I Can’t Face Another Day*

Even in today’s world of better understanding of mental health, many people still don’t feel comfortable talking about suicide. It can be incredibly difficult to talk about the depression and sadness that lead people to take that step. But, of course, we need to.

And suicide doesn’t just affect those who take their own lives. Those left behind are devastated, and often feel a deep sense of guilt and, often, shame. Because mental health issues such as depression often contribute to suicide, it’s not something people have tended to discuss openly, but we should.

Suicide is there. And it causes a great deal of pain. The recent deaths by suicide of Kate Spade and of Anthony Bourdain have brought suicide into the public conversation, but it’s a tragic reality for many families. And we see that in crime fiction, too. In fact, it’s interesting to note how often characters don’t want a death to have been suicide. They don’t want to bear the guilt that comes with suicide. Or, they don’t want to believe a loved one was depressed/upset/etc. enough to commit suicide. Or…

There’s a mention of suicide in Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. In that novel, Rachel Verinder receives a valuable diamond called the Moonstone for her eighteenth birthday. It may not be the generous gift it seems to be, though, because it is said to be cursed. And misfortune soon befalls the Verinder family. On the very night Rachel receives the diamond, it’s stolen from her room. Then, second housemaid Roseanna Spearman disappears and is found to have committed suicide. This devastates her family, and, of course, saddens the members of the household where she works. Sergeant Cuff investigates the theft of the diamond, and, over the course of the next two years, traces its whereabouts and finds out who stole it. And we see how the theft and suicide are related.

Agatha Christie mentions suicide in more than one of her stories. In And Then There Were None, for instance, we are introduced to Miss Emily Brent. She is one of ten people who are invited to a house on Indian Island, off the Devon coast. On the night she and the others arrive, each one is accused of causing the death of at least one other person. In the case of Miss Brent, it’s the death of Beatrice Taylor, a former housemaid who threw herself into a river. Miss Brent insists that Beatrice’s death was not her fault; in fact, she’s quite smug about it on the surface. That night, one of the other guests dies of what turns out to be poison. Then, there’s another death later that night. Now, it’s clear that the guests have been lured to the island, and that their lives are in danger. Miss Brent is not immune, as we learn when she is killed by what looks like a bee sting. And it’s interesting to see that, as we get to know her a bit, we see that she is more haunted by Beatrice’s death than she lets on.  Suicide also impacts The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Hollow, among others.

There’s an Ellery Queen novel in which a suicide towards the end of the novel rocks Queen to the core. Without going into details, Queen feels that he bears some of the responsibility for this suicide, and he finds that very difficult. Among other things, this shows a bit of Queen’s human side, if I may put it that way. And it shows a bit of the impact a suicide can have on those left behind.

We also see that impact in Giorgio Scerbanenco’s A Private Venus. Davide Auseri happens to be in Milan one day, where he meets Alberta Radelli. On impulse, he invites her for a drive to Florence and a day there. She agrees, and the two find they enjoy each other’s company. At the end of the day, Alberta begs Davide to take her with him, and not back to Milan. He demurs, and she insists. Then, she threatens to commit suicide if he doesn’t take her. He refuses again. Not long afterwards, Alberta’s body is found in a field outside Milan, and it seems she’s carried out her threat. The thought that he is responsible for this suicide devastates Davide, leaving him inconsolable. He takes to heavy drinking, and even trips to rehabilitation facilities don’t help. Now, his father is deeply concerned about his son, and hires Dr. Duca Lamberti to help. Lamberti isn’t sure what he can do, but he agrees. As he gets to know Davide, he finally learns the truth about the young man’s depression. Lamberti finally concludes that the only way to solve this is to find out what really happened to Alberta Radelli, so as to relieve Davide of his guilt. It turns out that Alberta was murdered, but the novel has a very vivid depiction of a someone consumed by grief and guilt because of a suicide.

Nicolas Freeling’s Double-Barrel begins as Amsterdam police detective Piet Van der Valk is seconded to the small town of Zwinderen. Someone has been sending vicious anonymous letters to various residents, and they’ve had terrible consequences. In fact, two of the recipients have committed suicide. The local police haven’t been able to find out who wrote the letters, but whoever it is bears some responsibility for those deaths. As Van der Valk and his wife, Arlette, get to know the people in town, they learn that more than one person has secrets to hide…

In Arnaldur Indriðason’s Jar City, Reykjavík police inspector Erlendur and his team investigate the murder of a seemingly inoffensive elderly man named Holberg. At first, it looks like a robbery gone horribly wrong. But soon enough, the evidence suggests something different. So, Erlendur and the team look into the victim’s past. They learn that he’d been accused of rape more than once. The first to make that accusation was a woman named Kolbrún. When she went to the police, they didn’t take her seriously; in fact, they humiliated her. Her distress was so great that she committed suicide. Although this all happened years ago, Kolbrún’s sister, Elín, still grieves. She is also still bitter about the way the police handled the case, and blames the police, at least in part, for her sister’s suicide. Erlendur knows that Elín is suffering, but he also knows that she may be an important source of information. So, he takes the risk of talking to her about what happened. She is no friend of the police, but she ends up being helpful.

