Thomas (not real name) had not been himself for the last two weeks. Though he often responded with ‘I’m fine’ when asked ‘How are you?’ every morning, his countenance was what gave him away. He wasn’t looking the part and the weak signals were glaring by the day. Yet, where Thomas worked, his friends and colleagues hadn’t picked up the weak signals. He had often wore a smile which was a complete façade that masked his misery, cleverly. I stumbled upon Thomas one day, when I discovered he was suicidal and had been on pills. He was going to take his life in twenty four hours. Every one of us has a ‘Thomas’ we know, that lives with us or that is among us. They are often normal people with seemingly no issues until they do the ‘unthinkable.’ Put more succinctly, you might just be a ‘Thomas’ yourself. Many of us are simply oblivious.
In this part of the world, we like to feign alien to some subjects. It is common place to hear people say things like ‘Suicide is not a Nigerian thing,’ ‘Lesbianism and Homosexuality is not Nigerian,’ ‘Depression is not our thing,’ etc. Such comments are complete hogwash. All of these things are human practices and the fact that is clandestine and hardly spoken about in this part doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.
Back to the subject, mental health is real. People go through stuff and many people contemplate suicidal thoughts every now and then. Some might ask ‘What will really make someone want to take his life anyway?’ That very question miss the point. I have spoken to those on the verge and the reason to want to give up is what some people will classify as ‘flimsy.’ The point however, is that it is not in anyone’s place to dismiss the gravity of what another man is going through based on our own worldview. Some with suicidal thoughts will tell you that it is never one thing that is the issue. It is always one thing being magnified by another thing. The crux of the matter is that we all fight demons every day; and many fight them, silently.
The foregoing buttresses the need to be nice to everyone you meet. Life is hard enough for you to compound it with your unkindness. More importantly, always pick up the weak signals in people. Care and genuinely care. Ask people ‘How are you’ and mean it, not just as a cliché. Talk to people and saliently listen to what is being said and what is not being said. You might just be the reason someone decides to give life a second chance. Do not take this lightly.
And just in case you are depressed, you are tired and contemplating ending it all, step back and take another perspective. Thomas told me afterwards that all through the time he was going through the difficult patch and contemplating suicide, everything in his life seemed not to make sense. The events of his life was only fueling the case to end it all. He picked up the negatives in everything that happened to him during that time, and it all made sense to end it all. This means that those going through mental health are not rational thinkers; and that is the premise of the peril. The truth is that no matter what you are going through in your life, perspective is everything. It is often never as bad as you think it is. The devil and your perverse mind just conspire to make you think that nothing is working in your life. There is so much more working in your life than the things that are not working. Always put things in perspective, don’t lose your hope and never surround yourself with the wrong people. Most importantly, when life completely weighs upon you, speak to someone you can confide in. Don’t keep it to yourself. It will only kill you further, especially when you are at a breaking point. As the song writer said ‘Stay alive for yourself and for those who love you.’ And never forget, Jesus loves you. Completely.