Why I never want to be handcuffed for being suicidal

A recent study by the “Depression and Anxiety Journal” found that one in five college students have considered taking their own life. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m certainly not the first person to go to campus police after having extremely dangerous thoughts of suicidal ideation and being that close to acting on them, and I also know I won’t be the last one either.

My story, however, begins like this: One day during a week I felt extremely depressed, I walked into the lobby of the campus police station and told the person who asked why I was there that I wanted to kill myself. The next moment I found myself sobbing uncontrollably, a phone pressed against my ear as a dispatch officer waited on the line with me until a couple of police officers came to help me. Why did I feel so ashamed and embarrassed even as the officers escorted me into a room where they were willing to hear me out?

Twenty-nine percent of people say they’re embarrassed to speak about their mental health, according to a study conducted in 2017 by insurance company One Medical.

After what seemed like a prolonged conversation with one of the officers, I was given the option of going to see my therapist or ultimately being taken to the hospital, but the officer would have to handcuff me before driving me there. The thought of that happening scared me to death–I know, I’m hilarious–so instead I had someone drive me to my therapist’s office, where I spent a couple of gruesome hours trying to get myself back together.

Being handcuffed was just the protocol police officers have to follow, so who was I to feel some way about it? The regulations were there to keep me safe, weren’t they?

I didn’t feel safe at all, feeling like I was some sort of criminal for telling this police officer I wanted to die instead. Ever since then, I knew that I never wanted to experience that.

I can firmly say that I can’t blame anyone directly for this kind of procedure, and I’m sure there are other perspectives that I haven’t considered yet in regards to it. Right now, though, I can only see handcuffs as a symbol of a system that fails to understand mentally ill people, further perpetuating the stigma against reaching out for support.

In the moment, I knew going to campus police was the right thing to do and I absolutely stand by my choice to seek out that kind of help. I sincerely hope that students don’t get discouraged from doing so, especially since we have many other resources for it on campus.

However, I also stand by my choice to say that reaching out for help is in no way a fully rewarding feeling. No one ever tells you about the “ugliness” of doing so, and no one ever tells you just how grimey you might feel after.

In a system that values safety over everything else, some things are more inevitable than others. If you’re like me, you know there’s no justifiable reason for making our pain seem like a crime.