Why didn’t they ask for help?
Date: May 28, 2021
Author: LETITIA CROSS, RAMHP Coordinator
The loss of someone to suicide brings an unexpected grief, guilt, shame and questioning to those that are left behind.
Why didn’t I see it? How could I have missed it? Wasn’t our love enough? Why didn’t they ask for help?
I have felt this shame, guilt and grief. It consumed me for a time, tearing at the fabric of my being. What sort of friend am I, what sort of love did we have, if you could not reach for me in your darkest moment?
Struggle is universal. We all struggle, yet we still often feel that we can’t ask for help. Unfortunately, research tells us that the two major reasons why people attempt to take their life is to stop the pain they are feeling, and just wanting someone to notice. That’s devastating to me … I wanted to notice, I wanted to help, why wouldn’t they just ask for help?
It took the actions of my child to clarify this for me; hurting, he turned to me and said, ‘But mama you never need help.’
It was a bitter pill to swallow when it occurred to me that I was part of the problem!
That our actions send strong messages!
Raised in a culture of stoicism and perfectionism, we hear, ‘Never let them see you down’, ‘Toughen up princess’ and ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’. And whether we like it or not our actions, more than our words, is what continues this culture. I pride myself on my strength, on keeping the façade up regardless. I have learnt to ask for help, but I am ashamed of my weakness and so I do it in private.
I always encouraged my children to ask for help; however, they only ever saw me strong. They didn’t see me struggling, they didn’t see me reaching out for support, and they didn’t see me modelling that behaviour, so they instead attached value to never needing help. Don’t get me wrong, they need to know I am strong: but just as importantly they need to know that I am imperfect, that I struggle and that I ask for help.
So for me, instead of trying to save face, I am working on being honest and vulnerable in my connections, with the truth that I am not perfect, that I need to lean on others sometimes when the weight of this world or my own mistakes get too much. I am doing this so my children and my community can SEE that I am tough enough to ask for help myself and that it is ok for them to ask for help too.
Letitia Cross is a Rural Adversity Mental Health Program Coordinator, covering Hunter New England and Western NSW. She has recently headed up a community-wide project creating a positive culture around mental health in Narrabri. Find out more at www.ramhp.com.au/tough-enough.
Photography of Letitia and her children, credit to Claudia Hiscox Photography