Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest: Carl David
Guest Bio: Having lived through and survived the horrific experience of his brother’s suicide when he was just 16, he was awakened to the real purpose in his life. He is on a mission to save lives.
He is the author of “Bader Field: How My Family Survived Suicide” and his advocacy is his way of helping those on that edge of desperation to see that they are loved, that there is help for them and that they are not alone.
Segment Overview: Carl David discusses the recognition of signs or clues that may indicate a suicide attempt in the making. He also discusses what one should do if you they suspect someone may be considering taking their life.
Health Professional Radio – Suicide
Neal: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio, glad that you could join us today. I’m your host Neal Howard and it’s a pleasure to have returning to studio today Mr. Carl David. Mr. David is an author, the author of “Bader Field: How My Family Survived Suicide.” And he has survived the experience of his brother’s suicide. His brother was 22 years old when our guest was just 16. He was called home from school to learn of the horrific events that have taken place in his brother’s life and his family survived it and he’s here to talk about some of the warning signs that may present themselves in a person who is on the edge of desperation. How are you doing today Carl?
Carl: I’m great. Thank you Neal, I appreciate you having me on.
N: Thank you so much. Your book, “Bader Field: How my Family Survived Suicide,” it started out as a memoir to your father, became much more than that. It became a tool by which you got the word out that people in a situation where they may be considering taking their own lives. There’s help for them, they’re not alone and that even though they may feel that they aren’t loved, they are loved. Could you tell us from your own experience and from the experience of talking with other people in your travels and through your publications, works as a suicide prevention advocate – you and your family had no clue as I understand from the previous segments when we were here before. You had no clue but I’m sure now you have learned from many people what some of the signs may be so that those of us who haven’t experienced it may be on the lookout, maybe prevent or save a life as you are on a mission to doing it yourself?
C: Well you’re right, we had no clue. However after years of grueling information and talking to people and doing a lot of research, there are a number of indications that someone could take their own life. And the biggest one is when someone threatens to take their life, that someone say’s “I’m gonna kill myself.” You know what, believe them because there’s a very real possibility that they will or that they’re thinking about it. So if they’re thinking about it, they may follow through it, they may not. But it’s a key factor in being aware that that possibility is there. People who are contemplating on taking their life frequently drop out of their social circles and they become reclusive. They don’t go to their friends, gatherings anymore, they stay in their own room, in their house. They start to give away their possessions which is a serious sign if someone starts to give away prized possessions that they have coveted and eventually grows to their life or in these years that they don’t care about anymore and they seem despondent. That’s another sign, a tell-tale sign that something is not right, whether they’re suffering from depression, whether it’s a drug reaction, who knows what, they feel they’re just feeling totally rejected and abandoned and there’s no hope for them. You start to see these subtle signs, and not so subtle signs. But the biggest one’s are talking about feelings, giving away their possessions, they become reclusive and just changing – a radical change in one’s MO and in their behavior is a prevalent indication that something is going on inside. It could be very dangerous.
N: Now what about the person who threatens suicide in order to manipulate another individual, say, to keep them from divorcing them or to keep them from disinheriting them? Is there any way short of being a professional or private investigator to sift through the real threat and the facetious or false threat, something used to get…
C: Yeah. I guess it depends on personalities. I have seen that, I have heard about those relationships where someone threatens to kill himself if the other person leaves and I think that’s a horrible thing to do to someone else. I just think that it’s just horrible and you’ll never know. Sometimes that person might really mean it. They might have decided they’re gonna kill themselves that if the other person leaves, they do want to kill themselves. But you know what, that’s not the responsibility of the other person. That shows that there’s something wrong that’s going on the initiator’s head, if you will, but it does happen. How much the frequency, I’m not sure. I mean, is it one out of ten situations, one out of a hundred or one out of a thousand – I don’t know. If it is out of whatever, it’s too many.
N: Now as with drug addiction interventions – have you heard of any instances where family members, friends, co-workers, what not, have seen undeniable evidence or heard undeniable statements made by person? And then those around them decide that, “We need to intervene.” Is it like drug addiction, you have to admit that there’s a problem before the problem can be addressed? Or is it something that the problem may never be addressed and the suicide take place?
C: There’s a little bit of both Neal.
C: Sometimes you can have the family intervention, or friends intervening, and if the person just doesn’t seem to go along or resists and you got to force them to a clinical situation where you get them help they need even if you have to have them taken to a hospital…
C: because it just might save their lives. And the other times, you can’t. The person will deceivingly say, “No, I’m fine. Everything’s okay. I don’t really need it, I’m okay.” And then the next thing you know, they’ve taken their life. So it’s really hard to know unless someone under medical supervision for having had a history of depression and that kind of behavior. It’s hard to put your finger on it and, really, to stop it.
