I didn’t know about the warning signs of depression and suicide. I only noticed that my son was changing his behavior in many different ways. He would put a blanket over his head saying he was hiding from people who were after him. He said there were people outside watching him. I hope that if I share these warning signs, other people won’t suffer as we did when my son took his life.
When I noticed his behavior changing, a friend helped me call the Mental Health Access Team. But they took him to the hospital in a very bad way; they handcuffed him. He was taken to the hospital for observation for 72 hours, received medication, and he got better. The doctor asked me if he was living here legally. I answered, “He was born here and is a citizen.” The doctor promised my son would get everything he needed.
He got a job and was doing well, working hard. But his job’s insurance would not cover him because of the pre-existing condition, and my husband’s insurance removed him from the plan because of his emotional disorder diagnosis. We tried many places: The County Clinic denied him because he was not pregnant or blind; he was too proud to go on SSI; I even thought of going to Tijuana to get his medication, which cost $500 a month.
My son lost hope, quit his job, and relapsed into his illness. We tried and tried but didn’t know what we could do to help him. He didn’t leave the house much and continued to get worse. I called the police a second time, hoping for help, but the police officer arrived with a gun in his hand; my son became frightened, ran from the backyard, and walked to his brother’s house in Santa Barbara.
After he returned home, we could tell he was getting worse, and one evening he started asking family members, “Do you want this?” He was trying to give away all of his possessions. We did not realize what this meant.
Then, several weeks later, I arrived home one evening, and my son said, “Mom, I am going to leave.” I asked him, “Where are you going?” He answered, “I don’t know; I am going.” Before he left my house, I saw him with a small rope, and I asked him what he was going to do with it. He told me he was going to tie together a fish tank. I offered to buy him a new one.
He was in the house when I returned home that night after my niece’s high school graduation, but we found him in the backyard the next day. He had taken his own life.
I wish the doctors would share information about suicide prevention with families. But confidentiality rules meant I could not attend my son’s meetings with the doctor or county mental health staffers, so I did not know how serious his condition was or what I could do to help. I wonder why they didn’t tell me how to help my son.
We were later informed that we could sue the county, but my husband and I both knew that would not bring my son back.
Now I want others to know the warning signs of suicide, so that they can help their family and friends who are suffering from depression or emotional disorders. The information is available if you look for it.
HopeNet of Carpinteria, a suicide prevention organization, sponsors the educational workshop “The Power of a Compassionate Heart: Supporting and Serving Others with Understanding” on Wednesday, October 30, from 7-8:30 p.m., at the Carpinteria Woman’s Club, 1059 Vallecito Road, with presenter Michelle Villegas, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice and adjunct faculty at Antioch University in the Masters of Psychology program. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Amrita Salm at (805) 684-2509. Spanish translation is provided.
A member of the HopeNet of Carpinteria Board of Directors, Martha Flores has lived in Carpinteria for decades after emigrating from Mexico. She learned English and went to SBCC for her Early Childhood Education Certificate; for many years she has worked for Carpinteria Head Start. HopeNet works to lessen the stigma about mental health.