Monday 24 November 2014

Silence on the topic is suicide itself

Easter started out well for me, here at Kirra YHA.
Following the release of my most recent story, The Easy Way Out,........(?!), there have been a few
comments about it, and so I guessed it was time for another blog post.
The story itself is, I guess, black humour, it certainly does not set out to trivialise suicide.
Anyway, since I wrote it there have been a few comments.
I was going to write 'some positive, some negative', however, that doesn't really reflect the true nature of the comments.
However, even I, aspiring wordsmith though I am can't find a 'correct' way to describe the comments.
Part of that is separating criticism of the actual writing, from the topic itself.
Should I have even written a story about this blackest of topics?
If I did, should I have put humour in the same story?
Well you can make up your own mind about that.
I will stick to my original contention that the more is said about the topic, the better.
I talked with a work colleague and he said he had an in-law who had killed themself. Schizophrenia was the root cause.
My cousin killed himself, likewise schizophrenic.
So schizophrenia is a big part of the problem.
Pindari Homeless Men's hostel, Fortitude Valley Brisbane. I ended up here a few scant hours later.
This can only be adequately treated with the care of a psychiatrist, as drugs is currently our major treatment for schizophrenia.
Just as an aside, and definitely not wanting to trivialise this dread complaint, schizophrenia means literally, 'broken head'. 'Schizo-' comes from the same word root that gives us schism, and 'phrenia' comes from the source that gives us Phrenology, the Victorian-age bunkum of examining the shape of people's heads, to give us some insight into their psychology.
One of the issues with schizophrenia is that it is usually the people around the sufferer who have to encourage the sufferer to get treatment.
This is hopelessly problematic as one very common and apparent symptom of schizophrenia is paranoia, and often the people around the sufferer are the first people not to be trusted.
I had this demonstrtated most admirably one bad Sunday evening in my homeless days.
What happened was this.
I was staying at the time at a backpackers at Kirra Beach, on the Gold Coast in the run up to Easter in, I think 2002 or 3.
Anyway, due to my perennially, at the time, drunk and stoned state I misunderstood what they told me at Centrelink when I put in my form that week.
With the four day holiday coming up, if your form was due on on of the public holiday days, mine was, Good Friday, you could put your form in the day before, which I did, on the Thursday.
However the way Centrelink traditionally works is that you put your form in and you get your payment the next day.
Now what I misunderstood was that I thought by putting my form in on the Thursday before Easter, I would therefore get paid the next day as usual, in this case Good Friday.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, Lachlan.
While my form went in early, I wouldn't get my payment till the next working day after Easter, in this case, the Tuesday, four days hence.
Now the backpackers I was staying at was a nice place, but they had trouble with local itinerants wanting to stay there, and so were totally hard core on payment.
No credit, no, 'can I pay tomorrow?', none of that.
So when I went to the bank machine of Good Friday to get some money out, I saw with a breath of fear that my balance hadn't changed, and my payment hadn't come in.
I had $18 to my name, largely due to spending most of what I had left on beer the night before.
I went back to the backpackers and tried to get some credit, I had been staying there three weeks, but no, there was no credit to be had.
Either pay or get out.
So get out I did.
I went through a lot of thought, tried some friends for loans, and while they were receptive, there was no one who could get money through to me straightaway on the Gold Coast.
So I called a few crisis numbers, and eventually got a minor lead of a homeless men's shelter in the heart of Brisbane, Pindari.
They said they had room, but I had to show up sober and be there by four pm, else, I wouldn't be allowed in.
I was technically sober, and with no money would stay so, but I had some fears that I would still stink of last night's booze by the time I arrived.
Anyway, I got a bus ticket via eftpos and took the bus, stomach rumbling all the way to Brisbane and got out at Roma Street bus terminus.
I walked around to Pindari and was accepted.
I went up in the lift and got out on one of the upper floors and found a bunk.
Thankfully my room was empty, and so I threw down my backpack, in a gesture that was oh-so-familiar to me in this period of my life and then, sat on the bunk staring at the wall.
Dinner was at six pm, it was now about two o'clock, and I had no money to do anything.
I still smoked back then and couldn't afford cigarettes and so that was another strain on my system.
Most of the other men in there were geuninly homeless, or were recently out of prison with nowehere else to go.
So smokeless, drinkless, and with the constant taint of prison violence humming through the air of the place, I did my best to get through the hours.
Dinner came and went, and afterward I sat on my bunk staring at the wall (Once six o'clock came around you weren't allowed out).
Then I realised I had run out of my anti-depressant medication.
Now I'm not schizophrenic, and my medication as very low-level compared with that which my cousin had to take for instance, but one thing it does say on the packet in big red letters is, 'Do Not Stop Taking This Medication Suddenly'.
So I went down to the desk and told the night supervisor of my problem.
He gave me special dispensation to go down to Brisbane Base Hospital to get some more meds.
I went down there to A&E and checked with the triage Nurse, who sent me round to the psych wing.
I told the desk nurse there about my medication and she said that should be no problem, but I would ahve to wait iuntil the duty psychiatrist could give me a script.
So I went out into a little courtyard area to wait.
While I was sitting there, I idly contemplated asking if I could stay here for the rest of Easter, as it was a damn sight nicer than Pindari.
However, I knew the hospital system was groaning at the hinges, and further as events were about to show, a psych wing is no place for anyone to spend a long period of time.
Anyway after I began to take stock of my surroundings, I noticed sitting a little way down the bench from me a young man, about 18, flanked by two psych nurses, one male and one female.
This threesome were chatting amiably of this and that, when the doors to the little courtyard opened part way, and a psychiatrist and two middle aged people looked through the doorway.
Well the young man, saw them and went from sitting chatting amaibly to on his feet screaming abuse with expletives at the three people in the doorway.
"Why did you fucking let them in here, you fucking bastards", and "I told you these people were fucking trying to kill me, and you fucking let them in here you fucking bastards."
Man, talk about shock.
Turns out that the people in the doorway were the young man's parents, and that he had schizophrenia.
His parents were the people he most saw as 'out to get him', and so the shrink kept their looking through the doorway to a minimum amount of time.
Obviously his parents werre heavily concerned and wanted to help, but the young man's disease was forming a barrier to any contact.
Anyway, the shrink and the parents withdrew and the door shut, and the young man once again switched things off and went back to chatting amiably with the psych nurses.
I was still shaking some minutes later. It was as good a representation of why schizophrenia is such a terrible disease for the sufferer and those around them.
Seeing this episode this dark, dank night in Brisbane, showed me even more clearly than my cousin's suicide why schizophrenia is so hard to treat.
Soon after my name was called and I went into meet with the shrink, get my prescription, then back to Pindari for another night's sleep with one eye open.
Eventually Monday came and I did what I should have done in the first palce and called my brother in Sydney and he put some money in my account and I was able to leave pindari and head back down to the surf coast.
As I've often mentioned one of the problems with being a writer is that the worst experiences make the best stories, and never was that more apposite than those few dark days in Pindari.
I learned a lot about myself and obliquely, about schizophrenia.

