Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
I attended funeral about 3 months ago. A family member who killed themselves.
The dogs, frantic through the night, found him first, then his son. Just imagine.
We stood in the rain, a community of working people, heads bowed, in suits too big or too small, around a fresh grave with hot tears.
He wasn't a strange man, or a desperate man. Just a man lost in day to day banality and finally lost in his mind.
And I was angry. Not with him, with him I felt nothing but an aching pity I couldn't have reached out to him at that unGodly desolate hour and given him peace, but with the people who said "I'm not surprised."
"I'm not surprised!?" Because you saw the mental and physical deterioration that resulted in such a violent and tragic end when you could have stepped in?
"I'm not surprised" because of the situation or the work, his position or the circumstances he found himself in?
"I'm not surprised" because it's considered normal for a hard working man in a stressful and lonely position to take his own life and allow his family to find his bloody remains mixed with a muddy yard?
I'm still angry.
Then I received news a couple of days ago about a vet I taught. Dr K God bless you. He ended his life.
Also alone, in some dark place he could only find one way of escaping.
I recall him as a jolly person, always willing to participate. I don't know what happened, only that he was found alone. He was buried this morning surrounded by a huge number of people.
A few weeks ago I lectured at SEVA and was lucky enough to be invited to the evening dinner where I sat with several final year students. One lady I spoke with carried the nervousness I could only ascribe to social anxiety and the excema on her forearms and tic of trying to conceal her scratching belied something I feared may become more ugly with the exposure a young graduate is faced with from day one and which only grows with increasing responsibility.
I spoke with her for little more than 45 minutes but slept fitfully that night wondering what my duty as a fellow colleague should be, or whether my observations were aberrant and even offensive?
I've always been astounded by the trail of tragedy that follows veterinary medicine in its literal wake. Depression, alcoholism, family break ups, injury and suicide. It is so common place that it is met with the "I'm not surprised" dismissive and idiotic "the show must go on."
If anyone is reading this and is in that place. The place where your thoughts are not your own, where the next day envelopes you in fear, where the need to escape may trickle in ideas of death. We know that it hurts, that you are not alone and that at last help is there. In Vetlife, in MindMatters, in the Samaritans, in AA, in a call to a colleague or a friend, on a knock on the door of a neighbor. I only ask and beg that you never allow anyone to utter the words "I'm not surprised."
If you need to talk to someone, Vetlife Helpline is avaialble 24 hours a day. Call: 0303 040 2551 or email via the website: http://www.vetlife.org.uk