Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Today is about remembering those who have passed away.
Today is about acknowledging the importance of connection.
Today I remember my friend Heather.
Heather was the type of person you couldn’t help but like. She was effervescent, engaging, kind, and pretty cool. The year was 2004 and we were both 23 years of age; I had started my first ‘proper’ job post-university study. Heather was on a working holiday from the United States. We would go to Les Mills classes together and I loved how she would totally cut loose at Body Jam. Our workplace was very social (I lost count of the shared morning teas and dinner outings) and many of us developed a fondness for this bubbly American. I remember dictating a sentence to her to type out “blah blah blah full stop…” and she literally typed out the words ‘full stop.’ We laughed about that for such a long time afterwards!
Heather broke up with her boyfriend whilst in NZ, but she seemed resolute and was supported by the many friends she made at work. My colleague Adele became quite motherly towards her, and I’m sure she was always so appreciative of this despite being so far away from her family.
When she was ready to go back to the United States, she seemed so excited about pursuing a cool new job. Her interest had been in marketing and she had landed herself a great new role in Phoenix, Arizona. Before she left, she gave us a letter/poem that talked fondly of her time in New Zealand. Yup, I will never forget the peanut butter with jelly and pineapple toasted sandwiches!
A few months later we received an email from her mum to say she had committed suicide. She had turned 24 a few weeks earlier. I remember bursting into tears, the shock of it all was too great. In was so unfathomable to think that someone so bubbly would take her own life.
Heather’s passing was a shock to the system. It made me reflect on the ‘down days’ I experienced throughout my early twenties, the days when I thought would be easier to disappear from everyone. Even though the circumstances are tragic, I draw strength from Heather’s memory and this encourages me to lead a productive and happy life. I know that’s what she would want for everyone, but it saddens me how that hope wasn’t there for her on the fateful day.
I don’t think there is a magic answer to fixing this apparent crisis, but all I know is that fostering positive mental health is extremely important to getting through the good and bad times in life. Accept that life isn’t perfect. Accept that there are many things beyond our control. Accept the idea that you are loved. Accept that there IS someone thinking about you. Accept help. You can’t always do this alone and nor should you every have to.
Rest in peace and love my friend. You are not forgotten.
Useful websites about World Suicide Prevention Day: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12120610