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The Holy Grail of ‘Why’

… and I asked her if she ever truly relaxes…. you know, lets herself rest. She told me yes, yes she does. Especially when she is near the water, listening to the waves…. A week later she was dead. They found her stuff in a hotel room.  She took all her medications then went into the river and let herself go.

Why does suicide happen? The eternal search, the holy grail survivors search for, the answer to the question why… the unanswerable question. There are lots of statistics about who attempts, who completes their attempt. We know by gender, age, diagnosis, who dies by suicide. Many intuitive, methodical caregivers and researchers have identified what factors may have come together for someone to get to the place where death seems to be the only answer.   However, that wondering as to why…. The only person who truly knows is the person who is now gone.

On the crisis line we hear from those who feel ostracized, enraged, hopeless, forgotten.  They are the unheard, the undervalued, the beaten, and those who are imprisoned by their addiction. The one thing that all these people have in common is that they see no other choice.  They describe it as feeling invisible, having doors shut on them, being a waster of space, and not being important enough.   This is where crisis intervention comes into play.   This is the moment of opportunity in a crisis of continuing or not.

When I took those pills, it felt spontaneous, immediate, it was action in a world of lethargy.  I was done with the constant failures and the impossible quest I was on … to right the wrongs of the past.  Moments after I took the pills, I knew how stupid it was… I was.  It wasn’t that I wanted to necessarily live, I just didn’t want to die stupidly. 

As a crisis-center, we have many opportunities for responding to someone who is suicidal.  It can be that moment of rescue, when we call 911.  It can be a moment of clarity for someone who has been existing in a foggy realm of inaction and entrapment by their depression, where they can say to the peer who is supporting them, “Yes I want to do something… yes, help me…”  It can be when we ask, “What happened? How are you?”   What we can do to help someone choose to live is all in a moment, or two or three.  It isn’t always “lights and sirens,” mostly it is a quiet moment of connection, understanding, validation.  We all do it.  It is what we do.

The doctor wouldn’t let me leave the hospital.  He kept asking me the same question, “How are you feeling?” I would tell him fine, good, better. He would say, “see you next time…” I felt like a caged animal.  Finally, one day, he asked me the question and, having had an insightful support group realization the day before, I told him what had happened. I told him I knew there was a long road ahead but having talked with the group about the things I talked about, I slept better.  I told him I realized now I have a lot to do before I will be okay, truly ok, but I wanted to do the work.  I was discharged the next day.

When I attempted, I did not want to die, I wanted someone to help me hear my soul.  I wanted to know I was not invisible.  Mostly, I wanted to know how to do the work to be truly ok.  I guess I had a moment. The voices I highlight here are made up of someone who talked on the phone, someone I know and of myself.  Not necessarily in that order. I love giving helpful moments every day to callers, coworkers, family.  We all deserve to truly relax, have real choices, and always know that in every moment we are all connected.


Author: Emily Norton, Resource and Crisis Helpline Specialist at Common Ground


Common Ground Resource and Crisis Helpline: Call or text 1-800-231-1127, chat

Common Ground Resource and Crisis Center: 1200 N. Telegraph Rd, Bldg #32E, Pontiac, MI 48341

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255,