It was a sunny Thursday morning in October. I felt a deep restlessness. As I left home for work, something within me wished I could stay home. My discomfort pulsated in my chest. I put it down to a deep concern for my son who was unwell. I called him from work at 10 am. I encouraged him to go out for a walk as the sun was shining. I told him how much I would have liked to be with him. I didn't tell him how much I love him. He didn't speak much. I put it down to his depression. He texted me at lunch time to say he was out for a walk. I knew something was amiss. I felt it in my bones. I rushed home after work. I texted him from the taxi, "Put on the kettle darling. I am not far." I unlocked the door and called out his name. No answer. I took off my shoes and started walking up to his room. On the 4th step lay an A4 sheet. 'Sorry. I can't take this anymore."
The birth of my beautiful son was the most life-enriching event for me.
The death of that child was life-changing to say the least.
His death by suicide at the age of 20 was... unbearable. Unthinkable. Unspeakable. Unbelievable. Life-shattering.
He was a cute bump. Then, a gorgeous boy. Sweet and affectionate. Bright and funny. Sporty and musical. A linguist and a mimic. Popular and handsome. At every age and stage, he shone. His wit and smile lit up many lives. We moved from place to place. He took it in his stride. He adjusted. He coped. He learnt. He made friends. He grew into a warm and compassionate young man with a wicked sense of humour. He was mad about percussion. He was too good to be true. His name is Saagar Naresh.
His love of languages took him to university to study French and Arabic. He loved it. After his second year, a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder dropped on him like a bomb. After 10 weeks of diagnosis, he took his own life.
An all-pervading darkness fell. It engulfed every dream, every hope. It swallowed up our future. It shrouded my life in questions. It left me paralysed with grief and disbelief. His friends and mine came together. His school and university honoured him in many ways. My partner didn't leave my side and nurtured me back from nothingness. Our families came together and surrounded us with love.
On hindsight, it was clear that he had been dying in front of my eyes and I couldn't see it at the time. Even though I am a doctor and his mother, I didn't know that he was so close to the edge. He had seen his doctor two days before he died and his fast approaching death was invisible to his doctor too. No one on our street or in our neighbourhood could see or do anything.
I started investigating this issue. The numbers were scandalous. Every 40 seconds someone somewhere on this spectacular planet ends their life. In the UK and Republic of Ireland, 6581 others took their own lives in 2014, the year Saagar died by suicide. This corresponds to a rate of 10.8 per 100,000 people (16.8 per 100,000 for men and 5.2 per 100,000 for women). Men are three to four times more likely to take their own lives than women. Deaths by road accidents, heart disease and AIDS have dropped over the last two decades. Those by suicide in England and Wales reached a 20 year high in 2015. Suicide is the biggest single killer of men and women under the age of 45 in the UK.
The depth of fear, disgust and ignorance associated with mental illness and suicide in our society is unfathomable. Huge gaps in knowledge, poor practices and attitudes exist within the health-care community. The Mental Health services are gross underfunded, especially for children and young adults.
Saagar felt he was broken. After his death, I was broken. I found that our education, society and health care system are broken. I realised that the way forward was to improve mental health literacy in the community. The NHS does not have enough resources or expertise. We need to educate and empower ourselves to take care of ourselves and our loved ones.
Everyday since Saagar's death I have written a blog - kidsaregifts, to share my learning. I work with schools, parents, the medical profession and the government to increase awareness of the vulnerabilities of young minds, reduce stigma and thereby prevent further unnecessary loss of our future to suicide. I have found great strength in collaborating with the charity PAPYRUS, that shares my vision.
Now I know the power of non-judgemental listening, kindness and empathy.
I feel blessed to be Saagar's Mum.
I grieve for his death.
For his guilt, his shame.
His self blame.
His sadness. His silence.
Every moment of distance.
Him, all alone. Forlorn.
His thoughts, torn.
His brokenness. Hopelessness.
His lightless eyes. His vanished smiles.
His hollow form. His shadow gone.
His quite desperation. Separation.
His terror. His fright.
Night after night.
Misunderstood, behind a hood.
For this black and white Now.
For this constant 'How?'
That wretched day I went to work.
Every time I put me first.
Words unsaid. Eyes unmet.
Jokes and Stories unshared . Games unplayed.
Songs unhummed. Beats undrummed.
Meals uncooked. Dreams unhooked.
Films unseen. Jeans uncleaned.
Hugs unheld. Incense unsmelt.
Cocktails unmixed. Good-nights unkissed.
I grieve and I am grateful
For all that was given
and all that was taken away
And all the nitty-gritty.
For it brings me closer to Divinity.