“If I were brave enough I would kill myself.” That’s what an acquaintance told me over the phone. That’s heavy stuff to tell someone you hardly know. I will never forget those words. I knew Mark* from my university days. We shared a couple of classes and knew some of the same people, but were never friends. We would pass each other in the halls and share pleasantries. That was the extent of our relationship. Five years later our paths crossed again in traffic. I was on my way from work, playing a game of ‘how fast can I make it home?’ I played this game every day and the unpredictable nature of the Kingston traffic made it challenging. My record was twenty minutes; from the Sagicor parking lot in New Kingston to Moreton Park on Molynes Road. On this day I was in traffic when my eyes caught a face I recognized in the car next to mine. It was Mark; it was always good to see a fellow University alumnus if only to find out their accomplishments since leaving university. We chit chatted as much as we could from two cars stuck in traffic, exchanged phone numbers and went on our way.
The first phone call from Mark came two days after our chance encounter in traffic. It was evident he had a lot on his mind. I did my best to accommodate him, but after about a week I got tired of ‘catching up’. I didn’t want to be rude or have an awkward conversation with Mark, so I endured. He told me about his unemployment problems with which I could relate. The majority of our graduating class was facing similar problems, so that was nothing new. Mark also had relationship problems, which again I thought wasn’t such a big deal. Mark was shy and grew up sheltered, so I assumed that was the root of his relationship problems. Mark continued to call me, and I did my best to listen and not be dismissive. Afterwhile the calling stopped. I didn’t think much of it. Maybe Mark had gotten a job, or maybe he met a lovely young lady, and she was taking up all his time.
Mark reappeared just as suddenly as he disappeared. On his return, the phone calls were replaced for the most part with WhatsApp messages. It was apparent that Mark’s situation had gotten worse. He was dark and morose. I decided to dig deeper, and Mark opened up and spilled the troubles he bore. He told me how he was still unemployed and that whenever he got a job, there was always someone there to ‘fight him out.’ He said that the car he was driving belonged to his mother and that he still lived in her house. He told me how he was single and that all nowadays women wanted was money. He said how he was tired of his mother ‘pressuring‘ him and treating him like a child. He told me that he didn’t know how much longer he could go on like this. Up to this point, I still didn’t expect to hear what was coming next. I figured Mark was just going through a rough patch. Many people face similar problems on a daily basis, and they don’t contemplate suicide, Right?
Everybody is different, we might face similar problems, but our backgrounds, dispositions, mentalities and support systems are different. Everybody handles stress and depression differently. I have experienced depression, and it is not something to be taken lightly. I am saying this after just recounting my experience with Mark to you. You are probably saying that I could have done more for Mark. When a layperson encounters someone dealing with depression, the only thing they can reasonably do is to talk or listen. The next step is to seek professional help, which can be tough if the depressed person is an adult. Also, it’s difficult for a layperson to ascertain the severity of someone’s depression.
Let’s get back to Mark. After he had told me he didn’t know how much longer he could go on like that. I just thought that’s a phrase we all use from time to time. Then he said, “If I were brave enough I would kill myself.” What the fuck??? What did you just tell me? That’s what I thought; I didn’t know how to process what I just heard. He said it again nonchalantly. He said how he thought about it before, but he wasn’t strong enough. This guy was on the phone coolly telling me how he thought about killing himself like it’s a summer vacation plan to the Bahamas. I saw this topic addressed many times in movies, but I never saw or heard of a scene like this. I was out of my depths. A part of me felt like he was trolling me and another part felt like this was his way of trying to find peace. He knew that I was powerless; I didn’t know his full name, I didn’t know where he lived, and I didn’t know any of his close friends or family members. All I could do was listen, and that’s all I did. I never spoke to or saw Mark ever again.
*Mark not his real name.