NOTE: This is the second of four stories in our May is Mental Health Month #MyTruth series. These stories provide a stark portrait of what life is really like for individuals and their loved ones, this campaign is also about focusing on the actions we can all take to make a difference.
Chapter Two: Trying to Make Sense of it All
It has been a little more than a year since my dad, BK, died by suicide. Some days it doesn’t seem real. Other days the grief is all-consuming.
I never thought, even though I’m in my mid-20s, that I would lose my dad at this age. I actually quit my nursing job because I got so overwhelmed with all of it. My dad was never that person. He was always living more than everyone else. My family never saw the warning signs.
Two Oklahomans died by suicide just about every day in 2016. I’m sharing this story because this is my truth. The unfortunate truth is — most of us have lost a co-worker, family member or friend to suicide, for me it was my dad, my best friend — and still it’s something we don’t like to think about, much less talk about. No one thinks it will happen to them. The truth is — suicide is preventable if we know the warning signs — then we can save lives.
He was the hardest worker I’ve ever known. In all aspects of his life he strived for greatness, be it business or being able to eat the hottest pepper. He took me and my family on countless adventures. We traveled enough for several lifetimes, but barely at all compared to him. I always felt like I needed a vacation after visiting dad because he wanted us to do everything possible together. In his short years, he lived the fullest life. Nothing was ever done halfway. Every detail was thought out.
He is the true epitome of the American Dream. He started as a temp doing manual labor and ended his career, essentially in the same company, in one of the top roles it had to offer. Second best was never good enough for my dad. And maybe that’s why he did what he did. He didn’t want to be a second-rate version of himself.
Talking about my dad as a father is difficult. The past years we have had such a great relationship and I think of how special he made us feel. He never stopped pushing me to be everything he knew I could be. And because of this sometimes we would butt heads, but now I understand that he truly wanted the best from me. If anything went wrong, he was the first person I called. He knew how to fix anything. He was my constant and my compass. No matter how bad I messed up, I could call my dad and he would tell me what to do.
One of the last times I talked to him I was complaining about my job as a nurse and he said, “You don’t need to hear my pep talk. You already know what I would say: ‘You can do this.’ “
He was so proud of his family. Eli, my younger brother, is so smart and so much like him. Madison, my younger sister, has his financial sense and no-nonsense attitude. He told me I was strong and always called my work scrubs my superhero costume.
Trying to Make Sense of it All
Everyone was so blindsided by my father’s death. If there were warning signs, we didn’t see them. Why would someone who had a great life be suicidal? It’s not just the sad guy in the corner who dies by suicide. It could be anyone.
He was so full of life and he was the last person in my family I would think would have done it. I mean, honestly, there are other people I’ve been worried about in the past, and I never thought that he would do this … and that I would be without him.
My dad left behind letters for us. He explained and apologized for leaving us because he didn’t want us dealing with the horrible effects of dementia. We didn’t know he had dementia, but we did know he was depressed, which can cause dementia-like symptoms.
No matter why he died by suicide, I still can’t help wondering if I could have prevented it. Maybe if I had known the warning signs of suicide, maybe he would still be here with me.
The last time I talked to my dad he told me to not be afraid to seek help. I thought he was referring to asking for help after losing my Grampy a month before, but now I know he was preparing me for life after his death. I want to share that advice with you all.
What We Can Do To Move Forward
As someone who has lost a father to suicide, I don’t want anyone to lose a friend, co-worker or loved one to suicide which is why I’m urging you to attend Mental Health Association Oklahoma’s free suicide prevention training, QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer).
This training is just one hour of your time and are offered in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
I may not be able to change my own story, but I know I want to able to help a friend or family member in the future. The more people who know QPR, the more people we can save from suicide in the future. It’s like learning CPR, only it’s the mental health version.
Call Mental Health Association Oklahoma at 918.585.1213 or 405.943.3700 to schedule a QPR training for your business, school, faith community or civic organization.
Suicide is the most complex and difficult to understand of all human behavior. Yet, suicidal people are just like you and me. They have problems; we have problems. The difference between us is that, for the moment, we feel we can handle our problems and do not feel overwhelmed by them. In its simplest terms, suicide seems to be a solution to a problem. More often, it seems to be a solution to many insolvable problems. Thoughts of suicide occur during times of personal crisis, unrelenting stress, depression, or when we are confronted with a fear of failure of the specter of an unacceptable loss. Although sometimes an impulsive act, most people will think about suicide for days, weeks, months or even years before they make an attempt. Oddly, thinking of suicide provides a curious blend of terror and relief; relief in that all one’s problems can finally be solved and terror at the idea of having to die to find that relief.
This is why QPR training is so important for everyone to take. We all have the ability to become a gatekeeper and make a difference in a life of someone that is hurting. A gatekeeper is anyone in a position to recognize a crisis and warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. This could be you.
The truth is — you may be the best person, in the best possible position to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and to help prevent further steps or thoughts.
Source: Dr. Paul Quinnett, QPR Institute.