Wednesday, 6 January 2016

There have been two appalling tragedies

here in the past few days. Both could have been avoided.
The first was the death by drowning of two young refugees from Burundi. They were at one of the local beaches. There are life guards there but the boys were not playing within the area being watched. They had, childlike, gone to explore rocks and then slipped and fallen. 
Even if they had been able to swim this would have been dangerous. They could not swim. 
To lose a child on what should have been a good family day out is something I cannot begin to imagine. I don't know the mothers but I want to hug them. I don't suppose it would do much good but I hope they are getting a lot of support. 
I also hope people aren't saying, "It's their fault. They should have been watching. They should have known better."
No, it isn't their fault. There were younger children there as well and they were undoubtedly watching them. They come from a part of the world where there are no beaches with rocks to climb.
The second tragedy was in many ways even worse. The first may be considered an "accident" but the second was a deliberate act, a murder-suicide. A father drove off his car off a jetty at speed - with his two young sons inside. None of them survived. The father apparently posted a suicide note on Facebook just before he did it. 
Nobody seems to have been aware of his mental state or, if they were, they didn't recognise the danger. 
Suicide is a terrifying thing. We still don't want to talk about mental illness. Unless we have experienced it ourselves we don't understand depression. I have heard people say of a friend of mine, "She should just snap out of it." My response is, "She can't. Do you suppose she wants to feel like that?" But, even as I say it, I know I don't understand how she feels. 
I have felt depressed. All of us have. There have been moments when the world has felt dim, even grey, but I have not been unfortunate enough to feel that all enveloping cloud of darkness that makes it impossible to function properly. 
Is it hard to recognise in other people because we have not experienced it ourselves - or do we try not to see it because we don't want to know it is there? Do we try to avoid recognising it because not only don't know what to do it but because we fear it? Are we genuinely unable to recognise such things?
Years ago someone I knew committed suicide. People were shocked. They kept saying they had "no idea" but the signs were there. I'd had a conversation with her the week before. She had come into the research unit on a Saturday morning to do some "tidying up". We'd talked over mugs of tea and she asked me to do a couple of things related to the research she was doing. I thought it was a little odd at the time and I did mention it to someone else but they saw nothing strange about it. Perhaps if they had agreed with me she might have got some support and not taken the final step. 
I don't know. I'll never know. I just hope I never experience that depth of despair - and that I can be there if someone needs me.
There will have been signs this time but 


Judy Edmonds said...

There is a 'happy family photo' of them in a newspaper today - if you look closely the body language and strained smiles do not look happy at all. I expect it's human nature to assume that everything will be all right in the long run, because the alternative is almost too overwhelming to imagine. The children at Glenelg Beach was a very sad story too, it sounds as though they just being curious children. You can take your eyes off a child for the tiniest moment and a safe situation can turn fatal so quickly.

catdownunder said...

I agree - the children looked fine but, despite the smiles, the adults looked tense