Husband lost to depression

Bonnie Belec
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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The 36-year-old asked that her name not be published because she didn’t want to hurt her husband’s family members, who also live in Newfoundland.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.

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.



Organizations: The Telegram, Homewood Health Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Guelph, Harbour Grace

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Recent comments

  • Michelle Power
    December 12, 2013 - 12:41

    I really hope that when ppl reach that final point and may not necessarily want to die but just can't go on like this or live like this, if they take that step towards help and seek out professionals like the Crisis unit at the Waterford that they are taken serious and everything possible is done to help them then live including offering and suggesting admission while starting medication etc as unfortunately that doesnt always happen! You can be scratching to stay alive and go there and want to be admitted but if its not the gp's (yes gp not psychiarists) treatment plan you, no matter how close you are or if you even have a history of hospitalization in the past) can be sent home with a sleeping pill and a card to see your family gp in a week or two! You can go in desperate but composed, clean, truthful and holding a job and hold yourself together but still want to be admitted because you know if you leave what youre going to do and you just want to be safe but if that dr doesnt reccomend that and you are not angry, dirty, jobless, have addictions or are flipping out in there you are sent home! Is it because of lack of space and a new facility is needed? Is it because even though you and many assume at the Crisis unit you will see a experienced psychiatrist they commonly use gp's just the same as a family doctor! If youre at the end and you know it, the crisis unit should do all in their power to help you live regardless how you present yourself as more than likely tge composed, quiet, working ppl are going to do it if sent took alot to get them there and to do so I think its abit more of a problem than they cant sleep to be sent home with a pill..out the door..see ya! If someone goes there, especially with a history of previous admission albeit how long ago, and they say they cant go on or live like this anymore, a suggestion or reccomendation to them if they would like to stay in volunteerily while they start new medication, have a rest and be safely monitored to see how it goes in a few days should definitely be made! So simple..just ask and if youre at the end thats what youre there for..immediate help! You're in crisis! Something so simple can save lives but you can go in and tell the drs all this, see a gp, say you cant go on or live anymore, have a admission history even and you can beg but you can be sent home! Without them even bothering to get your file if you've been admitted before at another location and if you haven't well..good luck! When you know you're one step away and you go there hoping to be asked to stay in, praying really for that, but you hold yourself up abit, you're still a proud person and dont want to beg for a bed, what then do you do when they reccomend you go home, take a antidepressant used as a sleep aid, see your gp in a week or two and of course, come back or call if you need to and what..come back then? That's the reason you just went there and guess what? Once you leave and you're home and you're still one step away, how many are actually gonna go back having just done that to be sent home! I can't imagine how that feels, to be there and suck up the courage to go there for help and admittance to get well, knowing the stigma attached to mental illness unfortunately, to be sent home when all you want is a secure place to get well because you know if not you're going to do it! It takes alot to do that and I really feel at that moment you do not want to die, like someone commented, but want to live! My brother wanted to live that's why he went there and unfortunately this is what happened...and 36 hours later he didnt go back or call..he shot himself! My family has been devastated by this but knowing he sought help and wanted to live to be sent home makes it a hundred times worse! He desperately tried to live! All we can hope is if anyone feels this way and reaches out for a lifeline it should be there and if you know you need to stay in to be safe and that is not reccomended, even though you are courteous and obey your doctor and feel they are the dr..they know what's best but only you know how close you may be so please dont let anyone reccmomend you go home! I wish my brother had broken down and lost it and pleaded to be kept in and tild them that if he wasnt he would do it..but he did'nt..he was too proud and obediant for that and he was sick..all he knew was he did not want to live or go on this he left hoping for the best and that things would get better. They didn't! Please if you or anyone you know feels like this dont leave or if you do please go back and don't stop trying to get the help you live!!

  • Herb Morrison
    December 12, 2013 - 10:37

    Exactly right Mr Fancey. In 1974 I reached that point. I was experience emotional pain, which was every bit as devestating as any physical pain I had ever experienced. However, at that point in time, I can truly say that I wanted to die. I didn't sit alone at that table downing handfuls of pills because I wanted to live. It was not until 1996, after seeing several different psychiarists, undergoing endless regiments of ECT's (Shock Treatments), and ingesting as many as 14 antidepressants per day, that I finally recieved effective professional help, which enabled me to come to terms with the events in my life , which left me both emotionally scarred and clinically depressed. I have not had to undergo any type of professional therapy since 1996. My thoughts and prayers are with those, like Mr. Fancey who courageously struggle for complete freedom from their particular form of menttal illness and those who have lost loved ones to curse..

  • Darren Fancey
    December 12, 2013 - 08:53

    That final point is often seen as a positive by people who work in suicide prevention. At that point there is a feeling not necessarily of wanting to die but in 'no longer able to live like this' In Better Days we hear "I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired". That can be a positive because that is a person's will speaking. "I am going to do something about this". The fact that suicide is a result of this will is a difficult one to consider. I hope you will have peace in your heart in knowing that shame or guilt are not yours to bear. This decision was your husband's to make and he did not mean harm to anyone else.