Suicide Lines and a Female Mafia

Please Note: Name and Locations have been Altered to Protect the Confidentiality of People Mentioned Below

My day started well enough, or at least it started like any other Monday.  I woke up, glared at the clock, winced at the first few steps I took toward the bathroom, brushed my teeth, braced and prayed for patience before waking my sons and my daughter, and tapped the computer to wake it up.  I like to check e-mail and Running from Hell with El before I start my coffee pot.  The Facebook page may exist only in the virtual world but it sure feels pretty real to me.  And the friends I have made through Facebook aren’t fake, not to me, so when I spotted a notification from a woman named Cary from Texas, I perked up and quickly scanned it. Cary has become a good friend of mine and I love hearing from her.

Lately, Cary’s been going through a rough divorce and like half the damn world, she lost her job when the entire mortgage industry collapsed.  Our conversations have gotten darker but she never fails to crack a joke and tell sweet stories about her children.  In today’s e-mail, Cary told me she was “going to end it all,” and as rushed as I was, I dashed off a quick note asking for more particulars and details.  More than anything, I needed to assess the imminence of her suicidal intentions.  As I typed, my sunny child, Jim, walked around the corner and I smiled (or grimaced) and asked him to please brush his teeth and get ready for school.

The remaining minutes leading up catching out the bus consisted of a battle among barely speaking and very angry children and a grouchy mama, and I lurched between pouring milk and contemplating my friend’s problems.  I can’t get into it here, but I understood why she felt desperate.  If I were in her shoes, I might be contemplating the pill bottles in my medicine cabinet.  God knows I’ve thought about it before, and when things got bad, really bad, I handed the bottles over to my best friend.  That morning I gratefully had tried to smile and my best friend, she had tried not to cry when she took the pills from me.  I say that here neither for pity nor for shock value but merely to explain why I took Cary’s cry for help seriously.

I sighed and glanced longingly at the piles of half-written chapters on my desk and got busy on Cary.  I wrote more to her, and her responses alarmed me.  I contacted a friend who runs a suicide prevention site and ran the situation past her and she immediately gave me advice and tried to help me figure out what to say and what not to say.  I private messaged (“PMd”) Paula, one of my dearest friends who lives in Dallas, and asked if she lived close enough to Cary to drive by Cary’s house.  “Shoot,” Paula responded, “Cary lives closer to Houston.”  Then I PMd another one of my closest friends, Alicia, who is also good friends with Cary.  “Alicia,” I wrote, “Cary is suicidal.  She needs help.”  Alicia immediately got in contact with Cary and about an hour later, she wrote me back.  “Yeah,” Alicia said, “I talked to her.  She’s ready to end it. I don’t have her location, so I can’t call it in.”  Alicia lives in the Pacific Northwest, so she could not get to Cary either.

We got in contact with another one of our close friends, Hannah, and if you’re thinking, “Crap, y’all are like a freakin’ female mafia,” why, yes, we are.  We laugh with one another and sometimes we cry.  And if we ever went to war, I’d want these women in my bunker with me.

Hannah is a brilliant, highly educated hard ass from some scary part of New York City, and as crazy as her Queens accent sounds, she graduated from NYU, so she is sneaky-smart, if that makes sense.  I didn’t screw around with Hannah when I PM’d her: “Cary is desperate, which is code for suicidal, and we’re running out of options.  None of us can get out there.”  Hannah started making suggestions and as she usually does, took charge, which sort of relieved me because I dither and get lost in my own contemplations and story lines and shades and hues of gray.  “Is there anyone out there we can talk to?”  Hannah demanded.  Alicia responded, “Yes, her parents.”  In the back of my mind, I worried about Cary’s parents, who I recalled were ill, but I kept that to myself.  And I chirped in that it might be good to call them as a last resort.

Hannah typed, “Not last resort.  Now.  Does anyone have Cary’s phone number?” Alicia and I had her cell phone number but not her home number, and Cary had stopped answering Alicia’s texts.  “What about her parents’ phone number?”  Hannah and I both spent the better part of an hour trying to track the parents down.  I even called in a favor from a government investigator, who was able to get me the name and number of the owner of the parents’ rental home, but we could not find the parents’ number.

By now it was 2 p.m.  The three of us had spent most of the day trying to talk to Cary and then to find her parents, and my kids were running around the house punching each other and I wanted to mull it over and suss it out and do nothing of use but I knew that wasn’t going to be good enough.  Alicia wrote, “Someone needs to call this in and I’m hiking in the Everglades and am losing my signal.”  I thought of how calling the police might result in lost custody and Hannah wrote back, “Guys, you really need to alert the police.”  Alicia agreed.  “Gals, I can’t find a number.  It could be unlisted or I’m looking in the wrong place.  If she’s serious and we believe she’s going to do this, we have to contact the police.  I’d rather she hate me than have her death on my hands.”

