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He’s Talking About Suicide

Forest in Fog

frankstr’s Loved One is in a specialized clinic, and is nearing the end of the stay. Now he has been talking about suicide. He is depressed and in despair – though he’s not using any more, but some old behaviors are sending up red flags.

Our son 38 called me today and threatened to commit suicide by blowing air in his vein with a syringe he took in his storage this weekend. First he asked me if this is a proven method for a certain death. Which isn’t. (In the weekend we cleaned his storage because it is too expensive.) I asked him why he took the syringe in the weekend. "Because already then I was considering to commit suicide".

So what happened before..
First he is suffering PTSD and 2 years ago he used heroin by injecting it in his veins. After that he was jailed for a year and lost his home.
After that he lived for nearly a year in our house. During that he didn't use heroin as far as we know. He used marijuana and sometimes based coke.
Living together didn't cause much problems.

Last august he was hit by blindness. The blindness is caused by a DNA mutation. So he has to learn to adapt to his handicap.
Till now he is rehabilitating and revalidating in a specialized clinic. He is motivated and we noticed he seems suffering less from PTSD and addiction.

He fears the period after revalidation because there is a limited time he can stay in the clinic.
So facing the end of his revalidating period, he is in a depressed mood, showing despair and asked us to come and fetch him for a day and night from the clinic because at home he can visit "friends" to help him to conquer his pain and depression.

We allowed him to come home and today we brought him back, which was all right then. But about one hour later, he asked us if we again can fetch him home. Because he is in a depressed mood. We tried to convince him to stay. End of conversation.

But thererafter endless telefonades, complaining, self-complaining, blaming, repeating, manipulating, warping, including threatening including to commit suicide etc.

Because we experienced many times before this kind of behavior when he was using drugs and doesn't have the means to provide I suspect he wants to use drugs again.

I know discussing and arguing is useless, I find it still difficult to handle this kind of I don't know how to call it behavior.

What a difficult and heartbreaking situation. At this moment, think about talking less to your son. He is in a place where he really should be talking to a skilled person about what he’s struggling with. What is the rehabilitation for his blindness saying about next steps for your son? Where is your son supposed to go to next? Is the expectation that he will come back home?

Your son is understandably unsure and fearful of what comes next. He is letting you know it through old ways of complaining and threats of hurting himself. This is very difficult to handle as a parent. Your son has a set of reactions to frustration and fear that are probably more generic than a response to any specific threat. His behavior is not just a sign of wanting to use drugs. He is facing a complexity of struggles right now. Having said this, his situation must be triggering the desire for drugs as a way to alleviate all the pain and anxiety that becoming blind has undoubtedly caused.

Can you talk to the clinic? Can you tell them you don’t want to and shouldn’t have to handle his suicide talk? Either way, the clinic needs to know about the talk of suicide. This is important. Telling them about the suicide talk should raise a flag at the clinic and with insurance.

For now, when you get his call, keep it short. Something like:

Son, I hear you, I would be worried about myself too in your shoes. We need you talking to the right people about next steps. The clinic is suggesting X. I have found A B C that can help. We are in this together. We love and support you.

Here is an article specifically for family members of those newly blind.

Your son’s frustration also reminds you of the period when these behaviors were linked to drug seeking. This makes sense. I wonder if for now, though, you could put this thought aside when you talk to him. Drugs may be in your son’s mind as they are in yours, given his past. But don’t let the past drive the present. It may be helpful to recognize that you too are being triggered in this situation.

With all of the phone calls, threats, and arguing, you are in a cycle that has you both engaged. It’s not getting you anywhere, as you say. Instead of responding to the requests, the threats, etc. try stepping back, and putting the ball in the clinic’s court. Using their support as a framework will help both of you. This isn’t something you can resolve on your own. You aren’t equipped for that.

Your conversations keep falling into the same traps. By limiting your engagement in these conversations, and following the clinic’s suggestions, you are helping make new pathways – for both of you. He is hurting, afraid and frustrated, and needs help finding a way forward. You can let him know that you are in this together, and that you’ll help him find his way through this.

Thank you for writing in. Our thoughts are with you.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Thank you Dominique for the quick and very wise answer.
    I agree, the best answer is a short compassionate answer with suggestions like you advised. I will try to keep that in mind for the next time.
    Thursday it turned out that my son did have a second conversation with his adviser in the clinic and they agreed to a longer stay. That was quite a relief for his mood.
    Yesterday he talked to his therapist about it.
    Together with my wife I wrote an email to his therapist with the suggestion to talk about his perspective after his revalidation.
    This email we did not send yet. We hesitate to interfere in that way. We will advise him to talk with his therapist about the time he will leave the clinic and about his future options.
    Again thank you for your advice.

    1. You’re welcome. I do suggest you make sure the clinic knows that your son talks of suicide. I would want everyone working with your son to be aware of the severity of his thinking, whether or not the threat is real, your son is talking about it.