"The crime of suicide lies rather in its disregard for the feelings of those whom we leave behind."
E. M. Forster quotes (English Novelist and Essayist, 1879-1970)
My ER beds have been filled the last several weeks with lost and desperate souls. We have never seen so many genuine attempts at suicide, that if not been found by someone would have been successful.
Working in the ER we get alot of pseudo suicide attempts. In actuality they are attention getting stunts, Lonely Laura takes a bottle of pills and then immediately calls 911, resulting in getting her stomach pumped and a consult with our emergency social worker(ESW), or Dumped Dan who cuts his wrist then calls his EX to tell her what "she " has caused him to do, resulting in police bringing him in, after tazing him, for sutures and a consult with a ESW. Each case causing family and friends to rush to the ER and giving the patient what they wanted=Attention.
These patients are very frustrating to deal with. They typically are very emotional, dramatic and manipulative. They treat their loved ones horribly and hold them fully responsible for their own self harm. They put their families thru these emotional rollercoasters time and time again.
They bring out the worst in us nurses.. resulting in us wanting to tell them how to do it right next time. But sometimes they figure it out on their own.....
This last week we had a 30yo paraplegic hang himself with the machine used to lift him out of bed leaving his wife and children behind; an elderly man who placed a hose from his car exhaust to his passenger window after losing his wife, a loaded gun was found at his side; a 50yo man who took a massive OD of pills and alcohol because he faced foreclosure on his house due to an injury keeping him from working; a mid 40's male who ran into traffic on the freeway after fighting with his wife; a 30s male hung himself when faced with an extended prison sentence; a 50 yo woman distraught over a relationship ending slit her wrist in front of her daughter, a 14 yo girl in teenage turmoil took everything in her parents medication cabinet, and finally a 12yo boy with a long history of mental/emotional problems in his short years, mixed alcohol and his psych meds. (These were just my night shifts, there were several more on the other shifts.)
These cases take a toll on ER staff for different reasons.. When they come in it is a fight to save a life they no longer wish to live. When the patient is "successful" the families are hit with the shock of it, then grief, anger, confusion, and guilt... I watch them go thru it before my eyes and I struggle to find the right words to console them.. Families flood us with Whys? and How could they?... The answers elude us.. Forever locked in their loved one.
I will never understand the dark place these patients find themselves, where there is no other solution or person to turn to.. But I hope I am able to prick a hole in that darkness by showing them I cared enough to fight the fight to make them "Failures".