This isn’t the first time I’ve read a book about suicide (By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead is my favorite so far). But this isn’t really just about pain, desperation and suicide. It’s also about how to help those who cannot see clearly the meaning of their lives, and how we most of the time fail to help them.
Billy seemed so confident about himself. Given that he was able to handle his dad very well during his own depressed time, Billy disregards the fact that not everyone has the same story. As he joins the Listeners (a suicide hotline), he was thinking of saving the world by keeping people from their suicidal urges and save them from themselves. He was even disappointed when he isn’t receiving a call from a Likely (a suicide completer). Thing is, not all depressed people are likely to kill themselves. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to, and unload the heavy feeling they have inside.
He wasn’t able to set aside his own emotions. As Billy receives desperate calls from Jenney, he can’t help but feel her pain, enter her world and fall in love in the process. He didn’t realize that his personal emotions could jeopardize them both, which happened in the end.
He broke the rules. There were only four rules that he needed to follow: 1. What happens at the Listeners stays at Listeners, 2. It’s not about you, 3. Enter their world, and 4. Always ask. Billy was good at first, but as he fell in love with Jenney over their phone conversations, he forgets all about the rules. He told his friend Gordy about Jenney, he poured his own frustrations at Jenney, and in the process, he forgot that it’s all about Jenney in the end as she was an Incoming, he forgot to ask her how she was feeling.
He tried too hard to save Jenney.I could understand that it gets frustrating somehow when we cannot do anything about a situation, if things are out of control and resources are limited. But had Billy guarded his own feelings for Jenney, maybe he wouldn’t try too hard to save her. I am not saying that it’s wrong of Billy to keep her from killing herself, but then, maybe Jenney would somehow reconsider, had Billy listened to her.
The ending was heartbreaking yet compelling. It made me realize how situations can be out of our control and all we have to do is be sorry for what happened. It’s hard, yes, but there always some other ways where we can prevent the situation from getting out of hand. In the end, it’s not always about you, but about the others as well.
I remember back in late 1990’s, we were given all resources that could help teenagers understand themselves better. We were given a hotline number, Dial a Friend. It wasn’t like the Listeners, where you could call if you have suicidal urges but it helped a lot when you have a lot of troubled times and can’t figure out how to deal with it when it gets frustrating. I am not sure if it’s still the number though.