Listen to the cries of the suicidal

The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die.” – Juliette Lewis, American actress

Needless to say, it is very sad and depressing to hear of suicide cases. Many of us will never be able to comprehend why those driven to suicide find life so meaningless and not worth living.

Perhaps suicide is now so common like fatal road accidents that we do not pay much attention to it. That is until it happens to a family member or relative or people we know.

Let’s take a moment to reflect. Can you imagine taking your own life? Surely, it isn’t easy to kill oneself. Imagine the fears, pain and agony minutes before taking the plunge of no return.

We, as a society, can do our bit to help. We have to listen to the cries of the suicidal. People around them could help by first spotting signs such as talks about suicide, feeling hopeless and desperate and withdrawing from others. 

Let me relate an experience in dealing with a suicidal case many years ago.

It was a cold December evening in 1993 when I was on duty at the news desk at The Star newspaper in Petaling Jaya.

A call came in and I happened to pick it up. Soon, I realised that this was no ordinary call. The guy at the other end of the line was sobbing as he talked to me.

His purpose for calling a newspaper was because he had a personal story to share and wanted to get it published. He was virtually begging for help (even to me, a stranger), saying that this would be the final favour he was seeking from anyone.

I was stunned when he told me that after sharing his story with me, he would take his own life by consuming poison. For a moment, I was at a loss as to what to do.

After collecting my thoughts, I decided to meet him and enquired whether he could come to The Star office (then at Section 13, PJ). To ensure that he would put off his intention of harming himself, I gave him a reason for meeting me — I would write his story but I needed more details.

We met an hour later at the appointed cafeteria of The Star’s office. Five minutes into his story, I asked to see the poison he told me earlier that he had with him.

I was glad he did not hesitate to show me — dark liquid in a shampoo bottle which I guess must be a type of weed killer. That he was prepared to let me keep it following my insistence showed that he was probably having second thoughts about suicide. (I discarded the bottle before I left the office that night with him).

I will spare the details of his story (it’s very personal) except that he was having marital problems and that his wife had humiliated him. He showed me a photo of his wife and a letter he had just received from her.

I wasn’t much of a counsellor (I was in my 30s then) but what someone in that state of mind really needs is a listening ear, comfort and solace. That is only common sense.

Apparently, he was not in the position of being alone that night, so I offered to put him up in my home. He gladly accepted and back in the house, we chatted until 3am.

At the end of it, I believe he agreed that taking revenge on the wife by killing oneself was a silly and stupid idea.

The next morning, he felt better and after breakfast, he told me he wanted to take the bus home. As he was going to the Klang bus station in the city, I suggested that he spend a quiet moment at Masjid Jamek to pray for guidance and comfort.

I also gave him something to tie him over the day but more importantly, the phone contact of the Befrienders in Petaling Jaya, advising him to call them whenever he feels down and out again.

I am relating this story of 28 years ago to encourage all to lend a helping hand to the suicidal. It’s not really such a difficult task for what they need in their desperate moment is a person to confide in and talk to.

Suicide cases are on the rise, even in Sarawak. This past week alone, this paper has reported three cases — two in Sibu, involving a 43-year-old woman who jumped out of a hotel window and a varsity student, 24, who hanged herself in her bedroom at home.   

The third case was that of a man, in his 50s, who shot himself in his Serian home. Police found the deceased on his bed with a suicide note.

A suicidal person is in so much pain that they can see no other option of finding relief except through death. So, the thought of committing suicide is usually an attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable.

Perhaps, each one of us can help the suicidal to make things somewhat more bearable. That’s the least we can and should do.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune. Feedback can reach the writer at sirsiah@gmail.com.