The Black Dog

I watched a program on television recently that dealt with the issue of suicide and mental illness and how prevalent it is amongst our younger generation.

Don’t get me wrong.  Suicide and mental illness are not limited to the younger generation but it is especially heartbreaking to lose a young and troubled soul without feeling sorrow for a life not well-lived and the unimaginable anguish of the parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and school friends left behind.

Suicide has touched us all to some degree, whether it be somebody we know, somebody close, a friend of a friend or even our own morbid thoughts at times when things have been at their darkest in our lives.  I have not escaped unscathed with my various health difficulties without wondering at times whether it is worth the effort of struggling with the pain and functional difficulties that I have been left with.  I keep on top of it.  I keep busy.  I work and study and develop interests to keep the black dog at bay but others may not have the support that I have had or indeed the will to keep on dog paddling when they would rather sink to the bottom of the abyss.

The reality of the abyss was brought home to me again last year when my son’s best friend decided that he simply did not want to keep on paddling for another minute more.  He left behind a beautiful family, many friends and a community of people who he had helped in his short life wondering what had happened.  He didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs.  He went to church and believed in God.  He was kind, generous and loved.  He was planning a trip overseas and had booked the tickets.  He did not appear to fit the profile of a depressed and mentally ill young person and he simply slipped through the cracks.  He had sought help a few months before his death and unfortunately was not followed up.

The abyss will always be there.  It does not discriminate.  It can affect anybody.  There is no clear answer but it is clear that we need to become more aware of our fellow man and be a little more compassionate.  ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.