Bonn A Bonn woman who suffered from severe depression, made her suicide known in her obituary which was published in General Anzeiger. Depression is a subject often kept under wraps, but around 100,000 suicide attempts take place in Germany every year.
There are things one just doesn’t talk about. Death and illness are among them. When it comes to the topic of depression and suicide, it is kept even quieter. Gundula P. opted to be open about it. The 57-year-old took her own life and at her request, her obituary, published in General Anzeiger in March, openly refers to her cause of death.
“In death, I see for myself the only possibility to put the pressures to rest. I can no longer withstand the pressures from within or those inflicted from the outside,” she explains in the death announcement. As her words suggest, the 57-year-old suffered from depression, and she had been in treatment. Norbert Schlüpen published the funeral announcement at her request. The pastor and systemic therapist had provided pastoral care to her in recent months.
He had written the text for the announcement together with the woman. "I've never tried to dissuade her from her suicide," says Schlüpen. "But I told her that I thought it would be a shame if she wouldn’t be there anymore," he says. She had sought out his help, asking for him to provide counseling during that time. With her obituary, she not only wanted to draw attention to depression, but also how society deals with the issue. “She wanted people to think about it and talk about it," says Schlüpen.
Society should understand that a person can be so desperate that they choose to take their own life. "My last wish in life is a dignified death," says the announcement. She also wanted to call attention to the debate on dying and euthanasia, which in an active form is punishable in Germany. 100,000 suicide attempts each year According to information from the German foundation that helps those with depression, “Deutsche Depressionshilfe” (German Depression Aid), in the course of a year, 5.3 million people in Germany are diagnosed with a form of depression requiring treatment.
Despite this, many people in society know little about the disease or how to treat it. Many still consider depression to be a weakness of character or a result of how one was brought up, according to a survey by the foundation. It is simply not helpful to give advice to those suffering from depression to just pull themselves together, go on vacation or eat some chocolate. "Hopelessness is part of the depression. This can also lead to suicidal thoughts," explains Professor Ulrich Hegerl, chairman of the foundation German Depression Aid.
According to Hegerl, depression runs in phases. "The problem is when the depression is not treated consistently," says the expert. With antidepressants and a suitable form of psychotherapy, the depressive episodes can subside. Schlüpen does not consider the death of Gundula P. as a suicide, but rather as a forced death, a result of the disease. "Many people who suffer from depression could live if the surroundings were better adapted to them and if they received better care," says Schlüpen. According to the Federal Statistical Office, about 10,000 people commit suicide each year in Germany. Depression is the most common cause of suicide.
By comparison, about 3,500 people die every year in traffic accidents. The number of drug-related deaths is about 1,200 people per year. The number of suicide attempts is far higher: 100,000 people try to take their own lives every year. However, experts estimate the number of unreported cases even higher. According to German Depression Aid, the number of suicides has been reduced by nearly half over the past 30 years, but the number is currently staying steady.
Major media interest arose in 2009 with the suicide of soccer player Robert Enke. The national goalkeeper had also been suffering from depression, and the extensive reporting and narrative surrounding his story prompted many others to take their own lives as well. Schlüpen, who was also named in the obituary, has received reactions from some who read it. "I can not talk about dying with my family," an elderly lady on the phone told him.
"For me, the announcement was completely normal, because it was the last wish of a dying person," said Schlüpen. Help for those affected A person’s primary physician is the first point of contact for diagnosis or referral. In an emergency, the LVR Clinic in Bonn offers an outpatient and crisis center at Kaiser-Karl-Ring 20. One can also call (0228) 5511 for help or advice. In an emergency, one can call 112. Telephone counseling for Bonn/Rhine-Sieg is provided around the clock (keep in mind that German is the language).
Orig. text: Sabrina Bauer Translation: Carol Kloeppel