I sat right up front at the seminar, but I didn’t ask one question while a panel of police negotiators discussed their side of what happens when called out to a suicide attempt. I was at a special program put on by a suicide support group. What I heard filled me with a new respect for the police. In some ways it helped lighten my guilt and yet burdened me with even more. I learned that it took more than one person to talk someone out of suicide, and it took a lot of connection.
Thoughts deviled me that I didn’t do enough to connect with my father. It was always hard to give him direct attention. In his depression, his indifference was a barrier. I didn’t know about assessment questions then, and probably wouldn’t have had the courage to ask them if I had. But, I knew something was wrong, didn’t I? Guilt ate at me like termites.
My recent anxiety came, though, because I sat in the middle of crisis prevention counselors. Their focus topic on how to stop a suicide was altogether different from mine, the aftermath of a suicide and how to get past it. One policewoman said it was better to err on the side of too much attention. Sitting there listening, I felt emotionally engaged to my father’s death realizing the things that I or someone else could have done for him. I quietly ached with my self-imposed blame that I didn’t “err on the side of too much attention.”
The negotiators all agreed that if someone completes the effort of suicide then that is the time that the police have to emotionally disengage. Each agreed that negotiation was all about control and connecting psychologically with that person. I shook my head and thought “for me it’s all about letting go and disconnecting.”
Has my guilt been more self-made than actual? The police negotiators said that “it takes a group of about ten people to negotiate successfully” someone out of a suicide attempt. I was but one person.