real life

'My friend took his life in lockdown. He was the absolute last person I thought would do this.'

This post deals with suicide and might be triggering for some readers.

April 2020. An unforgettable time for so many people in the world. COVID-19 was well and truly a part of our lives and my partner and I had been in self-enforced lockdown for a few weeks. 

The sacrifice of our personal lives seemed a small price to pay when we wanted to be safe and protect our parents and others, but the uncertainty of when this 'new normal' of not leaving the house or seeing our loved ones was unsettling.

It was kind of like any other day, except I had just started an exciting and challenging new job the day before at a big tech company. 

My partner had taken a phone call and returned pale-faced. He asked me to sit down because he had something to tell me, which was that our beautiful, kind, funny friend had taken his own life. 

We trembled with shock and tears as we held each other. He was the last person we thought would do this, and it didn’t seem real.

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. Post continues below. 

This wasn’t the first time my life had been affected by suicide. 

A few years ago, one of my sisters called me to tell me between tears that my 17-year-old brother’s best friend had taken his own life. 

I left work to go straight to my parent’s house to comfort him and the rest of the family who had felt like they’d lost a son, and stayed there for a few days. 

This time around, there was nowhere to go. No one to hug, except my partner, and we clung to each other.

The worst part for me was calling my sister and her partner in London - who had known our friend since early high school - to tell them the news. It wasn’t lost on me that even if we weren’t in lockdown, we’d have to relay this information on the phone regardless, but knowing there was no one who could be there for them, and no way of them getting back, was heartbreaking.

The following weeks presented a series of hard decisions about whether we saw friends to mourn, even though we risked the spread of coronavirus, and even legal repercussions for gathering with people outside our household. 

We dropped food at doorsteps and had friends visit us to chat from outside our front fence while we sat on the porch. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The lack of physical connection was so stark, but everyone tried to look after everyone from afar.

After all, it was obvious that while we had to take COVID precautions seriously, an even greater threat to people’s health at this point was loneliness and depression.

When the funeral came around, we weren’t able to attend, with funerals being capped at 10 people at that point. 

It became so clear what the importance of farewelling someone formally is, whether you’re religious or not. A funeral can be closure, when closure elsewhere is impossible.

You’re in a room of people that know the person, miss the person, and are feeling what you’re feeling. Watching my brother speak about his best friend at his funeral was so important, because he got to share with everyone what this person meant to him. 

The feelings he had on the inside could be expressed on the outside, and we could share that pain with him.

We decided to break lockdown to watch the funeral as a livestream at a friend’s house, which was bizarre. 

But as the video stream glitched, and we watched an out of sync priest describe our friend, I felt lucky to be in a room of people who knew and loved him, regardless of the situation.

A year on from this event, myself and others have found strength beyond the incident. 

We’re talking about mental health, sharing psychologist recommendations with each other, and chatting about the pros and cons of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. 

Mental health struggles are what took my friend away and I never want anyone to feel like they’re in a position without help again. 

So if that’s you, I’m telling you now, you are wanted on this earth. You are valuable, and the world would be a worse place without you. Please reach out.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

The feature image used is a stock image from Getty.