Women & Children

What to do when someone you knew might attempt suicide!

Posted on 2014/02/19

This paper introduces Amelie: a beautiful mother of three, married at tender age to a wealthy businessman. She finished high school and had gone to study fashion in France. As the second wife and very young bride, she was given everything a young woman could dream of: jewelry, designers’ clothes, fancy car, and several houses and/or flats in luxurious locations. Occasionally, her husband would take her to social functions and cultural events where like a peacock he would display his wife as his own colorful trail to envious business partners and friends. Amelie, of course, enjoyed such attention while they lasted. Secretly, Amelie felt not accepted in her husband’s circle and that her only influence was her looks: tall, long legged, blonde, and blue-eyed mestiza.

As their business grew bigger, social activities, turned from less frequent to none. When Alberto, their youngest child turned 5, he joined his sisters to school. Amelie spent more and more time by herself. She spent her time pampering herself in spas and in shopping trips. Amelie became more conscious about her looks and her already slender figure. She barely ate anything solid and when she did, she would take her laxative tea to flush them all out. She liked lavish meals but reprimanded her cook when she was tempted to eat. She did not get along well with her household crews and showed erratic behaviors in dealing with them. Sometimes she was friendly and thoughtful, at other times she suspected them of not doing their jobs or abusing her generosity. These occurred especially when her husband was out on business trips.

Amelie as overly sensitive and felt depressed for every comment regarding her appearance. In many occasions, she threw tantrums to get her husband’s attention. In casual conversation with her stylist, she mentioned that she had an unhappy sex life because her husband had sex with her only to satisfy his own needs regardless of hers. But she also said she had no plans of leaving him because she loved him. She also said her children were everything to her.

Then there was an incident when her personal secretary called her husband out of a meeting claiming that Amelie had taken a bottle of her sleeping pills to kill herself. Everyone in the household including relatives were alarmed by the incident only to find out later on that she took 2 tablets instead of one bottle. The rest of said pills were wrapped in hand towel hidden inside her bathroom drawer. Everybody was displeased and it caused big fights between her and her husband. Amelie was lethargic, sad and did not want to leave her bedroom. Her mother and aunt came to stay with her and told her not to do such scare again. They stayed with her for sometime and then Amelie was back to her senses again, everything seemed to be back to normal. Her mother and auntie left her thinking that she was better.

Barely two weeks had passed since the visit of her mother and aunt when her personal secretary heard her moaning. She went to her room but Amelie could barely talk. She just whispered, “I am in terrible pain.” Her secretary asked, “where?” and Amelie motioned pointing to her abdomen. Then she passed out. The secretary rushed to Amelie’s husband who was in his study room with friends, to inform him about Amelie. Perplexed, Amelie’s husband rushed to their room. She was unconscious when he got there. They then rushed her to the nearest hospital for medical intervention. They did not know what she took and in what quantity. In deep sleep, she was sighing in despair and calling her husband’s name but no one answered. A team of doctors and specialists tried everything to revive her. Her condition deteriorated, her mucus membrane was affected, her abdomen was inflamed, her eyes and lips ruptured… it was too late, 12 hours later, Amelie expired - she committed suicide!

When Amelie told her husband the first time that she was going to end it all and that she took a bottle of tablets, she was already giving clues that she was contemplating suicide. However, her husband did not see her first attempt that way, it was in fact annoying to him. He was concerned but angrier for he felt she made him and the rest of family member like fools. He did not suspect her depression although she was very weak and psychologically ill.

To an observer, Amelie had everything, she was beautiful, rich, and she had a husband and children who loved her. What else could she ask for?

A depressed person does not see himself or herself as someone who has everything. Depressed persons do not see themselves as capable of completing anything. They have very negative self-evaluation which extends to their view of the world and their future. They torture themselves of guilt over what they see as their failures and inadequacies.

Suicide is a serious complication of severe depression. In the case of Amelie there were clear warning signs, she had manifested clear indications that she was not well. She was unhappy, feeling weak, irritable, alone and uninvolved. She had a very weak social support system: no close friends, emotionally detached husband, and mother and relatives were too far away. She had no sense of purpose, not an active member of any club, no mention of spiritual or religious activities. She uttered statements about her own hopelessness and helplessness. Sadly, people who heard her or see evidences of her suicidal potential, overlooked and deny their significance.

Many suicide prevention centers have accumulated voluminous data that could provide vital information in assessing individual’s suicidal potential, Amelie’s case closely matched the profile of a suicide victim. So what should you do if you suspect someone you knew might attempt suicide?

First, you should not be afraid to ask that someone directly “Ikaw ba ay nag-iisip mag suicide?” When a friend of yours asks you the same question, your likely answer is “ano bali..w?” Supposing that the answer of your depressed friend is a “YES” or halfhearted “NO”… then, know that he or she needs immediate help!!! Your depressed friend needs both medical and psychological interventions. It is best to take them to a professional. Time is very important in preventing suicide---remember that suicide attempt is less likely when your friend is in the depths of depression---helplessness and passivity seem to place them in temporary trance that they may put their plan aside. When your friend’s depression lifts and he seems to feel better, suicide may actually be more likely.

This happened to Amelie’s mother and aunt, they thought she was all right, they thought her depression was lifted and therefore she was better. Always keep in mind that if anyone talks about suicide-- be sure that he or she knows someone cares, and that the person must seek professional help.

* A a clinician who has extensive experience in helping abused women.


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