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'My husband's suicide'

Gill Irish is on the phone, sitting at the top of the stairs at home, next to where she found her husband hanging.

She returned from work one day in June 2000 and when she opened the front door, she found a note from her husband Neville on the floor.

It read: "Don't come into the house, I've tried to take my own life." The curtains in the house had been drawn, even though it was a sunny day in Duffield, Derbyshire.

"After reading the note, I couldn't go away if there was a chance of saving him," says Gill, a community care worker.

Inside, she found Neville hanging from the banister. "My mind went numb for a few moments," says Gill.

"It was a shock. I can still picture it, but it doesn't trouble me now. It has taken a long time to get to where I am."

Emotional release

The healing process began when she started to write a full account of her experience of discovering Neville's body.

"It helped to get my memory of what had happened clear in my mind," she says. Her notes proved to be invaluable at her husband's inquest.

She says letting it all come out gave her some much-needed emotional release. "At times, I'd be shut up in my room howling with grief," she says.

"Returning to work helped me enormously." She worked in social services for a local authority.

"My manager and colleagues were extremely supportive. Friends and family were also there for me."  

She says the support she received from the charity Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide was critical.

"It was really helpful knowing that I wasn't alone," she says. "I got to meet and talk to people who were going through the same thing."

Neville, who was 58, also left behind two adult sons.

Work-related stress

Neville (pictured with Gill) had been suffering from depression for several years, brought on by work-related stress.

He worked in lower management for a building society. He was content with his position and had no desire to move up the career ladder.

"But there was always pressure to do more and he couldn't cope with that," says Gill. "He took voluntary redundancy two years before his death."

Gill hoped Neville's depression would improve, but she found it hard to know what he was feeling. "He never talked about how he felt, so it was hard to tell," she says.

Losing his job and his tendency to worry about things, especially his health, meant that there was little improvement in Neville's mood.

He consulted his GP, but never got more specialised help from a psychiatrist or a counsellor. "He dismissed it, saying he didn't need that sort of thing," says Gill.

Warning signs

Neville had never mentioned suicide. "It was just sort of, 'Wham! there it is'," says Gill of his death.

With hindsight, she says, there were warning signs. Neville had talked about "putting our finances in order" in case anything happened to him. But she had no reason for concern, especially as, on the surface, Neville seemed to be getting better.

Gill now believes that this was because, by then, he had already made up his mind. "He was calm and almost happy when he had decided to do it," she says.

Initially, Gill was overcome by a feeling of rejection. "I've still not completely forgiven him for that," she says. "But I know there's nothing I can do about it. I've learned to accept it."

After years of attempting to answer the question "Why?", Gill has come to terms with the idea that she may never get a satisfactory answer.

"It's been years," she says. "You don't get over it but the 'why' becomes less important.

"You accept that you're never going to have that answer, because Neville himself probably couldn't answer that."

Article provided by NHS Choices

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