I thought of Cary’s daughter, who is Madeline’s age, and at that exact moment, Madeline breezed into my room, wiping her wavy locks out of her eyes.  “Mom?”  I waved her off and then felt like a jerk, so I put my arms out and held her in a tight hug.  “I’m really sorry hun, but a friend needs me.  It’s very important I concentrate right now.”  Madeline nodded at me and asked, “Which friend?”  I smiled and shook my head.  “I can’t say, but can you please take Ben outside with you?”  She stood up straight.  “Sure.  Can we play in the water?”  I thought of how cold it was outside and how much they love splashing in the creek and calculated the low risk of Ben somehow managing to drown in the ankle-high water.  “Okay, but don’t go farther than I can see you through this window.”

Cary’s daughter needs her mother just as much as my daughter needs me.  Back on the computer, Hannah had typed, “El, call them please.  The non-emergency number is 555-555-5555 or give me the information and I will call them.”  I asked yet again, “Alicia, is the threat imminent?”  And Alicia responded, “It’s the only thing we can do.  It’s the right thing.”  As I dialed Houston, Texas, Hannah PM’d me and asked if I were calling.  “Yes, on the phone with dispatch now.”  I tried to understand the thick Texas drawl and read Hannah’s messages.  “Good girl,” Hannah added.  “I am shaking like a leaf.”  I thought about this and realized that my hands were steady and my emotions, almost nonexistent.  I would have time to feel later.

I don’t know how the story ends.  The police brought Cary in and she may never speak to us again.  She’s angry at us.  She’s scared of losing her daughter.  We’re scared of losing her.

43 comments on “Suicide Lines and a Female Mafia
  1. Non-Stop Mom says:

    Oh, El. You did the right thing, but I just can’t even begin to imagine the stress of trying to do it all from a distance. Even if she is angry with you, it’s better to have her be angry and alive.


    • Amy,

      Thank you so much for your reassuring comments above. Sigh. Hugs and love,


      • Michelle Johnson says:

        Don’t EVER second guess what yall did…..Think about it this way…..If you were her daughter, what would you want done? If she never speaks to yall again, at least she has the chance to do so……you cannot take a suicide back. Her daughter would have been scared for life no question about that, and who knows how much it would have impacted the person she became. Just rest assure that if this was that serious, she may now be able to get the help she needs, and will be around to love her daughter and not loose her life…….Hopefully one day she will be able to look at what yall did for her family and why will thank you for stopping her from this tragic end…….but ether way I know her daughter will never be able to thank yall enough for helping her keep her mom safe and keep her from the hurt that comes when you loose someone to suicide……you can never get rid of that pain, ever. ~MJ~

  2. Thank you so much Amy . . . sigh . . . very worried. I took it down from FB.

  3. alison says:

    you did the right thing. if she doesn’t see that right now, she will some day.

  4. Wow what a day for you. I am with Amy. You have to do what you think is rougher. No regrets. The only regret is the unthinkable and so if anger is the worst thing than that likely won’t last forever once she gets thE help she wants/needs. Either way so not easy and think of you and all your girls. Xo and hugs to you and Cary.

  5. Chris says:

    Suicide is a touchy subject with me, having been close to the effects of it as a kid. Learning about attempts or threats usually leaves me feeling simultaneously compassionate and angry. Thankfully, I’ve never had to call the police to prevent someone’s self-harm, but there were a couple of close judgment calls. In hindsight, I might have done well to err on the side of caution.

    It sounds like you followed your gut and did the right thing. Even if you didn’t act on it and nothing happened, this will hopefully serve as a wake-up call. I get it: Life is hard and depression can kick your ass. That’s why we have to be there for each other.

    Sending love and light to Cary, and to you, El.

    • Chris,

      Aye, so well said in paragraph one, and I am so sorry for what you’ve been through my friend. I loved what you said here:
      “I get it: Life is hard and depression can kick your ass. That’s why we have to be there for each other.”
      Amen to that my friend. And thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful remarks. Much love,


  6. That took courage–to call and to write. Both of which have helped more people than you may ever know. Blessings to you and to Cary as she finds her way back from the darkness. ♥

  7. Lorri says:

    You are an angel El! All of your friends are lucky to have each other, and when her pain goes away, hopefully so will her anger.

  8. Jo says:

    Sounds like you did the right thing. It also seems to me that, subconsciously at least, she wanted to be saved from her decision. If she really wanted to go through with it, she wouldn’t have told you how she was feeling, she would have just done it, so despite her possibly being angry with you right now, it won’t last. I took an overdose once (when I was a messed up teen) and although I was determined to do it and actually took the pills, all I really wanted was for someone to care enough to come and rescue me from myself. Luckily, they did. You did a good thing so allow yourself to feel good about it. My bet is that one day when things are a bit brighter for her, she’ll look at her daughter and thank God for friends like you. x

  9. Milana Simpson says:

    I have been in a similar situation but with my Dad. He lives in Toronto, Canada and I on the opposite coast. Sometimes just the tone of someone’s voice or the way they say goodbye is a cry for help. I followed my gut and am very happy for it. She will thank you someday.

