It’s January 27, 2016, Bell Let’s Talk day.
The day when you make calls, text or tweet to raise awareness of mental illness as an effort to end the stigma attached to this type of suffering. It is a great cause that brings all the levels of support and avenues for help to light. I would like to point out where we are failing and still have much work to do.
The crisis hotlines are only for people who are actually on the ledge. These selfless men and women who answer these calls are trained to encourage you to climb down. This is not a number you can call if you are hurting and contemplating suicide. If that is the case you will be directed to your family physician.
General Practitioner knowledge and training is lacking.
If you are brave enough to go and be honest with your family doctor about your coping methods: whether it be drug use, alcohol abuse or a tendency to cut, your GP will be happy to prescribe you an anti-depressant and refer you a psychiatrist. There will be no follow-up, just an assumption that you are indeed taking the meds (which clearly do the trick) and an acute oblivion to the fact that the earliest shrink appointment is several months away.
Human Resources department are enough to drive anyone crazy. The forms required to take leave when you are in crisis fail to have a section for mental illness or depression and even when your doctor has filled it out to the best of their abilities given the irrelevant space HR will reject the request for leave.
The hospital itself has a protocol that hinders many by painting every patient with the same brush. When there is a suicide attempt regardless the reason or the method the ER doctor is required by law to notify the ministry of transportation. They will immediately suspend your license. This means, that the survivors of suicide, if lucky enough to recover physically, will be unable to resume their lives and pick up the pieces especially if they depend on their license for their income. The red tape involved in having a driver’s license reinstated in long and tedious. It will take the better part of a year.
How do they expect someone struggling to get their life back not to feel helpless and dejected if they cannot get themselves to work or do their job?
A year ago my wife of nineteen years was in a horrible car accident. When the blown tire of a transport truck crashed through her windshield it was a miracle she survived. After weeks of therapy and months of pain killers, her body was healing but she was never the same. Darlene (the unknown author) developed a dependency on her pain killers which she had begun mixing with alcohol. The mother of my two girls was turning into a completely different person. She was an angry drunk who sank back into dark corners of her past that I could not determine if real. After she accused me of despicable things I am not capable of; we began living apart.
Finally, five months ago after a break down that even she recognized, I convinced her to get help. We called a hotline together. I heard her admit that sometimes she just didn’t want to be here anymore. It was clear to me that Darlene did not see this as being suicidal. Once the councilor determined that she was not a threat to herself or anyone else, she advised my wife to seek a physician’s help.
We Waited…waited for help. She was hurting and we had to wait to get help! Admitting that you need help is not the hardest step. The waiting is.
Eight days later she had a doctor’s appointment which she allowed me to sit in on. The glossed over version of events that she spun was worthy of a weekend at the spa. Risking our marriage, I clarified a few points and reminded Darlene of a number of specific breakdowns. We left there with an antidepressant prescription and the promise that a psychiatrist’s office would call to arrange an appointment. Little did he know that Darlene would take those pills with a bottle of wine and that the shrink’s appointment would be a seven-month wait.
Four weeks later Darlene stumbled home. Her work had called; she hadn’t been there all day. With red rimmed eyes, she dragged herself to bed muttering that she wasn’t feeling well. I made her a tea and wrapped her up in a blanket. Thinking it was the flu, I found it was strange that she did not have a fever and had yet to explain where she had been all day.
“I was supposed to be gone by now.” She said.
The words floated around me meaningless for a while. Darlene had tried to kill herself. She had downed a bottle of Tylenol after she left in the morning. She had no intentions of going to work. She sat in her car all day waiting to die. When I got her to the hospital they pumped her stomach. ‘Wait and see’ was what they said after that. The next 72 hours were crucial. For three days I didn’t know if my wife was going to live or die.
My work gently explained that it was my wife in the hospital not me. I would be expected back to work unless I had a doctor’s note. Our GP was happy to fill out the form the first time but after the fourth rejection, he had grown to dislike my company.
On the second day, after the liver specialist told my wife to get her affairs in order, our daughter’s sat by their mother’s side and kissed her goodbye. That night, Darlene died in my arms.
Women will often say that the best day of their lives was their wedding day or the day their children were born. Those days were great indeed, but when you have had the worse day of your life the rest are like little pieces of wonderful. I wish I had one good day to give back to Darlene.
So many of us failed my wife, including me. We let the darkness win.