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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Suicide not painless

People usually regret letting television into their personal lives. Michael Portillo's Death Of A School Friend (which is on the iPlayer for the next five days) may be a rare exception. This is the story of Gary, a classmate of Portillo's, Clive Anderson's and Jeffrey Perkins's at Harrow County Grammar School in the late 60s, a bright boy who suffered from undiagnosed depression and committed suicide two days before his sixteenth birthday.

Gary's parents and younger brother, having endured the forty years since without talking about their agony, agreed to participate in a film about him, in the hope that it might persuade any young person contemplating suicide to reconsider and also to help them in their own ceaseless grieving. It's a powerful, humbling piece of television that should be shown in schools. Seeing how Gary's absence crushed the life out of his parents and even afflicted their relationships with their unborn grandchildren, you can only conclude that the dead get off lightly.