This Thursday was World Suicide Prevention Day, which brought up a lot of mixed emotions for me.
In the past 25 months since my husband’s death, I have grown and healed and taken many significant steps into my new life, however I don’t think I’ll ever reach the point where I stop wishing that I could have saved him.
His depression was a disease that prevented his brain from working properly - just like heart disease deteriorates the health of the heart and diabetes affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. It’s as scientific and physical as that.
However the nature of suicide is, of course, infinitely more complicated. Because he didn’t pass away quietly in a hospital bed or in his sleep or at his desk or running around a football field. He died at his own hand in a very violent and horrific manner. He was alone, scared, hopeless and desperate.
His brain had gone in to a psychosis that stopped him from seeing any alternative for his own life and despite an awareness of the pain he would cause to myself and our families, his broken and malfunctioning brain believed in that moment this his death was the only answer and the best option.
For the rest of my life I will carry the weight and consequence of that decision. It’s a life sentence for me. I miss him in every moment and while I badly want to move forward, live my life to the fullest, love again and break free of the stigma of his depression, I will always be a victim of suicide. I will never escape that.
Despite the pain of my personal connection to World Suicide Prevention Day, I also feel hope and gratitude for the movement to bring suicide out of the shadows and in to the light.
Statistically, here in Australian, seven other people will take their own lives today. That’s 2500 a year, just in Australia alone, leaving devastation and pain for all who love them. 400,000 Australians will experience suicidal thoughts this year and 65,000 of us will actually act on these and feel compelled to make an attempt on their lives.
If I had to put a number on it, I would say there were at least 20 people directly and significantly affected by my husband’s death, including our immediate families who have lost a son, brother and uncle – as well as his closest friends who have lost a really wonderful mate.
When Dan died, I didn’t know one single other person who’d died from suicide. I thought we were a minority and I felt very, very alone. However more men under the age of 44 will die from suicide than any other cause. More than road accidents, more than cancer, more than anything else. Which actually makes him far from a minority and places him squarely in the statistical majority.
These figures are simply overwhelming to me and make my head spin. So much tragedy, so many lives lost. I can’t save my husband. I was not aware of the extent of his depression, I believed him when he said he was ok.
Looking back, I know I wanted to believe him so badly, that maybe I didn’t question or look harder because I was too afraid of what I’d find. I also didn’t know what to look for. I was well out of my depth, we both were. Now I’m more educated and I hope that with increased public awareness, acceptance, resources and support, others will be too.
I meet many widowed people who share the horror of losing their loved one to suicide. It’s a unique and special bond and as much as these people inspire and motivate me with their strength, I’d really like to start meeting less. I’d like there to be less suicide widows. I’d like there to be less suicide.