Sunday, June 11, 2017

Dad do you have a few minutes

Do you have a few minutes to talk? – my son said when I picked up the phone. Three months later thinking about the conversation brings me to tears. 
Son:  Do you have a few minutes to talk (crying)
Of course, what’s wrong
Son: (short pause) Dad, I am calling you, um because I promised you if I ever felt this way I would let you know
Son:  Yes…            I didn’t want to let you down
Son, can you please wait for me to come home so I can talk to you in person
Son: No, I am just calling because I promised you I would, I don’t want to let you down

I had so much fear, I wanted to say “Son please don’t do this to me.” I wanted to call the police to my house – to get him safe. I was thinking, “Is this the last time I will ever get to talk to my amazing son, who I love? How do I help him, how do I not screw this up? Will I ever get to hug him again? Please God help me.”  I felt a rush of insecurity. All these thoughts played in my head.
Then I started to think differently, “I have more training than most people in this area, and I have my own lived experience from a suicide attempt. What would I want and need?”

Son I am so sorry you are hurting, I can tell how upset you are, I wish I could take that pain away from you.
Son:  I know you do Dad.
First thank you so much for calling me, I love you so much.
Son:  I love you too.
Can you tell me about what you are feeling?
Son: (shares some things that brought him to where he felt like suicide was his only option) Dad I am so sorry.
Son, you have nothing to be sorry for. Again, I wish I could take this pain away from you, but we both know I can’t.  I can’t promise you any type of quick solution, but I can promise you, I will be with you while you go through with this.
Son:  I know Dad, but I just can’t do it anymore.
Have you decided how you would kill yourself
Son:  Yes. (tells me the means and that he was going through with it as soon as we got off the phone)
Can you do me a favor?
Son:  What?
Can you please wait until I get home and we can talk face to face and that I can give you a hug?  I am not saying you have to promise to never kill yourself, but can you please wait 90 minutes for me to come home and give you a hug?
Son:  I can do that
Thank you son, I love you.
I sent a text his sister who lived close by and let her know briefly what was going on and asked to her to go to the house and talk to her brother about anything until I could get there.
Son:  Did you tell Shayna to come over here?
Yes, I didn’t want you to feel alone.
Son:  Okay
Will you wait for me to come home?
Son:  Yes

We talked a few minutes, I told him I would call when I got on the road, but I needed to let my work know I was leaving and I would call back in few minutes. I called about five minutes later and he answered, I told him I was on the way. We talked for about 10 minutes, he was also talking to his sister. I asked him if he would please call me if things changed and he didn’t think he could wait till I got home. He agreed, I texted his sister and she was also going to call me if for any reason he tried to leave.

I arrived home.  I gave my son the longest and probably hardest hug of my life.

We spent some time talking about his suicidal thoughts and plans, we talked about future goals/plans. My son, daughter and I went for a late lunch and we talked about past and future vacations and family activities then that night we had dinner with some friends.
The next day my son said, “When my Dad got home we had a hug out and the reason I didn't kill myself was because I could truly see that my family including sister loved me.  Kinda brought me back to reality I guess.”

It has been almost three months since that call. Is there still a risk of suicide? The answer is yes. But having the open communication and respect for each other, I am very hopeful that that risk will continue to decrease. I know that he knows I will always be there to talk to.

Lessons Learned
·         I am grateful I talked to my kids about suicide and other mental health topics, including my own suicide attempt
·         I am glad I have had training in what to do and how to do it.  Otherwise I would have panicked and may have said things that made the situation worse
·         That being a suicide prevention advocate does not exempt me or my family from mental health crisis
·         Truly just being there with someone is the best thing you can do, letting them know you are there with them and not being judgmental
·         Not rushing to extremes is important
·         That I don’t know what the future holds for sure, but I believe that my son and I having this experience has brought us even closer together. When he says he will call me if he ever has a plan to kill himself, I trust he will call me. And I hope he knows when I say I will be there with him through the pain, that I really will.
·         There really was not a clinical skill needed (I wasn’t being a therapist), the intervention I did was listen, not panic, and be there

I encourage everyone to get training such as Mental Health First Aid and/or ASIST.

If you are having suicidal thoughts please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
You can also visit for strategies to build a more manageable and meaningful life.


  1. I am so grateful that Rick had the training and knew how to listen to our grandson. I can't imagine my life without any of my grandchildren. People believe that this will not affect their home, but none of us are guaranteed. Grandson, thank you for permitting your dad to share your story. I for one am glad I am glad I have been through all the training. Please get trained. Excellent blog Rick.

  2. Thank you so much, Rick for sharing this extremely difficult episode in your family's life. I hope we can share this with the world because so may millions of family members have had similar experiences but never told anyone and honestly believe they are the only ones. Thank you.

  3. Rick, Thank you for sharing your story. You brought tears to my eyes reading about your sons's pain and your compassion and vulnerability. He is so lucky to have you as his Dad. ��

  4. Brought me to tears. You're a total rockstar Rick. This is the real deal work right here. Taking what you know and putting it to use with the people you love most. That's the hardest trick in the book. Thank you for sharing.

  5. This must have truly been difficult to write. I applaud you for being open and honest. I admire the strength it took to type this.

  6. Thank you, Rick for being so open about this crisis. I'm just back from the ASIST training last weekend. It is a great model and gave me more tools than just my lived experience. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thank you, Rick, for sharing this powerful story of compassion and grace. I can just put myself in your shoes as I read your words. The fear and shock. Then you take a deep breath and think “what would I want someone to do for me?” Beautiful.