If we can’t talk about suicide how will we ever learn to see the warning signs in time to make a difference?
I met Nick four years ago in a private group for people with bipolar and depression the night he posted about the mania he was experiencing. He had lurked in the shadows, liking status updates, comments, and photos that other members had posted, but never spoke so to speak of his own journey or complications.
That night he reached out for help and being the only administrator online, I responded. My goal was to talk him down. To help him relax a bit. I myself have not experienced full blown mania so the task at hand was a tad tricky for me but I couldn’t let him hang there alone.
There’s something about two people who suffer with mental illness actually conversing. It’s almost like they speak a different language that only the two of them understand. No matter the diagnosis you just understand each other. That night was no different.
We messaged back and forth for hours. I was working nights at the time, watching over a hospice patient in her home, and while she slept I learned a little bit about who Nick was and what made him tick.
I recently had a birthday notification pop up on Facebook for Nick. I thought to myself, “Wow! I haven’t checked in with him in forever!” I sent the usual happy birthday message but for some reason, this year, I decided to scroll through his newsfeed. There were several other obligatory happy birthday wishes from friends and family and none of them seemed out of the ordinary. It was as if life went on.
Except, it didn’t. Not for Nick.
I stumbled upon a tribute video with the song “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa.
My mind was confused but my heart knew that something had happened. I watched the four minute video, tears streaming down my face. I honestly thought that maybe he’d passed away in a car wreck or some freak accident. I immediately began scrolling through post after post from people over the past fifteen months. Had it really been that long?
I only found vague updates from friends and family. Nothing that told me what had happened.
Going back to the video I left a comment admitting that I was sorry and I had no idea what had happened. I closed my phone for the night.
Suddenly it hit me. Had Nick committed suicide? No. The last time we had messaged, he had been upbeat. I knew though, from personal experience that those moments didn’t last long and it had be several months. Things change.
Our last exchange was on June 9, 2014:
Nick: Hey!! I hope you’re doin great! Haven’t talked to u for a long time! And I jst wanted to say thank you! You’ve helped me a lot when you would talk to me ..
Me: Hi Nick. How are you? Sorry so late in responding. Just been super busy! Hope you are doing great my friend!
Nick: I’m doing pretty good thank you! How are doing? I hope you’re great! And congrats on the new man in your life, you deserve the best!!
And that was it. My last message to him was just five days ago.
RIP my friend. You are missed by your family and tons of friends. See you on the other side Nick.
For four years I’ve run my own mental health awareness page on Facebook along with a secret group for people dealing with mental illness. Just like my other friends on social media, these people are my friends as well. I consider the 5,338 people who follow my page ALL friends. Whether I ever hear from them or not they still matter to me.
They matter because they struggle just as I, and perhaps you, do on a daily basis. Knowing you aren’t alone and drowning in the sea of stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide is so important. It’s a cruel world out there when it comes to being “crazy” as most people refer to it.
So what makes Nick’s story so different? He was a man. A man dealing with bipolar, depression, and addictive disorders. A man who in the last minutes of his life did reach out for help but his life ended anyway. After reading through countless posts from months on his Facebook page, he had reached out quite a bit and was met with resistance more than once.
Mentally ill people don’t always reach out in the most obvious ways. Often it’s the following:
- Angry outbursts about people in their life in general and how uncaring that person feels they are
- Posting about how hard fighting addiction is
- Vague posts about how sad their day was for no particular reason
- Posts that have no words but just emoticons depicting sadness
- Confusion about life in general; deep posts about the meaning of life
Nick was not a bad person. He was struggling, but on December 19, 2014 his pain ended.
I received a message from a friend of his. Brandi. Nick was her child’s Godfather. She speaks highly of him. She wanted to tell me so many things about him but couldn’t express her grief. I understand that. If I can’t, as just an internet friend explain my despair, how can she? Then his sister Brittany messaged me when I expressed my intentions of honoring Nick, messaged me.
According to The Montana Standard, Nick called 911 in a drunken stupor, telling the dispatcher that the coroner needed to be called because he was going to kill himself. While authorities made their way to his home, dispatch attempted to keep him on the line, but it went dead.
Once the police showed up they were told to just leave by him. An officer who knew Nick took the initiative to go ahead and enter the residence where he saw him standing in the living room with a gun to his head. The second officer heard the call for him to drop his weapon and responded inside the home as well. After several minutes of attempting negotiation, it’s reported that Nick mentioned to the officers that, “You might as well shoot me because I can’t do it. I know all about suicide by cop.”
Negotiations continued for a few minutes until Nick finally raised his gun towards the officers. Instinct for safety took over and he was subsequently shot three times and later died at the hospital.
Did this have to happen? His family and friends are quick to tell you no. I myself am inclined to say no.
Either way, it happened. As sorry as I am to say it, it truly did happen on Nick’s terms.
Here’s what I’d like you to take away from this article though. He was a human being. He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a godfather, and a friend in real life to many and a friend online to me. His family wants you to know that Nick was not a bad person. He was not delusional except for when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. That’s what many of us turn to. This should have not happened.
We often think it won’t or can’t happen to people we know intimately. It does though. Recently I’ve read so many stories of families afraid to speak up about suicide in their family. Afraid because of the stigma. If we don’t talk about it, then who will?
The dead can’t speak for themselves. It’s clear that the media can speak for them but none of us really know what is being said behind closed doors unless we talk about it. Openly and unabashedly to the world.
I ask that you attempt to make yourself available to anyone you know who is fighting their own personal battles. You don’t have to know exactly what to say, but just listening without judgement helps tremendously.
If you or someone you know is struggling please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There is help when there is hope.
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?
Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.