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Keeping The Night At Bay: Medicine and Suicide

“How do we [become a society that produces people] that are young and beautiful and hate themselves?” – Dr. John Green

“Well, I always say, it would be good to go away.
But if things don’t work out like we think
And there’s nothing here to ease the ache
But it there’s nothing there to make things change
If it’s the same for you I’ll just hang.” – Matchbox Twenty

I finished reading “Night Falls Fast” on August 14, 2012, the day after I was made aware that a friend died. I do not know how he died.

A lot of doctors and medical students commit suicide. Some combination of being compulsive, having access to various methods to do it, and feeling ill equipped to handle unacceptable outcomes has robbed the world of many lives. Dr. Kay Jamison, author of “Night Falls Fast,” uses this phrase: “Keeping the night at bay.” I found this so powerful.

Extensive awareness about access to counseling was structured into my school’s public service announcements, especially during first and second year. In our courses Lifespan Development and Introduction to Clinical Psychology, we discussed current theories of suicide and aides for prevention.

Bizarrely, one phrase, “You aren’t suicidal, are you?” is flagged in the “what not to say” column. Bizarre it was indeed when I, ruefully, blurted it out to someone later. I have in my mind’s eye a clip from the film version of “Anne of Green Gables” where Marilla states that to despair is to turn your back on God. I find that to be another powerful phrase.

I have not completed a residency in psychiatry. I’m not a clinical psychologist. I almost don’t know what to say besides the fact that I miss my friend. For all the silent suffers, victims of mental illness and their families, we as clinicians, as human beings, must see that there is work to be done.

Jocelyn Mary-Estelle Wilson Jocelyn Mary-Estelle Wilson (5 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine

My education includes a BS in biology from Whitworth University, a MPH from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and an MD from East Tennessee State University. In addition to family medicine, my interests include Christian apologetics and French, British, and American literature.