20 August 2010

The cruellest loss

How does a parent cope with a child's suicide? This is one father's story.

Ilse Pauw is a holder of the Carter fellowship for mental health journalism from the Carter Center in Atlanta. This is part of her series of articles on mental health and stigma.

"You can't help but blame yourself if someone close to you decides to take his life. You can't help but wonder: why did he do that? And could I have prevented it? The pain is still unbearable."

Bhabha contacted the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) for counselling. He started attending workshops and became involved in the organisation's suicide prevention work.

"It was only after my counselling sessions that I learnt to identify the warning signs. If only I'd had this information, I might have been able to intervene in time."

Bhabha says that in retrospect, there were signs that Sizwe was depressed.

"It turned out that Sizwe had a secret life which was only uncovered after his death. He had just broken up with his girlfriend and we only discovered at the funeral that he had impregnated another woman. Now I can see that there were signs. He became quiet and withdrawn. He tried to talk to us but we brushed it off. If only I had listened to him, I might have prevented this tragedy."


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