Saagar Naresh is a charming 20-year-old of Indian origin. He moved from India to UK at the age of five. He lives in London and is in his second year at University, studying languages.
He is an accomplished cricketer (fast bowler), percussionist and linguist. He loves everything French. He is passionate about Arabic. He plays with accents and imitations and has us in splits. He is handsome, funny and has a heart of gold. His friendships mean the world to him.
In August 2014, the confusing and menacing ravages of Bipolar Disorder take him over. Unannounced, he ends his life by his own hands within 10 weeks of diagnosis.
I am his mother. I am also a doctor. I died with him. An amputated heart and a bruised soul somehow keep the tatters of my being together. The undying love between mother and son sustains. It finds expression through writing every day. Writing heals through sharing the lessons learnt from Saagar's story. It echoes in other broken hearts. It reaches out to other inner, silent deafening screams of deep irreparable loss. It appears as a blog every day since the 16th October 2014, the wretched day Saagar died.
I drag from one breath to the next, from one moment to the next, from the front door of the house to the car. Writing becomes a source of strength. It brings comfort to other grieving families. It begins to emerge as a resource for suicide prevention. It brings up common themes between stories. It becomes a platform for mental health advocacy and activism. It brings people together. It becomes a luminous shrine to Saagar and others lost by suicide. It offers hope in hell.
WHO statistics for 2015 say that every 40 seconds someone ends their life by their own hands on this planet. Suicide is the second largest cause of death in 15-29 year olds globally. Many of these tragedies are preventable.
The darkness of stigma that shrouds mental illness and suicide is impenetrable. As a society we are unable to bring it out into the open and face the enemy. Cover-ups such as 'accident' or 'heart attack' are often employed by families to evade facts. Even though no one is immune, we continue to live in denial. The medics are at a loss when it comes to suicide prevention and supporting those bereaved by it.
Over the last 30 months, I have learnt that listening to understand is a life-saving skill. That loneliness kills. That the maladies of the soft clay of vulnerable adolescent brains can be confusing. That time and hope are invaluable gifts. That minds, young and old need a sense of belonging, love and understanding to maintain sanity. That kindness upholds the delicate balance of critical neurotransmitters like Dopamine and Serotonin. That everyone can make a difference.
I have learnt that even when every bone in my body feels like there is nothing left to live for, I can walk 50 kilometres. That I can raise large funds for charity (PAPYRUS). That the voluntary sector does a great job. That they help many in distress. That I can join them in their work as a Trustee.
That I can bring comfort to grieving families through long phone calls. That I can organise vigils for those lost by suicide in public places. That I can be their voice and raise their issues. That I can work with the Mayor's office to better the well being of Londoners. That I can talk to large gatherings about suicide prevention.
I have learnt that it's ok to be fragile and show it. It's ok to ask for help and accept it. It's ok to reach out to others and allow others to reach out to you. That horrible things happen to good people. That life sometimes sucks. That I need to forgive myself for not knowing then what I know now. That finding meaning is like finding candlelight while walking through a pitch-dark tunnel. That grief is another form of love.
Each moment of the last 30 months has been laden with and supported by love. A big thanks to Simon, my partner, who makes me smile. To our family and friends. To Saagar's friends and many others who know they belong on this list. We couldn't have got this far without you. Thank you.
Rest in peace, my darling Saagar.