Woman says her spouse took his life after a long battle
A Newfoundland woman living away from home buried her 35-year-old husband a few months ago, but she says she lost him to mental illness long before.
She told The Telegram this week it all started last summer when he cheated on her and began overspending — both characteristics he had never possessed — and she decided it was best to take their children and leave.
The 36-year-old asked that her name not be published because she didn’t want to hurt her husband’s family members, who also live in Newfoundland.
“I’m not hiding because I’m embarrassed or ashamed, I’m hiding because it is still very fresh and I’m trying to take everybody’s feelings into account. I’m just trying to be respectful,” she said.
About two months after she left the family home, her husband of 13 years hung himself.
She said his family doctor diagnosed him with depression when he was 18 years old. He went on medication and once a year would return to the doctor for a new prescription. That was the extent of his treatment.
Through his job he had the opportunity to avail of free counselling, but he would never take advantage of it.
“He had the stigma that there was something wrong with having a mental illness, which really bothers me, because if you had cancer you would tell people and look for help and support,” she said.
“So when it’s a mental illness, why isn’t it the same? You didn’t choose it. You didn’t make it happen. It’s an illness,” she said.
She says she’s been using his company’s family assistance program for two years to receive counselling for her own anxiety and it has given her coping skills and mechanisms to deal with things, whereas her husband was content to take a pill and hope it would get him through the day. He thought admitting he had a problem made him weak.
Depression manifests itself differently in every person. She said her husband was an extremely smart man, who always went to work but second-guessed his abilities, was very angry and mistrusting.
Because of that, their relationship had its ups and downs she said, but she never expected him to take his life.
“I equate it to having two husbands — my husband who was great and loving and did wonderful things for me and our family, and then I had this other guy who I didn’t like,” she said.
“I could see in his face that it wasn’t him, like the way he held his face it wasn’t him, she said recalling times when she would try to talk to him to ask him to get help but couldn’t get through.
“At one point I had said something to him — years ago, we had a big fight and I said I was done. I had asked him why he wouldn’t let me leave before and it was almost like a mask came off his face, but it only lasted less than a second and he was gone again,” she said.
The woman says she’s been reading articles in The Telegram about mental health issues, one of which was a letter to editor by Lisa Tucker, whose husband has been battling depression for most of his life.
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In an interview, Tucker said her family was being affected by her husband’s inability to get the proper care he needs in St. John’s and she worries he’ll have to leave home to seek treatment at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, Ont. — a 312-bed facility offering a range of programs.
Consumers and advocates of mental health have also told The Telegram there is a lack of services in the province for people who aren’t in crisis mode, and that the number of people seeking help far outweighs the services that are available.
It’s thought there are as many as 1,500 people waiting for mental health and addictions services.
The province says it’s responding to the demand by building two new two new addiction centres for youth, an adult addictions centre in Harbour Grace and by planning to replace the antiquated Waterford Hospital.
Health Minster Susan Sullivan said on top of that, her department spends $100 million annually and has 900 employees working in mental health and addictions programs throughout the four regional health authorities.
The young woman said her husband didn’t want to die, and had he been seeing a professional, they might have picked up on it.
“My kids have to live with this for the rest of their lives. Having to tell your seven-year-old daughter, ‘Daddy’s brain was really sick and he decided to go to heaven’ is not something I thought I would ever have to do. She looks at you, then, and says, ‘Did Daddy kill himself?’ How do you deal with that?”
The woman said the whole family is in counselling since her husband’s suicide.
“Luckily there is a lot of support for them,” she said.
“My son’s school has psychologists as well as guidance counsellors on staff, and when this happened I was told he wouldn’t fall through any cracks, and that’s all I needed to hear,” she said.
“My daughter had grief counselling and sees the guidance counsellor. She’s only seven and sometimes she’ll say, ‘Mommy, I’ll never kiss Daddy goodnight again.’ And I say, ‘No honey, you won’t.’ It’s hard.’”
The children, and counselling are what keeps her going, she said.
“I have my moments, but I know it wasn’t him. What happened wasn’t him. I wish he was here today, healthy, and after he died — no matter what is going on, I have two beautiful children who will always be my silver lining,” she said.