“There’s a misconception that mental illness or depression only strikes kids from dysfunctional families. It’s so not true,” notes Elaine. “Zen comes from a loving family. He had everything he ever wanted in his life. And we have such a close bond. And yet he has depression. And we lost him to suicide.”
Last year, the number of people in Singapore who took their lives increased by 10 per cent. Suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 29 years.
Jenny Teo’s 20-year-old son, Josh, had wrestled with depression and first attempted suicide following a break-up. After leaving the hospital, he retreated further into his own world, isolating himself in his room, immersed in the make-believe universe of computer games. Jenny reckons it was his way to distract himself and to cope with his mental and emotional demons.
“There are many reasons that can cause a person to go into depression,” explains Jenny. “In the case of my son, he found the education system very challenging.”
She adds, “I also don’t deny there was a toxic family situation, which he had to deal with, and relationship issues.”
Several months after Josh’s first suicide attempt, Jenny found him unconscious in the study early one morning. But it was too late, Jenny slot deposit 10ribu via dana could only hold on to her son’s lifeless body, as she waited for the ambulance and police to arrive.
“I feel like I’ve been to hell and back. I felt very strongly that I didn’t want my son’s death to be in vain.”
Turning grief into purpose
Jenny has found purpose in creating awareness about mental illness and suicide prevention. This has included sharing Josh’s story with the public and giving a talk to caregivers of people living with a mental illness.
“Caregivers themselves need to be educated. Especially if you have to deal with a situation where there’s a potential suicide,” says Jenny.
“It would have been very helpful for me to be able to talk to someone, who could support me and give me advice on how to manage and handle this situation.
“Being able to confide in another caregiver, who’s also going through the same thing. That feeling you’re not alone, it gives you strength,” adds Jenny.
Finding the heart to forgive
One year later, Elaine’s emotions remain raw: “Grief takes its toll, not just physically, but emotionally,” she says. “For me, I am still struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. I get a lot of flashbacks and anxiety.”
But she says in order to respect her “memory of Zen”, she has made an effort to grieve healthily.
The most significant step was to forgive herself and the people she felt could have helped prevent Zen’s death, but did not. Instead she wants her experience to be a cautionary tale for others.
To youth, she urges, “If a friend tells you they are going to attempt suicide, take it seriously. Do something, or tell a figure of authority who might be able to help. Don’t ignore the situation.”
As for dealing with medical practitioners, Elaine advises parents: “Before allowing your child to consume any medication, do your research. Or get a second opinion, if possible. Don’t trust your doctor unquestionably. They can make mistakes too.”
Moving forward to end stigma
Elaine has since transformed her sorrow and anger into something positive, including advocating for the end of stigma. Exacerbated by societal discrimination and prejudice, stigma stops children from getting support, and parents from helping them.