A lament for VG Siddhartha

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

So when tomorrow starts without me
Do not think we’re apart
For every time you think of me
Remember I’m right here in your heart
– David M. Romano

“Suicide’s not the answer.” The well-meaning words of a senior travel retail executive when I told him the terrible news of Café Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha’s suicide in India struck home.

“Easy to say that,” I replied. “For some it is the only answer.”

I speak with some insight. I lost my sister Jeannine, a successful, highly intelligent professional woman, a loving mother of two children, to suicide. Wracked by despair over chronic back pain, plunged into acute and sustained depression, numbed by medication, she found her answer. She hung herself in a garage, her body found swinging limply, lifeless hours later.

I recall the funeral well. I spoke on behalf of the family, talking with pride for who my sister was and pain for the fact that she had been taken. Moments later, the lay preacher stood up and told the congregation that what Jeannine had done was “wrong in the eyes of the lord”. Most in the room, but none of the family, nodded. If it had not been for my need to be mindful of my young and bereaved nephew and niece’s sensibilities, I would have marched to the front of the room and punched the preacher on the nose and told him that his lord was not one I recognised. I regret to this day that I did not.

For it is not ours to judge when someone, whether a billionaire or a family member, takes their own life. None of us know, can even begin to comprehend, the pressures or despair which drove that person to a decision so blithely dismissed as cowardly and yet one that requires the ultimate courage.

I quote from the note VG Siddhartha left for his family, colleagues and team. “I have failed to create the right profitable business model despite my best efforts. I would like to say I gave it my all. I am very sorry to let down all the people that put their trust in me. I fought for a long time but today I gave up as I could not take any more pressure… I hope some day you will understand, forgive and pardon me.”

Pressure. Not many outside those who have run their own companies will really understand the pressure Mr Siddhartha refers to. The relentless, at times suffocating pressure of responsibility, of ambition, of fear of failure, of finances. Perversely, success often amplifies rather than soothes those pressures. They can be a straitjacket of the mind, a relentless, stifling burden that plays havoc with sleep and distorts all sense of balance. And with that burden comes immense loneliness.

I have had my own battles with the fearsome ‘black dog’ of depression. It is a deep and dark well from which there can seem no escape. And for many there is none. Mental health remains a stigma that remains difficult to both talk about and to understand. I am one of the lucky ones who came out the other side. VG Siddhartha was not so fortunate. His passing should make us all step back and remind ourselves of what is important. Our time on this planet is temporary enough. To cut it short is indeed the answer for some but equally it is the worst kind of tragedy. Rest in peace you good, noble and brave man VG Siddhartha.

Footnote (1): Dufry UK has embraced mental health organisation MIND as its charity partner. It is dedicated to ensuring that no-one has to face a mental health problem alone. The Moodie Davitt Report is donating £200 to underline the message of this Blog. Click here to find out more or to donate.

Footnote (2): The Moodie Davitt Report recently sponsored a solo transatlantic row by New Zealander Isaac Giesen who was raised funds for three causes dedicated to combating depression in New Zealand and Australia – a prime cause of suicides. They are Black Dog InstituteBravehearts and Victim Support Manaaki Tāngata.

Isaac said: “It was in the water I found the strength to overcome the pain of losing my Aunty and two close friends to suicide within a few years of each other. Now it could be up to 90 days I spend at sea, alone. No sails. No engine. No-one to share the journey with. The solitude might seem overwhelming, but my discomfort will only be short lived. Because for people who suffer from depression, there is often no finish line. That’s why I’m rowing to raise money for the fight against depression.”