Written by Fajar binti Benjamin
Images source : @alhussainabdulmajeed
Just over a week ago, Goo Ha-ra was found in her home, a suicide note neatly prepared, and her life; gone. She was a beautiful person who brought much joy to many people. 6 weeks before that, Choi Jin-Ri (a.k.a Sulli) was found under similar circumstances. Over a year ago, we were shaken by the self-inflicted death of Anthony Bourdain, a year before that it was Kim Jonghyun, Chester Bennington, Delores O’Riordan and even before that, Robin Williams.
Time after time, we have been struck by these tragedies, with what seems to be steadily increasing frequencies. These celebrities were real to us. They existed in the ecosystem of our lives. They were the ones who cheered us up when we were down, who sang to us when we were quiet, who we celebrated with in cars and closed bars and- God, no amount of poetry can explain how these strangers can mean so much to us. It’s just our nature, as humans, to love.
They committed suicide. As hundreds do, every day. And it hurts. It feels personal. Why couldn’t they live for us? What were they going through? Who could ever take their place? How do we move on without disrespecting their memory? The questions are endless and we cycle through them with each new blow.
According to https://ourworldindata.org/suicide, 800,000 people die from suicide globally each year. As frightening as it is to admit, we here in Sunway are not exempt from the statistics either. While thankfully we have not suffered any cases of on-campus suicide in 4 years, each and every one of us still grapples with the issue from within the privacy of our own bubbles.
I personally talked to two unrelated students who have attempted suicide in recent years. And I share their experiences with you now, not to sensationalise, but instead, to have an honest talk. To explain. To help. To show anyone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts and tendencies that (as cliche’ as it is) you are not alone.
Suicide attempts: 2
What was happening in your life at the time?
Loss of hope. Loss of will to live. I hated God, existence was too dreadful. Life was too much suffering. Too many dark thoughts. It started to cloud my rationality. There was childhood trauma that built up and I was unable to express it.
What triggered the attempt?
I remember my 19th birthday was ruined over family drama. I became manic and violent, screaming in my room out of pain. I was trapped in my head. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t eat. My parents tried many things, they called in ‘spiritual healers’ who all but tortured me to no avail. At last, I was sent to the doctors.
They gave me drugs to sleep. I slept for three hours for the first time. I was in the hospital for a month. I was on antidepressants. I had fixed meals. I didn’t talk to anyone except one guy. My mother brought me food everyday.
Eventually, they thought I was ok so they discharged me. But I wasn’t, because I hadn’t confronted the person who hurt me as a child. He came into my room a few days later and it triggered me to become crazy and anxious. I told everyone to leave me alone. A few hours later I jumped out of my window from the second floor.
In that moment, I wanted to die.
I knew the distance wasn’t enough to kill me instantly but I wasn’t rational. I just wanted to inflict pain upon myself and just.. die
I was readmitted to the hospital.
Two days before that attempt I tried drowning myself in the pool. But part of my soul- it was too scary. I was choking water and I was cold.
What helped you the most to heal?
My mom and my sister. Family. My mom’s presence, existence, her love. They were the reasons for me to live. Their ability to care and understand my pain. Especially my sister.
I was very excited to go back to school again, especially Sunway since my sister was here.
I started to study and slowly I regained hope to live again for my future. It became stronger after I met.. a girl. From Africa. At first I didn’t like her because she was too headstrong and bossy. But then after the second week of knowing her from an assignment, we opened up to each other. She had a sad story too. She accepted me as a person even though she was pious – and I didn’t pray.
She was vibrant to be around.
Is it still an ongoing struggle?
Of course not. No. It’s not an option. Life is too precious to be taken away. There’s always someone out there who cares but we just tend to forget. Other people have greater struggles out there, worse. We have to be strong in the face of adversity.
What would you say to someone going through it right now?
There’s always hope if you try to find it and not listen to the voices in your head. There is always a helping hand out there in the drowning mist of the ocean you are drowning in.
Oh, and I recommend seeking help and going for therapy. That just really helped me. When you bottle things up it encapsulates your rationality. You NEED to talk things out. Get help.
It can be anyone, even just a friend. At least one person in your life to confide in. You need to be brave enough to go out there and tell someone. Otherwise the voices will be your only friend and it’s a very dark companion to have. Your voices are going to say “no one else understands your pain” but it’s a lie you know. It’s pessimism at the worst level. It’s the enemy of hope.