  10. I agree with Transitioning Mom’s comment on Facebook: so much better to lose a friend than that she be lost to the world, period. It’s a tough call, but the right one, and I love you for making it.

  11. Dawn Severson says:

    Everyone should have friends like you and your “girls”. It was a hard thing to do, but the right thing. I hope my friends, on-line or not would do the same for me in that situation.

  12. Anita Garza-Barber says:

    I feel you did the right thing.. I too went through something as similar as this… but long story short, I got her address from another friend and called 911… 911 responded… a few days went by and then she called me and said “Thank You for saving my Life”….. Hopefully your friend too will thank you for saving her life.. <3 Your a Angel <3

  13. Tammy Bohn says:

    I am a proponent of a “right to death” and support a persons right to choose when and how they die. However, it sounds as if your friend was suffering situational depression and only needed help. Hopefully she is getting treatment that is beneficial and will help start her back UP. It can be so difficult to rise above depression, especially when life keeps landing blow after blow. I have a daughter, now 26, who called me, and her father’s household, and said she was going to end her life. She was over 1,000 miles away from us. We called each other and discussed it, She was no longer answering any of our calls. We decided we should call the police and we did. She was taken into a hospital for observation. She was very angry with us at the time but has forgiven us many times over as her life continues. I dread to think what legacy that would have left for my grandson if we had not acted and she had carried through. I hope your friend’s troubles turn around and that she finds forgiveness and comfort in a renewed friendship with such a network of people who care enough to take a stand to save them.

  14. Thank you so much for your comments Tammy, and I am grateful that your daughter ended up safe.

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  16. I have conflicted feelings on this. On the one hand I believe absolutely in the right of any one person to take their own life if and when it is right for them to do so. But on the other hand, I suspect that in this case it was a cry for help. I believe that people who genuinely wish to end their lives tend not to announce that fact, for fear of someone stepping in and preventing them from succeeding.

    That being said, especially as Cary has a small child, I think you did the right thing. I suspect that you may not hear from her for a while, out of embarassment as much as anything else. I would suggest that perhaps you drop her a line in a few days and tell her that you understand her predicament, tell her why you understand it, and that you hope the decision you made was the right one.

    • Thank you Lynne, and I too have conflicted thoughts on the whole issue. I even have conflicting thoughts on the right of someone to take their own life (if they lack mental capacity due to mental illness–otherwise, yeah, sadly, they sure do have the right, just hope they don’t use it). I hope we did the right thing, sigh, and as you suggested, I will continue to drop Cary a note every few days. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments.

  17. I think, considering every fact you have conveyed, I would have done the exact same thing. I have buried way too many of my friends as of late, who I do not believe had truly wanted to end it all but just needed someone to care enough to stop them, and no one did. I think it took a lot of guts and you may never get the glory, but in the end it’s better to have her daughter be able to visit her mother every other weekend than twice a year in a cemetary. I wish for peace for you and your online mafia in knowing what you did was the best that you could have done.

  18. Kristy says:

    I admire all of you. I suffer from manic depression and with my husband three states away and only phone contact until March I sometimes feel that not being here is a solution, If there ever comes a time that my thoughts get the better of me I could only hope that I would have someone like you to stand in my way.

    • So sorry you have been going through this Kristy, and thank you. And if you ever feel like that, you can call me 703 825-9043, or visit us over at Grass Roots Initiatives to Prevent Suicide on FB, and while we’re not trained professionals, we will listen and help you get the help you need. Love to you, El.

  19. Lisha says:

    Wow, El. I’m behind on reading, but I’m glad I finally caught up here. What courage that took. I hope her anger is temporary. Much love.

  20. Christine says:

    El, Lisha literally took the words right out of my head and posted them first. You are so brave, and for the sake of her child (if not for herself!) you did the right thing. Big hugs to you, and my thoughts and prayers are with Cary and family.

  21. Wow! I’m in tears. I hope I’ve connected that well with my friends that they would do something like that for me. I’ve been in that situation and with the mental illness rampant in my maternal’s side it’s very very real for me. I’ve been the one to call and it was on my egg donor actually. I was worried, thankfully it wasn’t real and just for attention but I’m sure one time one of us does not call on her it WILL be real. Cary will probaly hate you guys for some time but know deep down you all did the right thing and she will realize that soon. Getting that feeling is hard but when you take the tools to pull yourself out and then realize what’s good in your life (Friends like you guys) it takes a different perspective. You are awesome!!

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Suicide Lines and a Female Mafia"
  1. […] your friend will be mad at you for calling the police.  As I discussed in Suicide Lines and a Female Mafia, I have called police departments on the other side of the country and my friend didn’t speak to […]

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