WARNING: This post discusses suicide.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. I must admit, I never thought too much about needing a month for prevention before. I realise now this thought process selfishly was because suicide wasn’t something that personally affected me. That was, until January 18, 2016.
My good friend of 21 years died by suicide. I hope you noticed I didn’t say “committed suicide.” The Sarah I knew would never have “committed suicide,” left behind her two young sons and a life full of promise and opportunity. Saying she “committed” suicide is like saying you intentionally went into a diabetic shock from lack of insulin. It’s taboo to say your brain, another organ in your body which is susceptible to disease or illness, is sick.
That’s what I want to change. I said “died by suicide” because my friend had a mental illness. No one seems to care if you have a mental illness in this country. They call you names like “crazy” or “addict,” and they never look beyond that. My friend was the “victim” of a suicide. Maybe that explains it better. She was a victim of a mind that turned against her. She was a victim of a system that couldn’t help her.
Listen: After the death of Dolly Everett, Vikki Ryall from Headspace shares her advice on how parents can talk to their kids about mental health and suicide.
Sarah was absolutely brilliant, even when I had met her at the young age of 14. Standing tall and proud at 6ft 3, she was an unmistakable presence. Her outer shell was witty and tough, but her inner shell was vulnerable and insecure. I remember her battling depression when we were teenagers. In our 20s, she managed (under the care of a therapist) to go off medication and was using meditation and yoga to help manage her symptoms.
When she had her first child at 26, I remember having a conversation with her about postpartum depression and how we would have a plan if I thought I started to see it. She was thoughtful, agreeable and logical. The birth of her beloved child came and went without incident. Depression never reared its ugly head. In fact, the time during her first son’s young years was some of her best. Park outings, fishing trips, splash parks, Sarah did them all with her young son as any mother would have.
Our friendship saw a renewed uptick during this time as well. I had my first child a couple years later, and we once again bonded as juggling the life of being mothers along with our life as working, professional women. I think we both forgot about depression. That’s a lie. I’m sure it was just me who forgot about depression. Either way, it seemed that cloud of darkness had left, and it lulled me into complacency.