SUICIDE: A note to every Filipino
We, Filipinos, have always been known to exhibit a sunny disposition in life. Despite the tragedies and the daily chaos that we face, we can always muster the courage to bravely put up with a smile. This character trait has saved us many times from a very miserable existence. But how long can we keep that smile, or that happy face?
Life has its own ups and downs that we have to face. And in reality, some situations may get out of hand, as we struggle to deal with a great amount of emotional stress along with social pressure that may eventually wear us down.
With the goal of conforming to the expectations of others, we sometimes just grin and bear our woes – afraid that others will see our burden of managing a rocky relationship, an unhappy family environment, or an exhausting work schedule as a sign of weakness and failure. We all wear a mask with a happy face most of the time. But we must not forget that in order to maintain balance, we also have to acknowledge that there will be times when we just have to admit that unhappiness may find its way towards us. Refusing to admit it will only leave us in complete denial of the profound unhappy feelings, the gloominess, the hurt and the pain that drags us around. Many of us are still oblivious to what "depression" is all about.
According to one leading London psychiatrist, Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, "Smiling depression is a term often used to refer to a patient who you think is depressed, but doesn’t look it and often won’t admit it."
We tend to mask our persistent sadness, feelings of worthlessness or helplessness, feelings of guilt, crushing low self-esteem, pessimism, and even our secret panic attacks away from the scrutinizing eyes of the public. Despite the need to see a mental health professional who may help us get back to a healthy emotional and psychological state, we refuse to do so because we are afraid of the stigma from a society that tends to discriminate. We are unaware that when such conditions are left undiagnosed and untreated, it may lead to reckless behavior or worse, suicide.
Do we really understand the growing problem of mental health crisis and suicide? If only we can take pause to listen and show someone that we care. Or perhaps even just by being with a family member or a friend can help save a life at risk.
More than half of the suicides that occur globally every year come from the Southeast Asia and Western Pacific Region, according to a 2008 report by the World Health Organization.
Dr Dinah Nadera, a psychiatrist and professor of the University of the Philippines Open University stated: “The Philippines is cited to have one of the lowest male (2.5) and female suicide rates (1.7 per 100,000) in the Western Pacific Region. Many attribute this data to the Filipinos’ grounding in the Catholic faith, natural resiliency, and gregariousness as a people and as a nation.
This was based on data from 1996. More recent findings, however, reveal that suicide rate among males is 3.59 and 1.09 for females, according to Nadera.
“Connectedness” as being preventive for suicide is a concept that needs no proof in the Philippines. Filipinos are known for close family ties, extended family structure, and as residents of a nation of connections, as the Philippines is known as the texting (SMS) capital of the world. She also noted that having close friends is one protective factor in suicide prevention.
Let me share with you a poem I wrote to express what depressed and suicidal people may have in mind. They may not directly utter the word “help” but through this poem, I hope that somehow we can be more sensitive to what depressed or suicidal people are going through.
(felo-de-se: the act of suicide or a person who commits suicide.)
I have built walls around me
As I hid inside my shell
I’ve also pushed people away
And kept all the pain and sorrow inside me
I'm drowned by my own tears
I’ve struggled for years to face my fears
I was so lost, I felt so alone
I am very depressed
Everything now seemed hopeless
With no one to call my own
My life has been shattered
My dreams have been crushed
I am nothing, I am nobody
I am but a worthless person
All I see is darkness
Perhaps death is the only way out
For the pain I feel is too much to bear
And no one seems to care at all
I was abandoned, and isolated,
Taken for granted and disregarded
I became invisible in everyone's eyes
I see no reason for my existence
I am living in a world of hopelessness and lies
What is the purpose of living
When I don't even know what happiness means
It feels like all the world's burden
Had been cast upon my shoulders
I don't deserve all these
Perhaps if I commit suicide
It'll free me from all this pain
Everything might fall into place
If I simply shot myself and bleed to death
The pain inside me will be more valid
If I let the blood flow along with my tears
Maybe when I reach my death, my troubles will also end
Who will grieve for me anyway?
It'll just be merely a passing death
Because none of you were there for me
Not even tried to understand me at least
But if I kill myself now
I will also no longer be able to see
What could have been on the other side
Of the blinding darkness that has clouded my senses
Because amidst all these
The only reality is I am dying to seek help
Hoping it'll come the soonest possible as it can be
Will you be kind enough to listen to me
I don't need you to sympathize nor err with me
I just need someone who will lend his ears
Or a shoulder to cry on so to speak
As I am now knocking on death’s door
I hope for once, you'll take one last look of me
And spare me some of your precious time
All I need is to let this feeling out
Or else you'll never know what's it all about
For I will carry the story upon my grave
That day might be too late
For you to ask why
Because death has already taken me
If only you can take me now out of the darkness
And make me believe that life is more powerful than death
Please, please! All I need now is your help
Please save me from a hapless death!
To the suicidal, they think that killing themselves is the only way out. But the truth is, they are not really interested in ending their lives. They think of suicide as an escape from responsibilities and burdens, from people or from things that are beyond their control. They do not necessarily need to die to address their issues; they just need a break from the pain and to know that someone still cares about them. They need not just professional help, but people who can help them cope and empower them to continue life. Suicide is preventable. There’s got to be another way beyond self-harm. – Rappler.com
Hazel Delgado Planco, 29, is an online ESL Teacher involved with the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, a non-profit organization in the Philippines dedicated to bringing depression to light. She uses poetry as an introspection and reflection of what the world around her reveals.
For free and confidential crisis support and intervention, call the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation's Hopeline (632) 804-4673 and 09175584673, Light of Jesus Counseling Center (632) 7266728, (632)7259999 and 09228407031, In Touch Community’s Crisis Line: 893-7603 (landline), 0917 800 1123 (Globe), or 0922 893 8944 (Sun). For intervention programs and services, call the Philippine Mental Health Association (632) 9214958 or visit a psychologist or a psychiatrist near you.
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