Over the last 10 days, 15 young people have taken their own lives in Belfast. There is not a week goes past when I’m on call, that I don’t receive a phone call to inform me there has been another suicide. It has become an epidemic in all our cities and communities, cutting a swathe through our society. And, I for one, feel helpless and don’t know what to do. So when I don’t know what to do, I write.
I wrote a post not long ago where I referred to the suicide of the American poet and author, Sylvia Plath. Suicide affects all echelons of life, money and fame are not the key to a happy, fulfilled existence. Robin Williams anyone? Depression does not discriminate and a 7 figure bank account protects you no more from its clutches than a paper shield on a battlefield. It cares not who it cuts down.
Some say only cowards take their own lives but I don’t buy that. I wouldn’t have the guts to step off that chair, to swallow those pills, to pull the trigger. People in such positions have been driven to the end of their tether, they are at their wits end. To choose to end your life must take a degree of personal courage. To take that final, irrevocable step into whatever you believe in, known or unknown. The decision to end your life is the biggest decision of anyone’s life.
Suicide is painless? I doubt that, for most it is a clean, quick death. They do it to escape from a pain I can’t imagine, a pain which has driven them to this most extreme of solutions. It is the pain they leave behind I struggle to comprehend. The broken lives of those left to pick up the pieces, to try and answer the endless questions that assail them but which all boil down to one simple word – why?
I believe those who take their own lives are not, by and large, selfish people. They are not insensitive, rather so sensitive they were never able to develop the necessary social and emotional armour to cope with the car crash we call life. They have entered a state of mind where they honestly see no other option for them which involves life. They are not thinking rationally, it is a place where fear and pain overrides everything else.
But, let me get one thing straight. Suicide is neither glamorous or romantic. It’s not candlelit baths and rose petals. I’ve been to the scenes. It’s dirty, disturbing and debilitating. It’s finality hits you over the back of the head so hard your teeth rattle and everything changes forever. There is no comeback, no second chance. It’s over. How many would say they regretted their decision if we could only speak to them now?
It’s so many unanswered questions, so many unfulfilled dreams. It’s the fear of a parent when their stroppy teenager throws a temper tantrum and storms off to their room. It’s that homeless person who you saw every day on the daily commute and now, we’ll they’re not about anymore. It’s the out of character comment that you don’t pick up on at the time but then ruminate over after the event. Was that a cry for help?
I don’t have all the answers, actually I don’t have any answers. I read poems and prose from fellow bloggers that hint at unspeakable pain, unmentionable depths of despair and depression which finds them teetering on the brink. I watch as bloggers disappear from WordPress and I wonder what if? I feel useless, helpless, hopeless. For without hope, there is nothing but the abyss, so deep and welcoming.
I don’t know what to do. So I write.
What do we do?