Away from schizophrenia, though, even relatively well-adjusted people contemplate suicide, usually to do with life situations.
Farmers in drought is a common one, adolescants being cyber-bullied is another, your partner having an affair is another, the list is pretty eternal really.
So some sobering stats from Lifeline here:

It's all too horrible to contemplate really, stats like these.
So what's to be done?
Well I'm no expert, but as ever when doing a post on this topic I strongly draw everyone's attention to the Lifeline phone number at the bottom of the screen grab.
If you are worried by suicidal thoughts yourself, or worried for someone you know, call Lifeline as an excellent first port of call.
My friend Sandy who works at Lifeline was telling me one that ninety per cent of calls to Lifeline are not 'life-threatening' calls, not suicide related, but if more people called Lifeline on a regular basis, then perhaps the ten percent that are suicide-related would drop in number.
Anyway, I hope that no one reading this is ever troubled by suicidal thoughts, but if you are call Lifeline first.

And so to finish on a lighter note, many I know who read this rubbish I output don't like cricket, they think it's too boring, and all the rest of it, 'what sort of a game goes for five days and then still ends in a draw?', is a common bleat from my American readers.
Well I would like to point out that cricket has finally been of some use in my workplace, the garden.
One of the banes of my life is Date Palms. These plants are attractive (from a distance) and up here in the sub-tropics, some nameless arsehole in the past went round and planted a lot of the things.
Meaning that in the present day that I have to prune them.
And the reason I say 'arsehole' is that the spines on these things are weaponised limb-numbing beasts with spines on a mature plant fully 30cm (1 foot long).
When I first naively began to prune my first Date Palm I went at it bare-handed, and got stung by the spines countless times, there is a minor plant toxin in the spines, and for the week afterward my hands were near paralysed, and I could hardly even life a beer, (I was still drinking then).
Anyway I realised I needed better protection for my hands, and so not long after was watching a cricket match and saw the batter wearing the special protective batting gloves.
So I sent away online to the cricket warehouse and bought a pair.
Then with my new hand protection I went out and retackled the Date palms.
It still does to take great care, but now I can work with Date Palms and come away with my hands intact.
By the way the reason these things need to be pruned is that the fronds hang downward and soon you can't even walk under a Date Palm without getting one of these spines in the head.
As you can see from the picture, these things can cause a nasty injury, and could even kill someone if the fell or in some way got their full weight onto a spine.
So in the end I have done two things for the world. One I am making the gardens of my clients safer, but mostly, I have finally found a use for cricket.


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