Dear Dr. Archer,
My 21 year old son attempted suicide this morning over a girl. He made three attempts, and I feel so lucky that I caught him, that he was not successful, and that we were able to get him admitted to the behavioral ward of a local hospital.
Of course, when he came out of the grog caused by the medication the hospital gave him in the ER, his first response was to call his dad and say he didn't belong there -- which we expected.
I have the same question all mothers would have, and I see plenty of good answers. I have the question, though -- his suicide attempt was over a girl. To be very frank, this girl is wealthy but has absolutely no morals. The story goes like this: she deliberately drags him in, dumps him flat -- and repeat.
He was doing okay when he stayed away from her, but he's not resisting "the call of the siren". I know all the treatment, medications, support -- and we have a united family support -- are all a part of him getting through this, but how in the heck do we influence the behavior of a 21 year old male?
How do we keep him from drinking excessively, which in part leads him back to this girl? How do we keep him away from this girl?
Legally, as adults, there seems to be no recourse except support. And believe me, we have the law enforcement resources on our side. What do we do?
How can we help him through this without sending him right back to her? I start therapy tomorrow. This has really knocked me for a loop. Not nearly so bad, I realize, if I had not found him and this had not been stopped.
How do you make a suicidal person understand that the person who drove them to this will not care what happens? How do you make a suicidal person understand how much his family loves him, and how we would be destroyed by the loss of our son?
How can we do this without tipping the scales backward? Suicide is the most selfish, thoughtless thing a person can do to themselves. It only leaves behind hurt and anger, incomprehension, and seldom closure. Thanks in advance.
Breakups can be brutal to any one of us, but three attempted suicides each after being dumped -- is in no way a "normal” reaction no matter how devastating the breakup.
You need to understand that this is about him, not her. The number one cause for suicide attempts is not surprisingly depression, with alcohol (and drug) abuse being a close number two. It sounds like your son has both.
Combine depression, suicide thoughts and alcohol, and you have a lethal combination. For those who were successful in their suicide, alcohol was a factor 25 percent of the time. Alcohol decreases inhibitions and increases risky acts.
I’m not going to sugar coat this. You are literally fighting for his life right now. I have no magic words that I can tell you to make him wake up and take responsibility, but here are some thoughts.
Patty, this is my advice for the things you must do so this never happens again:
*** Your son needs an intervention for alcohol abuse. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds, and alcohol is involved in at least half of those deaths. Patty, when both alcohol and depression are involved, the stats are even worse.
Once that buzz from the alcohol wears off, the effects of depression return, thus increasing suicidal thoughts. You are extremely lucky that you found him before he finished what he started. His alcohol consumption could very well be the biggest problem of all here, and needs to be addressed immediately.
*** He needs a therapist and a doctor. That he doesn't see that he has a problem and thinks he didn't belong in the hospital is a huge red flag. He needs serious help. I normally like to see if patients can combat depression naturally, by modifying their lifestyle and their social situation. However, three attempts at suicide indicates a very real need for treatment, and almost certainly medication
*** I cannot stress enough getting family, friends and coworkers involved. Support by as many people as possible is essential. The more he realizes he is not alone and there are many people who love and care about him, the better. They must all get active and talk with him often to help him understand that he must take the responsibility for what he did, and make that personal commitment to his recovery.
*** I am very happy to hear that you are seeking therapy as well and you should talk to your therapist about her ideas in terms of treating your son. I always stress that witnessing and dealing with someone attempting to end their life can bring very difficult emotions to the surface.
*** Talk to the girl and her parents and explain what is going on. Make them aware that he has attempted suicide 3 times and from now on to please leave him alone, that he could die because of her games.
*** Your son must understand that any time he mentions, hints or contemplates suicide again, he will be committed to a hospital for inpatient care. There's no compromising here, because the stakes are too high. Consider yourself in a fight for his life, because that's exactly what this is.
You can read about another mother's heartache and how she dealt with it in, "My Son Attempted Suicide”.
So, act now. Get the rest of the family and all his friends involved in this fight. Stage an intervention and talk with his and your doctor/therapist!
The more the better. With these things in place, and a loving, supportive family looking out for him. he has a chance to overcome this. I wish you all the best.