Dreaded call: Daughter struggles with husband’s suicide; rate has increased over years

About a month ago, my daughter, who lives in Overland Park, Kansas, called me, sobbing.

It was one of those calls you never want to receive, because you know right away something is very wrong.

She got the words out that her husband, our son-in-law, had died by suicide that past evening. She was at the hospital with her two adult children, where the police had directed them. He had called 911, but he was in a rural area some 30 minutes from their home.

When she called, he was brain dead and he was being scheduled for removal of donated organs. Both my wife and I tried to console our daughter, but it was a considerable challenge, as we also were in shock. We were thankful that her adult son and daughter were there with her to support her through this devastating ordeal, even with their own grieving.

Our daughter teaches preschool at a facility very close to their home, and many parents have stepped up to help her take time off to grieve. We are grateful, because we felt she needed some protected time to adjust to the situation.

Our daughter and son-in-law had been to our home within the past month, and we spent almost a week with them prior to their trip to Ohio, where his mother and many friends were.

One of our days was spent with them at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indianapolis 500 museum, as our son-in-law loved cars and had never been there.

Though we were shocked, we knew he was struggling. We knew he was having trouble sleeping for the past year or so and was on new medication to help him sleep. He also had periods of depression since his retirement at age 54, after 30 years with a large retail chain.

About a year after retirement he wanted something to do, work-wise, and decided to purchase a franchise and market their products. This had limited success, so he purchased another franchise and worked that for a few years. He then sold his territory to an adjacent owner at a loss. He tried several other sales jobs prior to getting his real estate license and produced some home sales.

I fear his professional dissatisfaction may have contributed to his depression.

The way economic conditions exist today, with sudden changes and the pressures of life, one would be better off looking at closer to the age of 70 for full-time retirement. Average life span for men is about 82 years and for women 85 years.

Meanwhile, saving for retirement has never been more of a challenge, since most companies no longer have their own retirement plan with monthly payouts and saving is the responsibility of the individual.

My wife and I arrived in Kansas several days after that heartbreaking phone call and helped our daughter with the remaining decisions she faced. While we were helping with arrangements at the church they attended, one of the church staff spoke to me privately and said this has been the 10th suicide in the past three months for that church.

I was taken aback by her comment. I told her I believe we are paying the price for the very fast pace of life we have chosen and our bodies were not created to handle this kind of stress. She grabbed my arm and said, “I agree with you completely.”

During his sermon, the pastor spoke openly about suicide. He noted middle-aged people have seen the greatest increase in suicide rates in the last 15 years. From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among middle-aged adults increased by nearly 30 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

He further stated that those being treated for depression and showing improvement, over time, were more likely to carry through with suicide. An alarming statement to hear!

I believe life is a precious gift that is meant to have a natural ending, and it is our command to live it out the very best we can.

Warning signs

There are several warning signs an individual may be having suicidal thoughts or planning a suicide attempt.

Talking about:

  • Experiencing unbearable pain
  • Being a burden to others
  • Killing themselves
  • Having no reason to live
  • Feeling trapped

Behavior: 

  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting recklessly
  • Searching online for a way to kill themselves
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression

Feeling:

  • Loss of interest
  • Depression
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation
  • Anxiety

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

There's help

There are many options for people in distress to reach out, from text- and phone-based support lines to local counseling offices.

Helplines

Community Health offers help to people in crisis by calling 317-621-5700 or texting HelpNow to 20121.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1-800-273-8255, offers a chat-based Lifeline Crisis Chat as well as telephone help lines with Spanish and hard-of-hearing accommodation.

Veterans Crisis Line, at veteranscrisisline.net, connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text.

Local counseling offices

Community Health Behavior Health Clinic

Hancock County

A Department of Community Hospital East

145 Green Meadows Drive, Suite 1

Greenfield

317-318-7100

Hancock Counseling and Psychiatric Services

120 W. McKenzie Road, Suite F, Greenfield

317-468-6200

Mental Health Partners of Hancock County

This clearinghouse provides some limited availability to a mental health counselor. 

317-462-2877

98 E. North St., Suite 204, Greenfield

Dean McFarland is a member of the Hancock County Council on Aging. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfield reporter.com.