Guest blogger Domenique reflects on coping with her friend's suicide - from feeling confused and guilty, to campaigning for mental health awareness and pledging to treat everyone with kindness.
[trigger warning: post references suicide]
I attended a very competitive drama school straight out of high school. Being thrown into that ruthless environment, having just turned 18, was something I had never experienced before.
After three years in London, I moved to Los Angeles; the mecca of the industry where looks were everything. I realised it was quite a lonely city and suddenly felt extremely self-conscious about how I looked and behaved, constantly comparing myself to others.
Whilst filming on set, I met another actress and finally made friends with a performer out there!
We hit it off immediately. For a couple of years, we were really close and she seemed to have everything – the perfect family, a loving boyfriend and a great career in front of her. She was beautiful inside and out. I knew she was having some difficulty with bullying, from people back in her hometown, but she told me it was nothing she couldn't handle.
At one point I didn't hear from her for about a month or so, which was quite rare. On Twitter one afternoon, I discovered through a mutual friend of ours that she had passed away. I immediately reached out to them and said, what are you talking about?
She told me that my friend had taken her own life. I was completely in shock.
I thought it might have been a car accident as I’d had no idea anything was going on. I got in touch with her sister, who explained to me she had had depression. She hadn’t told many people about it, but in the past six months it had grown to be something she couldn’t handle anymore. I’d always known she had anxiety – a lot of performers do – but not to this extent.
Her sister told me that the bullying had become extreme – she’d been receiving messages saying she was fake, she would never make it and even messages encouraging her to cause harm to herself.
I spent the following months just wishing she would have said something to me.
I became a shell of myself and blamed myself for not spotting the signs early enough. I became angry, hurt and upset that she had decided to keep this to herself. I took it upon myself to believe that I could have saved her life.
I realise now that that statement is mighty and, yes maybe I wouldn’t have been able to change her mind, but I just wished I could have been there for her to talk to, or at least make sure she knew I was there for her. I felt there was no point in doing anything– if something good happened, I would want to tell her but I couldn’t. For a while I used to send her Facebook messages even though I knew she wouldn’t respond.
To put that burden on myself was massive, and something I would never wish on my worst enemy.
My fun-loving, bubbly self had disappeared and this vegetable state of a person replaced me. To make matters more difficult, my family and friends didn't know how to behave around me. They treated me as if I were a glass sculpture, too delicate to touch or talk to. I realise now that was the last thing I wanted or needed.
I finally let my wall down when my dad asked me, "Are you okay?" I realised at that moment that I wasn't. For me to finally let go of all that pent-up confusion, hatred and sadness was a step in the right direction. I knew this path was one my friend would have wanted me to take.
From then on, I made it my mission to really ask people how they were and look out for any symptoms - ones I felt I missed with my friend.
Because of that, now I’m never quick to judge; everyone has their own internal battles every day.
A few months later, I started to date someone and found out that he had depression too. He didn’t tell me until we had broken up and, even when I reached out, he wouldn’t speak about it. I think especially with men, there’s a pressure to bottle their emotions up. We live in a world where every day we try to raise awareness for equality, but why can't men also feel comfortable expressing their emotions?
I’ve learned that you don't have to be a Doctor to ask someone how they're doing. All it takes is a little patience and care - a simple "are you okay?" via a text, call or even an Instagram message can go a long way.
We can never learn enough, which is why MQ is so important.
Research into mental health is so important to understand more about the struggles my friend faced. If I could speak to a researcher, I’d ask if there are different types of depression – and should we take different approaches to help different people?
I’d also ask, is suicide a continuous state of mind? It’s really hard to think that when my friend and I were talking about silly little things like boys, she was going through so much. I’d ask a researcher if deep down she knew would later take her own life, or did it get to a desperate point?
Research can help us learn and really change lives. But I think we all have a part to play – if we can continue to be open-minded, listen and offer love and care we can hopefully save lives.
Last updated: 15 May 2019