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Jeremy's Story

Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

A story sometimes helps to put detailed information, such as we have been providing in the previous section, into a useful perspective. Here's a story of what one man, Jeremy, did to overcome his suicidal thoughts with the help of a crisis line and a psychotherapist:

Jeremy's Story:

sad manJeremy had never really faced a truly epic emotional crisis in his life before. However, when his wife suddenly left him and moved across the country taking their two children with him, he became completely devastated. He was in shock at first, and then the emotional pain started. The marriage had not been good for some time for either of them, but Jeremy had felt they were working things through. After the separation, Jeremy's mood fluctuated constantly from anger and frustration to extreme sadness. Over the next few weeks he found it increasingly difficult to get up and go to work in the mornings and to concentrate once he was there. Jeremy's supervisor said that he would get a written warning and could be terminated from his job if he didn't start arriving at work on time.

At home, Jeremy didn't answer his phone. He let the mail and dirty dishes pile up. He also neglected laundry, and began skipping showers and house cleaning. He felt sadder and sadder, and hadn't yet responded to the divorce papers sent by his wife's attorney. He stopped cooking and grocery shopping, and realized one day that he was entirely out of food. At that point, Jeremy crawled into bed and slept for 14 hours. When he rose, he began thinking about suicide. He put on his coat, went out into the rainy evening and drove his car to a nearby bridge. He sat in his car for a while, but then it suddenly dawned on him that he intended to drive off the bridge and needed help. He called information on his cell phone, was connected to a crisis line, and agreed to go home and call for a psychotherapy appointment in the morning.

Within a few minutes of talking with the crisis worker, Jeremy was feeling better. Within a week, he was seeing a psychotherapist. He began sleeping regular hours, eating better, keeping his home and life in order, and had hired an attorney to represent him in the divorce. He also started a dose of an antidepressant medication. During his weekly psychotherapy visits, he focused on talking through his pain and the practicalities of putting his life back together and adjusting to living on his own. He still felt very sad at times, but less hopeless than before.

As the months went by, Jeremy took concrete actions to reduce the stress he was facing. He spoke several times to his children on the telephone, and arranged to have them visit for one month during the summer. His work performance improved and he readied his house to sell in order to reduce expenses and housework. He started researching an option that had always been a dream; to buy and live on a houseboat. He promised himself and his therapist that he would continue psychotherapy and antidepressant medication for at least five more months. At that point, he would decide whether to begin decreasing the medication and the frequency of psychotherapy visits.