It doesn’t take a detective, or crime fiction, really, to know how awful suicide is, both for the person who takes that step, and for those who are left behind. It’s hard to remember at times, but we don’t have to go through life’s pain alone. For anyone who’s thinking about suicide, here are some people to talk to:

 

Australia – 1300 22 4636

Canada – 1-833-456-4566

India – 91-22-27546669

Ireland – 087 2 60 90 90

New Zealand – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Spain (Also serves some Latin American countries) – 717-003-717

UK –  08457 90 90 90

USA – 1-800-273-8255

 

If I didn’t list your country, that doesn’t mean there isn’t help. There is. Reach out.

 

We can all do our bit to help. If someone needs to talk, we can listen – without judgement. We can help find resources. We can take it seriously when someone is depressed and check in to be sure that person has support. We can’t make life’s sadness go away. But we can stand together to get through it.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Elton John’s Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding

25 Comments

Filed under Agatha Christie, Arnaldur Indriðason, Ellery Queen, Giorgio Scerbanenco, Nicolas Freeling, Wilkie Collins

25 responses to “I Can’t Face Another Day*

  1. Thank you, Margot, for raising this issue. We all need to do it more and more.

  2. I also wonder how many cases of suicide have followed after cases of murder or kidnapping or other things we read about in crime fiction. A subject I know a little to well (I was also a volunteer for one of these helplines). Above all, I find that although people keep telling depressed people to reach out before they get suicidal, they aren’t necessarily there for them when they do make the effort to reach out (and it can be a horrendous effort). But at least if people stop treating it as a ‘snap out of it’ thing you can do at will, that’s progress!

    • I couldn’t agree more, Marina Sofia! The ‘Cheer up, it’ll pass,’ or ‘Snap out of it,’ response can be devastating, even if it’s not meant to be cruel. You make a good point, too, about how much effort it takes for someone in need to reach out. It’s easy enough to encourage people to get help. It’s much harder to take them to appointments, listen when they face their inner monsters, and sit next to them when they make that helpline call. But that’s when those in pain most need support.

  3. Thank you, Margot. Because of your posting, I’ll do four things. 3 rereads (Christie, Collins, Indridason) and some reading about physician assisted suicide (which seems like a different ethical, personal, health discussion).

    • That is a very different sort of discussion, Tim. It’s got a lot of issues associated with it, and it’s very complex. As to your choices for re-reads? I think all three are worth (re)reading.

  4. Knowing someone who has made two attempts, I appreciate this timely and thoughtful post.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you and someone you know have had to go through this, Alice. It’s wrenching for all involved, and I wish everyone well. I’m glad you thought the post worked.

  5. What an amazing blog post. Not only did you raise concern and compassion for those suffering with mental illness but also gave your readers fine examples of individual mysteries exploring what suicide does to those left behind.

    I have been on suicide watch far too many times. Have pulled resources out of dozens of agencies. Thought I would lose my life if I could not save my loved one. Thanks to a team of mental health providers our loved one is alive and doing well.

    • I’m so glad your loved one is alive and doing well, Deborah. That’s the most important thing. And it’s good to know you’ve had the help of skilled professionals. That can make all of the difference. Thank you for sharing your story; it shows just how much suicide or the threat of it impacts all of us. I’m happy to hear that you have the support you need, and that your loved one does, too.

      • Thanks your kind insightful reply. I realize that I am fortunate and that she is fortunate. And that it’s more than luck to get through such a time or such a life challenged by organic depression.

        I learned to say to her, if you had diabetes we would find the right doctors and medicine. We as a nation need to realize that suicide vulnerability and acts can be addressed medically yet be knowledgeable enough to not treat all suffers the same.

        Science reveals that dolphins and other mammals end their lives when an individual animal loses freedom and/or hope. As more of humanity has less and the greedy takes what little people have, I deeply hope compassion for all becomes a way of life for those of us blessed with resources to share.

        • I hope so, too, Deborah. I really like your point of view about mental health care and mental health needs. When we break a leg, we get a cast. Have a bacterial infection? You get an antibiotic. Mental health care should be no different in terms of accessibility and lack of stigma. I hope we get to the point as a society when people who are in need of mental health care get it with as much confidence, if that’s the word, as do people who need physical care.

  6. Bill Selnes

    Margot: Thank you for the post. I have received some understanding through the annual columns Father Ron Rolheiser writes about suicide. I have shared them with survivors and each time have been advised they were helpful to those left behind. Here is a link to the 2017 column: http://ronrolheiser.com/suicide-redeeming-the-memory-of-a-loved-one/#.Wxy6gUgvzcs

    • Thank you, Bill, for sharing this. I can see how people who’ve read this column have found it helpful if they’ve lost a loved one to suicide. Folks, it’s a thoughtful, insightful column, and worth a read even if suicide hasn’t touched your life.

  7. Col

    Very timely Margot and an issue that can touch many lives and families. Bourdain’s death was a shock. He wrote a few crime fiction books, late 90s/early 2000s which I really enjoyed – Gone Bamboo and Bobby Gold.

    • Thanks for the mention of Bourdain’s books, Col. He left behind quite a legacy, didn’t he? And you’re right; Bourdain’s family isn’t alone. Suicide can touch a lot of lives and people. That’s one reason that talking about it openly and without judgement is important. It’s something that concerns us all.

  8. Thanks for this helpful information. —- Suzanne

  9. Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    Helpful information on depression and suicide.

  10. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this thought-provoking post on the topic of suicide and it’s use in fiction from the Confessions of a Mystery Novelist blog.

  11. Pingback: Sometimes, someone, just like me – The Double Life Of Me

  12. Very gracefully done Margot. Thank you.

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