Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Glass Bead Game

Beads of courage are part of a programme in cancer treatment for children. A lovely little glass bead is given to make a necklace or bracelet for the patient, at every procedure. An injection, dressing change or blood test are all marked with the addition of a pretty little glass bead.

 I am beginning to wonder if there should not be something similar for every person who attends a funeral for someone who has taken their own life.

On Friday I came home from a sunny island holiday to the grim news that a friend and colleague had taken his own life. His name was Stephen. He was a special man , a loved father and husband and a gifted musician .Like me he was born in 1965 . It was only when I got home and started to get my own thoughts together that I realised, the last funeral I had attended was also for a person called Stephen, although we knew him as Steve. This Steve was also a father and loved partner and also took his life due to a long standing issue with depression due to drugs.

While on holiday, I met a man whose son had taken his own life three years earlier. Unfortunately his best mate in new Zealand was now experiencing the same thing. 
I opened the paper on Sunday and read of yet another mans story. The "High price of pretence" is how Graham Skellern describes the stigma that surrounds mental illness, bipolar and eventually his son's depression that led to his death. The young man in question was a superb athlete and also close to completing a Masters Thesis on surf protection. The world was his oyster and yet for him due to his illness life had no lustre.

And on the National radio today I heard of yet another father, Arthur Harawira, who also lost a son to suicide is forming a new group,Fathers against suicide will be speaking to schools to tell children that they love them .

I wonder just what can be done to prevent this epidemic of death that could be prevented.
In New Zealand around 500 deaths each year are attributed to suicide. Many more people are harmed or injured while attempting to take their own life. Even more deaths deemed to be accidental may well be suicide.

I have been fortunate to have been trusted enough, that people have confided to me, that their intention was to end their life in my former role as a counsellor. Each time I swallowed down the shock and terror I felt and attempted to stay calm and comfort the person as best I could. My belief is that their illness distorts the persons thinking to the point where they feel hopeless and without any value. My solution has been to stay at their home out of sight but there to stop the act of suicide taking place. An ear to listen and not judge and person who can just make a cup of tea and be a quiet presence.

If I could, I would financially fund a service that sends a little guardian angel to be with any person who reaches out to a service like lifeline for help. Any person who says," I am going to end my life. I have no hope left! "
 Some would say that is not going to work , 24 hour care is too expensive. I have to ask , how can that be true when we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars patching up accident victims in hospital? All cancer treatments cost thousands. So a few days of caring is a cheap solution if it allows a person to be saved.

Three days may be all that is required for a person to get some rest, feel a little more hopeful, know that someone cares and that they may need to try medication or move into some better care facility. But by not having any quick response service for these people many lives are being lost that potentially could be saved. Not only that , once recovered these are the people best to be part of the support group to help others.