“People that commit suicide don’t wanna die, they just want the pain to stop.”-Joe Beckley
That’s what Joe told me two weeks before taking his own life. After he walked into the house and handed me his gun.
“I took it to the shop, I put it in my mouth, and held it against my head. I am so sorry, baby, please forgive me. Please forgive me, I am so sorry. I can’t even believe I thought about it. How could I even think of doing that to you? Especially in the shop of all places where you’d have to be every day. Get mad at me. I need you to get mad at me. Tell me how mad you are!”
And I did! I told him how fucking mad I was! And I was!
We bawled our eyes out. We held each other. And then we made phone calls. We tried to get help.
Appointments were made only to be canceled at a later time. Joe’s criteria:
- No mask
- No ZOOM
- No medication
“I want to talk to someone face-to-face. I want someone to listen to me. I’m not talking to a camera. I don’t want medication. I just want someone to listen.“
These weren’t options we were given. The first appointment we made was at the Amen Clinic in Chicago. “You will be required to have your temperature taken and wear a mask.” Joe instantly said, “NO!” But I said yes, and made the appointment anyway. I wasn’t getting off the phone without scheduling the appointment. It would cost $4,000.00+ to have two brain scans: one under stress and one, not. We’d need to spend two days in Chicago. I’d read and listened enough to Dr. Amen that I knew that’s where he needed to be. Two days later, before losing our deposit, I called and canceled the appointment. Joe refused to go. “It’s too expensive, and I’m not wearing a mask.”
The next appointment was with a doctor that I thought was in southern Indiana. He ended up being in Louisville. It was a group of doctors that would read over his information and then they would determine which doctor he should be matched with. The initial phone call was an intake. She took all of Joe’s information and asked questions. “He’s suicidal,” I told her. “He’s already had a gun in his mouth.” She said she would get the information entered, and hopefully be back in touch later that day. That never happened. She called back the next day and said, “The earliest appointment I can get for you is next Thursday. It will be over zoom. Will that work?” We were both just dumb-struck. We truly thought that if someone was suicidal, there would be more of a sense of urgency. We made the appointment, but you could already see the defeat on Joe’s face. It broke my heart, and it really pissed me off.
“I do have a phone number I want to give you if he needs to talk to someone before his appointment.” And she gave us a number. A couple of days later, when Joe was having a terrible morning, I said, “Let’s call the number that lady gave us.” Joe took the phone and the number and attempted to make the call while I was on the computer looking up The Hamilton Center.
“It’s not working,” he said.
“Let me see,” I said. I looked at the phone, and he had entered the wrong number, so I redialed the correct one. He took the phone back out to the deck to make the call while I was looking up information on The Hamilton Center.
“They’re not open,” he said.
“WHAT! That can’t be right. Let me have the phone.” I dialed again, and yes, they were closed. I’m not sure WHY a therapist’s office is giving out a phone number that is not available 24/7, but that is exactly what she did. Another BIG miss. The ONLY number they should be giving out is the National Suicide Hotline:
Help is available. Speak with a counselor today.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish. Learn more 800-273-8255
After Joe died and I was sitting with my circle of women I had completely forgotten about that phone call. Kayleigh said something that jarred my memory… “wait a minute, we called the suicide hotline, and it was closed.” I grabbed my phone, looked at our recent calls, and yes, there it was. We did a reverse lookup, and sure enough, it was NOT the national number. It was a place for help, but not the one we needed. Not in the early morning hours, anyway. We didn’t know that.
I had already canceled the upcoming Thursday appointment with the doctor in Louisville because Joe didn’t want to do a ZOOM call. The Hamilton Center, I thought, was our best hope. Over the phone, I told them that my husband was suicidal and wanted to be admitted as an inpatient. On the other end, the man told me they had no beds; they were full, but that if we came over that morning, an intake would be done, and if it was decided he needed to be admitted, they would find a bed. They opened at 8. We arrived at 8:30.
We were turned away from THC on Tuesday before Joe died. The last phone call I made was on Thursday to a doctor in Bloomington, IN. I left her a VM early that morning. She called me back at 4:56 pm and left me a VM in return.
“My name is ______, and I’m a mental health therapist. I received a message from Marie, and she said “help for her husband”, and I’m just calling back. There are pieces of information that I would need in order to help your husband, what type of insurance if you plan on using insurance. Each therapist has to be contracted separately with insurance companies, and in order to use it, I have to make sure I can do that. And then also, the dates and times for scheduling purposes. So I currently see clients 9-6 Mon-Thurs, I do not work Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, and I do not have late day appointments. And so if this still fits, please give me a call and let me know those details.”
Joe was dead the next day. It was all too late.
We knew that taking Joe to a hospital was an option, but we also knew they would want to put him on medication. “That’s standard protocol for inpatient care” is what the lady at the Louisville clinic told us. He didn’t want to be drugged. He wanted someone to LISTEN to him!
I am so grateful that I had, five years prior, watched Kevin Hines video on YouTube when it came across my Facebook feed. In my very judgemental and IGNORANT ways, I had always thought that suicide was the most selfish act that anyone could EVER commit. I thought that suicide was the easy way out. I was so wrong. This video changed my mind. It changed everything for me. I shared it; I wanted everyone to watch it. I don’t remember EVER speaking to someone about suicide who disagreed with me. It was the majority- SUICIDE IS SELFISH! It was a firm belief. I felt ashamed after watching this video. How could I have been so wrong? Besides God, who knew that this 5-minute video would impact my life in the way it has. This could perhaps be the greatest gift of all.
Joe didn’t hear voices. I know that because I asked him. “No,” he said. “Just my own.” If I had not seen this video, it’s hard to say what my state of mind would be right now. Probably not as loving or forgiving as it is. I see this for exactly what it was. Joe was very sick, and the mental health system failed him.
If you are of the same opinion that I used to be, I beg you to watch this short video. He says exactly what Joe said. He just wanted the pain to stop.