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Intent on suicide

People have asked about the girl who attempted suicide. I'm sorry to say that after seemingly valuing her life after her long stay in the hospital, she tried again. One night after telling her mother she loved her, she dressed all in black with black high heels, made herself up and jumped again. This time there was nothing to catch her. At five in the morning policemen rang Gina's doorbell. "There's a girl in the piazza," they said. Gina ran to her daughter's room. "I saw the bed unslept in, the window open, curtain blowing. I knew," she said, flapping her arms crookedly "that she'd flown." Before I left she gave me a tiny silver dish where her daughter used to put her jewelry. 

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This whole story, Brenda --

This whole story, Brenda -- the essay (beautifully written) and this follow up -- is so sad, so shocking. Intent on suicide. (Deep breath.)

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Thanks for reading Ericka and yes, take a deep breath.I've been rather obsessed with the subject of suicide since my mother was continually threatening to kill herself. More about that and how it influenced my work, later.

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Very, very sad. Many years

Very, very sad.

Many years ago, I was a suicide hotline counselor in Marin County, California, on the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  People fly in from all over the world to leap to their deaths from that bridge.  We received an astonishingly high call volume for such a beautiful, wealthy, seemingly-ideal (at least on the surface) venue.

One of the tools we used to assess how "hot" a given call was and to triage the calls when the volumes were high was a six-item risk assessment questionnaire.  Does the caller lack a strong support network?  Does s/he have a specific plan?  Does s/he have the means to carry out that plan?  Has s/he given away any of her prized possessions?  Has anyone in his/her life ever committed suicide?  Have there been past attempts?  As the number of affirmative responses to these questions increases, so does the risk.

There are probably improved screening tools now, but past attempts are a huge red flag.  Because they tend to use less violent methods, females usually require more attempts before they "succeed."  Males tend to reach for guns; females for pills.  Often, just prior to suicide, the victim will seem calm, at peace, as though suddenly things have fallen into place.  People around them begin to relax, thinking perhaps finally the danger is over.  And then it happens.  The period of calm before a suicide is quite common, but it does not reflect a return to a happier state of mind. . .rather, it telegraphs that the victim has made the decision to go through with it and is relieved and at peace with the decision.  Sometimes, in that interval, the victim will start to give away prized possessions, without giving truthful reasons for doing so.  

It's too late for poor Gina and Gabrielle, but if anyone reading this suspects someone in your life is at risk, run, don't walk, for help.  Most suicide hotlines are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year and are staffed with highly trained people who can help and link you to other resources.  They get many calls from concerned friends, family members, teachers, and other first-line people, so if the person you are concerned about won't call, pick up the telephone and do it yourself.  You can do it anonymously.

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intent on suicide

Ellen,Gabrielle had had lots of therapy and was given in sequence a variety of pills but nothing seemed to help. Since her death, a best friend of the family has told me that Gina failed her daughter in ways I had just begun to guess at. Didn't try to curb her street drug use or drinking, was herself often drunk and abusive and so on. And now, of course, she is ruined. On our last visit she had just gotten out of a clinic and was still deeply depressed.

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It's so complicated. . .and,

It's so complicated. . .and, in the end, a great mystery, isn't it?

The hotline at which I worked also took grief counseling calls from the survivors, who are so often just torn apart by the pain, the guilt of thinking perhaps more could've been done or maybe something was missed.  The grieving process for the survivors tends to be longer than for other types of deaths and losses, and it often poses a huge challenge for the people who care about them.  Gabrielle will need your love and support. . .for as long as it takes.  But if it becomes too much for you, maybe you can tell her to ring her nearest hotline, for I am quite sure mine was not unusual in receiving many calls from survivors.  And, anyway, now that she is related to someone who killed herself, she herself is in a higher risk category and probably needs to be watched.

This is just awfully, awfully sad. 

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She is in Rome so I see her only for a few weeks a year and I'm sure she would disdain the idea of calling a hotline if there were such things there. She tried to help herself by adopting several daughters of friends and helping them through college. Somehow I guess it wasn't enough. It wasn't Gabriella. Gina's mode of being is dark irony. I doubt if anything can help her now.