Saturday, July 17, 2010
death and life
A suicide of a 43 year-old Romanian modern folk singer at 02.00 on 14 July has dominated the television and newspapers here. Madalina Manole enjoyed great success in the 1990s but her popularity lessened after 2003 – coincidentally after the breakup of her first marriage with an older composer. On the face of it, she seemed in recent years fulfilled - with a new husband, a one-year old son and a new villa - but she had lost her public following. She was working on a new album - but she apparently attempted suicide in June. This time, her birthday, she was successful. The brash Romanian media have been quick to supply the other technical details. Her appeal (via text message at 23.00) to her husband to return home; his arrival at 06.00 to find her dead body; use of an incredibly strong Serbian pesticide. She was a Cancer – apparently in such strong need of love.
Thursday’s TV and papers were full of more details. Evening TV was devoted to various studio discussions with friends and colleagues; and replays of her singing. Dispensation was received from the Orthodox Church for some measure of church input to yesterday’s funeral (although not access to the church) in Ploiesti, her native city, which was attended by thousands as she lay in state in an open coffin in an open square in temperatures of 30 plus.
The suicide of Germany’s goalkeeper last autumn seems to have been the catalyst for a long pent-up discussion about depression in that country - although it did not apparently last all that long. The same seems to be happening here.
Anxieties are now being expressed herein Romania about copy-cat suicides. Romania is not a happy country – you can see it in the faces let alone in the road rage I spoke about recently. And no systems are in place to help those in anguish. Even if there were, it is doubtful whether they would be used. The only saving grace is the open discussion which Romania’s open American-style media is happy to encourage.
No society seems able to establish the environment to help the increasing numbers who feel anguish, despair and hopelessness. Clearly statistics are unreliable – problems of shame and reporting - but it seems reasonable to postulate that in any single year at least one third of the citizens of EU countries experience a depressive phase lasting a few months. Tony Blair’s bruiser – Alaister Campbell – came out a few years ago as a manic-depressive and now heads up a voluntary organization to help such people. My sister committed suicide - she left a note in her car at the side of Loch Lomond and her body was never discovered. Noone had been aware of her condition. It emerged afterwards that she had shared her feelings with the GP who had told her to pull hewrself together.
In the mid 1980s I suffered for 3 consecutive Scottish winters from SADness – sensory affective deprivation. In other words the gloom of northern winter conditions was probably the catalyst which kicked me into a loss of self-confidence - after too much energy expended the rest of the year in a regional political career which had no future. It was just like a hibernation – I avoided company and felt useless. I went to a therapist who seemed to specialize in dealing with miserable politicians. I didn’t find this helpful – nor the medication I accepted for a few weeks. My judgement is that I emerged from each phase mainly by forcing myself to get back into routines with people – although my body’s natural rhythms were probably the main factor.
One thing I would say is that, having suffered and overcome, I became a stronger person – appreciating more the joys which life offers. And I am clear that more recognition of the commonality of this condition is necessary to help people understand that they are not alone with their feelings of despair. We all imagine that noone else has ever suffered from these thoughts of uselessness. In those days it was difficult to find material about the condition. Probably the most useful thing I did was to try to identify the catalyst which had pushed me over the edge - and then to try to find the behaviour which could reverse the process.