Dr. Lorna M. Breen, a top ER doctor who treated virus patients in a Manhattan hospital, recently died by suicide. According to her father, her job treating Coronavirus patients in an overwhelming wave killed her. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/27/nyregion/new-york-city-doctor-suicide-coronavirus.html)
During this pandemic, your friends, coworkers, or family members may be experiencing similar stress, anxiety, and even severe depression. Of course, other causes lead to similar outcomes: My ex-husband suffered from severe depression as a result of childhood abuse. My brother attempted suicide after getting a stage 4 cancer diagnosis—a disease that eventually took his life at age 57. Sheree, a friend of mine and consultant to public schools, is severely depressed because a medical mistake resulted in permanent damage—while her husband’s entrepreneurial business is suffering due to the pandemic.
Psychiatrists predict that the emotional consequences of all these situations can be catastrophic for years to come.
As a leader, you contribute significantly to the organization’s culture—as well as serve as a go-to person for those in distress who need a listening ear and for bosses who recognize a team member’s performance has tanked.
Here’s how to communicate your concern to those coworkers and their supervisors.
Laura Stack woke with a start. 1:03 AM. Thursday, November 20, 2019. She reached to pick up the buzzing phone, fully expecting to see her Johnny’s name on the screen again. Instead, it said Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. The voice on the other end said, “Hello, ma’am, this is (officer name) with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. I’m at your front door; please come down.”
Slightly irritated, Laura asked, “Do you have Johnny with you again?”
“No, ma’am. I’m sorry—I do not.”
Laura rolled over, shook her husband, John, awake and whispered loudly, “The police are at the door. It’s Johnny.” They threw on robes, hurried downstairs, and opened the door.
“Mr. and Mrs. Stack, may we come in?” the woman standing behind the uniformed sheriff asked. “I’m with the coroner’s office. I’m so sorry to tell you that your son is deceased.”
Laura stared at her for a millisecond, not comprehending what she’d heard. “Deceased? What do you mean, deceased?”
As a result of his earlier experimenting with drugs, Johnny developed schizophrenia. He suffered from delusions. He heard voices telling him that the mob was after him, that his college was an FBI building and the FBI thought he was a terrorist. Based on his journals found after his death, the voices were telling him to end his life. So on November 20, 2019, he left his apartment and drove to the parking garage, where he jumped from the 6th level.
As soon as a state in America legalizes marijuana, the drug dealers head to the middle schools and high schools. Buying pot becomes as easy as getting a hamburger in the drive-thru. Johnny started experimenting his freshman year when he was 14 years old. As he became older, he tried other forms and eventually settled on “dabbing,” the term for inhaling the vapors from wax, a high-potency chemical form of marijuana with 80 percent or higher THC (the element in marijuana that causes the “high”).
Like Johnny, addicted and/or mentally ill employees later join organizations such as yours, where they may or may not experience later episodes of mental illness.
What are the signs of suicide?
More Resources on signs for suicide and info on schizophrenia and suicide.
Your organization may offer courses on drug addiction—the hard drugs. The problem? Some consider marijuana “safe.” But Johnny found out otherwise. His poisonous “dabbing” choice wrecks the brain—particularly the brains of teens and young adults. Because of the high concentration of THC, dabs can cause psychotic, paranoia, or delusional episodes like Johnny suffered.
You’ll find additional resources about dabbing, TCH, and related mental illnesses here: https://johnnysambassadors.org/thc/
Communicate compassion to those under stress and depressed by giving them an opportunity to talk through their situation. Ask, “How are you feeling lately?” “How’s life treating you these days?” “How’s your job going?” “How can we help?” Just simply make the attempt to reach out when you suspect someone is struggling.
Sometimes the individual knows and can verbalize what they need to break through. At other times, they do not. In those situations, you’ll need to investigate to provide them with the resources (counselors, education) and/or recommendations about dealing with their depression (whatever the cause).
In addition to your personal efforts, encourage leaders in your organization to volunteer, donate, or educate others alongside the many nonprofits whose mission is to support the drug-addicted or the mentally ill. For example, Laura and John Stack have founded a nonprofit (www.JohnnysAmbassadors.org) to do just that: To educate teens, family members, and employers about the dangers of dabbing high-potency marijuana extracts and the impact on adolescent brain formation, mental health, and suicide.
Theirs as well as other related nonprofits aim to educate, spread the word, and save lives. When you have opportunity, join their efforts to do the same.
Learn more about how to communicate with people in a variety of situations with Communicate With Confidence!: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time.