June 8, 2018

Victims of Suicide

Many years ago, a friend of mine shared that her brother was a victim of suicide. I had never heard it described in that way before, and she went on to explain that suicide is traditionally considered a sin by many due to religious beliefs, and as a result, those who take their own lives are often accused of committing a sin by doing so. What followed was a very painful but candid conversation about her brother and what her family had been through. Her family, and so many others who have been affected by suicide, choose to see their loved ones as victims of mental illness. I've never looked at suicide the same way since, and I'm so grateful for that conversation. 

Someone commented today, after hearing the tragic news about Anthony Bourdain, that everyone else has a version of you that is based on perception and assumption. This couldn't be more true of the life we portray online on social media a daily basis - we never really know what's happening behind closed doors. 

In an age where we continue to share the highlight reels of our lives, there's an increasing pressure to make it seem like everything is OK, which can make it even more difficult for some to talk openly about their suffering. 

I felt compelled to write this post because the news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain struck a cord with me personally. Members of my family have been victims of suicide, and friends of mine have been directly and indirectly affected by similar tragedies. 

Too many people continue to fight silent battles; those people are our friends, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins, our aunts, uncles and neighbours. They are suffering with feelings of isolation, unworthiness and destitution. 

Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses are not rational thought processes, and it is incredibly difficult for someone who has never suffered with mental illness to understand what people go through. We should never expect someone to think or act rationally under these circumstances, or assume they will ask for help. People struggling with depression may not want want to burden their loved ones and they may feel too ashamed to reach out. They may feel incredibly isolated and that nobody would understand their situation. 

It's the responsibility of family, friends and community to look for the signs of mental illness, wherever they may present themselves. We must also never take peace of mind for granted, or dramatise our day to day challenges. 

Whenever you see someone who needs help, give them support, don’t sit back and wait for them to ask. Odds are they never will.

I hope we can all take something from the struggles of these celebrity suicides and learn about the harm that comes from people feeling they have to hide their suffering. 

Please reach out - whether you're struggling yourself or whether you suspect that someone is suffering with mental illness. The more we continue to share our stories, and strive to understand the essential humanity underlying people with such illnesses, we will be one step closer to being able to deal with mental health stigma in our communities.

"Maybe there's enlightenment enough to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom...is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go." - Anthony Bourdain

If you are in Barbados and struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, or have a friend or family member in Barbados who is, you can contact Samaritans of Barbados via their Hotline: (246)429-9999 or e-mail their Helpline: samaritansbdos@yahoo.com

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