Story of a family member

“I was 16 when my father committed suicide at the beginning of the summer of 1993. I was out of focus during the whole summer. I naturally cried at the funeral, but otherwise it felt like other people showed more emotion than me. First, I was in shock and then I focused on supporting others. I was and still am a bit of an over-achiever, I took care of my schoolwork and focused on activities. This later resulted in depression and it wasn't until my final year in high school that I talked about what had happened with the school psychologist.

I was lucky in that way that I was able to talk about my father's death immediately with my friends and my boyfriend. My friends supported me and even came to the funeral to perform a song. Holding on to everyday routines also helped. We didn't get any official help, however. Only the police came and the priest before the funeral, and lots of friends and relatives. I think we would have needed help as a family. I had also all kinds of strange thoughts of guilt. It even came to my mind that my father did this because he thought I wouldn't get to high school.

I think we would have benefited from discussions, family counselling or some kind of a more functional thing. I have later thought about why I didn't exercise more after what had happened. That would have certainly helped in dealing with it. On the other hand, I played the piano a lot and still do.

I think my mother was on sick leave for a while after it, I guess people stay on sick leave for a longer period nowadays. Our family kind of went out of sync after the event. My mother suffered so much that our roles became mixed, which is quite common in this kind of situation, I suppose. I realised that if my life had started to go really downhill, nobody would have stopped it. Somehow I found the diligence to go to school.

I had to take on a lot of responsibility, and my adolescent rebellions caused problems with my mother. She actually went to see a professional about them. For some reason, we never discussed my father's suicide with the whole family under the guidance of a professional. That would have been useful as just talking with family members was not always very constructive.

I don't remember anymore whether I went to the psychologist via the school nurse in the last grade of high school or how it happened. In any case, I was feeling really bad at that point. The psychologist was a positive person and talking to them really helped. After high school, I went to study abroad. I'm not sure if that was a good or bad thing at that stage. Moving to another country is always some sort of a crisis and makes you think about your life and identity in many ways.

My father was an entrepreneur and a workaholic. He used to have a drinking problem when he was younger, but that had been replaced by the thought that work was everything that mattered. He worked way too much. I've been thinking later that maybe we should have done more things together as a family. We of course travelled, but I mean that we could've talked about things more. My father may have been very lonely.

At my age now, I am already able to somehow relate to his situation. When you are middle-aged, life often gets more boring, there's the everyday life and career and teenage children can sometimes be tiresome. For my father, his company and making it in business was everything. From my own point of view, I think that peace of mind cannot result from external factors. You have to find it somewhere else and just learn to live with disappointment and crises in life. It is important to be able to enjoy the small joys of life. Our situation wasn't even that bad financially. Even though the company went bankrupt, we didn't, for example, lose the house. We did incur all sorts of debts after my father died, however.

I studied Èmile Durkheim's suicide theory at some point and thought about how failure becomes the burden of an individual in Finland. People may excel as a group, but burdens are carried alone. I think people should encourage one another more and share disappointments.

It may be easier to accept a natural death or a car accident, for example, as the reason why someone died. When someone close to you commits suicide, seeking help feels difficult. You feel all kinds of guilt and shame. Suicide is also still often a taboo in Finland. Luckily, these things are already discussed more in the 2000s.

I know my father was depressed at some point and probably also when he died, but I suppose that getting help for depression was not easy for people back then. You had to give the impression that everything was fine. Depression has been discussed more publicly since then, I remember the Tellervo Koivisto interviews, for example and really liked them.

For others in a similar situation I would like to say that you shouldn't withdraw too much. It is important to find some kind of way to process what has happened, whether it be talking or playing or exercise. It's also good to have someone that you can tell even your darkest thoughts. Peer support should be utilised soon after the event. For me, the most important thing is to try to remember that if someone close to you commits suicide, you really need someone on your side for you. Looking for support is a good idea.”