Life After Suicide – A review
The BBC’s Life After Suicide, following one woman’s quest to find out why some people choose to end their lives and the consequences for those left behind is heartfelt and thought-provoking. It explores the recurring question of why we as a society, are so afraid to talk about suicide, when it is in fact the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK.
Every year 6000 people in Britain end their lives.
11 years ago Angela Samata was living what she calls an ordinary life, married with two children. Everything came crashing down when her husband Mark took his own life in their family home. Angela was gripped by grief, then confusion, as she tried to answer her boys’ questions. For the first time she also recognised the stigma associated with suicide.
“People don’t know how to speak to you and everyone treats you differently.”
Angela embarks on a journey to meet other people affected by suicide, to break the stigma and find answers – the biggest one ‘why.’
Among those Angela meets, is Professor Rory O’Connor, who studies suicide at Glasgow University. Professor O’Connor tries to understand the phenomenon by studying the common features in people who try to end their lives. Contrary to popular belief, he says ‘suicide is not a selfish act but an expression of unbearable pain.”
It’s insightful looking on as Angela meets other families and support groups in grief. I learn that those bereaved by suicide suffer a very specific kind of grief; that families often feel a strong sense of failure for not being able to stop their loved ones.
It’s striking to hear Angela say that talking about it with her children wasn’t easy given the silence all around her. The implication of this is that by being a society reluctant to talk about suicide, we create a barrier for those of us who need and want to talk about it in order to heal.
Angela also meets Downton Abbey actor David Robb, whose wife ended her life in 2013. It’s hard not be affected when he says ‘tell me it gets better.’ Angela offers hope, saying that it is possible to get through it if one talks about it. In another heart rending meeting, mother Jackie Page talks about how years after her husband ended his own life, her son followed suit. This raises another issue associated with suicide – the possibility of it recurring in families.
It was interesting to learn that despite the prevalence of suicide, the charity Maytree, which provides a 5-day residential respite for suicidal people, is the only one in the country.
Life After Suicide offered me a glimpse into ‘the other side’ and at times it was painful to watch. In 2013, I tried to end my life twice, as depression spiralled out of control. I was committed to the task of unburdening myself – the pain had become unbearable. I never wanted to speak to my family about it. I live abroad, and I often wonder what it would have been like for them. As I lay in a High Dependency Unit at hospital unconscious, my friends rang my father to give him the bad news.
Recovering was difficult. The stigma is great and rhetoric like ‘suicide is selfish’ isn’t uncommon. It took me by surprise when dad raised the topic, saying he never understood how anyone could see suicide as an option. I explained about the blackness enveloping me and how hard it had become to see anything but my pain.
He said, ‘Before now I never understood that depression could do this to a person.”
Life After Suicide impresses the need for discourse. There is much work to be done but talking is the place to start.
‘You don’t ever get over it but if you talk about it, one day you can be happy again” -Angela Samata.
If you are in need or urgent help or support please call The Samaritans on 116 123
If you would like to connect with others affected by depression join our Friends in Need Community to talk online and meet up in your local area.
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