N: So being such a hard endeavor to undertake, the intervention of someone who is considering something as traumatic and final as suicide – what would you say to healthcare professionals? Many which are listening now, what should they be on the lookout for and what should a family member or someone who’s in the healthcare profession do when faced with someone who they’re pretty sure is a potential suicide candidate?
C: I think that person has to be a retained and watched for a period of time. If they send for someone and have a brief intervention, if you will, or medical diagnosis and they say, “”Well, I think it is okay and send them home.” And then the next thing we know, he takes his life. If someone has that kind of personality disorder or that kind of depression that they’re suffering, really in that kind of need – I think they really need to be watched and supervised because they won’t do it themselves. That is very rare for someone in that state to actually say, “I need help” and they go get it. So I think health professionals really need to be vigilant and stay on top, they keep their eyes open and not be deceived by someone’s superficial attitude if there is a deeper problem going on.
N: Well aren’t there legal ramifications for wrongly diagnosing or accusing someone…
C: For committing someone?
N: Or committing someone? I’ve never had that happen, I’ve never even considered it. I’ve heard of it though. Don’t they have to be actually hard, cold facts that a person is a harm to themselves or others before they can be committed?
C: Yes. I think that’s exactly correct but it depends on state to state. Each state got their own rules about that. I’m not quite exact about which state has that, but yeah, you got to be careful for … liability reasons. But if you’re asking a professional, you have an obligation – hypothetical in everything else – to fulfill to reach out and help someone if you can.
N: Now I understand that both of your parents have passed, were they alive when you were penning this book? You said it took up to a decade to finally get it published. If they were alive, how much interaction or how much input did your parents and your other siblings have in the writing of “Bader Field: How My Family Survived Suicide?”
C: Well my dad was already gone, he died 1973, but my mom was around. And I worked through her as well, took me some information and kept her toe to toe on where I was in the book. And when it came out, she was absolutely thrilled. Because it has been an homage not just for my dad, and my mom, and my brothers and our family so she was exceedingly proud of it and that made me feel really good. My brother was involved in some degree, my wife was my editor and she really helped me when I went through this and my kids … they’ve learned about it when it finally came out. Everyone was exceedingly proud and to me, it was just a labor of love. It’s something I just have to do.
N: I’d like to ask you a question that is two-fold. First of all, when it comes to assisted suicide, what are your thoughts on someone willingly wanting to take their lives as a young woman did recently late last year in the news? She decided to take her own life and went to a state in the United States that allows assisted suicide. And the second part of the question is when someone commits suicide, is there proclivity for other family members or close family members to do the same?
C: Well interestingly, the first question that is a tough one but if I were with a family member who was at the end of the road and everything has been tried to restore their life, to make them feel better, to do something to keep them out of pain and there was nothing left. No remedies and they were old, they were tired, they just didn’t want to suffer anymore and there was no reason to keep them suffering and rather just let them go – I’d say I’m in agreement with that. I mean the situation is different and as much as I’m against suicide and I have to get for the prevention of it, there are certain circumstances where the suffering is unbearable in a physical way and there’s just no help left and there’s total deterioration and destruction of the human being. I think that is worse than not letting go. So to answer the question, yes there are certain circumstances that I agree with. I would not want to be on the end of that thing where you were just keeping your way by some cancer and there’s nothing left and it’s not living… because to me, that’s not living.
C: And the other answer to the question is I don’t know. I mean, there are cases I guess where someone wants to take their life and then another one is… I have heard of that, I think it’s the exception to the rule. I think what happen is everyone fights to stay alive after an episode like that in their family and they do work hard to deal with it, handle it.
N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking with returning guest Mr. Carl David this afternoon, having lived through the experience of his brother’s suicide at the early age of 16. He was awaken to his real mission in life and that is the mission to save lives. The lives of those that maybe on the edge of desperation and considering taking their own lives. As the author of “Bader Field: How My Family Survived Suicide,” he’s become an advocate for the prevention of suicide, wanting to help those who are on the edge to know that they’re loved, that there’s help for them and that they’re not alone in this world. It’s been great having you here with us today Carl.
C: Thank you Neal. I really appreciate the opportunity to be with you.
N: Transcripts and audio of this program are available at hpr.fm and also at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.