The communication of the faux notion that depressed people do not speak up prior to committing suicide should not be solely used to cajole them into speaking up. That assertion, when deeply looked into, suggests that the vulnerability of the victims is non-existent.
Some religious tenets, especially in this part of the world, have planted a belief that depression is a function of flouting their rules. And that if the tenets of their religions are duly followed, depression would be, but a myth.
By the end of this write, I hope to prove them wrong:
Tara is an 18-year-old single child of a single mother. Her life is that of a normal teenager, except she had no fatherly love – a typical occurrence in many Nigerian homes.
“The pain” she mumbled.
“Ugh? Were you talking to me?” I replied almost immediately.
Oblivious of my question, she placed a stone on the stool beside her to aid its balance.
“I’m just tired! Missed a class today because I just can’t think clearly”, she said.
I looked at her trying to get a message from her expressionless face. She seemed to be talking to herself but I could smell her desperation to relay her grief to someone.
“I didn’t mean to let her go”, she continued.
“Tara, what are you talking about?” I asked.
“I really was not able to box everything in my head. Or maybe it was just plain nonchalance”, she replied.
I rested my back on the four-legged plastic chair and pondered on her cute ambiguity. After a minute of futile thinking, I cleared my throat – an integral part of my speech- and spoke.
“You’ve succeeded in confusing me. I would love to help you with whatever is bothering you but I don’t think you need my help right now.”
My voice was void of emotions. I silently prayed I hit the right spot.
“No! Okay. Kate told me she was thinking of committing suicide before she did… I couldn’t tell anyone.”
She spoke with her eyes closed, exposing the beauty of her brows. For a second, my thinking space pricked me to tell her she was beautiful. But I did not.
“Wait… Kate, our neighbor’s daughter?”
My eyes felt like jumping out of their cages. I turned my head to look at a gecko crawling its way into safety. I could kill it if I wanted. It was as vulnerable as Tara.
“How come no one else knows?” I inquired.
“She didn’t trust anyone. Not even her mum. Bisi told her before committing suicide too and she didn’t tell anyone else.”
Her voice shook and reeked of sobriety. “I’m really sad, I should have helped her. I should have told someone. I feel useless.”
I was already piqued. How long has this been? Bisi told Kate she was going to commit suicide and actually did. Kate told Tara she was going to commit suicide and actually did. Now, Tara is telling me. I knew I needed to do something.
“Tara, don’t hurt yourself. I’m sorry but they are gone. Feeling guilty won’t bring them back. I hope you’re not thinking of committing suicide too?” I asked her.
“Toyosi, I am. Honestly, I am,” she said as she grabbed her hair and rubbed her eyes with her palms.
“No! Don’t! Please!”
I screamed with everything in me and she signaled me to bring down the amplitude of my voice.
Tara was a dear friend. We grew up together. I just couldn’t stand seeing her wallow in the thoughts of committing suicide.
I looked at her distraught face and spoke gently.
“Tara, I don’t know what you are going through right now…”
“…You definitely don’t know! I need peace! I’m entangled in the web of mental chaos,” she cut in, screaming louder than I did earlier.
“OK! But true peace doesn’t come from hurting others”, I said amazed and paused hoping my words sank.
“It doesn’t come from pleasing them either!” She retorted.
At this point, I was scared. I was genuinely scared.
“Tara, please do this for me! Please, I love you like many others around here. Please! Kate is gone. Do the best you can be here and inspire others”, I pleaded in an emotional laden tone.
“Please, promise me something. Promise me you won’t do this. Please…” I continued.
She was silent.
“She won’t”, an older voice replied.
Tara’s mum, a rotund woman in her late 40s stood behind the door with her arms wide open. She was a pastor who raised her daughter “in the way of the Lord”. She did not believe her daughter could be depressed, as she later revealed.
Daily, thousands of people get caught in the web of life’s challenges. For some, it is the feeling of guilt that envelopes them. As humans, it is important that we show that we care. That person we think is strong, might be going through a serious phase of depression and a phone call could change a sad story waiting to fully develop.
Be human, be humane
ONI GODWIN TOYOSI.