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left in the wake1

left in the wake2

By Glynis Homing THE DEATH OF A LOVED ONE IS DIFFICULT TO DEAL WITH AND, WHEN IT'S BY THEIR OWN HAND, IT CAN BE EVEN HARDER. WITH WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY ON IO SEPTEMBER, HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP - AND HOW TO COPE By Glynis Horning hen Gindy* woke one Sunday last October to find her husband Sean* out of bed, she thought little of it. She was used to the 39-year-old Pietermaritzburg businessman rising early to work on his computer, even on weekends - especially when sales dipped and he struggled to sleep. 'lt was hurting our relationship,' she confesses. ‘He was increasingly moody. I tried to be supportive, but he was pushing me away; withdrawing.' When she took a cup of coffee to Sean's home office, however, he wasit there and his computer wasit M. 'lt was my first inkling that something was wrong. Then I heard the car engine idling quietly. My heart started hammering as I opened the garage door. That's when I found him. He’d gassed himself...' For Cindy, her husband opting out of life is a tragedy she doesn’t know if she'll ever fully understand or accept. And it's a pain shared PHOTOGRAPHY; GALLO/GETTYIMAGES/THINKSTOOGK by a growing number of South Africans. Suicidal behaviour is soaring and now claims 23 lives a day, reports Cassey Chambers, the operations director of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag). And for every one person who commits suicide, 2ll or more attempt it. The most common reason is untreated major depression, associated with an imbalance of the brain chemicals that influence mood, she says. It is more likely to occur if you have a family history of depression or other mental problems, or if you are experiencing environmental stress. This ranges from abusive or bullying relationships (rife in the age of social media) to work pressure (unemployment or exaggerated expectations), which today are made worse by constantly being on call via cellphones and email. Cindy mainly blames work pressure for Sean's suicide. But she also blames herself: 'Reading up on suicide afterwards, I should’ve seen the signs. That is part of the guilt and anger I carry. It is difficult, but you can learn to cope.’ MIXED EMOTIONS Beyond the shock, grief and loneliness brought on by any death, expect to feel anger at yourself for missing the signs of suicide and at your loved one for abandoning you; guilt for not doing more to help them or being able to stop them; rejection as you question why your relationship was not enough forthem; and confusion as you wrestle with countless unanswered questions. It's vital to deal with these emotions and not to blame yourself, says director of Lifeline Durban Pravisha Dhanapalan. ‘Ultimately, the choice was theirs. You need to respect that, and work through the guilt and anger by talking about it and getting counselling.' Short-term medication can help too, adds Cindy. ONGOING PAIN You may have flashbacks and nightmares (especially ifyou were the one who found the person) for many months after, problems concentrating, experience a loss of interest in everyday activities you once found enjoyable, and you may withdraw socially. Therapy, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy, can help; as can exercise, which releases feel-good endorphins; and meditation, which will help you focus fully on the present moment. Recent clinical studies have shown that regular moderate exercise and mindfulness meditation can be equally as effective as medication and should be prescribed along with it, says Dr Rakesh Jain, a leading US clinical professor of psychiatry. REACH OUT While your friends and family will want to show you support, they may find it awkward to discuss suicide, HOW YOU (AH HELP Take any mention of suicide seriously People are afraid to overact or do"'t believe their loved one will carry out the act, says , etine Durban's Pravisha Dhanapalan. Alw"ys address l and get professional advice (see ' ho to call’). Speak about it on't be _ aid tat discussing s icide could ercourage be pe son to do I, ste s"ys. People DETETII fror" opewng up and can " less alone a"d isolated, more cared about aid understood Say: You've been looking very down la ely. Have you "ad thoug Irlnq yoursef? Listen with empathy and . out judgement Don't offer platt des suc , 'll be fine or l I the person to 'snap o '. Remind then that thinking o ending yo r life doesn't mean you actually wat to de i s that you have more _ than you can handle a that exact momen ' Reassure them ITdI there IS help available and and some religions regard the act as sinful, which can leavethe family feeling isolated and abandoned. A good solution is to join a support group. Sharing stories and unburdening with understanding people has been therapeutic,' Cindy says. 'You also need to learn to trust again -to trust that other people you love won't leave you in that way.' GRIEVE AS YOU NEED There's no determined path or pace to healing and acceptance, so don't be rushed by others. Instead, eat healthily, get enough sleep and don't attempt to escape with alcohol or drugs. Recognise if you are depressed and suicidal, advises Pravisha, and get professional help fast. SETBACKS ARE STEPPINC STONES Anniversaries, birthdays and holidays can often be painful reminders of your loss. '0oit try to ignore you will be the e along the way,' says Sadags (South A ncan epression and Anxiety Group) [assey fiambers. Encourage them to speak to a professional counsellor Let tern know that, with the nght reatmert, they I eel better and life can irrp ove. Don't keep it secret Even I they ask you o espect _ dec s on and not interfere, repo tto a pro essioial. 'lt's too riuch respons or anyo"e to ca ry,' says loburg psycho _ee-irT iartmr. The person IS in crisis "nd when yo becorre party lo; you're in cnss I Don't give up they refuse help, the lien iealth Ca e Act provides for S0rnfl00fl at r warming ITETYISE ves or othe s to be hospital or assessnent fo 72 hours. Professionals tien decide if hey are l for relese or if they STOUIO be admit ed for t eatment. or forget it,' recommends Cassey. Sometimes that can upset you even more. Create new traditions on those special days to help commemorate your loved one - perhaps plant a flower in your garden or light a candle.' I 'Wames ham been changed. WHO IE CALL South MtEtt Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) toll-free suicide crisis line OBOO 5B7 5B7, SMS 31393, sadagprg LifeLine BM 322 322, lifelinesa.co.za, lailiIillligWmE Survivors of Loved Ones’ Suicide (Solos) 0832565993, 083652