally, most all people struggling with suicidal feelings, wanted someone to be brave and courageous enough to ask them directly about their personal struggle.
We must understand that people’s expression of suicidal depression is as unique as their fingerprints. For some, their feelings of worthlessness and despair allow them to immediately seek professional help. For others, their despair is temporarily hidden with unknown words.
At first, it may seem impossible to hear quiet hopelessness. Yet, if we unplug and be mindful, we begin to notice. We observe something slightly different in their simple everyday behaviors whether at home, school or work. Something will be different. It is in the routine and everyday activities where the silence of depression or suicide is revealed.
It is human nature that when we see or hear someone in despair, we want to take helpful action. And it is within this action, that the opportunity to make a difference in the struggle of another person becomes real. Connection is the first vital step when you begin to hear, see or feel the silence of suicide.
Silence cannot survive the moment we feel human connection. When our words reveal our struggles, our silence speaks, and hopefulness begins.
The feelings of suicide do not discriminate. Maybe they are your own feelings or those of a friend, family, teammate or colleague. Connection to a compassionate individual will break the deafening silence.
Minnesota is blessed with different ways to establish a connection for feelings of hopelessness, depression and suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available for calling, chat or texting at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800- SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
Also, texting “CONNECT” to 741741 will immediately connect you with a crisis counselor.
Minnesota does have county specific crisis telephone numbers with trained people to assist during times of crisis. For the central counties of Pine, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, and Mille Lacs the telephone number is 1-800-523-3333, 24 hours a day including weekends and holidays. Again, no matter if the conversation is about yourself, your family, or a friend, there is always someone who understands the silence of suicide and the symptoms of depression or crisis.
Therapeutic Services Agency, Inc is a mental health service agency that has been providing comprehensive services in the Pine City community for over 40 years. Today, call 1-800-629-7600 and walk that first step toward understanding that depression and suicide do not discriminate and there is professional assistance for you and your loved ones.
Editor’s Note: We look forward to making “Inspirations” a regular part of the Pine City Pioneer, and invite faith leaders, community members and thoughtful readers to take part and share their ideas in this space. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Mike at 320-629-6771.