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Letter from Brussels: Talk To Each Other!

by De Ket in Columns & Opinions , 28 October 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Dear Neighbors to the North, Through Facebook, people stay in touch with friends and acquaintances sharing memories. However, some of these posts are also of a sad nature. The death of a pet, a father or mother or other family member, a friend. Just as well that Facebook also deals with more serious matters.

Life is not only fun and games. However, less and less people seem to be able to handle that aspect. Certainly not the people in our community.

Via that very same Facebook, suicide posts also reach us of people who do not belong to our immediate circle of friends and acquaintances. Although everyone knows that GLBT people are a high-risk group when it comes to suicide, I always feel sick to my stomach when I read that someone has chosen “to step out of life,” as it is so beautifully phrased.

The suicide list in my direct and indirect circle of friends is growing rapidly. Often, these are people who have a history of depression and/or drug abuse, but sometimes it is a person who doesn’t seem to have had any real problems at first glance. Until you hear the whole story. With each case comes a feeling of guilt with family and friends. Could we have prevented it? Why didn’t we help him or asked for help? Heart-breaking questions.

Suicide is a complex issue. Difficult to fathom, while often there is just not one specific reason why someone decides to end his life. It is a combination of many factors, followed by the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

I am perhaps “old school,” but I believe that talking about your problems and most intimate feelings can be cathartic and healing. The individuality in our society - every man for himself - is a particularly painful notion, but very prominent. Who has problems often runs into insurmountable barriers, particularly with friends. No one wants to be confronted with someone else’s problems. Our generation is simply incapable of this. It is easier to “talk” via your smart phone or a computer screen. Anyone can do that.

Hence my appeal: Talk to each other. Not with a chat, Grindr or through a keyboard. But live, face-to-face. However, not being able to talk to one another does not help preventing suicide. People from our community often tell me that people are no longer able to listen, look each other in the eye when they talk to each other. That communication is easier digitally.

That makes me very sad. Not that it gives me trouble sleeping. Luckily, I do have a small circle of friends in which I can openly discuss my issues. But I am privileged. I am aware, more than ever, that the majority of quite a lot of people don’t have that luxury. There are a lot of lonely gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. They may put on a happy smile in the night life, only to get more depressed when they have to go home alone. Hidden misery it is called. Sometimes I manage to talk to someone about his or her sadness, in all openness. Some appreciate this and tell their story, while others prefer their loneliness or prefer to work out their problems themselves.

Have I already prevented something worse by just talking to someone? It is difficult to say, but I truly hope so. I was able to convince some people to seek professional help. Someone with low feelings, but also someone who was up to his ears in debt and feared that the bailiff would come to collect his furniture each and every morning. In the first case a psychologist helped, and the second person found a solution with the help of a pro bono lawyer to get his finances in order.

By talking to each other, one often quickly comes to the realization that there are possible solutions to their problems, that feelings of mourning and grief get less over time, and that there are still plenty of reasons to get out of bed. And most of all: don’t sit behind your computer screen, but go out in the real world - A bar, a night club, the sauna.

Yours sincerely,

De Ket

PS: Those in Belgium struggling with suicidal thought can call the toll-free number 1813 or can chat via In the Netherlands: call 0900-0113 or chat via



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