It is with some hesitancy that I submit this column today. Mostly because as a nurse practitioner, I was taught to maintain a “professional distance” to effectively manage patient care.
But this is one time I am going to break that rule because it has been so painful to watch my son lose one of his dearest friends to suicide and see the profound devastation his friend’s death has caused to the family and friends who continue to try and make sense of this loss.
I cannot write dispassionately about suicide. As the third leading cause of death in teens and young adults, I want Boxers to know that there is help for the suicidal.
It was two years ago this month that I received a frantic phone call from my eldest son. He had heard that one of his best friends was missing. He pleaded with me to call the boy’s mother since she has always been a close friend of mine. My younger son is best friends with the missing boy’s younger brother.
When I called the mother, she reported that they had last heard from their son two nights earlier, when he had called from Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge saying he had to jump. His father thought he had convinced his son to wait and told him that he would come and get him. But when his father got to the bridge, no one was there and the boy’s cell phone was now dead. No one was ever found.
Two years later, the parents and his four siblings still do not feel certain that he is really gone. His mother continues to hope that he will walk through the front door of their home. My son becomes angry when I mention his friend’s name, but said he knows that his friend will not be coming back.
Here are the gloomy statistics on suicide involving 15-24 year-olds, according to the “CDC Suicide Facts at a Glance 2012” for every completed suicide among teens and young adults, there are approximately 100-200 attempts. Suicide accounts for 20 percent of deaths annually in this age group. It is the second leading cause of death in 25-34 year-olds. The prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicide planning and suicide attempts is significantly higher among young adults aged 18-29 than adults aged 30 and older.
Here is the most important message that I want to get across to my readers: Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable! The problem with suicidal thought and severe depression is that they makes one feel awful, as though things will never get better.
With professional help, one can feel better. But professional help is necessary because one cannot just wish these terrible feelings away.
People that do not understand depression will often tell loved ones to “just snap out of it!” With clinical depression, one cannot “ snap out of it;” that is why it is an illness!
Pacific University Counseling Center Psychologist Forrest Merrill wants Boxers to know the variety of resources that are available if you or a friend is having suicidal thoughts.
The Student Counseling Center can be called at (503)352-2191. There are walk-in hours for urgent needs like suicidal thoughts from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Forest Grove campus and 4 to 5 p.m. Mondaythrough Thursday at the Hillsboro campus.
The Washington County Crisis Line, (503)291-9111 is another resource that is available 24 hours a day. If you or a friend feel like acting on suicidal thoughts, go to the nearest hospital emergency room or call the Washington County Crisis Line.
Recently, my younger son and I talked about the two year anniversary of the loss of our friend. We are still trying to accept it.
I told Bradley that sometimes people kill themselves because they just want to end their pain, but instead, the pain gets spread to the family and friends that remain. He responded, “all suicide does is interfere with getting help and feeling better.”
Kerry Pioske is an Adult Nurse Practitioner who works at the Pacific University Student Health Center