For some reason, it seemed the depressives of London all decided to pick the same weekend to attempt to end it all. Even the nurses answering the blue call phones at the hospital commented on the number of overdoses and slit wrists that were coming in. There was one call that stood out, though. A woman in her thirties. Her husband had just walked out, leaving her with a selection of children between four and twenty-one. Beside herself, she couldn’t go on. Then and there, in the presence of her kids, she’d decided to commit suicide. You may ask yourself what sort of person would kill themselves in front of her children, but if you want proof that the balance of her mind was disturbed, look no further than the method she used to die.

She drank hydrochloric acid.

If you’re not familiar with hydrochloric acid, it’s a pungent, fuming corrosive that will burn through almost anything it comes into contact with. It is highly reactive and dangerous. Just inhaling it can be fatal because of the damage it will cause to your lungs. It is used for removing rust from metals, unblocking drains and in oil production for dissolving rock. The acid burned through one of the paramedics’ gloves and ruined the ambulance’s blanket. It took nearly an hour for the crew to clean up the vehicle afterwards.

The patient’s children tried to help her and in doing so, got the chemical on their bodies, causing some nasty burns, so the crew took them in too. A blue call was placed, and the patient was semiconscious and breathing at the time, but as the crew told me later, they didn’t think she could possibly survive. That acid would eat her up from the inside out.

On the way to the hospital, the patient’s ten year old son told the paramedic that as soon as he was back from the hospital, he was going to kill himself too.

On the whole, not the most cheerful of calls.

Published Aug 25, 2008 - 28 Comments and counting

28 Comments on “Suicide”
  1. Karin, RN Says:

    That is very sad. I feel sorry for the children and the permanent damage the parents caused, especially the mother.

  2. KJX Says:

    What a tragic story – poor woman and poor poor children.

    Are you ok Mark – that must have been a harder call than most to cope with.

  3. Katie Says:

    That is so tragic.

    I’d put the increase down to the end of summer, people feel they have nothing more to look forward to, winter is coming, along with the feelings we all get when we don’t see enough daylight.

  4. Jo Says:

    That is one of the saddest hings I’ve read – and I used to work on a busy A&E reception.

    That poor woman must have been totally desolate and desperate to do that in front of her kids – I hope that they get the help they need so that the 10 year old doesn’t follow through with his plan

  5. James Says:

    That is tragic.

    If only she’d seen another way out.

    Im guessing the kids got counselling and what not.. but any idea how it ended? Especially for the 10 year old?

    Must have been tough on you as well.. you ok?

  6. Lola Snow Says:

    OMG. I am speechless. That is one of the most horrific things I have heard.
    Hats off to you for posting about it though.

  7. Live Oak suicide cleanup Says:

    It is pretty amazing the methods people attempt to use in suicide. It just shows that they are not in their right mind.

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  9. Charles Nullens Says:

    Your blog serves as a very good reality-check – makes my problems seem insignificant in comparison to what other people are going through. I feel extremely sad for the children involved in this case but less so for the mum who – despite her own issues – committed a very selfish act.

  10. Ailbhe Leamy Says:

    Oh, gods.

    I can’t get over people who say someone in enough pain to choose THAT is “selfish” as though that’s not allowed.


  11. Mark Myers Says:

    I didn’t take this call – I was allocating at the time and talked to the crew afterwards, but thanks for the concern! I don’t know what the outcome was, I am afraid, but I’m sad to say it is unlikely she would have survived.

  12. Erin Says:

    sorry you find the term ‘selfish’ when in relation to suicide incorrect Ailbhe Leamy, but that is what it is. Yes, there certainly is more going on with her than a simple attention seeking act, obviously a lot more. But to commit suicide in the way she chose? She was not thinking of her children, she was not thinking of her family. She was thinking of her partner and all the pain she would cause him.
    It was a nasty horrible, showy death, performed in front of her children. I would feel more sorry for her had she taken the quieter way out, if she was so determined to kill herself.
    It might make me sound like a cold bitch, but I simply cannot have any sympathy for someone who has coldly destroyed her children’s lives.
    Not to mention the delightful memories it has given the crew who had to deal with it, and the call taker.

