The patient appeared just like any other young male I had seen during my residency at an innercity clinic. His hair was kept very short, he wore an excessively baggy red shirt that hung past his elbows and had a matching red handkerchief stuffed in his back jean pocket, but this was different.
Normally the complaint would be some vague pain along with allergies to anything non-opiate, or maybe a new onset diabetic who is having trouble understanding his disease, or someone complaining of a new rash, but this was different.
While looking down at the floor and in a low steady tone he calmly told me how depressed he was, how he has trouble waking up each day, how he can’t bear to think of the future, even if its only a week ahead, and how he had no interests in drinking, hanging out without friends, or even sex. Before he came to see me he recognized that he was at a desperate time in his life was and had gotten rid of all his firearms at home, but there was one catch. He stated that his job, doing air quotes with his hands, frequently required the use of a firearm. He also had fear about his “coworkers” who may turn on him if they learned how depressed he was. He was afraid because there was no “retirement plan” as he put it, the only way out being death of one sort or another.
I didn’t know what to do as they don’t teach you how to deal with suicidal gang members in medical school. How can I keep someone safe who is a danger to himself, but if he seeks help others become a danger to him? I offered to help him get admitted to a local mental hospital – which he refused out of fear of his coworkers. I suggested maybe moving away – but he said “they will find me anywhere I go, we have eyes everywhere and in every city.” We ended up deciding on trying an anti-depressant, which he could hide from coworkers, and a return visit in one month to see how he was doing.
But I never saw him again, and I wonder what fate he suffered. Did he take his own life? Did his acquintances turn on him as he feared? Maybe, just maybe, he was able to escape and get the treatment that any human – gangsta or not – has a right to.