Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Suicide - who is actually selfish here?

CAUTION - this blog may be triggering.

Like millions of other people, I woke up to discover the news of Robin William’s death on 12th August 2014.  As a kid from the 90s he was a man who brought me laughter and tears.  Whilst any death is deeply sad to discover, his suicide only makes it worse.  It has come to light that he suffered from severe depression.

Depression is still very poorly understood, by the general public and researchers alike.  There is still the perception that depression is an emotion, rather than an illness, and people cannot understand why those, who are surrounded by loved ones, money and good fortune, would want to take their life.  Researchers still cannot understand why some of us will suffer from the illness whilst others won’t, and what causes the illness.

What is probably more poorly understood about depression is suicide.  People perceive it as a cowardice, selfish or attention seeking act.  This is far from the truth.  People who are suicidal don’t want to hurt their loved ones, or cause trauma to others, they simply want to vanish, to not feel the pain (or nothingness) anymore. 

Depression, as an illness, is incredibly debilitating.  Not only does it sap people of their happiness and energy, it saps them of their hope.  Simple, daily tasks like having a shower, making a cup of tea or to make basic choices are a great challenge.  Things that people once loved doing, like seeing friends, baking, reading and more are no longer enjoyed and no longer bring any pleasure.  There is no care in appearance.  The senses are dulled, colour is no longer bright and sweet sounds just a noise.  Not only do people get headaches, joint pains, stomach aches and general pains, the mental anguish of feeling like a failure, worthless and a waste is far worse.  There is a feeling of nothingness.  And when it continues for weeks and months hope slowly slips away that there will be an end or a relief, and how people would be better off without you. 

With depression still somewhat a taboo and people too ashamed to speak out in fear of being stigmatised, is it really surprising that people wear a facade and try all they can to live on like nothing is wrong?  Is it surprising that people just want it to end?  That’s what breaks my heart the most.  It doesn’t matter if they’re a well known public figure or somebody’s friend from down the road, finding out that somebody has committed suicide is painful to discover.  How lonely that person must have felt, how much pain they must have been in, to end it in such tragic circumstances. 

And I somewhat blame the public for this.  Depression is seen as a weakness, a choice, and an emotion.  OK, it’s hard to really explain to somebody how depression feels without them having gone through it themselves, but at what cost does it take to be sympathetic?  How difficult is it to ask somebody if they’re OK, or to invite them over for a cup of tea?  If people can ask their loved ones how they are after an infection, an operation or accident, why can’t they ask their friends suffering from a mental illness if they’re OK?  People who suffer from depression, and any mental illness for that matter, need the love of their friends and family to carry on.  They don’t ask them to be an expert on their illness or to be their carer, they just want them to care and to understand that they may be having a bad day, or a bad patch.  Stigmatising somebody, telling them to ‘get on with it’ or to ‘stop being stupid’ only makes their pain worse.

That is selfish.

So, I ask you, if you know somebody who has a mental illness, just do one thing, for them.  Send them a text or Facebook message, give them a call, invite them over for a chat, visit the park with them, let them know that you care and that you are there.  It doesn’t take much, and that can go a very long way.  You could be saving their life.


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