The wife of an Australian doctor who took his own life this month has written a letter to make others aware of how quickly depression can take hold of someone’s life.
Dr Andrew Bryant, a gastroenterologist in Brisbane, husband and father to four children, died in his office last Thursday after battling depression.
In the email, she wrote that she didn’t want his suicide to be a secret, and that she and the children were “not ashamed of how he died”.
Her children published the letter on Facebook to help raise awareness, garnering the attention of thousands who offered condolences and shared their own stories of suicide and survival.
“Please look out for your friends, family and those you care about, and share this message if you need to,” her son John wrote.
“Check to see if they are okay. It could make a world of difference … It cannot be taboo.”
Ms Bryant gave Fairfax Media permission to publish her letter in full:
I apologise for the group email but I wanted to thank those of you who have been so kind with your messages and thoughts over the last three days.
Apologies also for the length of this email but it’s important to me to let you know the circumstances of Andrew’s death. Some of you may not yet know that Andrew took his own life, in his office, on Thursday morning.
Andrew had never before suffered from depression. He hadn’t been sleeping well since late February; but he was never a great sleeper. He was very busy with work; but had always been busy.
Just before Easter he became anxious – about his private practice, about being behind in his office administration, about his practice finances, about some of his patients, about his competence. He seemed very dispirited and non-communicative. I did what I could to help where I could, but I was confused – he’d always been busy and the practice, as far as I could tell, was running just as it had for the last 20 years.
He was flat all Easter and, the week after that, he was on call for the private hospitals. It was on the worst on call week he had ever had – he was called every night and some nights more than 3 or 4 times and during the day he had to see his own patients and do his endoscopy lists. He missed our son Nick’s birthday dinner and every other dinner at home that week.
By the end of the week (last Friday) he was exhausted, still couldn’t sleep properly and just ‘flat’. I was very concerned about him, tried to talk to him about my concerns but he was very unresponsive. I urged him to go and see someone about his sleeping but he was noncommittal. He continued to see patients, do lists, go to work, get home late.
On Tuesday evening he was upset and teary because a patient had died. Andrew was always upset when any of his patients died, but his level of distress in this case was unusual.
In retrospect, the signs were all there. But I didn’t see it coming. He was a doctor; he was surrounded by health professionals every day; both his parents were psychiatrists; two of his brothers are doctors; his sister is a psychiatric nurse – and none of them saw it coming either.
I don’t want it to be a secret that Andrew committed suicide. If more people talked about what leads to suicide, if people didn’t talk about as if it was shameful, if people understood how easily and quickly depression can take over, then there might be fewer deaths. His four children and I are not ashamed of how he died.
So please, forward this email on to anyone in the Wilston community who has asked how he died, anyone at all that might want to know, or anyone you think it may help.
(Previously published on Stuff.co.nz)