Monday, May 12, 2008

Suffering in Silence

I can only begin to imagine the kind of pain the family of Mark Saunders must be feeling right now. Losing a loved one to suicide (and that's exactly what it was) is one of the worst things that can happen to you.

Because of my situation (I have a mental illness and have spent rather a lot of time in hospital) I've lost several close friends to suicide. The repercussions of their actions cannot be underestimated. Journalists have repeatedly emphasised the fact that Mr Saunders was a barrister, destined for great things, as if that somehow should have rendered him immune to mental illness. I would imagine, if anything, that his situation exacerbated his condition. He was intelligent and resourceful, a 'high flyer'; he was not expected to ask for help and so he didn't.

Last year an ex boyfriend, A made his fourth suicide attempt. Like Mr Saunders, A was also a high-achiever. He worked in the City and it was amidst the intensity of that world that he had a nervous breakdown. He goes further: he calls it a meltdown. His name for it is his 'Chernobyl'. After his first suicide attempt he requested help. He didn't receive any. All the health services in his area had to offer was a cocktail of medication. People have asked why Mr Saunders did not ask for help. I'm speculating wildly here but maybe he did and was turned away like one in three people suffering from mental health problems who appeal to the NHS for help.

The authorities will conduct their inquiry. We'll shake our heads and ask ourselves why it had to happen and why it should never happen again. But nothing will change and it will happen again. Over and over again.

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