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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Felled By Deaf Ears

  There was a lady who lived in a nondescript flat in Brighton, england who died recently. For whatever reason, 42 year old Simone Back took her own life this past Christmas Day. The holidays can be really rough on some people. Maybe she wanted someone to listen, maybe she was lonely, but she probably really didn't want to die. Few of us do.

Clue to her distress was a cry for help to her Facebook friends, over a thousand in all. She typed out that she'd taken all of her pills and would soon be dead. What appeared was a flood of cruel responses from those who lived within walk or transit distance, saying that "she ODs all the time and she lies" and "it's her choice". Online-only friends from far away pleaded on Miss Back's Facebook wall for her address and to call 999, getting into arguments with Brighton locals. Dirty names were even exchanged, it becoming clear that the only ones truly concerned were too far to personally check on the distressed lady.

So nobody came. Not one person called 999 or knocked on her door. No phone calls, nothing. 1, 082 people and nobody called the Samaritans or Police. On boxing Day, a full 17 hours later, Police kicked in Simone Back's door to find her body. It took a full day for someone to text Simone Back's disabled mother to tell them that her daughter needed help.

Regardless of how you view suicide, know that mental illness is very real. If someone says that he or she is going to take his or her  own life, LISTEN. While you may not take phone or internet conversations seriously, remind yourself that there is a very real human being on the other end of the cable. I know what it's like to be tired at 3 A.M. and hang up on someone to find out later that he's blown his brains out. I am also acutely aware of the fact that sometimes we all feel helpless, and that the difference between helplessness and hopelessness can be as simple as a hug and an open ear.

Everyone's life is filled with opportunities to succeed and fail. Hearts are broken and mended, friendships forged and shattered. The only consistent truth is that life cannot improve if there is no life left. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please find someone to talk it out with. I am living proof that it really does get better. And if one person doesn't listen, try another. We all need help at some point in time and you can return the favour so long as you aren't worm chow. Please hold on.

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