Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late – Please Read
If someone asks you for help, either on Twitter or Facebook, don’t delay in acting.
It saddens me to write this, but I think this is a story that must be told.
In early December 2013 I was approached by a Twitter follower in confidence (I’ll call him Bob), asking for help, as his situation had steadily deteriorated, and was looking dire. I knew him reasonably well, and he had always been supportive of me and my work, but I couldn’t really say I “know” him, not really anyhow.
It seems that, after severe nerve damage, he had been left wheelchair bound since 2004, and after a particularly awful set of circumstances, eventually he was left, alone with his cats in an apartment since 2011 (his wife left him and moved to Africa to shack up with a 23 year old, took all the money they had, etc). He has been this way since, with nothing but his two cats for company, and the occasional visit from his rapidly aging mother. Bob has no other family.
Bob’s only source of communication was his phone, where he would get on Twitter, and never once let on that his situation was bad. He was just happy to have that small window to the outside world, and though the nerve damage had made it difficult for him to actually use the phone, it was something important for him.
But things were not going well for Bob. His wheelchair was broken, and he was unable to get it fixed. A new chair would cost $15,000 which was plainly out of reach for him. The welfare system had failed him, and being unable to afford rent on his home mobility devices, they were taken away from him. Having no source of income, his phone contract was set to run out in early January, his only source of external contact. The power was going to be cut, and it was coming up to a very cold Canadian winter for Bob.
This is when Bob reached out to me, through DMs on Twitter. He said, given my track record, that he thought I would be able to help. But I was a little suspicious at first, having never had any intimate contact with him previously, and was unsure how to proceed. It took me two weeks to do anything, during which time I had limited contact with him, and I assured him I hadn’t forgotten about him. He told me “Everyone else has.”
His tweets, over the course of two days were getting more depressing, and he was hinting that, after finding a place for his cats to live, that he would close his twitter account, and end his life. This was the last I heard from Bob.
It took this horrible realisation for me to actually do anything. I reached out to Twitter for help in finding Bob, and I only had his profile information to go by. Many people came forward with information, links and advice, but as you can see, my contact with Bob was so limited I had very little to go on. However, with help, I was able to at least alert the authorities of his plight, and a search for Bob is now underway. I thank those amazing people (I won’t mention names) for helping me to help Bob, even if it is too little, too late.
So why did Bob wait until things were this bad before he reached out to me? Bob used to work in Disability Services, and left after it was found that the service he worked for, the very same service that he would be requiring, was corrupt and inept. He knew that there was no way they could help. Also, he had reached out in the past on his blog in 2011, only not to me, and I think there was s sense that he thought he could get by, and didn’t want to bother anyone.
If I had acted at the first sign of trouble, when Bob first reached out to me, I feel that I could have done more for him. But I didn’t. I stalled and delayed, and now I will carry this guilt with me, because the plain truth is, I could have done more. I’m still evaluating exactly what this all means to me, but I can tell you now, it doesn’t feel good.
We are all connected via the Internet, and many of us, those without means to get out among the people in person, have only the Internet to contact people. So, if someone reaches out to you, in the way that Bob reached out to me, you have no choice but to take it at face value. The chances of it being a scam are present, and it is difficult to trust people online, but if you don’t take it as a true cry for help, and wait to act, it may be too late to help.
I feel I have to write this blog, if only to help others either in Bob’s situation, or someone who has been reached out to, to realise that we can do something, and we must use the tools at our disposal where we can. I hope for Bob’s sake that he is alive. I hope the authorities that are in place to help people like Bob have found him, and have a case worker with him to keep him going. But it seems I will never know.
If you, or someone you know are in a bad situation, or a seemingly hopeless one, please don’t be afraid to reach out. Below is a list of starting points for referral and aid services worldwide. It may seem like a maze of information, but the help you need is out there, and it’s just a matter of finding it. Your links to the outside world can help you do this.
Suicide Prevention Services Worldwide
Disability Services Worldwide
In Australia – Depression, Mental Health, Suicide Prevention
If any of my readers have further links and resources, please add them to the comments below.