‘To lose of a child, is like losing a part of you’

Cape Town – “Dealing with the loss of a child is a pain that no one can possibly imagine. The feeling that you have lost a part of you.” Paula Veale’s words were heavy as she spoke of her daughter’s suicide during this week’s Teen Suicide Prevention Week.

In 2008, Amy Veale from KwaZulu-Natal, 14, was bullied and intimidated at school. Her parents also divorced.

Her mother said they noticed Amywas depressed and was seen by a school counsellor at the time.

“We had made arrangements for her to see a psychologist the following week. I lost my daughter on Sunday 25th May, 2008.

“She left behind an older sister, Tamica and older brother, Matthew, father, grandmother, aunts, great aunt and even a great-grandmother.”

“Suicide is never expected, we knew she was depressed and I had at the time, found out that she was self-mutilating. I would never have thought that this would happen to me and my family.

“Dealing with the loss of a child is a pain that no one can possibly imagineThe child that you nurtured for nine months, who grew from a baby, toddler, infant and eventually to a lovely young lady of 14 years old,” said Veale, who urges parents to speak to their children if they are depressed.

“Speak to them, listen to them. Be there for them. If you can, send them to a counsellor or a doctor to get the help they need to overcome this dark stage in their life,” she said.

Veale described her daughter as a friendly and outgoing person.

“She always had friends around her. She showed compassion to friends in need, sadly she could not go to them when she needed someone to talk to.

“She was a star on the hockey field. She had started high school and had played games for the second team”.

Psychiatrist at Akeso Milnerton Clinic, Dr Mike West, said most people who commit suicide have a mental illness but not all of them will attempt or complete suicide.

“The main reason we are facing such a high burden of teenage suicides is because at a policy level, South African mental health policies – both historical and current – have largely excluded children and adolescents.”

“The most dangerous mental illness is an untreated mental illness and sadly many young people are not able to access the treatment they so desperately need,” he said.

West’s message to teenagers is: “In five years’ time, your life will be completely different.

“It may seem like today will last forever, but I can assure you that soon, everything will pass. The help is available should you need it; you will have to shout loudly to be heard sometimes, but someone will hear you and they will call other people to help, too.

“There is no shame or secrecy in having a mental illness or wanting to die, chances are you know someone pretty close who also felt that way before.”

If you know of someone suffering from depression or anxiety disorder, call the SA Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 567 567 or 0800 456 789.

Recognising The Cry For Help

THE South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) has highlighted some warning signs to look out for if you suspect someone close to you may be thinking about committing suicide. 

You may have heard that people who talk about suicide, won’t actually go through with it. That’s not true. In fact, 75% of people who commit suicide give some warning. 

This means all suicide threats should be taken seriously – and you can do something to stop a friend taking their life. Talking or joking about suicide: your friend or family member may talk about dying, threaten to kill him or herself, or say things like “nothing matters” or “I wish I was dead” or “I won’t be around much longer”.

Depression: your friend or family member may feel hopeless, lose interest in doing anything, and withdraw from social and family activities. Preparing for death: many teens who are planning suicide will give favourite things away, or even say goodbye. 

Self-criticism: things like “I can’t do anything right”, “I’m hideous and pathetic” – may mean they are feeling suicidal. 

Changes in personality: someone who is usually sociable, may not want to go out, may become negative, aggressive or irritable, and lose their friendships. Loss of interest in appearance, drop in hygiene: if your friend stops caring what they look like, getting dressed or even bathing or washing. 

Risk-taking behaviour: often people who are feeling suicidal do risky, dangerous things like drink and drive, have unprotected sex, or take drugs. 

Excessive feelings of guilt, self-blame, failure: if someone is depressed, they often feel guilty and blame themselves, and it can be very difficult to talk to them. Suddenly feel better: if you know a friend who has been very depressed and hasn’t been for treatment, but is now suddenly “back to normal” – this could be dangerous. 

It may mean they have set a date for their suicide and know the pain will soon end. Writing poems, essays about death, SMSes or painting images of death: this is a cry for help, listen to it, and get help. 

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