On a quiet weekday night, I received a call from a close friend who isn’t the type to call. The call was quick and straight to the point—our mutual friend had been admitted into the hospital and was in critical condition because he fell off a building. My mind went straight to thinking who might have pushed my friend or who had a reason to do so. Setting those thoughts aside, that night I fell sound asleep while my friend had passed away from his injuries.
It was only the next day I learned that my friend—a know-it-all, unfiltered, annoying yet funny young person—died at the hospital after successfully attempting suicide. My friend had jumped off the building himself.
The news broke fast among our circle of friends and for the most of us, it was the first time we had to deal with the shock of losing someone close from suicide. This revelation saw many of us struggling to come to terms with what had transpired because we didn’t know how to process it.
I went into self-blame right from the funeral proceedings. As I saw the streams of people who came to attend his funeral, I realised he was well-loved and couldn’t help but ask again and again “How could this have happened?”, “Could I have done something?” and “Was it my fault for not noticing?” I had no answers to these questions and it drove me into a state of confusion. The feelings lasted for about a week and when I no longer felt it, I thought I was fine.
It was not until 4 months after the incident that I realised I wasn’t. I had been in the denial stage as a coping mechanism and only allowed myself to feel the despair when I began to miss my friend. What made it worse was realising I would have to miss him for the rest of my life, every single day.
The bottled-up emotions that I left unattended was finally unearthed and I couldn’t stop feeling sad. I wasn’t able to laugh because I felt guilty for feeling happy; then I would spend hours in the night crying and wondering what could have been done. Some days I would space out thinking about my friend, reminiscing our time together. Some days, I would blamed my friend for being selfish. Things got so bad that I was often sick, and my exam results took a nose dive because I could not concentrate.
Ultimately, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to move on.
It’s been years since this incident, but I am grateful to have made a slow recovery. Today, I can safely say that I am okay and no longer blame myself. Through this process however, I learnt many lessons and this has changed how I live my life today.
#1 We need to always show care for one another
No one could have imagined my friend taking his own life. By all appearances, my friend looked fine and would act like any other person—laugh or rant just like the most of us, without showing any signs of inner turmoil. It’s not easy to tell what a person is going through just by the outlook, so I learned to take a bit more responsibility to check in with them. When you ask someone how they are doing, try going beyond their well-mannered, go-to response of “I’m okay” or “I’m fine”. Not many people go beyond that, but when done properly it opens up your eyes to what someone is really going through and you can be that support for them. Part of the reason why I am working in Yayasan Generasi Gemilang (GG) is because I am very passionate about the well-being of youth. I hope that through my work and time here, I am able to help youth find themselves, build resilience, and gain confidence.
#2 We need to be more responsible on social media
My friend had left a series of locked tweets for his close friends to read, detailing some of his deepest thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately those private tweets found its way out of the circle and was shared to a wider audience. On top of that, pictures and details of the incident circulated and this affected how people perceived my friend. While it angered me, it also drove me to reflect on how I had been using my social media. Often times we post or share things without considering others. So what I do these days is ask myself this before I post:
“Is what I am sharing going to negatively affect the lives of people I know?”
“Would they want something like that to be shared?”
My challenge to use social media responsibly is that I refrain from posting something which might seem inconsiderate or hurt someone else. For example, unsolicited opinions can knowingly or unknowingly hurt others, so I refrain from posting these.
#3 We need to acknowledge that life is worth living
One of the greatest lessons was that I learned to live with my grief. Instead of allowing it to control me and spiral downward, I had to learn to manage it; and I was only able to do that by acknowledging that life was worth living.
Had I wished I saw all the signs that led up to my friend’s eventual suicide? Yes.
Did I make mistakes that potentially hurt my friend? Yes.
Am I responsible for my friend’s death? No.
It took me some time to realize but while I wished I could have prevented it; I was not responsible for my friend’s death and I had to move on. Knowing my friend, I think he would have wanted me to live my life well.
Life is worth living and we have to fight the thoughts that tell us it’s not--daily. I’m sure those of you who are battling depression know this to be true, that every single day is a battle to keep on living.
If this is you, please know that you are loved and your life is so precious. The pain you are facing now is tough and you’re going to have to battle through it, but you do not have to let that pain consume you nor do you have to battle with it alone. Talk to a friend about it or better yet, seek professional help. Fight for your own life as you would for a loved one. Please do, because your life is truly precious.