Three years ago I knew my Mom was depressed, but I didn’t realize how
close to suicide she was, so I left her alone one day when she was
deeply troubled. A few minutes later after calling a few family
members who didn’t answer, she overdosed on sleeping pills. My Dad
found her and called for help, and she survived. What would I have
1. Put a suicide hot-line in your loved-one’s cell phone and tell them
“CALL THIS NUMBER if you think you are going to hurt yourself.” One
number is: 1 (800) 273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish
2. Take suicide threats seriously. If they can say it out loud to you,
it means they have thought about it. Take them to a ER or
3. Realize you can’t save your loved one. Get them to help, but then
entrust them to God.
I’m so thankful my Mom made it through this troubled time, and that
she is sharing her story with others. (See other articles under the
suicide tab.) There is healing from mental illness!
By M. H. Campbell Copyright 2014
I didn’t think I had a “hero-complex,” but now I know that I did. I wanted to be in charge. If change was happening that I didn’t like, I wanted to be in control and stop it or do it my way.
Three years ago when my principal was getting let go and a new one coming in at the school where I was teaching, after I had vented to a counselor about it all and how hard it was, she just looked at me and said, “You want to be the one making the decisions.” I didn’t want to admit it, but reality was, yes, I was uncomfortable with the changes, and didn’t want things to change.
Two years ago, from Halloween morning on when my Mom first told me, “I want to kill myself,” I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT to do, but I started trying to do something. I called and listened to her. I encouraged her. I told her I would help her get more help if that is what she thought she needed.
So a few weeks later, I helped my Mom sign herself into a psychiatric hospital. She got help for a few days, but then our family banded together to get her out before Thanksgiving. My sister and I took her into our house, and Mom stayed in my room for three weeks. She started taking medicine to help her thyroid, sleep medicine, and anti-depressants.
She got a little help from therapy, but we still didn’t know exactly what to do or how to help her.
Mom started feeling a little better, Thanksgiving was okay. We ate turkey together and Mom started being more honest about what she was feeling.
Then my Dad got in a car-accident, and she started nose-diving again. We couldn’t say, “There IS hope” enough to her, and it didn’t stick.
One Sunday morning, mid-December, my Dad was on his way to take my Mom to church, and my housemate and I were leaving a bit earlier. Mom was deeply depressed, and she tried to block my way as I left the house. I needed to get out of that house, and I knew Dad was coming soon, so I reassured her, “Dad’s coming soon,” and just left.
An hour later, after Sunday School, my sister called me and let me know my Mom had over-dosed on her medicine and was rushed to the hospital.
After I had left, Mom had tried to call a few people for help, but no one answered. Then she gave into the messages of death in her head, and took lots of pills. Dad got there in time to call 911 and get help, so Mom’s stomach could be pumped. They sedated her for a day, and she was in ICU for a bit. Then they moved her back to the psychiatric hospital. This time she did not want to be there. She did not cooperate. She was there for over a week.
When we had the family meeting about where she should go next, I was protesting having her go back to my parents’ farm out in the lonely country where this depression had started. I was saying, “She can’t go back there!”
The case worker looked at me and said, “You can’t save her. If she wants to kill herself, you won’t be able to stop her.” It felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. I stopped talking, and let my family do what they thought was best. Hearing that truth was hard, but it was what I needed right then. It helped me step back and stop trying as hard to save the situation.
A few days later my siblings moved Mom back to the farm. Several of them stayed with her and Dad for a few days right before Christmas. On Christmas morning we ate together, had a few presents, and then everyone left except me. We went to church, but it was a sad Christmas. I knew I couldn’t save my Mom or pull her out of this depression. I couldn’t fix my parents’ marriage and communication issues.
As the sun set, I waved good-bye to my parents on Christmas night and resigned my job as Savior to my Mom. I let her make her choices: a few days later, she made another suicide threat, but a friend was with-it enough to call 911 to get help. Mom was taken to the country psychiatric hospital, where there, she received excellent attention from a psychiatrist and started to forgive herself and the eventually the depression lifted. The psychiatrist let my Dad know he could either have his farm or his wife. My Dad chose his wife, and they moved into town.
It took me several months to get out of survival “don’t feel” mode, and then feel the sadness of the situation. I had to forgive myself for leaving that Sunday morning; but God protected my Mom without me. Jesus is the Savior, not me.
To hear more of what helped during this time–please read the piece I wrote called, “There IS Hope….”
To hear my Mom’s story through this time, please see her message that I shared on my blog:
Now, two Christmases past this hard time, I am so thankful my Mom is doing well. Medicine helps, facing issues and getting counsel helps, moving to a new home helps…
These experiences helped me know that people will make their choices, and we can’t fix them. There’s a healthy balance I’m learning to walk about when to help and when not to. People in depression do need support, but just know that you can’t save them.
Stepping back, letting go of control was what I needed to do then, to let the consequences happen to the people’s choices, and resigning from being the Savior was my role in the story right then.