Last week, I participated in QPR training: Question, Persuade, Refer. It’s a proven suicide prevention strategy because suicide is preventable. I would say two things to remember about suicide after remembering that it is preventable are that a.) anyone can prevent a suicide once they recognize certain red flags; we do not have to leave this to the “experts” in terms of at least making that first intervention; and b.) speaking directly about suicide (that is where the Question comes in) does not make someone more likely to commit suicide; it is just the opposite, whereby giving voice to it — when the person suffering from its weight is unable to verbalize it — is like lifting a considerable burden off the affected person. Once the burden is removed, they are more likely to open up, which can get you to Persuade and Refer stages.
I struggle with talking about what I do, whether it is this QPR training or the fact that I’m living kidney donor. Since I was teenager through to now, I’ve always preferred acting anonymously. I don’t like attention on myself. I like getting in and getting out. And I certainly do not do good things for any adulation. But when it comes to suicide prevention, of which I have the utmost passion for and personal experience in, and when it comes to being a living kidney donor, by definition, these are things I must talk about. I must be an advocate. I must be a champion of these causes. Because they are life and death, and as such, the adage of “if it reaches one person” is salient.
So, for those who know my story, it is humbling and empowering to even be at such a point where I’m engaging in QPR training. For those who don’t know my story, let me provide a snippet I mentioned as part of a wider story published in an online literary magazine here; in January 2018, I ordered cologne from Amazon (kinda weird, I know, but it turned out to smell great!), with the thought I wouldn’t even use it because I would kill myself soon. It was one of my impulse purchases, “Why not? I’ll be dead soon.” That calculation occurred frequently when I was held captive by suicidal ideation and its distorted thinking, which is why I’ve had financial issues in the past. Today, that bottle of cologne is empty. I can’t get any more spritzes from it. As a matter of fact, I tossed it in the trash just this morning after eye-balling it every morning the last two weeks, despite knowing it was empty, because it was like I almost couldn’t part with such a talisman — this sign I was still alive. That I won. I don’t think the bottle is empty because of too much cologne use, but that I outran my own distorted, preconceived expiration date. That is what depression and suicidal ideation does to you: It puts you underground in an unreality unless someone can help you dig you out. Sorry to be a little too on-the-nose with that metaphor and image, but it takes someone breaking through the ground, ground which seems unshakable.
For so long, I was a “gatekeeper” of a different kind: I was ushering in all of the negative, intrusive thoughts and allowing them to make a home in my brain as if their furnishings were that of my reality, when instead, they were liars and thieves in the night, robbing me of any positive outlooks that would contradict their vision. Now, instead, I can be a gatekeeper for others going through something similar to help them enter back into reality and into the world of the living.
I will continue to talk about my own experience, as well as educate myself through things like QPR, if it helps others going through something similar and if it helps their loved ones recognize warning signs.