Robert's Suicide


Men's Stories
Author Martin Wolterding

Statistics about men and suicide are frightening enough but when you have to deal with it face to face the reality is even starker. In this piece, Martin Wolterding shares a very personal story about the suicide of his friend Robert.
I just received the news that my friend Robert has killed himself early this morning. On hearing the news I was not surprised, indeed I felt absolutely nothing at the time. He was a difficult man to like, let alone love, but I could see the hurt child in him and I love that child.

Robert called me last night. I guess the call was a type of suicide letter. The pain he was in was obvious. The deep sense of isolation he felt was palpable. His life had been one long series of rejections one after the other. Adopted out as an infant. Taken in by a "Christian" family, sexually abused as a boy. When his homosexuality began to manifest he was thrown out of the family home. A fourteen year old on the Brisbane streets- only by prostitution could he survive. That was where he caught AIDS. Is there any wonder that he was angry? Angry with his family that were no family to him, angry with a society that had none of the nurturing support structures that a real society should have.

Those who had wrapped themselves in the cloak of God’s children yet are unwilling or unable to take the love that God gives us to share with others, make a mockery of God and His teachings. The word love falls from their mouths like dry sand , empty of nourishment or the water of life. the real blasphemy. By mouthing love when their hearts were cold they drove a young man from God. How reasonable it must have seemed for him to think, if these people are false, than God is false.

Robert called me last night. He cried, asking why his life has had to be so hard, so much harder than the lives of others apparently were. I couldn’t tell him what I believed because others had contaminated the only words I could have used. He talked of his isolation — night after night, alone in his house. A young man with no friends to have fun with. All his friends had either died, scattered or been driven away by his anger.

Last night he told me of his plans. The drugs, the car, the cliff. He seemed to want to convince me that he had no other alterative. He just couldn’t cope any more he said. My mind raced for possible support structures . "Do you want to be physically restrained " I asked . "They’re not putting me in a hospital" he said. Save for men with drugs or men with guns, I could think of no one else.

Now I’m angry. In a country with the highest male suicide rate in the world, there should be more support available. Much more. I‘ve lived in a country where the mean per capita income is $124 a year. Yet that country would have had more effective support for Robert. While he talked of his pain and his plans, I craved three men. Three, wise men who had the time and the patience and the openness to go down with me and stay with Robert. To listen, perhaps to comment or suggest, but most importantly simply to be there with him for as long as it takes for the sense of isolation to fade. But no such men came. If there are such men, they live far apart and out of touch both with each other and with us. Perhaps men who could have served have long since been convinced that they are too old, too unproductive, too out-of-date to be of any service to our society. Or perhaps they’ve been all lulled into a stupor- mesmerised by the flickering images, the electronic shadows of the TV.

In the end there was no cliff. He used a tree. The police are investigating the matter and will probably concluded that under the influence of drugs, he lost control of the car. That’s the way it will go down in the records- as a vehicular accident. God! If we only knew how many men we lose to self-destruction through such car accidents, or over-drinking or any of the myriad of ways modern men have available to end the cycle of pain and isolation they find themselves in. And then there are those of us, who feel much the same sense of despair, yet for one reason or another will not allow ourselves to get down from the merry-go-round.

We hear every day in the media of the institution of market-based reforms. Of the restructuring out of local community services towards new purchaser / provider models. How bad does the pain have to get before we discard these hollow paradigms as useless and replace them with one which supports and nourishes us?

Robert called me last night. He thanked me being there for him. I was too good for him he said, he didn’t deserve to have me as a friend. I see now that it was his way of saying goodbye. Perhaps it would have avoided embarrassment had he not the strength to carry his plans through. As the tears fill my eyes I pray that his pain has passed. Good bye Robert.

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