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Suicide not a solution
Describing it as a “scenario reminiscent of the Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet,” the newspaper report told of two students who attended school last Thursday, and were later found poisoned, in what appeared to be a planned double-suicide attempt.
The 17-year-old boy and girl were found unconscious lying on the floor close to each other in a room at the boy’s Tacarigua home. The news since then is that the girl has died and the boy remains hospitalised in critical condition.
The details I recount are those carried as news, but even without knowledge of the youths or their situation, which may have prompted such a final and defeatist act, I’m still very sick inside.
My encounter with the suicide of someone I knew still fills me with an indescribable uneasiness. In the 1980s, Mervyn, a co-worker whose relatives I knew, died after swallowing poison and I can still replay the moment I found out.
Living in San Fernando at a time when we did not all have telephones, I recall another co-worker (and a man who’s been my stand-in big brother since 1981), Aldwyn Collins, coming with the news. I’d been away from work with conjunctivitis and was happy to have a co-worker visiting. Nothing prepared me for the information he brought.
And that is the anomaly of suicide. Nothing readies you for it. You’re left speculating unless you’re privy to the circumstances. News and research in recent years suggest suicide is on the increase in T&T. Globally, suicide is listed among the three leading causes of death for people aged 15 to 44. While there are many behavioural indicators that can help parents or friends recognise the threat of suicide in a loved one, every suicide suggests that we’ve missed the boat to alleviate someone’s anxiety, fear, or hopelessness.
“While the reasons teens commit suicide vary widely, there are some common situations and circumstances that seem to lead to such extreme measures. These include major disappointment, rejection, failure, or loss such as breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, failing a big exam, or witnessing family turmoil. (www.nami.org) There is a mental breakdown to some degree which compels an individual to the point of suicide. It may not necessarily mean that the person has a diagnosable or long-term mental illness, but stressors can precipitate a person, and especially a younger person without the coping skills we get with maturity, to their own demise.
For teenagers, occasional bad moods or acting out is to be expected, but depression is something different. “Depression can destroy the very essence of a teenager’s personality, causing an overwhelming sense of sadness, despair, or anger.”
I remember the evening my parents acted out with quarrels and threats about a boyfriend they (rightfully) thought I had been involved with too early and to the detriment of my schoolwork. I felt embarrassed, guilty, hurt, angry, and despondent, but I knew they were right and I also knew that to pursue the relationship would be to face the ire of my mother—you really always wanted to be on her good side, though!
But greater still, I knew that a lot of hope rested in my education, personal hope for my future was of optimal concern, having lived in abject poverty and always having an idea of the life I’d prefer. And, as well, I respected the hope my parents had for me, recognising my aptitude for learning and my perspicacity from an early age and awaking at 4 am daily, gardening, to offer me that optimism.
I could not stand my parents’ disappointment in my choice to engage in a dating relationship in my mid-teens. So I found my way past the hurt of breaking off that profound teenage love, working diligently to quench that blazing that was stirred deep within me. But I lived to hear of my mother’s burst of pride as I gave the valedictory speech some 18 months after.
Yet, later on, in my frustration about being mentally ill, in a hapless fit, I overdosed on some of the prescribed meds. I remember lying down on the sofa in the small staffroom while my peers taught their classes, and I knew I did not want to die.
Suicide is never a solution. But I believe that the increase in social stresses and distresses in T&T, the decrease in the cohesiveness of family life, and the breakdown in parenting/nurturing all act as contributors to the hopelessness one must feel in order to take one’s life. Sometimes I fret over the overwhelming availability of information that exerts greater influence on the thought processes of young adults than what we grew up in, with church, school, and village raising us.
I support those who believe that this is among the breakdowns that account for the impetuosity of teenagers. But beliefs, suppositions, and research aside though, I grieve for the parents, friends and relatives of the beautiful lives lost by suicide.
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