I was struck with sadness and also a feeling of real frustration when I found out that Robin Williams had committed suicide. I was so incredibly sad that he was gone, but on the other hand, I could understand why he didn’t reach out for mental health help. What happens when people reach out for help can be so dehumanizing they would rather tough it out or even kill themselves.

I wrote an article about what happened when my mother sought emergency psychiatric services. After at least a dozen edits, it found a home over at RH Reality Check.

Here is an excerpt:

On the night that my mother nearly killed herself, I made a judgment call not to call 9-1-1. Instead, I stayed on the phone with her, telling her how much her family loved her as I blindly stumbled around trying to dress and find my keys and bag. My fingers went numb from panic, and my natural clumsiness escalated until I had the coordination and stealth of a rutting elephant.

Within minutes, the entire house was awake and every light was blazing. My daughter, who was 16 at the time, begged to be allowed to come with me. She rightly judged that she would be able to keep her grandmother calm and engaged while I drove.

When we got to my mother’s house, I took her hands and guided her into my car. “It is OK, Mom,” I told her. “You have had to change medications recently. We are just glad that you called.“

As I drove, I called the emergency number for my mother’s psychiatrist. When the doctor on call for the practice returned the call, I pulled over into the vast and empty parking lot of our local mall. We sat there in the island of a safety light, like the only survivors of some great shipwreck.

As soon as I answered, I put the phone on speaker. I didn’t want to talk about my mother like she wasn’t even in the car. But she could barely speak because she was working so hard at controlling the loud, heartbreaking sobs that kept bursting out of her.

The psychiatrist’s voice was clipped and brusque as he asked, “What is going on?” It was a question we would hear over and over that night.

I would encourage everyone who has a mentally ill family member to read this and to make a crisis plan.


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