Suicide: A Personal Story

“Did you really want to die?”

“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”

“Then why do they do it?”

“Because they want to stop the pain.”

Tiffanie DeBartolo…How to kill a Rock Star

As a psychologist, I have been involved with patients who have, at some time in their lives, thought seriously about suicide, some more seriously than others. As I stated in a recent post, these signals should always be taken seriously and many of the myths that exist about the reasons for suicide are just that, myths. Even though it is advantageous to talk to suicidal patients about the reasons for living, one must be infinitely careful about this. The most common reason for living given to try to snap people out of these thoughts is “what about the ones left behind, how will they feel?” Some suicidal thoughts are brought on by the fact that the ones left behind would be much better off without that person around. Justification enough in a suicidal mind to end it all.

I have, myself been touched by suicide on a personal and professional basis. It is exactly 18 years to the day that my best friend hung himself in his apartment. This incident, sad as it was, changed my view on life completely. This is his story :

When I first came to live in Germany, it seemed a strange, cold land full of distant, unfriendly people, (this is a view that many Anglo-Saxons have but it changed later). I craved conversation and company in my own language and one day met Jack through a mutual female friend. I guessed Jack was gay and he was but it didn’t stop us forming a good friendship which lead on to us working together, forming a small company. Jack was full of life, an American from the mid-west with an open mind to everything and everybody. As a friend, he was always there when needed, cheerfully helping his friends with no expectations of something in return. His favorite phrase when people noticed his helping attitude was “that’s where the rubber meets the road!” Our friendship had lasted four years when a day came he was depressed and irritable. No amount of prompting could reveal what was in his mind and his method of avoidance was to disappear and allow no contact with anyone. We were all scratching our heads and after numerous unanswered calls and visits to his apartment, the police were called. They broke into his apartment to find him hanging from the studio above. His suicide note revealed that he had contracted AIDS and due to his desire not to be a burden on his family and friends, it was his wish to leave this world while still having all his faculties.

Needless to say, I went through a mixture of emotions from disbelief to anger at Jack to anger at myself for not recognising that he was in trouble. (In fact, I did recognise but never thought he would go so far). To make it worse, Jack never showed anyone the pain inside him. He was always happy to take on other peoples’ troubles and lend a helping hand where he could. His depression and despair were kept private. It showed me how fragile life really is, that we can take nothing for granted and we can spend a lot of time throwing our lives away on thinking about things we cannot change, about things that might never happen and holding grudges that make us unhappy. I will never forget my friend but out of his death came the birth of a new realism and awareness, not only for me but for everyone who knew him.

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