We do need to talk about it
SUICIDE. It's an ugly word. One that slides out in a whisper usually. But why?
When the story of a suicide hits the news stands it usually has one of two narratives: one being that the person had a long (usually silent) battle with depression; and the second being that it came as such a shock to those who believed they knew the person well - "I had no idea”.
And that is because depression is another word said quietly, cautiously. Anyone suffering from depression is loathe to say it out loud for fear of judgment.
As a journalist, I know there's a protocol to be followed when writing about suicide. But as a mother? Talking to a teacher? About her eight-year-old who has written a story mentioning suicide? What is the protocol there?
In a broader context, how do we talk about suicide and depression as a community?
When the teacher let me read my child's essay, I was relieved to see there were no morbid details but rather a statement of fact that someone had "committed suicide”.
While I wouldn't say this was an excellent "teaching moment” to discuss during class, should it really be regarded as "inappropriate”, something I should talk with her about?
I chewed it over for awhile, thinking how close our own family has come to losing someone to suicide.
If the worst had happened, how would it feel to a child trying to express this confusing, upsetting reality in an environment where such topics are taboo? What groundwork does it lay for a lifetime of communicating the big stuff?
So, I will talk with my children about depression and suicide. I will say it was brave to tackle such a topic in a classroom. That it is important to let people know they can and should talk about it.
I will also say that some people might not agree. That some will act as though depression is contagious and such an affliction should be given a wide berth when, in fact, they should be held closest of all.
I am not going to tell my children that suicide shouldn't be discussed because we have seen that keeping silent does not help. Speak up.
Peta Jo is an author and mother of three. Her books handle depression and suicide. Visit her on Facebook.
If you or anyone you know needs help contact Lifeline on 131114.