Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Suicide is Painful

Once, not long ago, I decided to kill myself.
It was, it seemed, an entirely logical choice. I had borrowed a lot of money & each of the separate ventures had failed. I was farming but daily I was reminded that I had a reverse Midas touch. No matter how hard I worked the were results appalling.

I was in a world full of shit.

Noise hurt, talking was beyond me. Faced with deciding whether to use a spoon or a fork I would be reduced to tears at the enormity of the decision. Sleep was something other people did, I spent the night wandering the house, watching TV or crying. My skin crawled, I was a piece of barely living dirt.

Nameless, horrible anxieties tore at me. The open space of the yard threatened so much that I was forced to walk by the walls to the milking parlour because panic would strip the air around me of oxygen.

I knew how suicide hurt families. I could not bear the to add to my mother's and sisters' grief the pain of knowing I choose to die. An accident would need to be manufactured by the worlds most incompetent fool. Chainsaws hurt & there was nothing tall enough from which to fall.

Farming equips a man with little in the line of saleable skill but an odd set of competencies. I could inject an air bubble into a vein but it would have to be a massive bubble- over four times the capacity of the hypodermic I had. A combination of an old skinny spare wheel & farm veterinary equipment promised an end to this misery. I had to find the vein in one go, no marks, no suspicion. An unexplained and sudden death.

On a cold day in February I stood in my farmyard listening to a self worshipping clod tell me how successful his farm was, how his cows had calved in a six week period in January to abundant grass, high milk yields .... The Horn of Plenty had been planted in his domain and in every way I was his opposite. All I could focus on was if this bastard did not leave I would be too cold to find a vein without making a tell tale mess.

By the time he left I was reduced to a shivering self loathing lump, my abject failure as a farmer drilled into me by a man with the tact of a charging rhino & near-psychotic, narcissistic sense of his own value. I was too cold to find a vein easily.....

The next day instead I went to my GP.

I'm writing this because in the last week I've encountered three suicides, three unfortunates in my extended circle who found no choice but their own deaths.  Depression kills and it is not possible that no one noticed that there was something wrong in the lives of those unfortunate people. We need to know the symptoms & signs of depression  and we need to know how to intervene. That means knowing just how ill depression makes a friend or family member. Never try to force someone talk!

More importantly we need to live with a rule:


Even if no one notices, even if it seems utterly logical, if you are thinking of suicide you are not fit to think.

The corollary of that rule is that we must be able to to help. I was lucky, Dr John Cuddihy (Uncle of the sister Irish Olympians Joanne & Catriona!)  is expert, magnificently tactful and deeply compassionate but not every GP is as sympathetic or capable of managing depression. At the very least any one  should be able to stop the world falling in for someone we care about if the tell or hint that they are in that dark & terrible place.

The multiplication of anti suicide charities, twenty & rising now, is of dubious value. Is there an experienced psychiatrist or psychiatric team that would put together a guide on the symptoms, danger signals, and a how best to gently but effectively point a depressed person to help? I know how I felt and how deaf I was.

Anti-depressant drugs have made me eat more than I should. I'm a tubby little middle-aged  man with of no discernible purpose but I am alive. My brain is no longer sludge, I can think. There are bad days still, but now they are days and I know happiness again on the good days. The Dementors are exiled, if not to Azkaban, at least to enough distance for me to hear other memories and voices.

Depression is curable, for all it's wretched misery it is survivable. Every person that dies of suicide leaves a devasted family & an increased risk to others in their social group. Suicide normalises itself. Every death also represents what the Prison Captain told Cool Hand Luke: a failure to communicate.

The question is how do can we get more people to know that they need a Patronus spell and that  the strength to cast it is within their grasp?

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