She was a year older than I but we entered Kindergarten the same year. My friend, whom I will refer to as Nicole, and I were inseparable by October 1982–our second month of Kindergarten. We were the two quietest students in our Kindergarten class and as such two of the most tormented children in the school. My friend and I had many things in common. We both came from homes where finances were a cause of concern though mine less so than hers. My friend and I were sensitive to everything other people said to us and this caused her a great deal of suffering when her father told her she was not worth anything. In Kindergarten, I was a bright student but began failing my work to stay behind with Nicole when she was held back the following year. Our teacher caught on to my intentions and I started making good grades again so I progressed to the first grade.
In first grade, I found new best friends but never forgot Nicole. Nine years later, I transferred to a new school. I saw Nicole six or seven times in those years, usually at church. In 1993, Nicole began dating the son of one of my mom’s cousins. This cousin was killed in an accidental drowning later that year. Within a couple of months, Nicole took two bottles of prescription medication and died.
Hindsight is not much of a gift. Looking back I can see signs of problems approaching for Nicole in how she adapted to life. Nicole was anxious and when I passed to first grade she was furious with me. She did not have a lot of people to speak with when life was rough and my leaving made that worse. I am clinically depressed and have felt suicidal ideation firsthand. The despair, the stigma and sometimes financial inability to go to psychological counseling, in addition to the person’s mindset that circumstances cannot be changed build to such a point life feels like a pit so deep it cannot be crawled out of.
Nicole left warning signs she was thinking of taking her own life. She spoke with her friends about it but no one believed her. Often those thinking of suicide will speak of their intentions and not be believed. Unfortunately the person may view that as someone not caring enough to know she is serious or not caring if she is serious.
Suicide.org lists many suicide warning signs. Someone contemplating suicide may appear depressed or sad. In cases such as my friend Nicole this appearance may be confused by someone else with grieving the loss of a loved one. Many suicide warning signs are “feelings” so the way to help someone you fear is at risk is to speak with them about their feelings. If they are unwilling to speak with you about their feelings it is imperative to encourage them to find someone to speak with. Acting recklessly, giving away prized possessions, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed are other possible signs of suicidal ideation. It is important to remember about 75 percent of those who commit suicide exhibit some of these signs. Hindsight about these exhibited signs is one of the most cruel and guilt causing factors among those who are left behind. Learning these signs ahead of time may save a life.