BY SHANNON LUXFORD
Natalie West is like glue.
She holds others together without any concern for herself. What she went through is something no person should have to go through. She describes it in an email as “a horrible reality to bullying and depression, whereby one cannot cope any longer and finds the only way to escape is through self-harm”.
Teenage suicide is ever-present in the minds of many teens, bringing them down to their knees in desperation to escape. More young males commit suicide than young females. But that doesn’t mean that teen female suicide doesn’t exist. Each year in Australia around 100 teenagers take their own lives. However that figure doesn’t represent suicide attempts. It is thought that at least five teens attempt suicide in Australia each day.
Natalie West is 20 years old. She used to have blonde hair. Now it is fading to brown and thinning. She was 15 when she first contemplated escaping from reality. It became so intense she was hospitalised.
“I was home sick from school and on Facebook with one of my closest friends, who I thought would keep my thoughts safe,” she said. “I told them about how I was feeling and ultimately what I was considering. Although I never did feel like taking my own life that day, but intended to do so in the near future. However my dear friend did not realise this and contacted my mum.
“Mum then phoned me, distressed, and told me not to complete what I was thinking and that she loved me. She made her way home and so too did an ambulance. I’m not sure who contacted the ambulance but mum arrived before they did and instructed me that they were coming.
“I couldn’t look at her and I ran up to the bathroom and locked myself away. Mum thought I was trying to commit the act. I was just trying to clear my head. I was crying and curled up in a ball.
“In the meantime I heard the ambulance pull up and mum told them I was upstairs in the bathroom. I was truly trying to clear my head and my emotions so that when I opened the bathroom door they could see that I was okay and that I was doing no harm to myself.
“But this isn’t what happened. After some discussion through the bathroom door I opened it to find my mum in tears. All the emotions came back and the ambulance officers took me away to the hospital.
“I just couldn’t communicate with them to tell them that I was fine. I was just too overwhelmed with emotions.”
When they arrived at the hospital, they had isolated Natalie from her mother. The room was plain, and painted white and with only a chair and a single bed.
“They didn’t put me through any tests,” she said, “they just sent in a therapist to talk to me. Once we finished talking, they let my parents in to see me and then sent me home.
“They just told me that I needed to see a counsellor for a few weeks so that I could speak to someone about what I was going through, rather than bottling it all up and waiting for a new explosion.
“[The therapist] could tell that I was never going to go through with it. My emotions were unstable [but] not due to the suicide circumstance.”
Her mother, who was still terrified, kept telling her that she loved her.
“Although I knew I could never take my own life in the end, just her words kept repeating in my head and made me realise that I was accepted and loved.
“My dad was scared, as he had just lost his father he wasn’t sure if he was going to lose his daughter as well.”
Many elements of Natalie’s life at that point seemed to be taking the ones she loved from her. “I just couldn’t handle that. Although I knew death was always coming for my grandfather I never knew how strong I would have to be for others.”
Seeing her dad and other family members grieve was when she knew she had to be the glue. But the pressure of holding it together emotionally and physically was too much when people started bullying her and isolating her from groups within high school.
“Although I have always had true friends I could never find enough people to love me. That is when I had a school day off and started to truly contemplate my existence,” Natalie said.
“[I felt] confined, isolated, taunted, regret and depressed.
“In some forms of self-harm I felt relief.
“[My friends] seemed to accept that I had dug myself into a hole, but they had no idea of what was truly going on. I’m quite sure a few speculations were made during that time as to what was really happening.”
With Hollywood using it as a side theme to some movies, suicide is becoming more visible in the media. Movies such as Imaginary Heroes and The Chumscrubber have suicide as a main plot line. Even the hit TV show Glee focused on the issue in one episode, to the extent where it overwhelmed the rest of the story.
“I think they seriously need to consider another way of displaying it,” said Natalie. “They have somewhat made it look fashionable when indeed, it is the complete opposite. I would never wish anyone to experience it.
“Until bullying can be completely eliminated, children will always consider and sometimes achieve taking their own life.
“I have never really talked about it to complete strangers but on many occasions people have asked me for advice. I have told them my own story and told them that in the end, it’s not worth it.
“Although you may find relief, your family and friends never do.”
Five years after her experience, Natalie can now see her life getting better with each and every day. After completing her HSC, she was accepted into the University of Wollongong to practise and become a primary school teacher.
“To be able to teach and allow students to learn is my true passion,” she said.
“There is not one day of the year that I think back to my other life and consider doing that again. I have my lovely and truly wonderful boyfriend, who also makes my life so much better.
“My parents are so much more accepting and understanding of my needs and are better able to accommodate them. All in all, I can see my whole life. I have plans for a wedding, children and a full career that no one can take away from me. I am truly happy and I look forward to each, and every tomorrow.”
Lifeline Crisis Support: http://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/Facts—Information/Lifeline-Services/Lifeline-Services
Beyond Blue: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1 300 224236