“It was two and a half years ago, but now I start to talk about it. The first months I was in shock. I didn’t believe it. Then I discovered that talking frees you from anger and sadness. Grief is for everyone. life, but you have to find some hope. I still have two children, friends … and my mother was ill. Now, in addition, I also want to give the help that one day I could not give my son “.
Rosario was called one day to tell her something that she still has not quite believed. Something that, in addition, usually cannot speak because few people are willing to listen. And for that reason, among other reasons, she is now also the secretary of Ubuntu.
“It takes a lot of things,” he says. “A lot of government support, a lot of prevention plans, a lot of support for mental health … and, above all, end the social stigma and taboo. We also need the media to get involved and that suicides are not just figures or sensational reports. The numbers are getting higher, but they already were before the pandemic. And emotional education is needed in schools. That there is no bullying and that, if someone sees a person having a hard time, help a little ”.
Transform pain into love
Ubuntu is the Andalusian Association of Survivors for the Suicide of a Loved One. A very, very young entity. So much that is presented this Saturday coinciding with the International Day of the Suicide Survivor: “Our motto is ‘Transform pain into love’ and it has become a reality because we are finally going to meet and we are going to merge in a hug.”
The germ of Ubuntu was a mutual aid group created by psychologist Daniel J. López Vega, who is also the coordinator of Papageno, a non-profit platform of professionals that works for the prevention of suicidal behavior.
A dog and a notebook
“They told me that I had to join a support group and I told them no, to leave me alone, I didn’t want to react. But the days and months went by, and my eldest son’s partner gave me a notebook and told me to write down my feelings there whenever I wanted. I had never written, really. But I also had a dog that belonged to my son, and when I was immersed in my crying and my pain, he would come and pull me until I pulled him out. In the end I made it a habit to go out for a walk with him and that was the only thing that gave me encouragement, ”explains Rosario.
“The notebook and the dog were pulling me out of my grief. Eventually, my psychiatrist told me about Papageno … and blessed the hour! The same we shout that we cry or get angry … Share with people who have gone through the same thing that you think is what is saving us. We started to meet in person once a month, but later, with the pandemic, we had to resort to WhatsApp groups and in the end it has become a family group, “he says.
Suicide can be prevented
When listening to Rosario it is difficult not to shrink your heart. It is difficult for her because when she tells what happened, she feels pain again. But you also know that your testimony can help others. That suicide, as experts argue, can be prevented. In addition to the initiative #I hear you On Twitter, in fact, anti-suicide phones such as La Barandilla (911 385 385) or Barcelona City Council (900 92 55 55) receive a multitude of calls every day.
“I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell it all without crying,” she says, taking a deep breath. “My son was 22 years old and he was studying Social Work room. He came home when the February exams were over and he was happy because he had passed many subjects. He said it was the year that was going the best for him. He introduced us to his first girlfriend, they were at the carnivals … But I saw him very thin and I said: ‘Something’s wrong with you.’ He blamed it on the exams as he was a bit nervous because he did not know whether to go back to Huelva or go to Bristol, where his brother lives. He had to take the B2 English exam, get his driver’s license … The normal thing for a young man! But he never told me ‘I’m not well’ and I didn’t realize anything ”.
“On March 19 I spoke with him on the phone because it was his girlfriend’s birthday and we were discussing the gift. This happened two days later.”
That ‘what if’ you never take it off
Rosario remembers the moment perfectly. The phone started ringing and she couldn’t pick it up. But they insisted so much that, in the end, he responded.
“They call you, they tell you that your son has committed suicide and all that guilt stays with you,” he says. “Then comes denial. You are all day thinking that he is going to come back. In if I do a tupper to take away … But I blame myself a lot, of course. What if I didn’t ask him if he had money for the gift. That I didn’t ask him if he was missing something … What if I had called him that day? What if I had paid more attention to it? And if, and if, and if, and if, and if … That ‘what if’ you never take it off. You blame yourself every day ”.
Dare to ask
“Family members of people who have died by suicide are in a particularly difficult situation because the pain they feel is compounded by taboo and stigma. Many times they feel singled out and that increases guilt. We have a clear responsibility ”, points out Susana Al-Halabí, doctor in Psychology and professor at the University of Oviedo.
“We are talking about a very large group. If we talk about 4,000 deaths a year by suicide in our country, for every death there are 100 people who knew him and 10 or 15 from the nearby nucleus. Many times that nucleus is scared, surprised, without knowing where to go and without public institutions that can understand their pain and help them to work out their grief ”, he adds.
“The public system should have psychologists who care for the survivors and the rest of the population should allow relief. Talk, remember … Dare to ask about that person without trying, well-intentioned, to hide that death. We do not help them with that. You have to ask how we would ask about any person who had died from another cause ”.