If They Hadn’t Woken…

In my experience there are three types of suicide calls that we go to.

By far the largest group are those that don't really intend to die. They normally present as having had an argument with either a family member or their boy/girl/transgender-friend. They then either take a handful of tablets or make some minor cuts to their wrist. I don't believe that they wish to die for, as soon as they perform this act of self harm, they call for an ambulance. More often than not they don't call for an ambulance themselves but instead phone round their family and friends and let them know what they have done. These friends then call us and rush around to the patient's house in order to give their support

When we arrive they sometimes put up a pretence of not wanting to go to hospital, but will come without a fight as it were. Surrounded by the people who care for them they sit chatting in the back of the ambulance.

Often paracetamol (acetaminophen) is the drug of choice and occasionally someone will take too much of it thinking that it is a 'safe' drug to overdose on – a mistaken belief that has killed more than one person, especially when mixed with alcohol.

A much rarer suicide call is the person who has succeeded in killing themselves, seldom this is due to a drug overdose. We will get sent to someone who has hung themselves, or someone who lives alone and has taken a mixture of every drug that they can find. Often these people will have a collection of anti-depressents that they take all at once.

These patients will normally have a long history of mental illness and they go somewhere private and kill themselves – it is only when someone hasn't seen them for a few days that we are called.

While I've never been to one myself, there are people who kill themselves in public places, often fathers who kill themselves to be found by their children – something that I've never understood.

Then there is the final group, those who truly wish to kill themselves but have been 'unlucky' enough to be discovered. These are the tough cases as they don't want to be saved. We find ourselves trying to get them to go to hospital, but they refuse and, as the law stands, I can't frogmarch them into my ambulance. So the police are often involved in persuading them, and on more than one occasion I've had to rely on the Mental Health Act in order to have them removed to hospital against their will.

Sometimes they do come quietly, and this can be heartbreaking to see – one memorable job of this type was a teenager with a long history of mental health problems. They were taking a whole bunch of tranquillisers and anti-depressants, their arms were just a mass of scar tissue from repeated self harm and they were incredibly unkempt. But the worst thing about this call was the utter hopelessness that radiated from them, they spoke with no emotion and answered any question put to them curtly. In my opinion it was unlikely that this teenager was ever going to become 'normal', or be able to live any life without constant supervision. They were accompanied by their adolescent mental health worker and she was very caring, which is sadly a rarity.

Which is a long way around of wondering which of these three camps this particular gentleman came from?

10 thoughts on “If They Hadn’t Woken…”

  1. People can attemp to suicide but it is not the real way out.If they have somebody who loves really.If you have something to hold the life you can't suicide…

  2. IMHO he came from the fourth field. the one of idiots that aren't even aware that they are committing suicide.This group can be subdivided into two subgroups:

    – Darwin Award contestants, like the one I rescued once (and, funnily, survived) who was plastered and/or doped enough to try playing with his friends russian roulette with a Beretta semiauto pistol. He managed to take away a huge chunk of his skull bone, but all the chemicals he took before paradoxically saved his life because he entered almost immediately in some sort of drug induced coma.

    – Transplant meat as we call here in Italy the kids on scooters who still believe they are playing with their PSPs isntead of trying to overtake a lorry on a blind turn…


  3. Back in the mid 20th C, there was the category of no money in the meter then one puts a bob in and forgets to light the gas. Very popular,[especially amongst those that a bob was 2 hours wage or good seat at the local flea pit, where one went to get warm] but many a Coroner would call it death by mis adventure, it would only be a suicide if the note got to the court on time.Statistics are always suspect. I will never forget my first involvement with a Accidental death by one one of my fellow Engineers, whom I discovered early one sunday morning with all the associated mess. The details are still etched in my noggin nearly 60 years later.PS In my mind it was a Suicide by he being totally depressed and the future was totally bleak, 'twas why I emigrated so that I could eat.London was a great city but yee needed monies to eat, with a degree it only got me extra dog-ends, never the whole fag.Since then I have eaten very well.

  4. I have noticed from reading newspapers online that coroners almost never seem to record a verdict of suicide on the under 16s, -unless there is a very clear note, and even then the coroner often decides they 'didn't really mean it'.I can understand that parents and family would much rather believe that their teenager has been carelessly playing with a scarf/tie/cord around their neck which is attached to something high, but I do wonder if this perhaps hides the true statistics of young teenagers who chose so drastic a 'solution'. (And therefore hides the problem).

  5. As the crews described it, they literally woke up in time to see the man drop in front of them. Makes waking up to an alarm clock suddenly seem so much more bearable.” (from that link)I shouldn't have done, but I laughed.

    Oh come on. it IS funny!

  6. I recall reading that having a close family member commit suicide ups the chances of another person committing it, enormously.Obvious case with this would be mum next (I literally cannot imagine how awful it would be to be mother to a child who commits suicide) or siblings. Especially, younger, impressionable ones.

  7. Funny you write about this. Just the other day we went to a patient who had tried twice in a week to do the deed but was caught in the act. Alledgedly he found out his missus was having a good time with the tennis coach. Caught by the Fed's (Police) with a shot gun about to blow his head off. The mental health team in there wisdom let him go… We picked him up (off the ground) after he had tried to decapitate himself by tying a rope around his neck. The other end was tied around a metal post via the back window of his ute. He then floored it. Unfortunately the Nylon rope broke. You got to feel for the guyI'm posting this not so much because of the detail but as a comment about the Mental health service in this country and no doubt the rest of the world. Here's a guy who obviously is acutely mentally ill and yet cant get the help he needs or deserves, and yet the time wasters pretty much get what they need. 🙁

  8. what would you think of an elderly parent who rang a daughter early in the morning and when she dashed to the house had a knife held to the throat? the other parent had end-stage cancer and at home having needed almost full-time care by the daughter for some weeks. i've heard that all threats of suicide should be taken seriously and the gp was called to speak to this parent. emotional blackmail,do you think? this person would not be left alone with spouse who was ill for one moment.

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