The best often die by their own hand
just to get away
and those left behind
can never quite understand
would ever want to
SUICIDE, as far back as I remember I had first heard that word said about a young man who had committed it in the government accommodation allotted to my father as residence when I was 4-5. I was a smart child and even after the constant evasive answers to my persistent but vague questions about the word by both my parents, I had presumed that generally whatever we commit is not something good, SUICIDE must be something bad.
For years we lived in that house and my not superstitious father dismissed all rumors of the house being haunted by the boy who committed suicide. I also never felt anything out of the way, but my educated but overly religious mother and gossip-mongering neighbors would sometimes attribute some misfortune or the other to that house.
The discomfort around the word though stayed with me, as something bad, something very painful that must never be "committed" or named. The deceased young man's father was my father's colleague and he always looked sad to me.
Years later a friend, a medical student committed the unsaid. He was one of the most happy go lucky people I had ever met at that stage in my life, very friendly, warm, charming . The suicide note ran into pages, as if he was planning this for days, weeks or even months, and living two lives alternatively.
This one affected me worse than ever because I knew this person but was too young to still understand mental health issues and their implications fully. Sensationalism of the incident in the local media and small town gossip overwhelmed my understanding of what could have been done, or could be done if need be in future. Lots of "why's" remained.
During my Masters in Literature I realized all my favorite famous authors, mostly women, had all dealt with various mental health issues and strangely all of them had committed suicide. But thankfully I was mature enough than most people my age by then and never ever romanticized suicide.
Plath my favourite poet,had painfully gasses herself in an oven while lining all gaps with wet towels in the kitchen to protect her children. Woolf had filled her pockets with stones and drowned herself. Hemingway shot himself. Anne Sexton had shut herself in a garage with the car running and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
I read their biographies, their works and along with some world class literature also found some peek into their struggles with mental health.
So SUICIDE was no longer a stigma, but remained somewhat of a fear for many years to come.
A few more years passed and one day a fellow hostel mate in our university hostel attempted suicide. Luckily she was saved, her body was, she never came back to complete her doctorate, instead had to be sent to a mental asylum . Even after so many years I sometimes see rather hear her screaming as her family members literally dragged her down the corridor to take her home. This scared me a lot then, I was also at wits end about completing my thesis and many personal issues at that time.
But I was better informed this time, slightly if not completely.
Started meditating, taking care of my own mental health along with my physical health. Started talking ,writing, always listening if someone needed to share something.
Years later as I struggled with post-partum depression, I realized that all of us , every single human being goes through stress triggers and low mental health phases. Strangely sometimes the very things that should be the reason of joy and solace lead you into the darkness of mental illness and depression. Sometimes apparently happy events/triggers like a new job, new relationship, parenthood, change of location can also pull you down instead of pushing you forward.
Imagine if apparently "good" changes could lead to so much misery what could "bad" changes like - death of a loved one, ending of a relationship, professional distress and chronic depression could do to our minds.
Only those of us with support, awareness and care survive, survive better and seeking help, self-help is always the first step. But in a society like us with so much stigma about mental illness and mental health, in a society that conditions us to hush up matters and never speak openly about our issues, people live rather suffer silently in depression for years and others are not only apathetic about them but only accelerate their misery and loneliness, sometimes even prevent the sufferer from seeking/getting any help.
I also understood that a mental health issues were a huge grey area in a society like ours. Only a handful are aware and very few show any sensitivity towards the sufferer. Most of the time it is dismissed as an "anger" issue or bad attitude problem and the mental and emotional suffering of the victim is overlooked and sadly often even made fun of as "drama".
Every SUICIDE whether it was a just a small page 10 news in the newspaper, an incident in the vicinity or that of a celebrity brought back to me my own sadness and an overwhelming helplessness. I grieved about the apathy of the world, for days my nightmares would be about the loneliness of the victim.
In recent past as the famous Mrs.Doubtfire actor and one of my all time favorites Robin Williams, committed suicide , it acted as a huge trigger for me. It also opened a new perspective to me about suicide- that nothing fills the void- success, fame, money nothing. Maybe only a little love, care and concern could have helped, maybe, who knows.
Two days ago I came to know about the suicide of someone who was an acquaintance, a family member's friend, someone who had attended my wedding about more than a decade ago, someone who was "apparently" successful and happy and living in a first world country ,where we believe support and services regarding mental health are much better and readily available than those in India.
I kept reading about her, her facebook profile and page remain, and a lot of questions. Only one question keeps coming back- Why this powerlessness? Why this helplessness?
I am no expert, just a learner, just someone who has suffered the apathy and the misery of depression. Please refer to the article from the link below for a more professional and comprehensive understanding of Suicide.
All I can say- please show you care, please express that it matters, every person matters, if you can't empathize at least do not make fun or dismiss a mental health issue as 'drama'.
Sometimes just a kind word from you , an empathetic listening and a smile could save a life.