Friday, December 9, 2016
Per the CDC:
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans.
The average suicide costs $1,164,499.
Rohit left for India near the end of October for Diwali and to visit his family. A few days after that I awoke to the phone call no mother ever wants to get. A friend called to alert me that my daughter had posted a suicide note online and that I needed to check on her. My daughter posts a lot of dark posts, most of them are because she is an activist of sorts and routinely tries to help others.
I went to her room and knocked on the door and like any teenager she grunted at me as if she didn't want to wake up. Nothing out of the ordinary there. I alerted the friend to the situation and let her know I would get back to her in a few minutes after I managed to get the sleepy headed teen up.
I gave it a little while to let her sleep because I was fairly confident everything was okay, but still a bit worried in the back of my mind. I went back and knocked and she again grunted at me and formed non-sensical words indicating she didn't want to get up. So I picked the lock on her door and went in. She was in her bed, breathing normal, her color was ok and I didn't see any concerning marks.
She didn't feel warm but I still figured she must be sick or she would be getting up. I thought maybe I would give her a little longer to sleep, after all she was alive, she was breathing and I knew she was normally a deep sleeper. I called into work and got permission to work from home so I could keep checking on her.
I went back in a few minutes later and that is when I noticed some of her writing in the corner. I looked at it to see what she had written and it was a fact list she had copied. Nothing too important. Then I noticed it was more than one page so I picked it up and below the facts she had written a suicide note to me.
It was in that moment that every fiber of my being halted and life as I knew it changed completely.
I didn't get to tell Rohit until days later. His reaction just solidified for me how hard it is to understand mental health issues overall but it also spoke volumes about how Indians view suicide and suicide prevention.
His first words were about how much we did for her and how spoiled she was and how much we always showed her we loved her. He went on and on about how the whole family was always here for her and he listed off the things we did. As if doing good works was a way of preventing suicide and there were implications that he thought this might have been a cry for attention because she wasn't getting her way.
I had to work to explain to him that her attempt was serious. She actively worked to hide what had happened and planned it so that I wouldn't find her or know what was going on in time to save her. This was no cry for help. This was the real thing and that it wasn't a reflection of what we had or hadn't done for her. He couldn't grasp the situation at all.
As time went on and she started to get physically better, I kept having to revisit the situation with him. I knew for sure there was nothing I could have done different, there were no signs I didn't see and this was not a reflection on me but he could not grasp that. This wasn't something I could easily convey in words to him over the phone so I had to try and search online to figure out a way to explain this to him.
In Indian culture suicide has been both glorified and condemned historically. Women burning themselves on their husbands funeral pire was glorified while selfish suicides are said to condemn your soul to darkness in the afterlife. Currently suicide is a punishable offense under the Indian Penal code though I'm not sure how you would punish the dead.
I found it absolutely disturbing just how many news reports and online stories there were of people threatening suicide in order to get something they wanted. It was used as a tool of bribery, with no intention of committing the act. I found it deplorable how many parents seem to use suicide threats to get their children to do what they want. Indian society was making a mokery of a very serious issue.
It's not a joking matter. Indian suicide rates are just as high as in the western world yet Indians still view it as unspeakable or taboo to acknowledge mental health issues, much less seek treatment. Families do what they can to keep the issues hidden behind closed doors and to appease the sufferer in an effort to prevent suicide as if it was going to be their fault. I'm not blaming them. The culture and the law have led to this behavior. Not enough has been done to educate society about the chemical, hormonal and medical issues that cause suicidal ideations and attempts.
It isn't about money or the lack thereof either. Even wealthy families are not exempt from this nightmare. Indian society also always feels like there is someone to blame and as much as that may help the survivors, it's not always someones fault. Even if the person committing suicide says it is.
I've been helping my husband move more toward understanding this catastrophic event in our lives and he's starting to realize the reality of the situation. He's been diligent in helping me now that he's back from India and he's been on watch to make sure he doesn't see anything concerning. If he does he let's me know. While he still can't quite wrap his head around the situation, knowing she was prescribed medication that contributed to her actions has helped him stop looking for the culprit that drove her to do it. Essentially he found one. Her doctor.
While I lived in Amritsar, a friend of mine's husband had started his own mental health clinic. It only remained open a few short months as he couldn't keep a client base enough to keep the bills paid and still make money. That's profound for India where businessmen routinely take in tiny amounts of money at a time and still manage to be profitable. Indians are well known to be good businessmen. He was no different. The client base simply wasn't there and there was also public scrutiny that hurt him. The stigma of being seen going into his facility was enough to keep people away.
I'm not yet sure if I find it torturous our therapeutic to have to explain to my Indian husband the many facets of mental health disorders as we embark upon this journey to recovery together. I do know I find it maddening when he self-labels himself as having bipolar disorder and I just want to scream. He doesn't truly understand depression either. He thinks you can cure that with a soda and a candy bar from the store.
How about you? Has mental health touched you life? Has someone you know and love threatened or attempted suicide? Know of other resources not listed here? Post the link in the comments. Help save a life.
National Center for Biotechnology Information: Inidian Journal of Psychiatry: Suicide: An Indian perspective
Times of India: India has highest number of suicides in the world: WHO
Times of India: Repeated suicide threats ground for divorce: HC
Suicide Resources (USA):
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Suicide Resources (India):
Suicide.org: India Suicide Hotlines