Suicide and Mental Illness, Part II

I don’t really have anything personal to say about this that I didn’t say the first time about, but this is part II from from my friend about the same event.

Today is the anniversary of Stephanie’s death.

5 years.


While her birthday post is always about how to step up and intervene and do something when you have a loved one that is struggling, I reserve her death anniversary post for those who are medical and health professionals.

I was investigated by a State Agency to determine what my role in her suicide was. You read that right. You should have seen the look on my face when the investigator said that! He said that he contacts all families of individuals who were receiving any State services to determine what may have gone wrong in the system. That part sounded great! I couldn’t wait to talk to him…until he said that.

I learned the “Social Worker” who was assigned her case (this was post most recent suicide attempt, and my attempt to get her some help- because when you are uninsured, unemployed and an adult, it’s not easy). It turns out the woman was not a licensed social worker at all, though she told me she was (I did ask because I was social worker myself). In fact, she did not even have a college degree. She was grandfathered into her job. I would have been ok with that if she had the skills and had not lied and had not had sessions with Stephanie that were far above and outside the scope of her job and ability. She was supposed to be helping with getting her Medicaid, into out-patient programs, housing, etc.

I’m still angry.

The out-patient group therapy met once a week for 4 hours. There was a psychiatrist who would come and spend the usual 10 minutes discussing meds and leave. Stephanie asked for more. She needed more. She lacked a solid diagnosis, which I never understood how someone could be in the hospital this many times for weeks and weeks at a time and meet with a psychiatrist and still not have a diagnosis.

Professionals. Doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and ALL of you who work in any health care setting or provide any health service….I implore you, do more. Not more of what you do because I know you work hard and long hours in a difficult profession, but step back and look at the whole situation.

Look at the family and what they are trying to do. Family have no resources. No one tells us how to act at home or what to do or say to our family member. You see them for a brief moment, we have them the other 167 hours a week. Give guidance. We are frustrated, scared, mad…all kinds of emotions. Help us too. Do you know what it’s like to be the family member those 167 hours a week you aren’t with the person? Waiting for them to sneak off with the pills, or find some rope or a razor. Worrying that you didn’t supervise them close enough and you will walk into the bathroom and find them. The tension and stress is bad for us and it’s bad for the person trying to get well and feel better. Being the focus of all that stress, worry and anger and frustration will not be solved by your brief session with them.

Professionals- please do more. Think broader. Learn more about what other services are available and make sure you refer people into them. There are 167 hours a week where other services could help. Hold your organizations accountable to have qualified staff. It’s not always about a degree, but make sure they are qualified and supervised.

I am very fortunate to have found a company to work for that helps heal my soul and enables me to be part of the solution. I try to be the person I am asking you to be. I can make a change by doing my part.

Thank you for indulging me twice on this topic,  I hope by sharing parts of our story that it makes a difference. I have come to believe that when you know the details, you understand it better and it makes you want to be part of the change.

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