  13. Sam Says:

    I recently read an interesting book concerning suicide letters. The anger and bitterness leapt out of the page and it was so sad to see people use their own death as a means of payback to ex husbands/wives etc.
    Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness, just as DSH is often attention seeking. I’ve tried both many times. Depression does make you selfish and I would have sympathy for anyone who reaches the irrational decision that their own life is of such little value that they can use it to hurt someone else. This woman wouldn’t have done what she did if she was in her right mind.

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  16. Jan Says:

    Hmmm, selfish – I dunno. I talk to a lot of suicidal people and what the non-suicidal, non depressed see as selfish doesn’t always read the same to those at the other end of the spectrum. there are countless reasons for someone deciding to end their life including revenge (as someone alluded to). Whatever your views I can’t imagine being so desperate and despairing to choose this method as a way out. Suicide may well be the only option left to some and I don’t see that as cowardice – indeed it takes a degree of courage to decide you really don’t want to wake up ever again. Having said all that, I do feel for those who have to find, clear up and cope with the ‘successful’ and the continuing pain for the surviving family.

  17. anonymous Says:

    nobody is considering that the probable cause of all this is the husband, years of emotional, psychological, economical (there is no need for it to be physical) abuse from his part and finally abandonment could have caused this. Never forget there is mild psychopaths among us, the kind that never gets to become a serial killer or inmate in prison, but who ruin lives nonetheless.

  18. Mark Myers Says:

    Or on the other hand, the poor husband might have cracked after years of dealing with his wife’s erratic behaviour and decided leaving her was the only thing to do. We don’t really know anything except that it wasn’t the children’s fault, and they will be the ones who suffer the most (assuming the mother dies).

  19. Erin Says:

    Psychologically speaking, if you wanted to look at the history of such acts, if it was a woman suffering from abuse from her partner, her death wouldn’t be as showy. Typically when it is a person who suffers long term abuse, they tend to kill themselves in fairly quiet manners. Overdose, hanging, slit wrists, drowning, etc. They tend to be deaths that are easily reversed and a more cries for help. In this woman’s case, it seems more likely that we have a revenge death. If not in front of her children, they were certainly in the house, and she chose a loud, messy, showy way to kill herself, that was not easily reversed.

    Of course, this is a blanket profile, could be way off base. She could be someone who didn’t realise that the caustic warning symbols on the bottle really weren’t lying when they showed the hand being dissolved away. Maybe she couldn’t read, or read English, or never looked at the warning symbols on the bottle. Who knows. It’s just such a horrid situation, and I still find all my sympathy goes solely to those children, and none to the mother.

  20. Lauren Says:

    That’s horrible. Poor women and poor children. I hope they get some serious counselling/therapy to try and make sure this doesn’t turn into a vicious cycle.

    One of my sister’s best mates from high school hung himself at the weekend. He was only 20.

  21. Caroline Says:

    Many years ago a client drank bleach in the back of my car…my brand new car…not a happy outcome despite me driving like a bat out of hell to the hospital..and the smell of bleach, stomach contents and demise takes the shine of your new motor on a permanent basis…….
    I sound flippant – it’s a defense mechanism, it was fifteen years ago and I can still picture the scene all too clearly. The expression of unbearable pain ia a haunting thing

  22. skakitty Says:

    All i can say is that i know when i’ve been at my lowest- my only thought was ‘everyone would be better off without me’ – I can see why people say suicide is selfish- but that is from the point of view of the friends/relatives left beind, not the suicidal person.

  23. NJ EMS Says:

    I just linked this story to EMT CITY

  24. James Says:

    Can I add some insight from the perspective of someone who has been dealing with suicidal feelings his whole adult life?
    If there is one thing that really, really gets on my nerves, it is people going on about how ‘selfish’ suicide is. What that usually means is, “But it will hurt me!” Well, guess what? That’s your problem. Their problem is that they can’t think of anything in it for them if they don’t top themselves, and the best counter-argument you can come up with amounts to emotional blackmail. Asking someone who is experiencing such appalling misery that they’re willing to take their own life to keep on enduring the unendurable just so they can avoid hurting you is what’s selfish, despicably so in my opinion.
    I’m sorry to rant, but I just had to get that off my chest. I was greeted by that same attitude from my family the day after I was released from residential psychiatric care after a botched suicide attempt, and it was touch-and-go for several days afterwards if I wouldn’t end up having another go.

