Nobody wants to be a tattle tale or be someone who can’t be trusted with secrets. But what if it is a really important life-and-death secret?
I was 17 and my friend told me he wanted to commit suicide. I was good at secret keeping and had no idea what to do with this information. It stressed me out. There wasn’t Google back then and I could find no advice. I decided to talk to him often and we became close and started dating. Then he told me, “If you ever leave me, I will take my own life.” Things just got a whole lot deeper and I had no idea what to do. Should I tell his parents? My parents? Some teachers at school or church leaders? Was he really serious? Nobody mentioned suicide 30 years ago and I didn’t know anything about it except that would be a terrible burden to carry if he did take his own life. It would also be awful to tell an adult and have them make light of it, get him in trouble, or be angry with me. I didn’t want him to feel “crazy” or “broken”. So I kept his dark secret.
I try not to have regrets in life but as I look back on my life, keeping this a secret instead of getting him professional help or even adult help was a really bad idea. Now the pressure wasn’t just on him, it was on me as well. I felt it was my duty to keep him alive. So we married. Every year or two something would come up that made him feel really sad and he would talk about suicide again. I didn’t know anything about mental illness or depression. I hadn’t ever felt anything like it, but now that I know more- these were sure signs of it.
What should I have done? Told an adult. If the first person I told didn’t listen or do anything about it, tell another person. This is not a secret or burden for a teen to carry. It wasn’t my place to try to help him- I had no experience in that kind of psychology whatsoever.
It continued for 21 years of marriage and I thought I could love him better. I didn’t realize the grave danger of feeling depressed. I thought it was just part of who he was or his type 1 diabetes. Some people, including me, would tell him to change but how can you change something you can’t identify? He never told a doctor or counselor about any thoughts of suicide. He mentioned an idea of it to his brother and a church leader, but they didn’t know what to do with the vague information either. After 23 years of knowing Jay, he took his own life.
So YES! If they said something to you, take it as a cry for help. Talk to a professional and get them help.