I like to consider myself someone who is willing to talk about anything. Whether I agree with it or not, I believe conversations should be had. One thing I have always shied away from however, is suicide. I have never had someone close to me commit the act so I never thought it was my place to air any view on the subject.
I would listen and remain silent to the insensitivity, sadness and often, even anger in cases of suicide, because who am I to comment on something that even I do not understand.
Not often, but every once in a while someone comes to me for solutions to problems they might have. I sometimes joke and tell them, “hey, that psychology thing is just a minor,” but for some reason, they trust a 19 year old with a slight energy drink addiction to make decisions for them.
Of course, I feel bad because who am I to not make decisions when decisions are needed, who am I to tell them that instead of solutions, what I have are stories, stories that will hopefully cause one not to only think, but to feel.
I grew up in Berbice, the county that is most famous for its suicides and so, I grew up believing that suicide was a “Indian thing” because the reality of the situation was that these are the persons who most often end their lives. Of course, being a child who sought answers for everything I quickly learnt that suicide is not decided by ethnicity, creed or affluence-even if these things may have a hand to play in the larger scheme of things, the real problem is depression.
Three years ago, I was living alone and being someone who enjoys solitude, I did not notice the first warning signs of depression- but then again, who really notices the first signs?
At the time, I was still in high school as I had been kept back two grades due to migratory patterns and a pregnancy. After one term, I dropped out of school and while at the time I gave the excuse of being too smart for the teachers, which was not far from the truth, mostly it was because socializing took too much energy out of me, energy I believed I needed to save.
I was having what I would like to call several mini-existential crises and many days I would sleep until my body simply refused to rest anymore because less time awake meant less time to think and less time to think silenced at least a few of the fleeting thoughts of suicide.
While this cosmic loneliness and feelings of inadequacy had cloaked me and threatened to remain unshaken, no one noticed, because I never let anyone see behind that stoic veil. It was not until I stopped hiding behind that mask of joviality and contentment did it dawn on me that that is what most people whose suicides take us by surprise do- they hide.
Things went further downhill for a while and all that was sought were distractions but even these distractions became too taxing and thoughts on ways of how I can or should go out became increasingly frequent. While I’ve never tried, I have killed myself hundreds of times in my mind and of course, that is how it always begins.
In one state of lucid unselfishness, I knew that could not be the end of my story-not when I still had so many others to write, so what I did was I sought help. I sought help because I did not want to be one of the dozens of young victims of suicide that are never heard of in Guyana because the act in itself is so very common, I did not want to be a statistic.
Those thoughts did not go away overnight but they did become significantly infrequent and while my experience with depression is not something I have broadcasted, it is definitely not something I am ashamed of.
What is shameful is that despite Guyana having one of the highest suicide rates in the world, to my knowledge there is only one suicide hotline which was put in place by the Guyana Police Force in August of this year. To my knowledge there is no suicide prevention centre. I may be wrong and there may be more but how many of these are government funded and how many of these are actually known?
But these things are needed, especially in a country such as ours where stigma is still attached to mental health and where young people now coming into their own feel as if there is no one with whom they can speak. These things are needed because they need to understand that despite their current situation, they can always rebound, even from the deepest darkest wells of self-loathing, one can always rebound.
As a writer, I have been conditioned to hate cliches, so while I flinch a bit to write this, people I think, especially teenagers need to realize that it is okay to not be okay. While one may think everything is bad, often, those bad patches remain just a sentence in a collection of J. R. R. Tolkien books and lets be honest here, those things are really long.