Anxiety and Depression  |  Suicide

He Didn’t Say Goodbye

BY MAK KEAN LOONG

14 July 2020  |   6 min read

Trigger warning: This post touches on suicide which may be distressing for some readers. Please stop here if you find such information triggering. You can call the helplines if you need assistance.

The news of the wake was first posted on my friend’s timeline by their sister. Frantic with worry, I contacted her, trying to verify that this wasn’t a mistake. I was hoping and praying that it was.

I knew it wasn’t.

I’ve lost one friend to suicide, and that’s one friend too many. I struggle with suicidal tendencies myself, as I battle with depression. It’s been a daily struggle for three long years, and I had to be admitted to a hospital once. Some days are easier, but some days feel like they’ll never end as I struggle with my thoughts.

When I was younger, I did think of suicide. Those thoughts weren’t serious though, and I never mentioned them to anyone. Fast forward to more than 25 years later, and they’re now serious enough that I have to watch myself when I leave the house.

When thoughts of suicide or self-harm are fleeting, they are usually not a problem. But when they last for long periods, and interfere with daily life, even before they become unbearable, such thoughts should not be ignored. The thoughts of giving up are a result of us being locked into our situations, with no foreseeable way out. Ignoring or trying to pretend we don’t have a problem, isn’t going to change anything. Seeking help might change the equation, giving us more options with which to handle our lives.

Like a wound that needs attention, delaying treatment will only make things worse.

My doctor once told me that most people who’ve attempted suicide come to regret what they’ve done. Few people who are suicidal actually want to die. Usually the root problem lies elsewhere, from psychological issues, to mental health conditions or illnesses, to events that are beyond their control which make them feel helpless. Suicide is definitely not an easy way out.

But suicide is not the only way out either.

Suicide is a lie of a solution. Often, it is built on lies – that we have no other choice, that we are a burden, that we are useless, that no one will understand or hear us, that there is no point to going on. But these are not always true – we may feel that way, for that time, but in reality, someone will listen. We’re not just valued by our achievements.

Additionally, in trying to solve our problem of pain and despair, we transfer that pain to those who have to deal with the sudden and violent loss of our presence in their lives. I love and miss my friend. I harbour anger against them, at times in my own struggle, for now my struggle is lonelier. But what I feel pales in comparison to their family members.

So when suicide becomes something that we really do consider, instead, give yourself a chance. Seek professional help. Talk to someone you trust not to judge you or jump to conclusions. In Singapore, CHAT is a youth mental health service that specialises in youth mental healthcare. You can reach them online, anonymously, or give them a call. They can direct you the right way.

Can suicidal thoughts be ignored or put aside? Trying to do something we enjoy to try to push the thoughts aside can help for a bit, but not for long. If problems have lingered long enough to result in pervasive thoughts or even actions of suicide or self-harm, distractions will only delay the pain from coming back. Like a wound that needs attention, delaying treatment will only make things worse. Remember that there is no shame in needing help. The alternative of suicide is much worse.

How can we help someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts? The answer can sound simple – listen. But listening is not a simple skill. It involves paying full attention to the person who needs help. We aren’t there to solve their problems, or to give them advice, unless they ask for it. They need understanding, empathy and care. So we should listen, by being there physically and emotionally. Stop looking at the time. Ask questions to clarify. Repeat what they’ve said back to them, in your own words. Don’t push, but allow them to speak at their own pace. Don’t judge them, and don’t assume.

Can we do more? Possibly – if we know the person well enough to care for them physically. But if not, there is little more that anyone can do, and we may have to learn to accept that. Calling the police may be a last resort that can work once – but the person may never trust you again, and it must be a real emergency.

Ultimately, the choice is still in the hands of the person struggling. I love my friend. But when he decided to take his life, away from my sight, there was nothing I could have done. Nothing more I could have said.

I still feel guilty to be honest. But as I struggle, I am determined to uphold my promise to him.

I will fight on.

If you are facing a mental health crisis and require urgent help, please call

  • IMH (24-hour Helpline) – Tel: 6389 2222
  • SOS (24-hour Hotline) – Tel: 1800-221 4444

Read more from Mak

The contributor is a Mental Health Advocate.