I have been a “bachelorette” recently, because my husband went to St. Louis for five days to visit with his family, and also for a “mini” high-school reunion (with his “clique”). He is due back in the morning.
I was planning to write about other things, but I came across a topic that is all-important, and so I want to address that first. In the last week, I saw two messages from men with prostate cancer who said they were in physical and emotional pain and were thinking of suicide.
One of these men I know because he is a fixture in these online forums — he’s made it his life’s work to help others with PC. You might ask, “What’s the world with one less prostate cancer advocate?” Answer: Impoverished. Because no individual is duplicable — yet. And A.P.’s personality and style are unique.
I believe a person’s life is his own, and he or she has the right to do with it as they please. But suicide should always be a last resort.
If you are feeling really low (and I’ve had some acquaintance with what Churchill called the “Black Dog” myself), there is help available at the other end of the phone line. As long as you are willing to take the first step. I will list some “crisis helplines” you can call *at any time* if you feel the need to talk to somebody. If you think such services are for “the other”, think again.
I myself see a psychotherapist , who has given me (and all of his patients) permission to call him at any hour of the day or night — even when he’s on vacation. (Ask me for his number. I might get some brownie points!) But few professionals are willing to martyr themselves in that way. The advantages of calling a helpline over a therapist are these: (1) its free, and (2) the person on the other end is doing it out of conviction, not for pecuniary gain.
In my experience, it is much harder to *receive* than to give. But there is a season for both. I will tell you that, if not for the advice I got from a volunteer at a charitable organization, my husband would never have been treated at the hospital of our choice, Sloan-Kettering.
I must make the point that “suicide” hotlines are not just for people who are *in imminent danger of taking their own lives.* You do not have to produce a “suicide card.” Many organizations make that clear. For example, one website says:
“Call for comfort, call to survive.”
Know that there are skilled, compassionate people available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, who are trained to listen to others who are in crisis or just plain lonely. Non-judgmentally. Usually, there is no waiting time. And whatever you say will be kept confidential. Sometimes it’s easier to say things to a stranger than to your wife.
So if you are feeling depressed, afraid or overwhelmed, I urge you to pick up the phone. Do not be embarrassed. I remember seeing ads urging people to have colonoscopies, with the slogan, “Don’t die of shame.” Well, don’t suffer because of shame either.
I have done some research into crisis helplines, and so I have some general suggestions.
First, google your county or state and “mental health association.” As an example, I tried this yesterday with New York City.
I found a site call mhanys.org (“Mental Health Association of NY State”). Here I saw a listing of resources by county. Well, I made a note of some numbers in NY county, where I live. But, being the sassy type, I also focused on neighboring Westchester County. Why? Because of a joke my mother once told me:
“They once asked the bank robber, Willie Sutton, why he robs banks. He replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”
Well, same logic here. Westchester County is RICH, so I figure they must provide good services. And there are no ethical issues involved because the website of the Mental Health Assoc. of W.C. states that their crisis helpline is run by New York Hospital and St. Vincent’s, both of which are based in NYC. So they should pay us! The number for the W.C. crisis hotline is: 914-347-6400.
Here are some more specific resources:
Befrienders.org, which I believe is a division of the Samaritans, an international organization, has a list of *746* helplines in the US alone. You can search by state or city. Some helplines are geared towards specific purposes such as “problems of the elderly”, grief, or illness.
For veterans: The American Legion has a special crisis hotline: 800-273-8255
There is also an excellent list of helplines for people with cancer on psa-rising.com:
And, if you need immediate help in the US at any time, you can call:
Hope you won’t need this, but you might just want to stick it on the refrigerator just in case.
And by the way: If you are doing well, why not volunteer to become a crisis counselor?