There is an ornamental peach tree outside our bedroom window. The stark brown branches herald spring by birthing blossoms of white, light pink and cerise. Each morning we wake up to a fuller, more abundant, tree. What was barren and bare unfolds in a proud plumage of hope. As the sun washes over the bright pom poms and the birds call, we are reminded that hope gets us through the dark nights of the soul.
The soft light of hope followed us over the course of the week. A reader sent us a beautiful reminder of it in response to our last newsletter and our research into grit and resilience spoke of the importance of hope to get us to get up and try again, of being able to keep on going in the face of adversity.
Our ornamental peach tree birthing blossoms of white, light pink and cerise.
World suicide prevention day
World Suicide Prevention Day is on the 10th September. The opposite of hope, suicide is a subject that no-one really wants to talk about. The very word, “suicide”, seems to grab a piece of one’s heart and twist it. It hurts to consider the depth of despair and hopelessness that a person descends to. A place so dark no hint of light or way out can be discerned. The thought of losing a loved one in such a way is terrifying.
So we do not speak about it. We do not speak about depression. We do not want to face the ugliness, the discomfort, the lack of control around our own and others' emotional state. In the process we hide it in the back of a disused closet and keep it in the very shadows that feed it.
The statistics are staggering, 23 people a day commit suicide in South Africa and ten times that attempt it. Globally, depression is by far the most significant underlying reason for people choosing to end their lives. But in this country, stigma, taboo, and cultural beliefs keep mental health challenges like this tightly tucked away.
Spring is definitely in our air, as this lovely Clivia miniata (bush lily) will attest.
Talk about it
We personally know of too many people who have had to bear the burden of a loss through suicide. We are not psychiatrists or psychologists. We cannot and will not diagnose but we can model what we believe is most needed and necessary and that is talking about it. In this week’s podcast we do just that. We talk about Matthew’s lived experience of suicide ideation, his suicide attempts and the learning that has come out of it.
As Matthew recounted his journey as a teenager and young adult, feelings of shame, anger and betrayal surfaced. Even after all these years there was still a murky layer to work through. And then the key realisation that it was hope that won out in the end.
We sat outside after we finished recording the episode. The sun was setting, a dark pink glow smudged the sky and the patio tiles breathed out the last vestiges of captured warmth.
Hope is the thing
“There was a tiny flicker of hope that I was not meant to leave this earth”, said Matthew, “I am really glad that I didn’t.”
“What gave you hope?”
“Two things come to mind. That social worker assigned to me after my first attempt at high school. He was there for me when no other adults seemed to be. He was kind and gentle and he gave me hope. I didn’t really realise until now how important he was and what an impact he had on me.“
“And the other thing?”
“When the second attempt failed it was like a wake up call to stop relying on others to save me. After I got over the shame, I felt that flicker of hope and decided to make some changes in my life.“
“Hope” is the thing with feathers.
That perches in the soul
Emily Dickinson wrote a poem called “Hope” is the thing with feathers. We share it at the end of the podcast. She describes hope as a bird singing bravely in the face of obstacles. The first verse goes as follows:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
Our desire and drive is to discover and share the many ways that hope, “the thing with feathers”, can be developed and grown. With it we can together open the door to depression, and all the other deeply difficult places we find ourselves, dust them off and deal with them as individuals, families and communities. This way we could take the steps to making the world a better place to be alive in.
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew
About the author
5th Place offers specialised psychological services in the form of coaching and therapy for immediate relief from stress, anxiety, & other mental health challenges. It works fast, deep and quick. For individuals and groups, children, teens and adults.