Suicide attempts: 3
What was happening in your life at the time?
The first two attempts were when I was in form 5. There were a lot of things. Mom had cancer, I was failing add maths for SPM, my future was unclear and my grades really made me feel like crap. Everyone had high expectations of me since my father is a doctor and I have two sisters who both scored As for Add Maths
The latest one was January this year. I wasn’t in college, I had no job, I was just going through days and I thought, “what’s the point?”. I was taking out the trash one morning and I found myself going to the edge of the road, watching the cars. I was going to walk out into the traffic. I didn’t go through with it because I thought about my cats, they would lose their mommy.
Do you think it was a mental health issue or just bad circumstances piling up?
Oh I definitely had an undiagnosed mental health issue. Once, I opened up to Mom – she was unsympathetic. She recounted how when she was younger, her friends and her would pretend to have depression for kicks. She blamed it on hormones. Her dismissal just made it worse.
What did you do after the attempts? Did it change your perspective?
I continued as usual. No one found out. I only told my close friends and my boyfriend, I didn’t want to trouble my parents. There was no change in perspective for me.
I had a really crappy counselor. He knew I had depression but he couldn’t handle it. I remember once we had this psychometric test in form 5. I scored a 21/21 on depression. He told our batch that he would be arranging specific meetings with students based on the results.. And the first meeting he called for all the students who scored low in stress and he said “you guys aren’t panicking enough”. I mean, some of us were legitimately depressed but he wanted to ‘help’ people who ‘weren’t stressed enough’?
Do you still think about suicide?
Yes. It ranges from a few times a day to a few times a week.
What makes it worse?
Well, I start overthinking. I get this big fear, especially when I’m eating alone. My problems become magnified. It’s just daily issues – grades, assignments, friends. The suicidal thoughts give me both mental and physical pain. Recently something very hurtful happened in my life and it started giving me heart arrhythmia, my body twitches in pain from it. When I start going to that place, I just want the pain to stop.
I have a theory. I know that many people self-harm or commit suicide to escape, but for me it’s more like self-punishment. It’s not about relief.
What makes it better?
Thinking about my cats! And the people who matter. My sister, my boyfriend, my parents. When you feel the pain, you forget about these things so you have to remind yourself.
My coping mechanisms include crying. At first I will always withdraw from others but when I’m ready, I talk to my best friend and boyfriend. They never fail to make me feel better.
I know this is a strange question, but.. Do you want to live?
I really do want to grow old and have a family, stuff like that. But I get these negative thoughts, “I won’t live that long anyway so who cares?”. Actually, what comforts me is the thought that global warming may kill us all first anyways.
What would you say to others going through this?
Seek help. I’m going to counselling here in Sunway and the counselor honestly helps. Find a hobby that keeps you bound. Find something to latch onto and live purely for that. You don’t need to live for yourself, you can live for your favourite meal, or for that TV show that hasn’t finished airing, or anything at all really.
We can conclude from these two interviews that while the circumstances that land a person in the territory of ‘suicidal’ may be very different, the symptoms and the effects of it are the exact same. Hopelessness, pain and an abundance of negative thoughts plague their lives until they feel there is no escape except through death. However, as proven by the fact that they are still here today, there is still a life to be lived beyond that phase. There are still moments, interviews, experiences, family and cats to live for.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts please seek help. You can book an appointment for free with either a counselor or with a trained Peer Counseling Volunteer easily:
- Call our phone line 03-74918622 ext 3022/3023/3027
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Just walk in! The counsellors’ office is located at the Student LIFE Centre (next to the College cafeteria). Our student helpers and staff will kindly receive you and refer you to us
- Fill up the online counselling form:
Log in to iZone
Click on Services->eForms->Counselling eForm
Fill in the eForm with your particulars->Submit
As a generation, we have embraced a strange sort of hopelessness as we go about our daily lives. Depression memes, jokes about wanting to die, deflating in conflict because “it’s not worth it”, acceptance over the worsening state in the world. It affects us all. Our parents ask, “how come kids these days are all depressed?”. It’s impossible to explain this new culture to them.
We are all in this together. So let’s make an effort, instead of succumbing to hopelessness, let’s face the future with determination to make things right.