That day, those many years ago, started out like any other day. It just did not end like any other day.
I sent my four girls off to school, as usual. Readied myself for work, as usual.
An old home was converted into offices, which is where my office was at the time and was less than 10 minutes from home. I, along with my fellow office mates and colleagues, loved our working environment. Our clients enjoyed the relaxed, homey feel. A swing set in the big backyard and a playroom served as perfect places for our children to gather after school.
As a counselor for a number of clients, and supervisor for social workers assigned to their own clients, my days were full. I spent a large portion of my days ensuring the clients’ proper use of medications, following up on their doctor appointments, searching for appropriate government services, ensuring their needs are met in a timely manner. Most of all, supporting and guiding their emotional well-being.
On the afternoon of what started out as any other usual day, I received a telephone call at work from a client. This was not unusual, most clients would call in between their regularly scheduled meetings with their social workers, just to check and chat. My supervisory conversation with his social worker just the day before indicated all was well.
Usual was about to take a fateful turn.
John, (not his actual name) asked for me in his usual polite and quite manner.
One minute into our conversation, I knew all was certainly not well. He was shouting and rambling incoherently. After what seemed like an eternity, he was calm enough to engage in a difficult conversation, filled with anger and angst. I was feeling a bit concerned as I could not determine where this frustration and angst was coming from. He was barely able to respond to my questions.
Suddenly I heard him shout, do not call the police.
The police. John why would I call the police?
John insisted he does not want to take his medications anymore. If I make him take his meds, he will kill himself with his loaded gun he was carrying around the living room.
Are you alone John? Yes. I can’t stand people around me all the time. I kicked my dog, my granddaughter and my wife out of the trailer.
I hit my emergency button for one of my colleagues. I wrote her a note with a brief explanation, to call the police, dispatch them to John and ask them to be sure not to sound their sirens, as it will rattle John even further.
The police did not mute the sirens.
I could hear them in the background. John became completely unhinged. Yelling and cursing at me for lying to him, he shouted that the next sound I will hear will be my fault.
First, I heard the police shouting while forcing John’s front door open; within seconds I heard the deafening sound of a gunshot.
John is gone, the trauma of that usual day, sneaks up on me when I least expect it.
Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.