‘COMMITTING SUICIDE – THE EASY WAY OUT’
I’m often privileged to be invited on to BBC Radio Leeds to share my experience or opinion on any number of topics – usually because I’ve been there. Tuesday the 19th August 2014 was no exception, and it followed on exactly a week after we all woke up to the heartbreaking news that, not only was the brilliant Actor and Comedian Robin Williams dead, but, that he had taken his own life.
I, like many others I’m sure, felt sick to the stomach, as I know only too well the unbearable sorrow and trauma that this kind of loss can cause to the loved ones who are left behind, as I was transported back to the moment 22 years ago on the 13th April 1992, when our beautiful youngest brother, Nicky, aged just 24 was found all alone inside his car, in a remote spot 8 miles away from our dad’s house, to where he had driven and taken his own life, poisoned by carbon monoxide. Inside the car with him were four harrowing ‘suicide’ letters that he had written in his last moments.
You may or may not have noticed that this is the first time that I have referred to the term ‘suicide’. There’s a reason for this; I can’t bear the word and had said so quite openly on social media sites, shortly after hearing about Robin Williams’ death, which Nick Ahad the radio presenter, had picked up on.
In the studio, Nick asked me a pertinent question off air, genuinely wanting to know, what was it about the word that I didn’t like? I told him I didn’t really know, and that it was a personal thing and something that just grated on me. I said I rarely used it and preferred instead to say that a person had taken their own life; I felt that this was somehow a more powerful explanation of the enormity of such an act for someone in ignorance of it; that someone could feel so low, and worthless, and in such emotional turmoil, that they have taken their OWN life. He asked me the question again, this time on air, and I still didn’t know the answer in order to be able to articulate it fully.
Having reflected on it, I now realise that my intense dislike of ‘suicide’ is that it’s to do with all the negative connotations that society has attached to it; that it’s somehow ‘selfish’, ‘weak’, ‘a coward’s way out’, or even an ‘easy way out’. I’ve heard them all, bandied about in society over the years, not said directly to my face I might add – they’d know about it if they did – but bandied about in general. Some social media sites were awash with comments and opinions of ‘how can someone like Robin Williams, who has fame and fortune, be depressed’?
I despair at this level of ignorance, even in 2014.
Depression is an illness, period. It’s also complex. The person cannot ‘pull themselves together’; they would if they could, surely? There are many different kinds too; Clinical Depression, Post Natal Depression, Reactive Depression, the list goes on. Some people are also more pre-disposed to it, for a number of factors. I work with people with depression (wearing my other hat as a Clinical Hypnotherapist), and I have suffered from it myself due to severe stress, (more than once), albeit a mild form and have had what I describe as emotional ‘melt-downs’. Although I have been prescribed medication at these times, fortunately there has been something within me that after taking pills for a couple of days, I’ve been able to decide, a) that I’m not my mother’s daughter for nothing and b) I’m simply not going down that path. I’ve also had counselling. This doesn’t make me any more of a person, or someone else, any less. Have I considered ‘suicide’? The answer has to be that, in a given moment, yes I have.
As I said to Nick, if I had my way I would also get rid of the word ‘committed suicide’ as well, as this suggests to me that someone has committed a crime. In fact, it was only a mere 50 years ago that suicide was indeed considered illegal.
I don’t think for a second our Nicky wanted to die, I just think he was in a very bad place. I don’t think anyone in that situation necessarily wants to die, I think they just want the pain and the emotional turmoil to stop. I believe it to be a totally selfless act in fact, that they feel that their loved ones would be better off without them.
My belief undoubtedly is that it’s not something that is done on a whim, in fact I would say it’s meticulously planned; but in the end, no-one, other than the person themselves and God, knows how they feel or what they’re going through in that moment.
Easy way out? Selfish? Coward’s way out? No reason to be depressed because they have it all? All anyone has to do, is to stop for just a moment and truly think about the enormity of what taking one’s own life truly involves and means and the possible reason behind it. I’d say it takes great courage.
I still can’t believe that someone I loved so much, was so desperate, that they felt that taking their own life was the only answer. With hindsight, he was indeed depressed and this showed in certain aspects of his behaviour, but I defy anyone to actually know for sure, that someone will go to such permanent lengths to take the pain away. Certainly, none of us did.
At the end of the interview, Nick asked me if there was a positive that had come out of Nicky’s death. That’s an easy question to answer. I wouldn’t be where I am now and it’s allowed me to know how precious life is and that I will get through whatever it throws at me. I owe him so much.
Tracey Barraclough Dip. THyp.