Dubai: ‘Hi Dads... Bye Dads’ was the ominous post left in the ‘British Dads Dubai’ Facebook group that sparked panic among its members at about 8pm on January 2.
Hundreds left messages of concern in the thread below the post written by British expat Chris Haill to ask after the 53-year-old’s wellbeing and whereabouts, and some members even went out in their cars to try and find him.
Luckily one of the members Vik Vithlani had Chris’ number and had been the last person to speak to him earlier that afternoon, confirming that the Londoner had seemed in a bad state of mind.
No longer answering his calls, it was then that members suggested Vik should report their concern to police and pass Chris’ number on to the authorities.
That decision ultimately saved the Englishman’s life as at 1.40am police successfully traced his phone to a villa and gained entry through a balcony using a ladder to discover Chris hanging by a belt behind the bathroom door where just in time they were able to get him down and begin resuscitation.
Police rang Vik to inform him that Chris had been found and the message was relayed to relieved Facebook members who had stayed up all night in angst.
Using his experience to help others
On Wednesday Chris came to Gulf News with Vik to throw light on the illness that nearly killed him.
“I wanted to kill the illness and if that meant killing me in the process then so be it, that’s how bad it had got,” said the out of work media professional, who suffered a relationship breakdown last year and was left homeless, before dads in the group had taken him in.
I’ve been fairly open about my situation since, because you won’t get better if you’re not. I’ve realised that now and that’s something I haven’t realised over the past 25-years of suffering from depression.
Scared of the consequences
Vik, 41, originally from Leicester, UK, who is a construction industry professional, said that he was initially scared of the consequences of calling police for fear of getting himself and Chris in trouble, especially if the Facebook post turned out to be a misunderstanding, but the next day, Vik said officers were by Chris’ hospital bed for another reason.
“They had come to bring him flowers and chocolates and to see if he was OK,” said Vik. “They even put him up in a hotel and offered to bring his son over from the UK.
“They could have sent him home to the UK instead but not once was that suggested. They told him this was his home, he was their brother, and they said they wanted expats here to stay and seek the help that is available to them.”
Police showed empathy and understanding
Since the launch of a new initiative called ‘Window of Hope’ last summer, Dubai Police have viewed attempted suicide as something that should be treated and not punished, and this is something that both Chris and Vik believe will save lives and stop people getting into the same situation Chris was in, provided they are made aware of the support on offer earlier.
“The best thing is the fact that they knew that I was ill and turned around and said it’s not a problem in terms of you getting into trouble,” said Chris. “Personally I didn’t care whether I was arrested or not, but it shows how far they’ve come in terms of understanding that this is an illness that controls a lot of people regardless of age, gender or where you come from.”
On a campaign to spread mental health awareness
Now the pair, who have become close friends, having not met in person until after the incident are on a campaign to bring awareness to sufferers of depression at a much earlier stage.
Here in Dubai at the moment people are going through tough times and during this time some dads may be too embarrassed to ask for help, but it doesn’t matter... the message from Chris and I is let's talk about this.
“The message from Chris and I is let’s talk about this,” said Vik. “It’s such a taboo topic and such a big issue. A couple of weeks ago we saw the start of all English Premier League football games delayed by one minute for Prince William to deliver a message on mental health awareness. Here in Dubai at the moment too people are going through tough times and during this time some dads may be embarrassed to ask for help, but it doesn’t matter, let’s talk.”
Chris agreed, “I’ve been fairly open about my situation since, because you won’t get better if you’re not. I’ve realised that now and that’s something I haven’t realised over the past 25-years of suffering from depression.”
Where to seek help
- Dubai Police’s 901 number
- Any hospital, and insurance covers you for mental health
- Rehabs and clinics
- Anyman men’s group Dubai
- Numerous Community groups and facebook pages like British Dads Dubai
Signs to spot
- You don’t feel yourself
- Feeling of emptiness and sadness
- You stop enjoying what you used to enjoy
- Concentration is not there
- You question the smallest decisions
- Little or too much sleep
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Regular thoughts of suicide
- Loss of confidence
- Pain for no reason
*If this happens for longer than a month to six weeks seek help