Hello you’ve reached the depression helpline; can you please hold! Can you imagine hearing this when you have reached your breaking point and have called for help only to hear that on the other end of the telephone! That is exactly what happened to my friend but fortunately I was there to catch them before they did something tragic. Let me explain.
Depression is one of those mental health illnesses that work’s silently in some cases, and in others you have no problem understanding the person is experiencing a problem. What I mean by this is that either the person is trying to hide the problem because they are embarrassed or they want the sympathy of the world.
My friend was the one that was trying to hide it because they were afraid that it would affect their job since they were in a significant position of trust where they worked. They were going through a divorce after twenty-six years of marriage. A marriage he thought was going really well until she had divorce papers delivered to him at work. What was even worse is that they had no idea that his wife was having an affair with his neighbor. The same neighbor who he had been fishing, camping, and having BBQ’s with for more than fifteen years!
When I learned of his situation, I made myself available as often as he wanted for me to be there. I would listen to him for hours telling me how much he loved her. I learned more about him during those talks than I ever could have during a normal outing with him. He was opening up to me in ways I never thought was possible. He cried and laughed and I cried and laughed right along with him! He told me about how he had met her when he was just nineteen at a baseball game. She was eighteen and although they had never met before as luck would have it they got tickets right next to each other. Three children and twenty-six years later she was leaving him for another man. His next door neighbors!
One night after we had been talking for over three hours, he told me he was going to take his life! He said that the pain was just too great! I pleaded with him that he had a lot to live for and I would be there for him no matter what. I knew I was unable to deal with a situation like this by myself so I asked him to call one of those “Depression Helplines” call centers and get some help! I used the term depression instead of suicide so that it would not freak him out. However, his immediate response was no way! I told him it would be a tremendous favor to me and that what could it hurt? After all if he didn’t like there answers he could simply hang up the telephone.
Fortunately, he agreed to finally call. I looked up the number on the web and even dialed the number for him and put the phone on speaker. The telephone rang three times and a soft voice on the other end answered, “Good Evening, XYZ Mental Health Clinic, would you please hold.” I couldn’t believe my ears! I’ve heard jokes about this for years but never in my wildest dreams would I believe this could actually happen. We both looked at each other and for a moment we were silent. Then out of nowhere we both broke out into laughter. The kind of laughter that comes from down deep in your belly! We must have laughed for fifteen or twenty minutes.
After we both collected ourselves, I took a look at the number I had dialed for him and I had dropped down one line and had dialed the regular office number and not the Helpline. We looked at each other again and began laughing again. I have never made a better timelier mistake in my life. To this day we still look back on that incident and laugh.
Thank you and may God bless you for reviewing this leadership story.