By: Thomas Golka
Mila had moved to the Lower Mainland from rural Alberta just three short months ago. She was certain accepting a new position and moving to the big city would be the fresh start she needed; however, she could have never anticipated that only one month after her move, she would find herself in isolation and lose her job.
Suddenly Mila had nothing to look forward to – her future looked grim.
Living in isolation and lockdown, Mila’s thoughts wandered to new places. She had her mother’s support, but it wasn’t enough. It was impossible for her to convey exactly how she was feeling; whenever they would speak on a video call she would have makeup on, style her hair, and put on her best fake smile…until recently. Mila felt like she had no strength left inside, and she broke down.
She could no longer pretend like the antidepressants were helping. Today, she decided death didn’t scare her. She finally told her mom she wanted everything to be over, and her mom pleaded with her to reach out for support from a crisis centre. Begrudgingly Mila agreed but made no promise that it would change her mind. Phone in one hand and pills in the other, Mila dialled 1-800-SUICIDE.
She heard Andre’s comforting voice say, “Hello. 1-800-SUICIDE. What’s going gon for you today?” Mila thought carefully about the question before responding. Naturally, she wanted to put up her guard, but her emotions took over. She immediately burst into tears. There was so much she wanted to reveal but so little she felt like she could share with a stranger. Andre was patient and gave Mila the time she needed to collect herself.
Not knowing how to respond, Mila told Andre about the pills she was holding in her left hand. Andre told Mila to set the pills on the kitchen table and asked if it was possible for her to enter a different room while they spoke. Reluctantly, Mila agreed. Andre said, “Thank you for moving to the other room, this will give us some time to talk together without the pills so close by.”
Mila remained hesitant to open up to Andre. However, she liked the idea of someone holding her accountable and collaborating with her to make a plan.
For a split-second Mila felt relief and told Andre nothing brings her joy these days.
Andre explained that he was here for Mila, and this moment was all that mattered. The anxiousness that Mila was feeling at the beginning of the call turned into a feeling of freedom— freedom to convey all those thoughts she didn’t feel she could share with her mother, her roommate, or anyone else connected to her life.
Mila had been crying the entire day and was losing control of her breathing. Lying on her bed she leaned over to grab a tissue and wiped her face. She closed her eyes, inhaled, exhaled, and gathered herself; Andre was here, ready to listen without judgement.
Saying it all out loud felt good. Mila wasn’t “fixed,” but she felt a sense of relief. It was scary because she had not felt this way in a long time, but it felt right. The baggage of everything she had been holding felt a little less heavy.
Andre started by asking how they could work together to ensure she could get through the night. The two decided on giving all her pills to her roommate who would keep them out of Mila’s sight. Additionally, there would be a follow-up call from the crisis centre one hour later, to check in on both the safety plan with her roommate and on how Mila was doing.
While Mila is supported by a general practitioner who she finds helpful, COVID restrictions have added another layer of complications to receiving the support she needs. Her past few scheduled meetings left her feeling unmotivated and lacking energy.
Part of Andre’s safety planning with Mila was to ensure she arranged a follow-up appointment with her doctor and got a referral to mental health services. She feels differently about attending this one thanks to Andre. Mila told Andre it wasn’t her idea to call the suicide line, but she was glad she did.
When Mila hung up she felt something inside her she hadn’t felt in what seemed like forever – hope. Hope to get through the night, and hope for a better tomorrow.
She knew she had a long way to get where she needed to be, but she had some sense of clarity now. The light at the end of the tunnel was becoming brighter.
If you or someone you know is struggling, especially with thoughts of suicide, reach out:
Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)
* This story is a fictionalized account based on call/chat reports. The identities of those involved have been changed to ensure confidentiality of our services.