Opinion: Feeling suicidal? Here are better options

If you are suffering from feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and have contemplated suicide, help and hope are as close as your telephone.

In Madera County, from 18 to 22 persons every year take their own lives, according to Dennis Koch, executive director of Madera County Behavioral Health Services. But those unhappy deaths could largely be prevented if those who suffer suicidal feelings would take a deep breath, pick up their phones and tell the person who answers that they are thinking of taking their own lives. Help can then be on the way.

The people on the other end of these suicide hotlines are trained to provide help in a time of mental health crisis, times that can lead the sufferer to contemplate ending — or even ending — his or her own life.

The Crisis Help Line is 1.888.506.5991, and it is staffed 24 hours a day by trained people. I have met some of these people, and they are dedicated to helping others who suffer from anxiety or feelings of hopelessness.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline’s number is 1-800273-8255. Or help can be reached by texting TALK to 741741.

Some of the people seeking help include drug users who may be going through a medical crisis brought on by inappropriate drug use and may be in need of medical intervention. Others may be suffering from alcoholism.

Veterans often suffer from drug and alcohol use that they turn to as a relief from stress, or pain, or both. A phone number for veterans is 1-800-373-TALK.

LGBTY youth, when they lose friends or fail in love affairs, often turn to drugs and/or alcohol to relieve the pain of continual grief, frustration or loneliness. For these folks, the Trevor Lifeline connects lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender or those questioning their sexuality to a suicide prevention and counseling phone line staffed by trained counselors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Many people who need help with the stresses of their lives aren’t aware that help is as near as their telephone, and less than a block from the post office, at the corner of South 7th and D Streets.

A person who feels he or she may need the help of a counselor can merely walk in and get an appointment. All contacts are private, and those who need more help than a single appointment can get one. The help is generally free.

Most who seek mental health treatment are trying to get their lives straightened out because of substance abuse, which can be hard to deal with, or merely help with chronic sadness, anxiety or other frustration.

It is true that a psychiatrist may prescribe a benzodiazepine — such as Valium or Ambien — to help a patient temporarily deal with anxiety or alcohol withdrawal. But use of such drugs is carefully monitored, and usually is not recommended until other psychological remedies such as cognitive behavioral therapy have been tried.

Sometimes a little banter can help. For example, a psychologist in Wyoming was trying to help a patient understand how opposite emotions differ:

What is the opposite of joy?” the psychologist asked.

“Sadness,” the patient replied.

“And what is the opposite of depression?” the psychologist asked.

“Elation,” said the patient.

“And woe,” said the psychiatrist. “What is the opposite of woe?”

“Anybody knows that,” the patient said. “It’s giddy-up!”

Remember, though, that there is help for you, serious help — usually just a phone call away.

Or you can giddy-up down to East 7th and North D Streets where help and a happier life may be waiting for you.