Like when you read Dr Frans Korb's story about a person committing suicide every hour. I know. I remember the day my brother "did it" like yesterday. Fifteen years ago he was one of two who "succeeded every hour", the stats told me then. And "then" the stigma was as big as it is today. I knew he was going to do it: he told me. But I didn't believe him. Yes, I tried; told him to go back on his happy pills; told him to see his "Dr Korb" psychiatrist. But I didn't get on the plane to go...
Like when you read Dr Frans Korb's story about a person committing suicide every hour. I know. I remember the day my brother "did it" like yesterday.

Fifteen years ago he was one of two who "succeeded every hour", the stats told me then. And "then" the stigma was as big as it is today. I knew he was going to do it: he told me. But I didn't believe him. Yes, I tried; told him to go back on his happy pills; told him to see his "Dr Korb" psychiatrist. But I didn't get on the plane to go hold up his arms in far-off Windhoek.

I didn't organise "sleep therapy"; didn't go on suicide watch clearing his flat of knives, scissors, glasses; didn't lock the two of us in a room at night, hiding the key away so I could just have some sleep and face another dark day when the sun came up. I got the phone call a day after he told me the sun is shining again; he is feeling better. He hanged himself.

And I had to go and tell two old people the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life: "Your oldest committed suicide."

He went straight to hell, they believed. Me telling them "he's healing on some plane before he moves on" helped zilch. And the pastor's "lesson" the day of the funeral where, as a coffin carrier I learnt about dead weight, didn't help: he was a "broken reed".

Save a nation, I rolled my eyes. Or myself – and my guilt. And it's the guilt that gets you. Why didn't I… Best advice I got? Some man of the cloth phoned me with a simple truth: don't put his skeletons in your closet. But it's not that easy; ever. Could have, should have, but and if.

Fifteen years later I know I can't even start to comprehend his hopelessness. My first cigarette; my first coffee sitting on my stoep watching my vine pushing little leaves to celebrate spring – those are simple pleasures. But they are mine. And they keep me at bay of the dark, dark depths of despair.

The black dog runs with us all. Don't let him rip you apart as he did me. Hear your people in need.

The ifs and buts of suicide


Carine Hartman.

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