Suicide — I still ask why?

Published on September 10, 2013
Pat and Jack Bates (left and third from left), of Port Colborne, Ont., stand with friends of their grandson, Baird, following Baird’s memorial in Port Colborne  July 28, 2012. — Submitted photo

What I used to know about suicide was minor. A phone call from my mother last July changed that. “Baird hung himself!”

What I used to know about suicide was minor. A phone call from my mother last July changed that. “Baird hung himself!”

Baird was my 24-year-old nephew. He took a belt, fashioned a noose and hanged himself in his bedroom closet.

Why? I can’t believe this.

As the hours crawl by I realize I’m angry with him. “You stupid kid! What could be so bad that you would do this?”

If Baird had died from cancer or was killed in a car accident, I wouldn’t be feeling so mad.

When I arrive at my parents’ house in Ontario, I go down to the basement where Baird’s possessions had been moved. Mom was doing Baird’s laundry, just like she did when he lived with them.  

I bury my face in one of Baird’s coats. If he were around I’d turn up my nose and tell him he should stop smoking, but now that smell of Baird makes me cry.

My mother held up a pair of dark green camouflage shorts and said with a tremor in her voice, “these were the shorts he was wearing.”

I ask if I can have them.

Baird’s friends flock to my parents’ house like flies to honey. They’re always there. I learn later while reading Baird’s Facebook page that he was always there for them.

At Baird’s memorial service there were close to 500 people. The word I keep hearing all day is, why?

I return to St. John’s and start to unpack. I pick up those camouflage shorts and if there was ever a time I need to hear a piece of clothing talk, it’s now.

“Tell me what happened? Why did Baird do this? What was wrong?”

Those stupid shorts say nothing.

Talking to a piece of clothing doesn’t bother me, what bothers me is how fragile I feel. I feel like a porcelain cup that got knocked off the table. I know when I land, I’m going to shatter.


That’s why on the first Tuesday in August I end up at the Survivors of Suicide Support Group at MUN’s school of social work. There I was, crying my eyes out to a woman I just met and telling her about Baird.

Tina Davies, group leader, listens to me and then says something I will never forget. “You know this was Baird’s decision, right?” she says, “You couldn’t change what he did?” I feel a huge weight taken off me.

What I know about suicide now could fill a book. Across the world a person dies of suicide every 40 seconds.

There is more than one suicide a week in Newfoundland and Labrador. That’s an epidemic.

Don’t say committed suicide. The word committed has criminal overtones, like committing murder or an assault. Family and friends already feel stigmatized enough, they don’t need the extra burden of being targeted with words that criminalize what’s happened.  

Suicide can happen to anyone. It crosses all social, economic and cultural boundaries.

Suicide is a permanent “solution” to a temporary problem.

Please know that there’s help out there. Whatever you’re feeling right now, reach out and tell someone. Just hold on.

While I don’t feel angry with Baird anymore, I am still devastated by his decision.

I still ask, why?


A suicide prevention walk goes ahead today. People are invited to gather at 11:30 a.m. in MUN Parking Area 22, next to the school of social work. The group will then depart at noon for a walk to Confederation Building with the aim of spreading awareness of the importance of suicide prevention.


Where to turn for help

The Survivors of Suicide (SoS) Support Group meet on the first Tuesday and third Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in Room J-2000B at MUN’s school of social work. The meeting is open to anyone impacted by suicide. The group leader is Tina Davies — 726-4223.

Mental Health Crisis Centre (Newfoundland and Labrador) Crisis line 24 hours: 1-888-737-4668; Crisis line: (709) 737-4668.