One night years ago, when I was on call in the OR, we were waiting for a possible procurement to arrive. It turned out to be a ten year old boy who had hung himself, and for timing reasons or family reasons, the surgery was cancelled. I don't remember exactly why.
What I do remember clearly is a resident asking... how could this happen?
So, I explained it to him. The best that I could. A child's pain. How a child doesn't understand the potential permanence of their actions. How sadness can take over. How even with all the support in the world, sometimes it's not enough. How it could happen. How it happened to us.
My son was maybe around two when something changed inside of him. As a mother, I always look carefully at my own actions, wondering if there was anything I should have done, or not done to have prevented these things from happening. There are always imperfections, things I wish I had done differently. But, I also have to acknowledge that I was an attentive, patient, and caring mom. Every action and decision I made, I can truthfully say that I put my children and their best interest first.
When my son was ten, he hung himself. He survived with anoxic and traumatic brain injuries.
I never used the word "mental illness" when explaining this to the surgery resident. We still hadn't even gone through the worst of it at that point. I only thought I knew what I was talking about. I didn't know it could get worse, but it did.
And seeing it now, when the child is miraculously an adult... my body just skips to the physically ill part for me. I want to put him first, but my body shuts down. And, there are other family members who know what the potential is here- and I need to put them first. Even if the consequences are dire. I've mourned my own childs death a couple of times over.
It was very unlike me to speak so candidly about what happened... I don't think that resident was necessarily being judgemental... it's was an honest question about life. There is no good explaination or reason. Mental illness is as painful and deadly as any other disease.