Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Suicide Watch

I remember being a public defender just a couple years out of law school and meeting with a young client charged with a misdemeanor. I don't remember the charge or even his name, but I do remember the serious tone in his voice when he told me he was considering suicide. It didn't sound like an empty threat or a cry for attention, but sounded like a genuine cry for help. It also sounded like it was nothing I could do that much about in the long-term as I had a full afternoon of court and not much expertise in dealing with people this desperate,whose immediate problems were more mental than legal.

But it was a moment I'll never forget. He seemed both trusting and serious about his wish. I, on the other hand, knew I was in way over my head and that I had to take this seriously. We contacted a local suicide hotline and made an appointment for him to meet with someone that day. I saw him a few weeks later, at his court hearing, and he seemed to being much better. But I was busy again and didn't have time to follow up to see if this peace lasted.

I hadn't thought about this in a few years, but today a letter arrived from my daughter's high school that made me think of it;

"All of us at XXXX High School were deeply saddened to receive news this weekend of the death of ... one of our XX grade students. [She] died Sunday evening by hanging...

The most important thing we should do is to be supportive and encourage discussion about the events, our feelings, and what we can do in response to it.

She was likely just 17 years old if she was in 11th grade. What a tragedy.

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