If you’re a regular reader of TTAG, you know me as a writer, columnist, and frequent commenter on other’s posts. If you know me personally, you may see me in different roles: father, son, musician, entrepreneur, programmer, graphic artist, animator. Last night, I added a new role, a role that I don’t know that I’m prepared to play. Suicide prevention counselor.
Like millions of other people, I have a page on one of the popular Social Networking sites. I use it for business (promoting my music performances and such) and to keep up with friends I haven’t seen in years. As long as I don’t get sucked in to the black hole of timewasting applets (Mafia Wars, Farmville and their ilk), I can be productive and still keep in touch. Along the way, I’ve acquired some six degrees of separation-type friends. Call them friends of friends. Or even friends of friends of friends.
I never really know how I’ve come to have some people in my circle of friends – some see me as a musician, some as a writer, some as a graphic artist, classmate, whatever. But one of these distant friends reached out to me a few days ago, and I’m finding that I’m being asked to fill some really big shoes, and I’m beginning to see the value – and limits of technology in this kind of situation.
I don’t know this girl well. Let me be frank. I don’t know her at all, except as a face on Facebook. She’s young, an ex-pat living in another country, and for some reason has reached out to me. She’s young enough to be my daughter. So maybe I’m a father figure, because I’ve come to learn her parents are not in the picture. I’m purposefully going to be VERY vague on the details, as I don’t want to reveal any confidences.
Here’s the problem. She’s had a rough life. I mean a really rough life. She’s a survivor. But the kind of living on the street life that you read about in New York Book Review best-seller lists are not the kind of thing you want to live in the first person.
Again, I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that you wouldn’t want to trade lives with her. We’ve become IM friends over a couple of months of occasional chats. Music stuff. That sort of thing. Nothing heavy.
Then earlier this week, things took a turn towards the “I’m opening up to you” direction. And I learned that someone close to her had assaulted her. Someone she loved. And she was pissed. Hurt. Scared. Angry. Confused. Grief-stricken. And self-destructive.
Now I’ve never done counseling professionally. But like all dads, I’m regularly called upon to dole out wise sayings, answers, aphorisms, and other solutions to life’s problems. We last night, things got weird. And as the saying goes, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
You see, my friend started talking about suicide. That was bad. Then she told me she had a gun, and she was going to shoot the person that hurt her, then turn the gun on herself.
Now here I am, a guy who earns a (small portion of his) living writing about guns – gun reviews, gun safety, gun news, gun opinion pieces. And I have never – NEVER been confronted with this. How do I stop someone from making the biggest mistake of her young life…a potentially fatal one?
I can’t tell you much more, without potentially making this a bigger mess than it already is. I’ve called my parish priest and gotten him to second-chair me, at least a little. Apparently, I’ve not screwed up too badly yet – everybody’s still alive at this point and no crimes have been committed. I don’t know what else I can do. According to the professionals I’ve talked to, I’ve done everything I can do. But I feel impotent. There’s only so much you can do, typing into an instant message box.
I’ve no idea where she lives, if she’s really got a gun, or how much of this is real, and how much of it is, as my ex would say, “thinking in your mouth.” But I have to take it all seriously. And I’m praying every moment that I can help – and not hurt – and help this troubled kid get through this alive.
So what to do? I mean, what would you do, if you were confronted by something like this? It’s given me a much greater appreciation for the police specialists who deal with trying to talk suicidal people off ledges. It’s an awesome burden, a burden I’d much rather not have.
But for some reason, I feel as if I’ve been put here for a reason, and if I’ve learned anything here on TTAG, doing the right thing means a lot more than just following the rules. You gotta think things through, and try to see all the potential threats, then act PROactively to maximize chances for survival.
Wish me luck. Or pray. As your conscience dictates.