What, if anything can and should you do when someone has given up on trying to live life? Consider this case study.
A veteran of the Second Gulf War did not return from that conflict as he went into it. Most of his colon was surgically removed. He suffers from seizures. His cognitive powers have been impaired. He is afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.).
While in the VA Hospital on suicide watch for months, the bank foreclosed on his mortgage, and seized the property. His wife left and divorced him. The VA System was something he, has family and I had to battle to get him on full disability, and full coverage for the damage done to body, mind and soul while in active militqary service.
Working with advocacy attorneys we got the bank to let him back into his home, to make back mortgage payments, waiving interest and penalties for the time he was on suicide watch in the VA. Then, he had no access to his checking account, mail, or bills.
There is nothing we can do about the failed marriage.
While on suicide watch, he refused to see his family. He did request me to visit him daily, which I did. The drive takes me three counties east of my home, but I drove it faithfully until he was out of the danger zone. There after I saw him by request when I was at that VA Hospital.
For some years, he lives with his widowed father. His home was sold with most of the proceeds going to his former wife.
He has given up on life. Suicidal thoughts are present, although not actively instantiated. He is under therapy, and on appropriate medications.
He is not allowed to drive, due to his seizures. His father in close to ninety years of age, and not able to drive the six county round trip to the VA. I take him to and from the VA for various forms of treatment and prescription fulfillment.
He does nothing to keep him engaged in his life. No goals, no projects, no activity of any useful and productive kind. There are things he can do to improve his health. Exercise, proper diet, regular hours and good sleep habits. He does none of this. He asks me what would be the point?
He is not on any schedule. He is not working towards any goal of any kind. He just passes time with opposable thumbs communications to people on chat sites. He watches flight from reality fantasy movies. He rarely leaves his home, except for the VA appointments. By mutual consent, he has as little as possible to do with his brother and sister. They want him out of the home in which they all grew up. They want to put their father in a nursing home, and sell the house.
Since lack of potency is one of his afflictions, he does not keep company or want to speak with single women. Other than his Mother's Funeral, he does not attend the Church in which he was raised. I have offered to drive him to and from his services. He always refuses.
When I can get the time. I offer to drive him to lakes for shoreline picnics. To parks so he can take nature photographs.. That is something he used to like to do. He more often than not refuses. As time permits, I offer to take him out to lunch or dinner, or for coffee, my treat. No is the answer I hear most.
When I drive him to and from the VA, I listen to what he has to say. Mostly he remains silent. When he does speak, I do my best to identify and support interests expressed. I make him aware how proud I am of his service to America. I am careful to be sure he knows how much I respect his sacrifices. I let him know that as long as I am around, he is not alone in this world. He needs to hear that.
He has shared with me that he is biding his time until his father passes on. When that happens, he plans on taking his own life. His present health habit and immersing himself in clinical depression deeper and deeper are both slow forms of suicide as it stands.
At my request, he promised to call me to come over if and when he decides to act on his suicidal impulses. We both know that is a lie. When he wants to do that, he will do so when I am unavailable, and not in a position to intervene on his behalf.
What can I do for someone who has given up on living life?
To the extent he lets me, to be there for him. To provide him with unconditional love, respect, and fellowship. To catch him in the act of doing something right, and reinforcing it with praise and encouragement. It is his life to life. These are his choices to make. All I can do is to be there for him as long as he allows. To make what time he gives himself as comfortable and as upbeat as it can be.
So much to do. So many to help. So little time. And often, too much negative push back when trying to be there for others.
What do you do when all the obvious moves no longer work?
You put aside your own emotions. You be there for those most in need anyway. It is the least we can do for other children of G-d, whatever their faith or lack thereof who are hurting. Particularly veterans who laid it all on the line for country, and have no life left to show for it.