Every time I have a stay in the inpatient unit there are one or two people I really connect with and we exchange contact information to stay in touch. In my most recent stay, one of these was an 18-year-old girl I’ll call Bree. Bree was depressed and suicidal and had a tendency toward self-harm. She had been there for two weeks, and spent the past week sleeping in the “quiet room” so she could be monitored more closely. I shouldn’t be impressed by this, but she fought the staff and it took four of them to hold her down – she had a real fire in her, despite the depression.
Nearly another week later, on Thursday, Bree was released despite telling the staff that she wasn’t ready to go. She immediately began messaging me on Facebook to talk about how scared she was to be at home because she was still suicidal and didn’t understand why they sent her home. I talked with her nearly continuously all evening, and again the next evening. On Friday night she attempted suicide while talking with me. She had taken an unknown quantity of an unknown combination of pills, and the moment she said she had taken them I called for help. I didn’t know her address, but I called the inpatient unit and asked them to call 911. 13 minutes later she stopped responding, after sending a final message of “I’m started to feel funny.”
I have to assume that the inpatient staff took me seriously and that help arrived. I have to assume that she was taken to the hospital and her physical symptoms were managed and she was readmitted to the inpatient unit. I have to assume these things because the only way I’ll ever know that she’s okay is if she messages me again, which could be weeks or even months from now.
I know that I did everything I could, yet I still feel like I failed her. Like when she refused a ride to go back to inpatient, I should have offered to come sit with her. Or when I woke up Friday morning, I should have messaged her immediately instead of waiting until she decided she wanted to talk. I feel like there was something I said, or something I didn’t say, that would have made a difference in her decision. I know this is unreasonable. I know she was in pain she thought she couldn’t bear anymore, and nothing I said in a Facebook chat was going to magically fix that. It doesn’t prevent me from thinking about her non-stop, unable to concentrate on anything else.