Personal Views

How did your brother die?

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 20 January 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:191
  1. Thomas Roques

    “How did your brother die?” is a question I find hard to answer. Not because I feel uncomfortable about the idea that he took his own life; not because of the stunned, embarrassed silence that may follow; not because the questioner's first thoughts will be of madness and waste. No, it is because the usual euphemisms “he committed suicide” and “he took his own life” focus the attention in completely the wrong direction.

    For many years my brother suffered the symptoms of depression—severe at times—treated (or not) by antidepressants. Yet he fought the illness with amazing courage. He achieved a first class degree at Oxford University, led a full and active social life, and excelled at music and drama. I understood that he was suffering from ordinary depression—the kind that one in 10 people experience at some point in their lives, the kind that is frequently diagnosed, treated, and cured. Only when I was told of his death did I begin to realise what had …

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