Every day, every single day, I think about how to prevent suicide. I think of this in two categories. How to prevent suicide and how to prevent Mike’s suicide. Yes, from a mile away you can clearly see my Bargaining, which is its very own stage in Kubler-Ross’s famed Stages of Grief model. In my case, Bargaining involves every convoluted twist and turn in the already-finished plot that might have saved Mike, no matter how impossible or unreasonable. It goes something like this:
1. Acquire a time machine.
2. Go way back.
3. Teach all the bullies on the playground to leave Mike alone. To leave everyone alone for that matter.
4. Teach each little kid’s parents to listen and love more.
5. Teach each child and person that they count, they are seen, they are heard, they are loved, they are surrounded by love. Show them by example.
6. Get people help when they need it and don’t stop until they get the right help.
There is a new book that my friend Tim turned me onto, it’s written by Ned Halloway but it won’t be out till the summer. It's about why he prevailed despite so many risk factors. Here’s Ned talking about it:
Man, this story makes me think of Mike, and he could have written a book like this if 1. He stayed alive to write it and 2. He could finish things like books (not his forte). Luckily, Dr. Halloway has written tons of books, and I do look forward to reading this one. I guess I would add to my Bargainers List: Ask Dr. Halloway to climb into the time machine with me and mentor Mike for months or years or, preferably, decades.
Regarding how to prevent other people’s suicides, which is what still deeply matters, that list might work. There would be some better, specific objectives like noticing when a person really does need help but isn’t getting it or stops asking. Also, noticing a person’s depression and anxiety before it even gets to that point. Finding better medications and better understanding the medications we already have. Finding and implementing alternative treatments that reflect our growing understanding of neuropsychology and neurochemistry.
Even loftier, finding better lifestyles, at least for us Westerners, that don’t constantly demand product (doing, doing, doing) over process (being…). This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have jobs or be productive (we should, and depressed people need basic productivity as much or more than the rest of us). This is just a comment on a society-wide mis-prioritization of self-sufficiency and self-worth at all costs. It leads to constant self-evaluation, self-evaluation relative to others, self-judgment, judgment of others. Why do you think the bullies are on the playground in the first place? Because someone (or even their own brains) made them feel bad about who they are. Because in our society, we feel better when we climb up ladders, stepping on other people’s heads to get there. It is a fundamentally faulty system and I spend a great deal of time every day trying to help people find better, more sustainable life philosophies.
Meanwhile, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves but we are not great at self-care. In better times, Mike touted the importance of self-care and he did things every day to protect and care for himself. In the end, his depression still became insurmountable.
The kindest, wisest people in the world can have depression. Lifelong pain accumulates and takes a lot of forms. Not all depression is treated by life philosophies, and Mike is proof of that.
Back to the bargaining table.