By Patrick Balerio, Denver VOICE vendor
I did not know him, but I didn’t have to know him. One would think that suicide is incomprehensible, and most people would state that that goes without saying. Then there are the untold numbers of people who seriously ponder the very act of taking their lives…which raises the question of what would compel one to act in such a morbid, deleterious manner?
As for myself, I have on numerous occasions felt as if I were as barren and desolate as the driest place on earth, and as devoid of life as the Dead Sea. Though I have not seriously considered committing such an egregious act against myself, I have gone to extremes in a number of other ways that served to deaden my senses and make my life a veritable hellish existence. Even though some of my activities have taken me to death’s door, I have been fortunate enough to weather the storm of my compulsive self-destructive behaviors.
Upon reflecting on the many years that I was self-medicating, I had to take pause when I realized that I had no control of my life or the self-destructive behaviors I had immersed myself in. My biggest fear is the short- and long-term effects of my actions that have manifested and will eventually become manifest in the future.
I was in my mid-twenties when I took stock of my position in life, and had asked: what is wrong with me, why am I doing what I’m doing and why can’t I stop? It wasn’t until 24 years after my inquiry that I was finally diagnosed. Now there are a few descriptions affixed to my name, one of them being schizoaffective bi-polar disorder.
What is important is that I did get the help I needed and was able to research and learn what to ask about my diagnoses. One thing I did learn is that 70 percent of the people diagnosed as bi-polar do attempt to take their lives. What is very disheartening is to hear about someone committing suicide, especially since there is help available. One thing I realized is that everyone is susceptible to any number of mental health disorders at any give time in their lives. The hardest thing to cope with is that, more often than not, we feel as if we are alone in the sadness of our woes . Being ensconced in our illness, we feel that there is no one to turn to. We estrange ourselves from our loved ones and society, and we feel that we are caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of our mental and emotional vacillations.
It is my wish to pay tribute to the aforementioned gentleman, Guy Bakken. I do know he was an educated man, and had established his niche in society. He was 48 years old at the time of his personal demise, and his plight deserves to be acknowledged. Not only did his loved ones experience a great loss, society experienced a loss as well. God forbid such a circumstance arise in our lives or in the lives of our loved ones, but we as a society can learn to spot the telltale signs of mental health issues and seek the help we need for our loved ones or ourselves.
The American people are the most magnanimous, altruistic people on the planet. Given that awareness, I know that we as a society can confront the mental health issues of our country as a whole, and learn to ameliorate the lives of those individuals who are stricken with mental health issues.
At one time in society, one’s mental health disability was perceived as something that should be hidden. Now mental health issues are running rampant. If society as a whole, and the powers that be, would recognize the needs of the many displaced, disillusioned, disenfranchised people, then we would be a well-balanced organized arena wherein everyone would be privy to all of the benefits that should be inherent in any truly civilized nation. ■