‘My brother was dying and I just couldn’t see it’
PUBLISHED: 17:12 08 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:26 08 September 2017
Looking back I think I can pinpoint the moment I should have known something was wrong.
It was 1998 and my spirited, fun and fiercely intelligent brother Chris stopped going to the cinema. It was a pleasure we’d both enjoyed since our parents took us and our older brother Matthew to see The NeverEnding Story in 1984.
But after our last trip, to see Bruce Willis save the day in Armageddon, he seemed disinterested. Distant.
I put it down to tiredness. Or perhaps a hangover. But it turns out my brother was dying and I just couldn’t see it.
Five weeks later he hanged himself.
He was 19.
The days that followed were a blur. As with the loss of any loved one, the pain was immeasurable.
But bereavement by suicide brings its own unique torture. We were sad and angry. But most of all we felt guilty that someone so close to us felt he couldn’t bear to live and we didn’t notice.
As if to compound our grief, friends stopped calling.
If my brother had died from a terminal illness, people no doubt would have been there to console us. But when a mental illness that takes a loved one, you feel alone.
There are awkward pauses as people try not to say the wrong thing.
To this day, if anyone asks about my siblings, a pang of dread hits my stomach, because I know the truth will probably make them squirm.
You see in the two decades since Chris died, there is still a taboo surrounding suicide and the mental health of those who see it as their only option. So often, the most vulnerable people feel they must hide their demons.
When Robin Williams took his own life three years ago the world was shocked that such a brilliant and successful individual would do such a thing.
But depression doesn’t discriminate. And we need people to feel they can talk openly about it mental health without fear of stigmatisation.
We must educate that it’s okay to ask for help.
Perhaps if my brother had been more open on that last cinema trip, we’d be planning our next outing now.
• If you need to talk, call Samaritans on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Suicide Prevention Day is on Sunday, September 10. For more information, iasp.info/wspd2017/