  25. Theresa Says:


    If I were to commit suicide I wouldn’t tell a soul, but there are some who will. A cry for Wolf that they are hurting deep down inside and no one is listening to them. Does it take as much as that for anyone to notice, We as care givers have seen to much BS, so those who are dying but have no choice to die if all measures are exhausted (cancer,etc.)But those who commit suicide deserve our Judgement and be treated anyless.

    I read posts on how people who are slitting their wrists, and one medic partner telling this 50 yr old woman that she was doing it wrong and showed her how on his wrist. Later in the week in hosptial she left a note thanking the medic from Unit 86 and naming the medic who told her how to do it properly. He was fired without pay and was sentenced to serve time in jail.

    Hey if that’s the case, that book would make a best seller, telling them how to properly slit their wrists, that way your dealing with a DB insted of one who botched their suicide up.

    18 yr old found dead from strangulation do to hanging in his grandmother’s garage, was this over an ex-girlfriend or something else?

    And even to hear about your own family member is disheartning. So while you sit and ponder how mad you are at the world when they do stupid things such as suicide, think for a moment if you were in their shoes, what the mind is telling them to do but to murder their family because the voices told them too, when society ignored them the first time.

    Will there be a second chance, third?

  26. rebecca Says:

    suicide is a daily struggle for some i can’t imagine leaving my children to be involved in the actual deed but i can understand the need to end it all the overwhelming feelings that you are not good enough to continue in other peoples lives puts aside any arguments they have for u to continue with your life. If you have never walked in the shoes of someone feeling this way then you will never understand they know the rational arguments they understand why they should not do it but that rationality is not forward at that time all they can feel is despair, lonliness and a conclusion to their pain sometimes it is a cry for help so what better that than the finality of really ending it. Everyone deserves compassion whether they have enduced there condition themselves or whether it is beyond there control ciniscism is the worst responce to have

  27. Melva Says:

    People should read this.

  28. feathers Says:

    Lots of reference to selfish and so on, do you realise someone in the state of suicide, does not even think about anything but that one thing, everything else goes from their mind. Total blank except the action. Very much doubt she saw it as being selfish but a way to end the tremendous hurt and pain inside her, perhaps if you have never experienced this ‘abnormal’ intense hurt/pain then you will have no idea.

    It pushes you over the edge, total blackness, for someone to do such a thing their mind, their hurt/pain has to be immense, after all inside each one of us is the instinct to survive, so suicide goes totally against that basic instinct, perhaps that will show that someone in this state is not thinking, not rationally, not capable of very much. For a human being to go against the instinct to survive, built in each one of us is unnatural.

    Heard a nurse in A & E comment about suicide some people are not just happy, totally wrong, mental health illness is beyond that, it showed for someone working in an environment you would have expected knowledge to some degree total ignorance of mental health issues.

    To suggest SAD as a reason for suicide or winter coming along is again irrelevant and shows little knowledge of the desperation, hurt, these people feel inside.

    It is not about feeling happy, gosh most people with mental health issues would think that was a walk in the park, to just not feel happy, total mental anguish, almost torment is somewhat closer.

    We know nothing of this women’s background, what she may or may not had to endure, neither will a mother knowing, purposefully put her children in a situation
    unless her mind is in such a state that it has gone beyond everything.

    We cannot comment really as to why or whatever, not enough is known, but obviously the circumstances tell us that for this woman to do this to herself she had needed help desperately…..her helplessness, desperation and isolation to cause her to do this must have been immense.

    Nee Naw
    Nee Naw was a blog about life in the London Ambulance Service control room. It was written by Suzi Brent from 2005 to 2010. The blog is no longer being updated, but the archives will remain here.
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