The following submission is from an anonymous writer. They didn’t want to violate the privacy of their friend’s family and loved ones.
Dear Best Friend,
I miss you.
But I will never judge you for what you did.
How could I when I, also, know what it feels like to be suicidal. When I also know how it is to feel trapped and like my life is worthless.
I know society judged you for your actions. When you died, it was a crime in India to die by suicide. That means, had you survived, the law would have treated you as a criminal. It seems wrong. Instead of helping you, the law would have punished you for being mentally ill. Today, that law has changed, but the societal mindset regarding suicide hasn’t.
Speaking of mental illness, I understand why you didn’t openly talk about how you felt. It seems like the term “mental illness” simply doesn’t compute in Indian society.
And of course, it isn’t done to be paagal. After all, “paagal people,” as we are told, are homeless and unkempt, and wear raggedy clothing, while living on the streets. They’re not people like “us,” from “good families” — with money and jobs.
And, you might even say, it’s worse living with a mental illness like depression if you’re a man. After all, men must not cry. They must not complain. Instead, they must be strong. They are the rocks of their families. And heaven forbid anybody finds out that the rock is crumbling on the inside.
But, I wish you had told me — told somebody about how you were suffering, about how you felt overwhelmed and trapped. And I wish, most of all, that you had gotten the help you needed.
Instead, I’m sure you heard the usual suggestions of marriage as the panacea for depression. Marriage, as we both know in this instance, is nothing but a euphemism for sex. I still don’t understand why, but I know that marriage and children are often prescribed as being the cure for a lot of problems in this society: rape, mental illness, homosexuality, depression, among so many others.
I made you laugh, didn’t I? I miss your laughter so much.
You were there for me when my family needed help. You listened to me as I cried for months after my breakup. You assured me you’d always be there when I needed you. You were my rock as the life I had planned for myself fell apart.
I wish I could have been the cushion on which you could have rested your problems.
I saw your family and loved ones crumble when you took your own life. We’d both seen the aftermath of other people’s suicides. Death is tough on the living most of all. And, your death weighs on all those who love you. And yes, life still limps along. That last time we spoke, we talked about the people we lost.
But, you see, we’re Indians. So, naturally, we don’t talk about suicide. We make sure suicidal deaths are not listed as suicide on legal paperwork. We protect family members who have to live with the stigma of suicide in public, while speaking of the dead with a mixture of shame and grief in private. We can never have closure. We can never grieve or talk about our guilt.
But it’s not just us. This is a worldwide problem. Suicide doesn’t only affect one country, one religion, or one gender. The entire world is suffering from the thing no one wants to address, but affects so many.
I’ll never blame you for what you did. I just wish every day that you never felt that you had to take your own life to escape. I know it couldn’t have been an easy decision, especially when I know that when depression didn’t overwhelm you, you loved your life, your family, good food, amusement parks, and all the things you left behind.
I wish I could have helped you change your mind. I wish I could have listened.
And, in my lowest days, I wish I had gone with you.
It’s heartbreaking that around 800,000 people die by suicide every year. And just a few years ago, India had the highest estimated suicide rates of any other country. With the shame, the stigma, and the general predilection to cover up suicides, is there any surprise why?
Let’s not forget the many more people out there who think about killing themselves or attempt to do so and survive. Do they receive the help they need, or do they eventually succumb to the societal stigma, feeling ashamed, weak, and more alone than ever?
But this is not about statistics. It’s about people. It’s about life.
It’s about me no longer having you in my life. It’s about me feeling guilty that I didn’t know you were suffering. It’s about me feeling guilty that I’m complicit in your death. It’s about knowing that we have a serious problem when nearly a million people take their own lives every year, and we turn our heads and look the other way.
It’s about putting a stop to the stigma, the shame, and the ostracizing of our own loved ones who are suffering. It’s about time we talk about suicide like we talk about infectious diseases, and how we can actually fix it.
And, it’s about me missing you. Every single day.
Your Best Friend
Seek medical help immediately if you’re considering acting on suicidal thoughts. If you aren’t near a hospital, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. They have trained staff available to speak to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This article was originally published on Brown Girl Magazine.
This article is part of Healthline’s efforts to include unique perspectives. Health and wellness touch everyone’s life, and it’s important we acknowledge that.