Greg suffered from the mental illness schizophrenia. He was 24 years old and alone.
His mother abandoned him when he was 13 and he didn’t know his father.
It was at this time that his mental health issues began to develop causing him so much distress that he chose a life of drugs and alcohol to ease his pain.
Greg was a victim of a world that treats people with mental health issues as if they are the dregs of society. He had no support and no therapy.
The only time he would have spent with his psychiatrist would have been the time it took to write a prescription.
Greg didn’t endear himself to anyone. He slept most days and went out at night. He felt safer at night with no one around. You could see the needles on the grass verge and the empty spirit bottles rolling around our complex the next morning.
“You’ll be sorry when I’m dead ” he screamed at me when I refused to give him my prescription painkillers. He frightened me that day but I suspect that I frightened him more.
That’s what mental illness does for you, it makes you scared. It makes you dread the day you were born.
It makes you give up on life.
I tried to put Greg out of my mind. But something was wrong. Greg had not been seen by anyone for about 2 weeks. His dustbin had not been put out for collection and the complex had a strange smell that emanated all around.
The police were called. Greg was dead. An overdose? A suicide attempt? No one knew for sure.
But Greg had given up on life long before he died.
The memory of this young man’s death haunted me for a long time and still haunts me, yet the saddest thing of all was that his death passed without notice.
It was as if he had never existed. There was no write up in the local newspaper and no one to mourn his passing.
Do you know a Greg?
How to help someone with mental illness
Help them to access professional help. And I’m not talking about a doctor to put them on more medications that they probably wouldn’t take anyway. I’m talking about a referral to see a psychotherapist who is prepared to put in the time and hard slog to talk and listen to their needs.
They may be afraid to seek help themselves. So you will have to step in and hold their hand for a while until they feel more comfortable to working with a psychotherapist. You may need to accompany them for their first appointments and hopefully after that they will feel more confident in talking to a psychotherapist.
Psychotherapy is a much needed but often overlooked mental health service that is ‘effective but underutilized,’which may help prevent someone like young Greg from taking his own life.